CHAPLIN the son . . .
photo: Zuzana Habšudová
Charlie Chaplin's life story, which was presented in the movie by Eugene and his daughter Kierra, is a touching memory of one of Hollywood's legends that contains home movies never shown publicly before. The Slovak Spectator spoke to Eugene Chaplin on the day of the premiere, October 11.
The Slovak Spectator (TSS): When and how did you come up with the idea to do a documentary about your father?
Eugene Chaplin (EC): Twenty-five years ago, on Christmas day, my father died. There are lots of documentaries coming out to commemorate the anniversary of his death. So, I thought, instead of having everyone else talk about my father, maybe it's time to do something myself.
. . . AND CHAPLIN the father.
photo: Zuzana Habšudová
EC: He was a father. He worked a lot. Now I'm beginning to realise that although he was a very busy man he always had a lot of time for his children.
TSS: Why did you decide to premier this documentary about your world-famous father here, in this almost-unknown country?
EC: I finished the documentary in September and it is meant to be sold for television. I know that people in eastern Europe like Chaplin very much. Personally, I like the idea of presenting such a film in a festival like this one because, in a way, it's much nicer [than a more mainstream location]. It's not too "Hollywood".
TSS: But why at this festival, which is for local broadcasters? Wouldn't national networks be more interested in such a topic?
EC: Maybe the national networks will be here to see it. I think that festivals like this one are going to be the future of selling and finding products [for national networks]. The main festivals that take place around the world are all very nice, but they're all about big commercial machinery. Here, it's a totally different ballgame. By taking a more local approach, I think you can reach the same number of people as going through those big festivals.
TSS: What do you expect to get out of this festival?
EC: Well, I'm expecting that maybe some national networks will be interested in buying this documentary and showing it, of course. But I used to run a festival of film comedies in Switzerland and I know that each festival is important. You make a programme because you want to show it. Unfortunately, at big festivals you don't have that much opportunity to show things, so it's important that festivals like this one exist.
TSS: What if a local television station buys your documentary?
EC: Why not? It would be fantastic to have my product shown on every local television station.
TSS: Are you familiar with local television in Slovakia? Can you compare it with television in your country?
EC: I don't know all the local stations in Switzerland - there are quite a few - but judging from the ones I've seen there, I think some of the programmes here are much more developed. People talk about more interesting things.
TSS: Do people recognize you on the streets here?
EC: I'm lucky that at the moment they don't. Recently, we went to see a Roma village not far from here and I had a funny experience. We visited a school and there were young kids, about nine years old, and when the teacher introduced me as the son of Charlie Chaplin, all the kids went: "Oh, yes!"
I was surprised because people tell me that Roma people know nothing. I was particularly surprised to see that young kids here knew about him, because in America the younger generations tend to forget who Charlie Chaplin was.
TSS: Do you realise what a legend your father is here?
EC: I have heard about it. And I'm very touched by the reactions of the people.
TSS: Did your father ever come to Slovakia?
EC: I think he came once, but I'm not sure. I was trying to figure that out because I knew someone was going to ask me this question.
TSS: What do you think your father would have thought of Slovakia?
EC: He would have been amazed. He was always interested in other countries and other cultures.
TSS: Do you plan to do anything on Slovakia?
EC: Who knows, why not?