MICHELLE BREZINSKI SHANNON KHOLI JADE BRYAN PETRA LOTTJE NATHALIA SYAM LUD MONACO LUCY SHEEN ZHI-MIN HU MEGAN ROETHLIN CHUNG WEI HUANG CINEMA DANCE THEATRE CINEMA
Building on the success of the fifth edition, CinéWomen continues showcasing video practice from around the world. As the ultimate mirror-medium of our times, video is all around us. Despite the proliferation of mainstream cinema, independent films continue to be made –radical, poetic, and dreamlike films, whose directors work on the edge of the mainstream film industry, never restricting themself to any single field, yet inviting the eye and the mind to travel further. Cinema is no longer the monolithic system based on large capital investiment: in the last decade the technological advances have dramatically changed the economic conditions of cinema production. Revolutions arise from obstinacy. It is not by chance that today one of the protagonists of the digital revolution in cinema is a talented and courageous woman director, Elle Schneider, co-founder along with Joe Rubinstein of the Digital Bolex Project, who after developing a cult-camera harking back to 16mm film aesthetic -a significant leap towards the democratization of technology- is now promoting an application process for a grant for producers employing women in their camera troupes. Only eight percent of 2014's top-grossing films were directed by women: it's time to reverse this trend. However, cinema is not only technology, but ideas, experimentation, and above all dialogue, networking, interaction. Creating and supporting a fertile ground for innovation and dialogue does not necessarily require compromise. Honoring the influence of women in video art and cinema, our womenartconnect.com editorial board is proud to present a selection of powerful and surreal visions from nine uncompromising outsiders. In these pages you will encounter details on a new wave of filmmakers and videoartists marching away from the Hollywood stereotype, with films like My Color by Zhi-Min Hu; the visionary world of Michelle Brezinsky and Shannon Kholi; an astonishing documentary by Jade Bryan; the childish imagery of Chung Wei Huang, reminescent of Victor Erice’s films and much more.
COVER Still from Madness, Michelle Brezinski & Shannon Kholi LEFT Petra Lottje, I don’t miss anything TOP Production still from Madness, Michelle Brezinski & Shannon Kholi
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michelle brezinski shannon kholi Madness (Canada, 2015)
Michelle Brezinski transcends her own struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder through her courageous film MADNESS, aiming to bring hope to others suffering from this crippling illness. Though this hauntingly historical piece is just a parallel to her own story, Michelle felt that the great loss experienced during the black death would have most likely triggered a similar type of extreme PTSD. Teaming up with director Shannon Kholi, the two women go beyond their immediate resources in order to create this beautifully shot film, with exceptional set design, earning them dozens of global awards. With Brezinski receiving a Women in Film and TV Spotlight Award - quoting “ Michelle has gifted us with a very personal film that overcomes many challenges, launching her forward toward a promising and inspiring career as a bold and brave storyteller”.
Miraculous mise-en-scène and subtly expressive performances make MADNESS an overwhelming emotional experience. From the first time we watched it, its enigmatic approach to narrative, reminded us the films of Raul Ruiz. Michelle Brezinski and Shannon Kohli capture hidden emotional reactions with a delicate, artful detachment, offering a penetrating meditation on posttraumatic stress disorders. We are honored to present Michelle Brezinski and Shannon Kohli for this year's CinéWomen Edition. Michelle and Shannon, can you talk about your creative relationship and how it has evolved through your work together? Michelle: Both Shannon and I are thrilled to share our filmmaking journey and we are deeply honored that our enigmatic approach has been paralleled with such filmmaking legends as Raul Ruiz. Our film MADNESS was dependent on a
interview creative collaboration that was open to both its technical needs and the organic performances. SHANNON KOHLI, a brilliant cinematographer, was the ideal directorial choice for the film. I trusted her skilled eye while she trusted my writing, choice of art direction, and casting. How did you come up with the idea for MADNESS? Was it important for you to make a personal film? Michelle: Halloween 2013 when I spotted a life-sized skeleton in a box and I thought “there’s a movie in that”. I banged out a few ideas and then it hit me “THE BLACK DEATH... of course”. So many people must have experienced severe post-traumatic stress disorder considering half the planet mysteriously dropped dead. Going even deeper, the
story eventually became a vehicle in which I would express my own personal experience with the crippling effects of PTSD. So when we were given a small financial TELUS STORYHIVE grant, and agreed it would be a 10 minute film, that’s when I knew imagery was the answer. PTSD can cause insomnia, poor nutrition, fear, and even psychosis. After my mother died in 1982 my father suffered severe psychosis after experiencing insomnia for days. He thought the TV was blaming him for her death. Our film had to demonstrate, through the use of IMAGERY, a mind that was not COPING WITH LOSS. You wrote the script with many figurative images in mind: could you take us through your creative process when starting this project?
