James Ivory: “The Afghanistan that I filmed cannot be seen again because it has vanished”

He has directed delicious films, authentic classics that are and will be reviewed again and again by film fans around the world as the unforgettable A room with a view (1985), the award-winning Return to Howards End (1992) or the applauded What’s left of the day (1993).

James Ivory (California, 1928) is still at the foot of the canyon at the age of 94. In 2018 he won the Oscar for best screenplay for the adaptation of the novel by André Aciman call me by your name the film by Luca Guadagnino that established Timothée Chalamet.

And now he’s back to directing. Ivory has recovered material that she recorded in 1960 during a trip to Afghanistan. A footage that had been forgotten in a drawer and has turned it into his new film, the long vtrip , which has just premiered on Filmin. It is an appetizing documentary in which the director has included many autobiographical details. In an interview granted to The vanguard Over the phone from her home in the United States, Ivory explains the ins and outs of this job.

new documentary

“The Afghanistan that I filmed in 1960 will never be seen again because it has vanished”

Why did you make that trip to Afghanistan in 1960?

In 1960, I was in India shooting a movie. Delhi was getting hotter and hotter. You can’t even imagine how hot she was. With the companions of the filming team we were talking about going to some other place where the climate was more benign. And we move to Kabul, where the temperature is really ideal.

Why have you decided to make it into a movie so many years later?

Kabul was a very old and exciting city. I took out my camera and started shooting. But then I went back to India where I did other movies. Back in the United States, I kept this material, which remained forgotten for many years. Until recently, a friend from Paris saw it and told me “this is great, you have to do something”. And so I decided to do the long journey .

James Ivory in a 2022 image

Mondadori Portfolio / Getty

What was Afghanistan like in those years and what is it like today?

What I show in this film is something that can never be seen again, because that Afghanistan has vanished. During my stay in the country I went to see the Bāmiyān Buddhas. The displacement was very complex along a dangerous path that ran along a cliff. In the film you can see the images I took of the Buddhas, which no longer exist. The Taliban destroyed them in 2001. The Kabul I knew was not modern at all. Then many things have happened: mujahideen, Russians, Americans, Taliban… Afghanistan is now very different from the country I knew. It is still, yes, very conservative. It already was in 1960. I became friends with a man who had never met his mother or his sisters because men were separated from women at birth.

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One of the protagonists of the film is Babur. Who was Babur?

Babur was a descendant of Genghis Khan. He was a very young king, but he immediately dedicated himself to war. He left his country, came to India in the early 16th century and conquered it. There he created the Mughal dynasty, which was the one that built the Taj Mahal. He was king of India, but he did not like it and always missed Kabul, he missed it so much that he asked to be buried there. Babur was a very interesting man, it is true that he killed many people, but he also loved poetry and wrote an autobiography, Baburnama which is considered one of the essential works of literature.

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the long journey it is also an autobiographical film. You say that you wanted to be an architect, why did you decide to make movies?

I wanted to be an architect and designer of buildings and I went to Hollywood where I worked on a film and did just that, the design of the spaces. When I finished, I understood that I wanted to work in the cinema but to do something very different, to tell stories, and I started directing.

You have directed several films based on novels by EM Forster such as A room with a view, Maurice either Return to Howards End. Did you discover Forster on that trip to India and Afghanistan in 1960?

I did not know EM Forster, but during the trip I read his novel about India, ticket to india (1924), and that sparked my interest in the English. The British had been in India for years, the imprint they had left was still there. Later I read other works like A room with a view (1908) and my interest in England redoubled, something I did not have when I was young, because at that time what attracted my attention were France and the United States. But from that trip to India and from Forster’s books I focused on English and also on other countries that until then I had not considered exploring, such as Italy.

Sands, in 'A Room with a View'

‘A room with a view’


In the long journey You also relate how you discovered your homosexuality in your youth. Was it very difficult to be gay in the 40s and 50s?

I’ve never had a hard time being gay, because I grew up in New York and Los Angeles, which were very open cities. I also lived in Paris where being gay was not a problem, but it is true that I have friends who come from small towns and they have suffered for being gay.

You have directed wonderful movies, which one is your favourite?

They are all my favorites (laughs), although I have a weakness for Waiting for Mr Bridge (1990), which I shot with Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, and which is somewhat autobiographical. I love it too A room with a view and all the others.

Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward in 'Waiting for Mr. Bridge'

Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward in ‘Waiting for Mr. Bridge’

We want to thank the writer of this article for this remarkable content

James Ivory: “The Afghanistan that I filmed cannot be seen again because it has vanished”