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The art of storytelling

The Editor
The Editor • 9 min read
The art of storytelling
Rolex has, for decades, played a role in many screen gems. But the truth is, these watches are as iconic as the movies or the actors.
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SINGAPORE (May 8): Movies transport us to a magical world where we indulge in our fantasies or discover new and faraway lands or take us on a trip to the future. Admit it, we all watch movies to escape the realities of what’s happening around us or to just have a date night with our partner.

Rolex understands the reasons why we love movies and that is why for decades now, this Swiss watch manufacturer has been involved in the world of movie making in one way or another. This art of storytelling is one that Rolex appreciates as the brand has its own compelling story to tell.

In 1926, Rolex produced the world’s first waterproof watch the Oyster, which, in its own way, changed the course of history. For the first time, people could go to remote places, like the tops of mountains, with a reliably precise and robust watch. The extraordinary level of innovation that Rolex has achieved — with more than 500 patents — was made possible by a quest for perpetual excellence. This is Rolex’s ethos, instilled by the founder of the company Hans Wilsdorf: His is the force that drives Rolex whether it is creating the finest timepieces or supporting outstanding achievement in sport and in the arts.

Rolex has been the Exclusive Watch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and Proud Sponsor of the Oscars since 2017. It is also the Sponsor of the Annual Governors Awards that recognize life achievement in film since 2018.

While Rolex has never endorsed any of the movies where their watches have made an appearance, it is quite clear that the decision-makers in the movie industry understand what the timepieces stood for. It is also a subtle way of portraying the characters such as a sense of toughness and control, along with a sophisticated sense of style.

Take a look at these examples: When Marlon Brando played Colonel Kurtz in 1979’s Apocalypse Now, he was wearing a Rolex watch. In 1986’s The Color of Money, Paul Newman sported a Rolex as he reprised the iconic pool hustler Fast Eddie Felson. And, in 1997’s Titanic, Bill Paxton — as treasure hunter Brock Lovett — was wearing one as he descended to the legendary wreck in a submersible.

Through these ties, the company supports excellence in filmmaking. For Rolex, the Academy is the perfect partner, given its mission is to inspire imagination and connect the world through the medium of motion pictures.

The partnership continues today through Rolex’s support for young filmmakers through its mentoring programme. Recently, Rolex has entered a partnership with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and counts Academy Award winners Kathryn Bigelow, James Cameron, Alejandro G. Iñárritu and Martin Scorsese among its family of Testimonees, a title reserved for those striving to achieve extraordinary feats.

Rolex’s four film Testimonees personify excellence in their craft and are committed to passing on their knowledge and wisdom to young filmmakers. They know the importance of transmission since they have also been mentored and inspired by others, which helped them reach the pinnacle of filmmaking.

As directors, they recognize the importance of capturing moments in time, with their works serving as an artistic interpretation of the world around us. These four filmmakers strive for excellence that is perpetual and they inspire the next generation of filmmakers to pursue ideas with the uncompromising passion that characterizes their own work.

The Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative

Rolex supports emerging filmmakers through mentorship, contributing to culture by helping ensure the world’s artistic heritage is passed on. Martin Scorsese and Alejandro G. Iñárritu has both mentored protégés within this programme established in 2002 to identify gifted young artists in a variety of disciplines from all over the world and brings them together with artistic masters for a period of creative collaboration. Other mentors in film have included Alfonso Cuarón, Stephen Frears, Mira Nair, Zhang Yimou and film editor Walter Murch.

In a Rolex film broadcasted during the Oscars ceremony in February 2020, the four Testimonees revealed how they were guided and inspired by filmmakers and others, helping them to break boundaries and strive for artistic greatness. Each one similarly acknowledges that conveying their wisdom to the filmmakers of tomorrow helps ensure the continuity of expertise and the highest standards.

Here’s who they are:
Kathryn Bigelow The first and only woman to win an Academy Award for Best Director, Kathryn Bigelow’s command of visual narrative, her tenacity and her choice of subjects that have the ability to provoke change, have redefined the landscape of cinema today. The American director also produces and writes for many of her films.