Michelle: I knew I wanted a film that mainly spoke through images and music. So I spent a lot of time looking through prop-rental houses and locations in order to connect with the ideal choices for the film. I even went as far as purchasing 200 maggots for the “food crawling scene”, that’s how real I wanted it to look. When I couldn’t find exactly what I had envisioned then it was made. The wooden wheelbarrow, stone fire pits, grave crosses (MICHAEL YOUNG) and all the costumes (LINDA WATTERS and GINA WIDZINSKI) were made from scratch. Unfortunately Vancouver stocks very little costumes and props indicative of 1348 England. The music was even more important to me so I had spent many hours with the composers creating the perfect medieval sound of survival, hopelessness, and love. JOSH CRUDDAS
and SARAH ANN CHISHOLM are both from Nova Scotia, Canada. CELTIC BLOOD courses through their veins. So when I had asked them to generate the sounds of their heritage that’s when the film’s soul was brought to life. The GAELIC THEME SONG - Ó a Ghrá Mhin (Gentle Love) was the collaborative effort of Sarah Ann Chisholm (singer), Murray Yates, Jennie Press and Scoil Gaeilge Vancouver. And even after watching the film dozens of times the music still brings tears to my eyes. Low key cinematography suffuses your film with a nightmarish quality. We have been deeply fascinated with your imagery reminding us of Derek Jarman's cinema. How did you conceive the visual style of MADNESS?
Michelle: I am a huge fan of GAME OF THRONES and am extremely inspired by its authenticity and cold atmosphere. The imagery successfully propels us into the DARK AGES. Anything contemporary looking would have failed. Shannon: And thank you for the comparison to Derek Jarman. We were definitely aiming for that dark feeling of OPPRESSION and fortunately we had STIRLING BANCROFT, such a talented DP, who created the ideal low-key lighting required to match the filmâ€™s dark subject matter. Our SPECIAL FX TEAM also contributed by adding the crawling fog and rich fire light that gave our film an eerie haunted look. The visual style was something that we all agreed upon in meetings. THE NAME OF THE ROSE, directed by Jean Jacques Annaud, was an influence for the bleak and austere look
created. The difficult part was that Madness was set entirely at night and we were filming in the middle of June. This meant that we only had 6 hours of total darkness to get our shots before the sun came out and the birds chirped. DERMOT SHANE and PAOLO KALALO our editing team would then work their magic by matching every frame seamlessly so that the look appeared consistent regardless if daylight had crept into our filming schedule. We applauded the icy-looking color correction and the red and blue spectrums that appear in most of the film. And the roaring fire, at the end of the film, is particularly exciting to watch. What were some of your aesthetic decisions? Michelle: CASTING was a vital element. I wanted character faces that
complimented the medieval style we were aiming for. Here in VANCOUVER we have a lot of contemporary looking people so it wasn’t that easy finding unique faces. We ended up using a lot of BRITISH ACTORS who we loved working with. Shannon: JAMES TOWN in Langley B.C. Canada was the perfect location to film. Aesthetically it gave us the looks we wanted. Michelle Brezinski was amazing in putting together a production design that was indicative of the era. We were able to generate both the bleak and austere world of the plague and the warm, safe, and inviting environment during the flashbacks. KEVIN B BARRON and JAY PAGE (Sound Designers) further added to the IMAGERY by generating sound that indicated story flow which was never captured visually. TAMARA CAVIGLIA, ALICIA WHITE, LORNA
BRAVO (MUA’s)) were also important to the creation of our MEDIEVAL IMAGERY. The characters faces had to appear indicative of the dark ages yet have enough make up contour in order to be seen in our dimly lit production design. And as you can see from our stunning PRODUCTION STILLS that we were also fortunate to have the talented DAVE DELVECCHIO and SINA NAZARIAN (Photographers) What was your choice for camera and lenses? Michelle: Making a film like this is extremely demanding on the pocket book so when PANAVISION offered us a sponsorship we grabbed it. Shannon: ADAM OSTEN and JEFF FLOWERS from Panavision Vancouver were wonderful in helping us out with
camera gear. We shot on an ARRI ALEXA with PRIME LENSES which were important because we were filming both interior and exterior nights and needed fast lenses.
