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Q and A with Kaleem Aftab, freelance journalist and film critic

Sunday 22 March 2015, by Abla Kandalaft

Kaleem Aftab is a freelance journalist. He writes primarily for the Independent and is a contributing editor to Interview Magazine, film editor of VS Magazine and editor-at-large for www.the-talks.com. He also regularly contributes to Filmmaker, The National (UAE) and Indiewire.

How did you became a film critic?

Before I went to university to study law, I interned at the Morning Star in London for 8 months. It was a great grounding, and my articles were mainly about sport and football. During my time at university, my passion for film grew, and when I left Edinburgh, I began freelancing as a film writer, as well as doing secondary jobs to pay the rent. In 2002, I bit the bullet and went freelance full time. One year later, I was in New York writing Spike Lee’s biography.

What experiences or training would you say were particularly helpful?

The internship at Morning Star taught me about the writing style required to be a journalist and to have the confidence to write myself. The law degree taught me how to argue. Living in Paris for Erasmus taught me that sitting in cinemas all day is culturally acceptable.

Describe an average day at work

I wake up around 9, go grab coffee at the coffee shop and write there for a couple of hours. Procrastinate. Email. Have lunch. Pitch for work. Write some more. Go see a film at 6.30. End around 8.40.

What are the perks of the job?

I get to travel to a lot of great film festivals around the world, meet people who I admire and watch films .

Career highlight to date?

The day I completed the final draft of the Spike Lee book was satisfying. But there are so many highlights, particularly when I go to a festival that has been great. These differ from year to year. Usually it revolves around people.

What has been your best job?

Producing films with my friends under the La famiglia umbrella.

What has been your worst job?

I honestly can’t think of one. Even watching terrible films, I get to come back when I write about them and so there is immediate revenge.

What have been your cinematic coups de coeur of 2015 so far?

Victoria, a one-take film by Sebastian Schipper, which was in competition at Berlin. The film really shouldn’t work but somehow he manages to take the camera across Berlin and produce a genre movie. Exhilarating. I liked the Cobain documentary a lot too; it’s always nice when documentaries unearth something new and the analysis of Kurt and Courtney’s relationship was really different to the one put forward by Nick Broomfield.

Any disappointments?

Where to begin. Werner Herzog’s Queen of the Desert was particular disappointing as he’s one of my favourite directors. Terrence Malick’s Knight of Cups had a good trailer and that’s about it.

Any films or festivals you are particularly looking forward to?

I always look forward to Cannes. I try not to look forward to movies; hope leads to disappointment (see above about Herzog).

What is the best piece of advice you could give to an aspiring critic?

Stay in the game and take your opportunities when they come. Most of all, BE NICE TO PEOPLE.

Any message or comments?


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