Gavin Hood – Practical Advice and Inspiration from Eye In The Sky Director

Gavin Hood is climbing the ranks in the film industry, having directed some popular movies with tenacious morale.

I first noticed him after watching Eye in the Sky, which is about the disputes of modern warfare. I was thoroughly impressed. I don’t remember the last time I was on the edge of my seat for the duration of an entire movie. When I realized he’s a fellow South-African, I was intrigued even more – I have to admit I’m a bit biased…

The more I found out about him, the more reasons I found to acknowledge him and his work.

Gavin Hood is the kind of filmmaker who is in the business for the right reasons.

He is driven to create current and applicable content which is entertaining at the same time. When asked why he chose to direct Eye in the Sky, he commented: “It’s completely current and it’s about what’s really happening in modern warfare and it has elements of black comedy and farce that are grounded in real life.”

His choice to cast Helen Mirren (the role was intended for a male lead) as Colonel Katherine Powell was very strategic. He didn’t want to box the movie in as a war movie for guys.

He recounts saying, “I want it to be a movie about war but that it’s a conversation starter for men and women about a subject matter that I think is very topical.”

He’s also a filmmaker who works extremely hard to get where he is right now. When asked to give advice to aspiring filmmakers, he shared, “Unfortunately, […] there’s this notion that you can become famous and rich very quickly. It’s a curse I think. […]

The way you make it is by getting good at making films.

There’s no shortcut; just study the craft and practise and hopefully you’ll eventually connect with an audience. And if you don’t connect with an audience, you won’t have a career in this business.”

Hood with Barkhad

It took a while for him to gain international recognition. Even though he wanted to be an actor, he followed his father’s advice and “took his big mouth and studied law” though he only practiced it for 4 months. He was already 30 when he actually started studying screenwriting, cinematography and directing.

Although he knew he was always going to go into film, he doesn’t regret having studied law, instead he recalls, “it trained me in terms of thinking and story and conflict and moral and ethical questions.”

He continually emphasizes the importance of making films in order to connect with your audience. He himself is drawn to stories compelling him to think. “I personally, with my background of being a lawyer and growing up in the turbulent times of the 80’s in South-Africa, I tend to be drawn to […] stories that somehow challenge me in a moral or ethical way.

“Don’t tell me what to think, but present me with something morally or ethically challenging.”

He started small by making short films; The Storekeeper was one I remember seeing in Middle School. It left a big impression on me, not only because of the dilemma it presents, but because it was so close to home. It was a South-African story which could be understood universally.

This is another thing I appreciate about him; he bloomed where he was planted. He started where he was and then expanded, instead of limiting himself to the small South-African film industry.

Tsotsi was his breakthrough film which garnered him an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2006 – a film I highly recommend by the way…

It was again, an authentic story, but one exploring universal humanity.

“I really believe that we focus so much on differences and not enough on similarities. Most people, on a very basic level, have surprisingly similar needs. The need for companionship, dignity, love. And when these basic needs are not met, you find individuals developing a very distorted sense of the world.”

By now, he has other popular movies under his belt like Ender’s Game, X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Rendition.


I celebrate people like Gavin Hood and believe there are many more like him out there who we simply need to discover.

Fellow filmmakers and actors, let us strive and work hard to tell stories worth telling. Stories that challenge people in their thinking to fight passivity.

Gavin Hood, I thank you for being an inspiration and persisting with a tenacious and creative spirit – all the best to you for your future projects!

Written by Annette Lange.


7 Popular Movies With A Terrible Worldview


Movies are a curse for the human community.

There’s no doubt they’re a blessing. We love movies. They are a powerful tool, hence we make them. For many of us, it’s hard to imagine life without them.

They’re entertaining. They squeeze out emotions we didn’t know we had and they inspire and encourage us. They’re excellent conversation fillers for awkward silences and transport us into a different world in the space of 2 hours.

BUT, they’re also an excellent advocate of procrastination. They’re our chocolate cake and Kleenex for mood swings and boredom. They can infiltrate our views, expectations and desires – unless we don’t let it get to that point.

They are excellent manipulators. They disguise their message through eccentric characters, catchy songs, comedy, amazing visuals and angles, subconsciously making you proponents for ethics you’d normally not take on as your own.

