The 2016 Atlanta Jewish Film Festival opens tonight with a screening of the Holocaust survivor revenge story “Remember.”

While Benjamin August, the screenwriter of the drama starring Christopher Plummer and Martin Landau, is scheduled to attend the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre showing and speak about the film, Oscar-nominated director Atom Egoyan couldn’t attend because of a scheduling conflict.

Instead, the Canadian filmmaker spoke to the AJT a few days before the AJFF premiere.

AJT: What made you decide to make this film?

Egoyan: The moment I read the screenplay, I felt that it was a character unlike any I’d ever read about or seen in any film. It just felt completely original and a very exciting way to deal with this question, which is how do we live with horror? What does it mean after all this time to experience something as horrifying as what these characters have witnessed?

 

AJT: This film is sort of a departure from your previous work. It’s a completely linear story with no flashbacks. Did that factor into your choice at all?

Egoyan: Exactly. Here was a script that was able to deal with similar subject matter as my previous films but in a much simpler way. I was very impressed with that.

 

Martin Laundau (left) and Christopher Plummer star in "Remember."

Martin Laundau (left) and Christopher Plummer star in Director Atom Egoyan’s “Remember.”

AJT: From Christopher Plummer and Martin Landau to Jurgen Prochnow and Dean Norris, this film has an impressive cast of veteran actors. How tough was it to cast?

Egoyan: I had worked with Christopher Plummer and Martin Landau way back on an episode of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” if you can believe that. This script came out, and I just thought they would be perfect for it. I just think that Christopher Plummer is one of the finest actors in the English language, and I’m a huge fan of his. This role was written for him, and I was just praying that he would respond as strongly as I did.

 

AJT: If he hadn’t been able to take on the lead role, did you have anyone else in mind?

Egoyan: I don’t know. I just had him in mind, and what happens sometimes when you read a script is you fall in love with an actor doing it, and then you have to go through a major readjust if they’re not available. I didn’t have to go through that with this role.

 

AJT: What about the supporting cast? Did you have any trouble finding the right actors?

Egoyan: That was more challenging because we had to find German actors who could speak English well enough for you to believe that they’d been living in America for all this time. Our first choice there was Maximilian Schell, but he passed away just weeks after we cast him. So with the exception of Heinz Lieven, we had to go with a younger generation of actors like Bruno Ganz and Jurgen Prochnow to play those roles.

 

AJT: This film has some striking similarities to Christopher Nolan’s “Memento.” Did you draw any inspiration from that film?

Egoyan: I think “Memento” is a huge influence. The main difference though is that “Memento” is nonlinear and is actually more in keeping with the style of some of my earlier films like “Exotica” and “The Sweet Hereafter.” Even though it’s inspired by a film like “Memento,” it’s told in a completely linear way. I know from (August) that “Memento” was a big influence for him.

 

AJT: Your film is showing on opening night of the film festival. What does it mean to you to be selected as the first film people will see?

Egoyan: First of all, it’s an honor to be chosen as the opening film. “Remember” is a film that promotes a lot of discussion. It’s a film that is deceptively simple. You think you’re watching one story, and you’re actually watching something quite different. The film creates a very strong collective response, and I’ve really enjoyed watching the film with audiences.