Bigelow co-wrote and directed her first feature film The Loveless (1981) and in the late 1980s and 1990s directed a trilogy of action films — Blue Steel (1989), Point Break (1991) and Strange Days (1995) — which challenged the conventions of that genre. Her status as a Hollywood heavyweight was confirmed with the political action thrillers The Hurt Locker (pictured below) in 2008 and Zero Dark Thirty in 2012. For The Hurt Locker, Bigelow won Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Director. In her most recent feature film, Detroit (2017) — based on the 1967 Detroit riots — Bigelow explored race-related violence in the US. As always, her films provoke an examination of so
ciety and have established the director as a true auteur.

James Cameron

He is an acclaimed filmmaker and explorer. As director, writer and producer, Cameron is responsible for some of the most memorable films of the past three decades: The Terminator (1984), Aliens (1986, pictured right), The Abyss (1989), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), True Lies (1994), Titanic (1997) and Avatar (2009).

His films have blazed a trail for their artistic realisation and for advanced visual effects, setting numerous performance records in the US and internationally. Titanic held the record for the highest grossing film in history for 12 years, only surpassed by Avatar, which maintained that record for another decade. Cameron’s films have also earned numerous nominations and awards. Most notably, Titanic received 14 Academy Award nominations and won 11 Oscars, both records, including Cameron’s three Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Editing.

The Award-winning Canadian filmmaker delights in precision and attention to detail in films. He also believes he helps to transport viewers into the world a movie presents. A long time fan of the brand, Cameron has worn a Rolex for several decades. The watches also appear organically in his films — including in Titanic — for which he gave the late actor Bill Paxton a Rolex Submariner to wear during filming.

Martin Scorsese

He is a towering figure in the history of cinema: A director, producer and screenwriter whose career spans 50 years and as many films — many of which are considered some of the greatest ever made. He is a passionate film lover who has raised our consciousness of film preservation. Scorsese grew up in New York’s Little Italy and made his first films in the late 1960s. He redefined our ideas of what was possible in movies with such classics as Mean Streets (1973), Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980) and classic gangster flicks Goodfellas (pictured right, starring frequent collaborator Robert De Niro) in 1990 as well as 2019’s The Irishman. Scorsese’s unique combination of artistry, charisma and generosity continue to inspire filmmakers and audiences all over the world. Details play a crucial role in telling a story on screen and in many of his most iconic films, Scorsese has chosen to feature Rolex watches, with a preference for the Oyster Perpetual Day-Date. Scorsese has had a profound effect on the art form that became his vocation at an early age. And he is always on hand to share his gift with younger filmmakers: In 2008−2009, as part of the Rolex Arts Initiative, Scorsese mentored the upand coming Argentinian filmmaker Celina Murga.

Alejandro G. Iñárritu

The winner of two consecutive Oscars for Best Director for Birdman in 2015 and The Revenant (pictured, far right) in 2016, Mexican filmmaker Alejandro G. Iñárritu is known for his exploration of the human condition coupled with his visual style, which have established him as a force to be reckoned with. His debut feature film, the 2000 drama Amores Perros, was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, and his two Best Director Oscars have earned him a place in movie history next to Hollywood legends John Ford and Joseph L. Mankiewicz.

His latest work, 2017’s Carne y arena (Flesh and Sand), is a conceptual virtual reality installation based on true accounts that allows the viewer to experience a fragment of the personal journeys undertaken by refugees. First presented at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, it was awarded a special Oscar at the 9th Annual Governors Awards, Iñárritu’s fifth Academy Award. The Academy stated they were presenting the award to recognize a “visionary and powerful experience in storytelling”. For Iñárritu, a work of art becomes perpetual through the way that people perceive it. And to pay it forward, Iñárritu also mentored young Israeli filmmaker Tom Shoval in the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative in 2014−2015.

Quotable quotes

Bigelow: “If you think about those people that have really shaped you, they never leave you. You can never unlearn what you learn, you can never unknow what you know.” She tells emerging filmmakers to “strive, to not compromise, ever”.

Cameron: “We build on the shoulders of the people who came before us. We
see the example, it excites us and we say ‘I want to do that, or my version of that’. Then we have to pass on what we know to a new generation.”

Iñárritu: “(A mentor is) someone who helps you see something within yourself, something that you have not seen and who gives you the confidence to carry it out. I would like to be there for someone else, in much the same way as [my mentors] were there for me.”

Scorsese: Scorsese credits one of his university lecturers in New York with setting him on the path to greatness: “He set a fire in our hearts... If you were crazy enough to think you have got to make a movie, he was the one who inspired you.”

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