Even though there are many examples, these are the examples I came up with:


Its songs will not leave your brain for weeks after watching it. The set design and costumes are amazing and you get to fall in love and identify with the individual characters. But, if you think about it, doesn’t it seem a bit skewed seeing Sandy ultimately earn the love of Danny by changing everything about her physical appearance through flaunting leather clothes, a perm and cigarettes?

prettywoman_kissthemgoosbye_2817029PRETTY WOMAN

Originally, this movie was meant to shed light on the grimness of prostitution. The original screenplay did not have a happy ending and was gritty and dark, but because people supposedly ‘wanted to see a fairy tale’, it got changed.

This in turn, promoted the idea that a life of prostitution was glamorous and romantic. Now, the message of Pretty Woman could be summed up as “When in doubt, buy designer clothes, get more money and a boyfriend and your life will be fulfilled”.


Django Unchained is an excellent example of good story, aesthetics, comedy and dialogue. In the story we follow Django and Dr. King Schulz taking violent revenge on the most wanted criminals in the South.

I am not against violence in movies. If the story is worth telling and it serves the story – great! But, what I disagree with in Django Unchained, is the way in which violent revenge is applauded and seen as the solution to injustice.

It is told in a manner that makes the viewer cheer for the violent retaliation of the protagonists. It seems good people and their allies are allowed to take revenge and punish the ‘baddies’ violently, because… well, they’re the good people, right?

the-notebook-3-rachel-mcadams-and-ryan-gosling-1440671-2560-1703THE NOTEBOOK

Speaking of Rom-Com’s, The Notebook is an audience favorite – at least for the majority of young women. At first glance, the story seems harmless. It shows a cute older couple whose relationship stayed strong throughout the years.

But in my humble opinion, it does more damage than good as it romanticises sensual and shallow attraction, the breaking of promises, betrayal of trust and rebellion against parents. I’m not so sure that this combination will lead to a healthy relationship. Instead it would give ground to heartache, bitterness and misery.


I love Tangled. I love the songs, the animation is so excellent it’s almost scary and the relationship between Maximus and Flynn is priceless. I never really had a think about its message or worldview, until I read Brenden Bell’s article Why I won’t let my kids watch Tangled.

And like Brenden rightly explains, Tangled, like many other princess movies, conveys the idea of wish fulfillment. Everyone around the hero has to sacrifice themselves in order to have his/her needs met without having to give in return.

The idea of being able to make an insensitive criminal change his lifestyle and fall in love with you within 2 days can be misinterpreted too.


The Twilight Saga broke box-office records, and there was no doubt it was successful. I would have been happy for the creators if it weren’t for the skewed messages it sends to its audience, primarily young teenage girls. The story glamorizes violent and vengeful behaviour toward the romantic interest, secrets, abandonment (disguised as love) and lying to parents.

Again, similar to the idea of The Notebook, I would definitely not encourage anyone to use this combination in a pursuit of “happily ever after”.

fifty-shades-of-grey-1024FIFTY SHADES OF GREY

I have to confess I haven’t seen this movie, but I would also never choose to watch it, based on the reviews I’ve seen, word of mouth, the sexual explicitness and the storyline.

Fifty Shades of Grey is, in my opinion, an example of misusing the power of film to dull, mislead and harm its audience by disguising domestic violence and emotional abuse as a normality, even romance.

What personally frightens me is how popular it was. The book series was the fastest-selling series yet, even though so many warnings and boycotts have come against it.

The relationship between Christian and Anastasia is clearly violent and abusive on a sexual, physical and emotional level. Even though Anastasia ultimately chooses to leave, the relationship is still portrayed as acceptable because she always had the opportunity to leave.

In her article, Dr. Ludy Green said this film “could only have adverse effects on recovering victims, like brainwashing them into thinking that their previous abusive relationships may have been acceptable or that maybe they were overreacting to the aggression showed by their partner.”


Please don’t get me wrong. My intention is not to entirely bash these movies. I want to remind you, watching movies should go hand in hand with a healthy dose of skepticism and alertness.

Every artist creates his work through specific filters. Be informed, discuss and process the movies you watch and detect the damaging messages creeping into your consciousness which in turn will affect your expectations of what life, love, conflict resolution etc. should look like.

Filmmakers, Writers, Actors, and Creatives, be aware of your own filters, because you’re responsible for the work your audience will end up seeing.