Feature: Interview with filmmaker Josh Appignanesi
Josh Appignanesi sports a black turtleneck jumper, as well as longer and curlier hair. Both are an improvement on his appearance in the documentary that he co-directs, The New Man. It seems as though with that smarter dress and those few more centimetres of hair has come a different lease of life. Josh is clearly The New Man he depicts in his documentary.
Turning the camera on themselves, filmmaker Josh Appignanesi and his wife Devorah Baum film the process of becoming parents at a time when late reproduction is the norm and masculinity is in crisis. Having been through multiple rounds of IVF, the couple finally get pregnant, but when complications hit, they’re pushed to their limits. What emerges is a moving and intimate portrait of a generation going through a revolution that nobody is talking about. The New Man is a film for anyone who has children, is thinking of having them, or still feels like a child themselves.
We talk about the documentary in the context of Brexit. Josh describes how a “Brexit feeling” has led to some backlash surrounding the film. A voice has emerged stating “we’ve heard enough of them.” Them being “the metropolitan liberal elite,” and Josh is quick to define himself, as well as everyone else in the room (like it or not), as such. Josh seems concerned with the film being depicted as such. He describes how the film’s reenactments tried not to be “meta, or up its own arse.”
Within the context of Trump and Putinism, Josh believes masculinity has been warped. He has realised how the documentary appeals beyond that, depicting how modern masculinity “encompasses limitation and admits it.” He states that the documentary thus appeals to all humans, and their ability to overcome.
This gives the documentary an intensely personal feel. This is Josh and, his wife and co-director, Devorah Baum showcasing their ability to overcome.
Talking about the documentary’s narrative, it seems to have “presented itself.” Josh references his rom-com writing experience — he wrote All Roads Lead to Rome starring Sarah Jessica Parker — in regards to such.
However, this is no rom-com. Josh and Devorah worked on the film together. Devorah was “the driving force” in the edit. Both found it difficult to go back. “No one wants to revisit stuff like that” Josh tells me. He has only seen the film 7 or 8 times, whereas Devorah has only seen it 3 times. Both are an abnormally small amount of times to review a film you have created.
“It was so horrible making this film” Josh tells me. But ultimately, “a truth is revealed in it and it’s the one we were comfortable showing.” I’m glad they did. For a film that gives you an insight, as a student, into later life and its potential trials and tribulations, see this.
The New Man was shown at HOME on Sunday, the 12th of February. The event featured a Q&A with the documentary’s co-director, Josh Appignanesi, and was chaired by Charlie Phillips, Head of documentaries (multimedia), Guardian News & Media.