“Never stop questioning”: Lubna Playoust on Room 999
Room 999 is the documentary feature debut from actor-turned-director Lubna Playoust, revisiting the concept of Wim Wenders’s 1982 film Room 666, placing filmmakers in a hotel room and leaving them 12 minutes facing a fixed camera to respond to the question: “Is cinema a language about to get lost, an art about to die?”. While the original had 16 directors, Playoust invited an impressive list of 30, including Wim Wenders himself, plus the likes of James Gray, David Cronenberg, Rebecca Zlotowski, Claire Denis, Olivier Assayas, Lynne Ramsay, Nadav Lapid, Asghar Farhadi, Ruben Ostlund, Audrey Diwan, Albert Serra and Alice Rohrwacher, a focus also being to broaden the diversity of those represented to better reflect today’s industry. In contrast to the variety of unfiltered responses in the 1980s, now there’s a more complex debate than just cinema vs TV, and also perhaps less pessimism, seeing that cinema’s evolution could be something to embrace, but that it must be done semi-consciously so that those elements that make it precious are not those that fall away. That is, while there may be forces convincing audiences that all they want to consume is CGI-heavy action-hero tales, there’s richness and endless possibility for the form opened up by increasing democratisation of who is given a platform to beam their storytelling to the world.
The Upcoming had a fascinating chat with Playoust, who shared the genesis of Room 999, her admiration for Wenders and why she wanted to revisit the question about the “the death of cinema” in today’s context. The actor also delved into the technical aspects of creating her film during last year’s Cannes, ensuring the filmmakers she interviewed could speak freely. Despite many feeling nervous in front of the camera, she appreciated their honesty and the rich material it provided. Playoust herself shared how she believes cinema will continue to evolve but emphasised the importance of preserving its essence. She plans to travel with the work, hoping it will spark conversation wherever it’s shown and make us question the world we live in.
Room 999 does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Cannes Film Festival 2023 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Cannes Film Festival website here.