in the way. As an actor I was taught that the more you believe it the more your audience will believe it. Nothing more needs to be said. Feeling a film is the ultimate experience.
Michelle: I’d also like to add that quality equipment has to be properly insured and so we were very lucky to have LISA PURVES and MICHAEL KHAZEN (Producers), who both believed in MADNESS, offer their amazing services in order to help make the film.
Shannon: My directing choices change depending on the project. I always strive to serve the story the best way possible. In the case of MADNESS, Michelle Brezinski’s performance was so strong that there wasn’t a need to push dramatic moments.
We have appreciated your minimalist language. Rather than focus on acute or dramatic moments, you rely on simple gestures to communicate a disturbing atmosphere.How did you develop your filmmaking style?
What is most remarkable about MADNESS is its continuous ability to discover a film language of its own. Can you tell us your biggest influences in art and how they have affected your work?
Michelle: Filmmaking is a visual art and so too much language can sometimes get
Shannon: Art was a large influence in the making of Madness. Certain paintings
such as THE PLAGUE AT ASHDOD 1630 by Nicolas Poussin or films such as THE BLACK DEATH (2010) and JOAN OF ARC THE TV MOVIE (1999) were excellent visual references. Michelle: CHARLIE CHAPLIN created some of the most interesting films. His translation of the human emotion, using just expression and music, was pure genius. OLIVER STONE used a lot of metaphors and music as well. The imagery in his films has had a profound effect on me. HORRORS are another type of film that depends heavily on visuals and music. THE RING directed by Donbin Kim, and many other JAPANESE THRILLERS, use a filmic language thatâ€™s able to tap into our INNATE observation and scare the poop out of us. You see watching a human, who appears to have spider-like agility, sends a message to our brain that the movement is not
normal so fear it. Biological psychology, which I had studied at SFU, helped me understand just how our minds work. And so by bringing a scientific approach to the ART OF FILMMAKING we can invent effective ways of telling emotionally provocative stories. What do you want people to remember after seeing MADNESS? Michelle: Remember that MADNESS is not always maniacal, mental illness can take anyone hostage and initial recovery may seem painful. In 2012 I was hospitalized with extreme delay on-set PTSD. After discovering that medications were not the answer for me, I was forced to find other healing alternatives. Filmmaking became my successful remedy. It helped me refocus so I could break the thought patterns trapping my mind in the past. Shannon: Everyone is
Tell us about your trajectory as a filmmaker. What inspired you to express yourself in this medium?
person so the art of storytelling through film has always been my favourite medium. I got my first still camera when I was six years old. I grew up in GENEVA, SWITZERLAND, where there isn't much of a film industry. I never thought my dream of working in film could be a reality. I moved to Vancouver and attended the University of British Columbia to study economics, but after I saw how many films were being shot in Vancouver, I switched from economics to film. My background in photography was really useful. I have been working for the past twelve years as a director of photography and a camera operator while directing projects on the side. I hope to move my career into directing full time. While all genres appeal to me, I especially want to focus on telling women’s stories with strong female characters.
