“Are you in the mood for cinema? Welcome to MUBI”. So that’s how the about section of mubi.com ends. And it is the beginning of a new adventure for film lovers on the internet. MUBI is perhaps the best way to watch a good movie if you are not in a cinema or at home.
Based in Palo Alto, CA, MUBI is the new name of what some years ago was called The Auteurs. Its founder and CEO is Efe Cakarel, a Turkish entrepreneur who studied at MIT and Stanford, and worked for Goldman Sachs in London and New York.
We asked him some questions to understand how a great project like that was born and how it faces the unseizable matter of film distribution.
What is Mubi? How would you define it? Why did you change your name from The Auteurs to Mubi?
MUBI is a online cinema for the best of independent, international and classic cinema. And like the best cinemas, we're a destination that fosters discussion and engagement in the greater world of movies and moviemaking. You can watch movies at MUBI but you can also find like-minded cinephiles from around the world, read the latest news and criticism of about international film, discover unknown films and auteurs, organize, review and share your thoughts on films, and more. We changed our name from The Auteurs to MUBI when we realized our international audience had increased to such a degree that we needed a name for the site that was speakable and spellable no matter what language you spoke. "The Auteurs" was a great name and a great idea, and while we retain the idea of the original name, it was a term that could only be understood in a few Western countries. We wanted to acknowledge that what we were offering was for an even larger world of film lovers.
How did you get the idea for this project?
The idea originated in 2007 when I was stuck in Tokyo with only my laptop and an Internet connection. I had time to kill and decided to watch a Wong Kar-wai movie online. The only problem was I discovered that no one was showing great independent, international or classic films online. The vision started then—and still is—to create an online, global destination to watch, discover and share the best of cinema, anytime and anywhere.
According to many film lovers, the catalog of film you offer is truly amazing. Which are the criteria by which a film gets included in your list?
That's quite a compliment! Our criteria is remarkably simple: we only want to show good movies. One of cinema's best qualities as a medium is that a good movie can come from anywhere, any country, at any budget or distribution level. We try to focus on under seen or under distributed films, but we are working to create the go-to online platform for good cinema, and that encompasses a lot!
Who are the people you address to, just cinephiles? How do you imagine your ideal user?
Not just cinephiles -- people who love movies. Of course, cinephile literally means film lover, but it implies a kind of passion and dedication not everyone has. We have it, as does much of our core audience, but our goal is not just to cater to cinephiles but make cinephiles. Our ideal user is someone just realizing how great cinema as an art form can be, how expansive and expressive it's worth and it's history is—and to give them the tools to dive deeper, discover more, encourage that passion.
There have been attempts in recent years to bring art films on the internet but many of these projects failed soon. What is the secret of the success of Mubi?
We're real fans, we've built an amazing platform not just for streaming film technology but connecting it to a social network, letting film fans find each other, discuss and discover more about their passion. We've a great team with a great eye for curating films and for editorial —our online magazine, Notebook, is one of the most useful film publications around. And we've come at the right time. 7 years ago was too early for this; now is the time for on demand access to independent and art films.
Thanks to digital technology, huge funds are no longer needed in the production of a film. As a result, with the number of released films rising every year, the problem truly lies on their distribution. How do you imagine the future of film distribution? And what role will the Internet play?
The problem actually doesn't lay in their distribution—that's a second tier problem. The problem lays in quality. More films doesn't mean more good films. Good films still need a launch and the attention of press to gain momentum—a role film festivals are playing more and more. The Internet is not yet an ideal launching pad for a new film, but that time is rapidly approaching. With the increase in content amount it will be harder and harder for audiences to know how to find—or look for—good content. That's the challenge for the future. The role the Internet will play will be the increased sense that it provides access to all content which is not nor will ever be true. But it does mean an increasing ubiquity of accessible content. So, again, navigation and curation are and will increasingly become key concepts.
Apart from the site, has Mubi also developed other projects, in publishing or film production?
We have not worked in production yet but have for four years been running one of the Internet's best internet publications, Notebook, which brings terrific news and criticism to our audience.
Do you often go to cinema? Have you got a favourite cinema in your city? What is the last movie you watched?
I go to the cinema every week. My favorite cinema is The Gate in Notting Hill Gate, London. The last film I watched was Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Is going to a cinema and watching a movie in darkness just a romantic notion that will fade in time?
I think it will be an increasingly rarified experience. It's not yet a romantic notion but it will be. It certainly already is in film history—people in the 1930s and 1940s used to go to the movies several times a day, movies being an everyday thing like watching TV is now. Luckily (in a way), film is migrating to home video formats so people no longer used to watching a lot of movies because it required going to the cinema now can watch a lot of movies because the distribution method has integrated into their lifestyles.
How do you imagine the filmmaking in 10 years?
Similarly stratified as it is now. Digital films being ubiquitous, access to contemporary films being greater. Increased blurring of what a "film" is, what it's made on, where it's shown, the format, the form.
Which is the film you always wanted on Mubi but have not got hold of yet?
Our holy grail from the first day has always been Jacques Rivette's Out 1.
Could you tell us which are your favorite films? We’d say your top five.
<< MUBI is your online cinema, anytime, anywhere. MUBI will give you the latest buzz from the Cannes Film Festival or a restored masterpiece personally chosen by Martin Scorsese (he's a member, too!). A social network that can let you find a visual gem that will definitely not be released in the local multiplex, and allows you to find a girl in Tokyo who loves Kubrick (she actually exists, her name is Yuko and she's into Wong Kar-Wai too...). MUBI invites you to watch, discover and share visionary films from all over the world. >>