Apparently they didn’t choose the song, the song chose them when a friend forced them to see Cohen in the long tour that the Canadian singer-songwriter gave towards the end of his life.
“A very dear friend bought us tickets, took us across the bridge from San Francisco to Oakland to see Leonard. Moment zero for me was when Leonard got down on one knee and started singing that song.”, said Goldfine recently in the Morelia International Film Festival where the documentary was applauded at its premiere in Mexico.
About five years after that concert, a friend asked you a question, had you ever thought of making a documentary about a song? At first they thought it would be quite boring, but then they remembered Cohen in that powerful interpretation and the next day they went to the internet to learn more about it.
They discovered that the song, included in their album “Various Positions” from 1984, had been rejected by his label even though it was already recorded. But then he had had a kind of resurrection in the voice of Cohen, Buckley and in movies like “Shrek”, Marvel’s “Whatchmen” and multiple singing competitions. Not only that, there was an entire book dedicated to her written by Alan Light.
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“He told us that other producers had approached him with the intention of adapting his book and there have been three reasons why they have given up. The first is that he was very sure that Leonard would not give an interview, the second that he was sure that Sony Music would not give them the rights to that song for a price that would make an independent film possible and the third that everyone thought that it would be too boring in the endGoldfine recalled.
Before this panorama, Goldfine and Geller decided not to be daunted and began by seeking the approval of Cohen himself, which they got.. but cWith the death of the singer-songwriter, at the age of 82, in November 2016, the possibility of interviewing him was totally ruled out.
“It made us reconceptualize the film”, noted Goldfine. “We decided that since we couldn’t interview him, we were going to make a film where we were going to travel with Leonard from the moment he told the world that he was a composer, as well as being a poet.”.
So the musician’s archives and old interviews became his best tool, to the point that it feels like Cohen himself speaks the entire film. Over time they also managed to gain the trust of Robert B. Kory, who was Cohen’s manager at the time of his death and became the executor of his legacy.. Kory gave them access to the cohen diaries written during the process of creatingHallelujah” (whose title in English means hallelujah), which lasted seven years, which has given rise to the myth that there are between 150 and 180 verses of the song.
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“They are incredibleGeller said. “The five notebooks that we looked at, which include the writing of ‘Hallelluyah’ and other things, we looked at them and it was a privilege.”
To overcome the second difficulty, obtaining the rights to the song to include it in the film, they relied on music supervisor Rachel Fox, who has worked on films What “Killing Them Softly” and “Blonde” (“Blonde”) to convince Sony Music Publishing executives.
“It took us 18 months of negotiationsGeller said. “We decided we couldn’t risk starting filming without having that publishing deal.”.
Once again they overcame this difficulty, so they only had the vertigo of the possible reception that the public would have with a film dedicated to a song. They were convinced that they had much more on their hands.
“We thought that any topic, if approached with enough creativity and love, determination and time, it took us three years to edit this, could be interesting”, Goldfine pointed out.
“We knew we didn’t want to just make a movie about the writing and release of the song, we knew that as the song addresses so much of Leonard’s own struggles like spirituality, moments of pain, connections, sex, everything, that would be the perfect excuse. to review Leonard’s path through life, his spiritual quest and the song becomes a window into his lifeGeller added.
The film includes interviews with the singer-songwriter judy collinsthe first music to sing on stage with Cohen, the actress Nancy Bachalwho was a friend of the musician and the journalist Larry “Ratso” Sloman, who also contributed his own interviews with Cohen conducted over many years. There are also appearances of John Cale, Bob Dylan, Jeff Buckley, KD Lang and many other musicians who have performed the song.
After passing through the Telluride and Venice festivals in 2021, the film is about to arrive at the Mar del Plata International Film Festival next weekend. It is expected to be released in theaters in Latin America and eventually they hope to take it to a streaming platform.
Just as it took Cohen seven years to write this song, it took Goldfine and Geller seven years to put the documentary together.
“As independent filmmakers, although we usually don’t have funds and it’s hard to make a film, one thing we do have… is time.Geller pointed out. “Time allows things to happen on camera over the years”.
“Our sense of time changed… I deeply understood the concept of a broken hallelujahGoldfine added.
By Berenice Bautista The Associated Press.
Fascinating documentary “Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, a Journey, a Song” is presented in Morelia