Arguably the most sought-after panel of the entire festival was Tilda Swinton’s panel on “Performances as authorship”, moderated by Ahsan Akbar, poet and DLF director on Day 2 of the festival. For many attendees, it was this once-in-a-lifetime chance to come this close to a living screen legend that was the only reason to wake up early and elbow through a crowd to secure a seat. And DLF did not disappoint.
Style chameleon, screen goddess, and general embodiment of cool, Swinton was in her element as she regaled the audience with jokes, insights and valuable nuggets of wisdom. Here are 5 of our favourite moments from the session.
“Always trust in nosiness”
One of the first questions everyone asked when it was announced that Tilda Swinton was coming to the DLF was “How did they manage that?” The answer came in the form of a charming anecdote about how Ms. Swinton was staying at L’Hotel in Paris, which is famous for being where Oscar Wilde died. She was curious about the room in which this event took place, and decided to go snooping when she found the door open, and that’s when she met Ahsan Akbar, and this chance encounter led to a conversation, a discovery of a mutual friend (Tariq Ali) eventually culminated in her visit this year.
“Don’t stop writing”
With a palpable sense of regret, Tilda talked about the poetry of her youth, and how it came to an abrupt hold “I was a poet for my entire childhood-teenage years, and actually went to university as a writer. I sort of got in on the grounds that I would be the resident poet there and stopped writing the second I arrived” she confessed to the amused crowd. She went on to talk about how she intends to get back into it, and later in the session, she actually read out a beautiful piece she had written for Ted Kessler's My Old Man: Tales of Our Fathers
anthology, dedicated to her father.
“I can’t stand up and say that I am an actress, although that’s how most of you think of me”
Continuing on her theme of dislocation after she gave up on her childhood dream of being a writer, Tilda talked about how she “slid into performance” and eventually found cinema. It might be odd to hear that from an Academy Awards winner. “One of the reasons why I feel a little embarrassed to be called an actress is that I never intended to be an actress, and I still don’t intend to be an actress, it’s not something I ever wanted to do.” She described her decades-long career as a series of distractions from other various projects and interests at various times.
“And no electronics before the age of 16”
Tilda a fierce advocate of the radical Steiner education system, conceived by Moray Steiner, one that eschews formal exams, and practices learning through hands-on experience and emotional development. She talked about how her children attended an existing Moray Steiner school, which ended when they were aged 14, but she was so pleased with the results that she and another parent, Ian Sutherland McCook went and founded their own high school Drumduan Upper School, which follows the same principles.” My education has been so alienating, and un-empowering,” she confessed. “My children went to a Steiner school and I am really, really happy”
“I don’t believe in identity.”
Addressing her experiments with gender-fluid roles and fashion statements, she said that she was interested in identity, in that she doesn’t believe in it. “Society forces us to think about identity as a concrete thing. If we do not choose it, it will be chosen for us. We have to live with it for the rest of our life” she announced, to thunderous applause.
“I think it’s a terrible thing for humanity because what humans are really good at is being changeable. Identity is beyond gender” she added.