Shannon: Films have always been magical for me. I am a very visual
Michelle: Growing up in YELLOWNIFE, NWT CANADA where the winters are
affected differently by loss. Michelle: Another very important factor that I’d like filmmakers to take away is the bravery it takes working with such an emotional story. When we first sat down, and discussed my experience with PTSD, I had to warn Shannon that if we tap into that dark place it will be difficult to manage but it will also be magical. Like hero’s we took on the challenge and spent the last shooting day in hell together. And to me that is what COLLABORATIVE ART really is. Working together we were able to capture, on film, the soul suffering from great loss. The madness exposed as just the mask.
extremely cold and long there wasn’t very much to do so I became an artist of almost every expression. I’ve been a painter, singer, dancer and an actress. But storytelling is my biggest passion. In 2011 I had decided to study screenwriting at UBC and finally bring to life the stories that wildly dance inside my head. Literally I will spend hours visualizing a film until it seems like I had actually watched it. And only then would I finally pen the script. I feel lucky to have such a vivid imagination. Even though, as child, it sometimes terrified me. For more than half a century women have been discouraged from getting behind the camera, however in the last decades there are signs that something is changing. What's your view on the future of women in cinema? Shannon: Women have been discouraged in the past from getting behind the
camera, however that is changing. I consider myself extremely fortunate to live in the times I do. Some amazing, strong women have fought hard and have paved the way for us now. I got into the Camera Union IATSE 669 ten years ago as a director of photography and was told I was the first woman in Western Canada to do so. Since then, things have been progressing but there is still a long way to go. There is a definite push lately to see more women behind the camera. Meryl Streep has developed a women’s writer’s workshop and many influential actors and producers are encouraging more women stories and female crews. Michelle: It’s inevitable that women will be become a stronger presence in the Film and TV industry. We are far more comfortable in leadership roles, have proven our storytelling abilities and make up more than half of the world’s population. The smart men in this industry will harvest all that talent.
megan roethlin We Did Not Come Here For The Weather e (Doc, 2015)
is a visceral cinematic snapshot of Amsterdam. With its elegantly structured storytelling and accurate cinematography, Megan Roethlein imparts unparalleled psychological intensity to the documentary genre. We are pleased to present Megan Roethlein for this year's CinéWomen Edition. Megan, tell us about your trajectory as a filmmaker. What inspired you to express yourself in this medium? Mychael Danna, the film composer for the movie “Life of Pie”, said, “We love films and storytelling as a people. It’s just a human compulsion to listen to and tell stories.” I’ve always had a strong passion for film. I remember always watching the featured content in movies to see the process in which the film was made. M.R.
With its mix of documentary technique and fictional storytelling,
Watching a film and being inspired from it is such a great feeling; it gives me the incentive to be the one behind the camera telling the story that motivates others. I created the film
during an international documentary course with Penn State University, so I had to express my story in this medium, but I would not have had it any other way. We want to take a closer look at the genesis of your film: how did you come up with the idea for We Did Not Come Here For The Weather? The message of following your passions has always been apparent in my life. Ever since I decided to pursue film as my major at Penn State University I have been trying to gain as much experience inside and outside of the classroom. I want to have a job that I am passionate about. Confucius once said, “Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Although I agree with Confucius, many people argue the quote by stating, “Choose a job you love and you
will never have to work a day in your life because that field is not hiring.” I want to prove those people wrong. This message has stuck with me for some time and it seems to leak into every piece of work that I make, so I knew once I signed on for Penn State’s international documentary course that I wanted to create a project on this idea. Amsterdam is known as a city where artists can strive. The culture in the city is slightly more laid back than it is in the United States. In America people are constantly trying to rise to the top and are sometimes not satisfied. However, spending time over in Amsterdam I was able to see that in most cases people are happy with the simplicity of life. They leave time for leisure activities and are less stressed than Americans.
