by Gary Baum
“Rem,” to be completed next year, explores the Pritzker Prize winner’s work under authoritarian regimes.
A version of this story originally appeared in the Rambling Reporter column of the June 22 issue of The Hollywood Reporter.
Pritzker Prize-winning starchitect Rem Koolhaas — hot off his pyramidal temporary pavilion for Kanye West’s Cruel Summer premiere at Cannes — will be the subject of Rem, a documentary to be completed in 2013 and directed by his filmmaker son, Tomas. But don’t expect the two to work through any Daddy issues as Louis Kahn’s son Nathaniel did in the Oscar-nominated My Architect.
“That film was very sentimental,” says Tomas, who had to convince his father to allow him to proceed. “He’s not big on nepotism at all. I had to really pitch him on it.”
What won Koolhaas over was his son’s pull-no-punches approach. Among the touchy topics to be covered is the 2009 Beijing fire (caused by illegal fireworks set off by local residents) that destroyed Koolhaas’ under-construction Television Cultural Centre tower and left him grief-stricken.
“It was very tough for him,” says Tomas. “It would be like if Steven Spielberg saw the whole reel of E.T. get burned up before it got screened.”
Also a focus is Koolhaas’ willingness to work under authoritarian regimes in places like China and Qatar. “Who should you and who shouldn’t you work for?” Tomas observes. “Rem is expanding into the Middle East. Should you work for a government that oppresses women? Should you isolate people who don’t agree with you, or should you work with them on the inside and try to create some change? His reaction to that is very interesting, and it reflects a wider discussion in the world.”Follow @arquitectonico