“I wanted to show a musician in a complex period of history and as I moved down that avenue, I realized that there were a lot of parallels,” says Etienne Comar of his Berlinale curtainraiser.
While the Berlinale opening film, a biopic of famed jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt, might not sound like something with any overtly political tones, its director said Thursday that there are strong connections between the story and some of the most contentious topics in the current political debate.
Those include the refugee crisis and U.S. President Donald Trump’s travel ban.
“There are a number of parallels with our contemporary period,” said Etienne Comar, who is making his feature debut with Django, chronicling the life of Reinhardt as a gypsy musician during the Nazi occupation of France.
“I wanted to show a musician in a complex period of history,” he added. “And as I moved down that avenue I realized that there were a lot of parallels – refugees, the way you can contain people from travel.”
Comar added that the whole topic of the film was about the freedom that music can provide during such fraught periods, adding that music and the arts were often the first thing to be attacked by totalitarian and terrorist regimes.
“It’s no secret that Nazi propaganda tried to draw up these rules for jazz, which blended all sorts of different cultures,” he said. “By it’s very nature it requires the blend of difficult cultures. I do hope that message comes across.”
Speaking about artists speaking up about political issues, Comar suggested that when they make statements in the media, it doesn’t always work. “But when they do it through their art, it’s very impressive,” he added.
Django opens the 67th edition of the Berlinale on Thursday night.