In my film I want to inspire viewers to take time out of their day for themselves. Maybe it means becoming a painter because he or she is strongly passionate about painting, or maybe it just means making a hobby of it. When we humans tend to our emotional and creative needs we become a lot more satisfied with the quality of our lives. The characters in my film were all drawn to Amsterdam for a reason. As the title suggests, they did not come to the city for the dreary weather. They came because Amsterdam is a place where one can be his or her individual self and escape the pressure of being the best. It is a very diverse city, which makes it so beautiful and unique. We have been deeply impressed with the structure of the film. Did the story unfold before the
camera, or were you already aware of these various pieces of the puzzle? I was aware of a few pieces of the puzzle. For instance as I mentioned previously, I knew what the theme of my documentary was going to entail. However, my original documentary was going to focus on Waterlooplein, a famous flea market in the city. The flea market was not what I expected. Fortunately, my professors prepared us well and taught us to have a few solid backup plans incase our original subjects did not follow through. Itâ€™s funny because I was riding my bike with my professor and another student through the city. We were on our way to the Bloemenmarkt, a floating flower market, and we made a wrong turn. We ended up right by the Art Plein Spui, which is an artist
I wanted the film to feel intimate so that the audience feels like a part of the project. Therefore, I chose not to conduct talking head interviews. I thought it was important to show each character in his or her own environment, which is where I think the characters give the most complicity.
market that occurs only on Sundays. We walked around and luckily I had my camera. I interviewed many local artists that day, which defined my documentary. I knew then that I wanted to focus on artists in the city. Sometimes things in life do not go as planned, but it turns out to be for the best. I love documentary because there is only so much planning you can do beforehand until it all unfolds before the camera. There is a point where you have to let it go and allow the story to uncover itself. We have appreciated your observational style. Silent and hidden behind your camera, throughout the film you leave the floor to your characters, who show real complicity. Can you comment this peculiar
aspect of We Did Not Come Here For The Weather? I wanted the film to feel intimate so that the audience feels like a part of the project. Therefore, I chose not to conduct talking head interviews. I thought it was important to show each character in his or her own environment, which is where I think the characters give the most complicity. The individual stories do not link together and are separate, which is important to keep individuality. However, at the same time the stories mesh to create a greater consistency. The characters as a whole demonstrate happiness. In addition to the key concept of the documentary, I also wanted my film to portray that everyone has a story to tell. We just need someone to listen to it. I wanted to shine light on
the issue of a lack of human interaction in society today. Technology takes over so much of our lives. We created a selfie stick, which eliminates walking up to a stranger and asking him or her to take our picture. We would rather text someone than meet in person. The consistent use of technology in place of human interaction is destroying communication skills. I recently watched a video where parents were asked questions about their hobbies during childhood. They answered with activities, such as picking blueberries, building forts, and fishing with friends and family. Then the children of the parents were asked about their hobbies. They responded with videogames and texting. One child even stated that he forgets about his family when he is so engrossed in videogames. I hope that
We Did Not Come Here For The Weather demonstrates the beauty that comes out of personal communication. It was frightening at first for me to walk up to strangers and introduce myself. I definitely had to warm up to it in order to feel comfortable, but it was an incredibly fulfilling experience. I had the opportunity to listen to a variety of life stories on my trip to Amsterdam and build friendships. You lose that personal connection over the use of technology. It is ironic that I chose film as my medium, being technology itself, but film is different because it is a way to inspire a wide range of viewers. Maybe if the audience can connect to the characters in my short documentary then they will be inspired to communicate more with people around them, in addition to
finding happiness through a less stressful lifestyle.
project for too long I lose sight of what it was that I was trying to say.
What was the most challenging thing about making this film?
This issue was definitely apparent since we only had about a week in postproduction when we returned from the trip in order to have the project turned in on time for the course. I am so thankful to have had wonderful friends and two extraordinary professors on the trip who kept me on track. It helped immensely to have someone watch a rough cut and see details that I missed. Film is truly a team effort and it is of utmost importance to have multiple perspectives.
Time is always against you. There are deadlines to be met, making it very stressful. We only had 10 days in Amsterdam to film our own projects and to help out on another studentâ€™s project. There are always obstacles to overcome. For example, I mentioned previously that I had a different subject in mind when I first started researching details about Amsterdam, so it was a bit frightening when we got to the city and my first idea fell through. It is also a challenge of mine to not lose sight of my original intentions for a project I am editing. Ideas definitely change and it is okay to adjust the plot, but sometimes when I stare at a
Your editing style is impressive, it reminded us of Herzog's cinema. Can you tell us your biggest influences in cinema and how they have affected your work? Recently I have been influenced by
Kevin A. Fraser and his short documentary called Twenty Eight Feet: Life on a Little Wooden Boat. It is a brilliant film about a man who has given up everything to travel the world on his wooden boat. I really admired the use of narration over close up shots. It makes for a more intimate feel, which is what influenced me when making We Did Not Come Here For The Weather. Fraser did not waste time showing the subject talking on camera, but instead used the subject’s narration to push the story forward with supporting visuals.A short film called Pockets by James Lee also heavily inspired me. Lee asked Londoners to take out items in their pockets and to tell the story behind them. Lee also used close ups to make the audience have a stronger personal
connection to the characters. It is fascinating to watch how a small object can tell so much about an individual. These two filmmakers were my biggest influences when making We Did Not Come Here For The Weather. What do you want people to remember after seeing your documentary? For one, Amsterdam is such a beautiful and unique place. It attracts many artists and I wanted to show visually that it is an artist friendly city. However, more importantly, I hope that viewers take away the importance of happiness and living life to one’s fullest potential. I also hope to influence people to interact and communicate personally with the people around them
because as mentioned previously, we all have stories to tell and we just need someone to listen to us. Ben Okri stated, â€œStories can conquer fear... They can make the heart bigger.â€? By sharing our own stories we can inspire and motivate others. Could you take us through your creative process when starting a new project? As a college student, my creative process is still in progress itself. There is no single way to develop a new project, but I will explain the creative process we used in my international documentary course, where I created We Did Not Come Here For The Weather. First, development is extremely important for any project to go right. It is vital to brainstorm the idea and research the topic thoroughly. I
watched numerous documentary shorts to figure out the visual elements I wanted for my own film. There are so many different ways to set up a documentary, but I knew I wanted my film to have a more aesthetic feel, which is appropriate and more personal for the topic of artists. I took notes on the documentaries that inspired me and created a production notebook to help me maintain my vision for my project. I also wrote up a list of possible interview questions so that I would be prepared when filming my subjects. My professors also taught me the importance of having a solid plan B and C if plan A does not come through. For more than half a century women have been discouraged from getting into filmmaking, however in the last decades there are signs that something is
changing. What's your view on the future of women in cinema? I am fortunate to be born in a time where women are gaining more acceptances into the film industry. The ratio of women to men in film is still certainly not equal. However, women are gaining more power in the industry than in the past, such as the recent increase in the number of female lead roles in movies. It helps that there are organizations, such as CinĂŠwomen to promote women in film and give them the chance to have a voice. I am also thrilled that the film program at Penn State University is roughly made up of 50 percent females. There is still a long way to go for the number of women in film, but we are on a positive path towards change. Thanks for your time and thought, Megan. We wish you all
the best with your filmmaker career. What's next for Megan Roethlein? Have you a particular film in mind? This past summer I interned with a production company called Castle Pictures, Inc. in New York City, where I worked on the second season of their docu-drama series called Gunslingers. In addition to my documentary works, I have also worked on narrative films. Although I am passionate about creating both types of films, I thoroughly enjoy documentary work. I am currently entering into my senior year at Penn State University and will continue working towards my Film degree. I am hoping to take the international documentary course offered at my college again in the spring to make another documentary short!
chung wei huang Hopscotch (USA, 2015) e
Hopscotch is an ancient game which appears in different cultures. For me, it is fascinating to imagine the origin of the game and how it spread. In Taiwan, the shape of hopscotch is associated with the image of a house. This is the beginning of Hopscotch. I conceived the idea of a Taiwanese girl who meets an American boy, and hopscotch connects them until the moment when they need to decide if they are going to build a real home together. The film tries to explore the fusion of memory, imagination and reality. The structure is fragmented but eventually all the elements come to a whole. The story is set as a flashback. I believe that is what we see when we look back to certain critical moments in our life. The memory is scoured and altered by the present. Ultimately, that is what we really own. Hopscotch shares not only a love story, but also the difficulties that we might encounter no matter who we are, or where we are from. But the game continues, and life moves on. Hopscotch is a psychologically penetrating film that delicately weaves past and present, exploring the blurry boundaries between memory and imagination. Chung Wei Huang dissects identity with the sure hand of a surgeon, playing with the notion that images tend to exist in continuum,
residing somewhere in memory. We are honored to present Chung Wei Huang for this year's CinĂŠWomen Edition. Chung Wei, we want to take a closer look at the genesis of your film: how did you come up with the idea for Hopscotch? As I was developing the idea, I was fascinated by how ancient the game actually is and how it appears across a wide range of different cultures. It was surprising to me that it is a childhood game shared between Taiwan and the U.S. In some places in Taiwan, the layout of the hopscotch squares is associated with the image of a house. This visual connection between game and homelife was the origin for my idea for the film. Hence, hopscotch became a metaphor for what we all must face in life: the many miscellaneous conflicts and difficulties inherent in any romantic relationship. I started to see the numbers of the hopscotch game as different stages in a relationship and sometimes you just cannot reach a happy ending. The first image that I saw in my mind was a lonely, adult man playing hopscotch by himself, reflecting back on his childhood. This scenario later became the first scene in the film and the catalyst for the story. Often, I see images like this that are the inspiration that triggers the genesis of my films, where I see a specific image in my mind before I can see the character or the plot. Hopscotch is one of
those cases. Hopscotch is marked by an elegantly structured storytelling and a sapient use of flashbacks: each shot is carefully orchestrated to work within the overall structure. How did you develop the script for this film? There are three intersecting threads within the story. First, there is the beginning of the the relationship where the children met when little Matt is playing the game. Secondly, there is adult Matt playing the game by himself. Finally there is adult Matt and Emma heading towards the end of their relationship. The major challenge was when and how to interweave these stories. I knew that I want to blur the boundaries between memory, imagination and reality. I felt that this was what we see when we look back to certain critical moments in our lives. The memory is influenced by the context of the present. Everything is fluid and subject to change.
had an idea for the children to extend the numbered squares of the hopscotch game into infinity. And then the structure somehow became more clear to me. Matt looks back into his past to the moment when he first meets Emma. It is one of several memory scenes in the film. These scenes then overlap with surreal dream sequences of the children and the adult Matt playing the hopscotch game. And these sequences then overlap with the reality of the present moment where we find Matt and Emmaâ€™s relationship falling apart. These multiple threads continuously overlap and intersect. The process is quite like playing with puzzles. You get some pieces here and there. And gradually the whole picture starts emerge. Your modern approach to narrative and characters reminded us of Kiesloski's Color trilogy. How did you develop your filmmaking style and who were your chef influences?
I don’t know if I have fully developed film style yet. Each project takes its own form and I allow that process to unfold organically. There are many different cinematic forms that interest me. I also very interested in the hybrid of fiction and documentary and the essay film, particularly the work of Chris Marker and Agnes Varda. That is a format I will be pursuing in future. Kieslowski is indeed one of my favorite directors. The Double Life of Veronique is the first film that I watched of his. The tone and the cinematography is seared into my memory. I was very impressed by how everything about the film is so poetic and graceful. When I first watched the film, I did not yet have the idea to become a film director. I was just swept up in the moment, purely enjoying the film as a cinematic experience, and the film stood out in my mind in a way I couldn’t articulate back then. Now that I think back, that lyrical style is probably what I absorbed and used as an influence in my own films. Furthermore, I am very interested in exploring the
concept of the “dream-state” and how that is represented in film. I like the overlap between dreams and reality and wish to confuse the boundaries between the two. The film that influences me in this sense was Fellini’s 8 ½. I think it is wonderful that they can coexist in film. We have been deeply impressed by the extremely natural feel of the cinematography. You have shot Hopscotch on the RED camera, one of the most flexible and powerful tool for independent filmakers. Can you describe your approach to lighting? I didn’t want a very heavy-handed separation between the visual design of the reality scenes and the visual design of the dream and memory scenes. Instead, I wanted these different states to subtly blend together and thus blur the boundaries separating each in the viewer’s eye. My cinematographer, Joseph Kraemer, and I studied many films for reference.
Eventually we decided to adapt a more naturalistic approach, allowing the lighting to be dictated by the setting and the environment. This meant harnessing and controlling the natural light in these spaces. We have been fascinated by the fragmented editing of your film, did the overall structure unfold before the camera, or were you already aware of these various pieces of the puzzle? A puzzle is a fitting analogy for the film. Much of the fragmented style developed in the pre-production stage, but then further discoveries were made while experimenting in the editing room. The shooting script was itself quite fragmented, and lots of the shots, especially the scene transitions, were designed to support this mosaic-like structure. This allowed me to reach a rough cut very quickly, as most of how the film was shot
remained quite close to the storyboard and thus the order of the shots fell into place naturally in the first cut. But then as I continued editing the film, I expanded the intercutting between scenes. One scene was removed to improve the rhythm and I began to push the surreal style of the narrative further. I realized the film is not so much about what happens to Matt and Emma, but rather it expresses a universal experience of the deterioration of a relationship. So I recut much of a scene where Matt and Emma are fighting, and intercut that with the surreal children scenes. I think it works because when it gets more and more fragmented it leads to the scenes where the dream state and the reality of the present moment intersect, when the child versions of Matt and Emma encounter and interact with the adult versions of Matt and Emma. Hopscotch is a mind-bending meditation on love. What do you want people to remember after seeing your
movie? I guess what I want people to remember most is the hopscotch game as a thematic visual and story device, extending off into infinity. It is a game most of us share in our nostalgia for childhood. The game is much like how we live our lives, dutifully hopping along forward. Maybe it will make them recall someone they missed or lost along the way in life. What challenges did you face while making your short film? First of all, this is an extremely low-budget film. It was also my very first film. I didn’t have any portfolio of film work to show people, when gathering my cast and crew. And yet, I was able to assemble a small and dedicated team of crew and a great cast, who I was able to trust and collaborate with. It was a very rewarding experience. And thanks to my school, Temple University, I am able to use RED camera
and a wide collection of lighting, grip and sound equipment without additional expense. Casting was very challenging. Generally people think working with kids is difficult. But I think if you cast the right child actors, they can be surprisingly easy to direct and bring their own wonderful perspective to the set. A director once told me: “ you have to respect the child living in all actors.” I think that is very true that kids know how to have fun and try things. But casting child actors is not only casting the kid, you sometimes are casting their parents too. If the parents are not enthusiastic about the film, sometimes it makes things more difficult. But I think I am very lucky that all of the kids’ parents were very passionate about this project. It is also difficult to cast Asian actors. I did another casting session recently for my next film project and expanded the casting area to New York and the Mid-Atlantic and
still it was a challenge to find and reach Asian talent. It was quite frustrating especially when people don’t realize how difficult it is. There are not so many professional Asian actors, not because they cannot do it or because they don’t want to be actors, but because there are so few roles that they are offered or that are written for them. It’s a shame that we are so underrepresented in the movie industry. But it’s a hurdle like any other and it is one that we must overcome in order to do what we love. Other than casting, there was just the normal film set madness. It is organized chaos. There’s never enough time or enough sleep or enough money to do exactly what you imagine. I am very appreciative of the dedication and support from the crew that we were able to overcome these obstacles. Chung Wei, tell us about your trajectory as a filmmaker. What inspired you to express yourself in
this medium? I think what inspired me is confusion. I was quite confused for a long time that I don’t know what I wanted to do. Somehow I found my place in filmmaking. I guess if you are clear headed in everything you do, you probably won’t be interested in film at all. Because where’s the drama in that? I think many of my ideas are some variation on the coming-of-age story archetype. It comes from the moment when you realize the the world could actually be worse than you thought - that kind of confusion. But I do also believe there is a silver lining in everything that makes you feel maybe everything will be OK. For more than half a century women have been discouraged from getting behind the camera, however in the last decades there are signs that something is changing. What's your
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view on the future of women in cinema and animation? I feel positive about the direction in which we are headed, but I also believe there is a long way to go. The question itself is actually quite self-explanatory, because no one would ask ”what is the future of men in cinema and animation?” It is a structural problem inherent in the industry. But I do believe audiences want to watch stories that are told from a female director’s perspective. Today, there are many alternative venues and platforms via social media that allow a female filmmaker or a filmmaker-of-color to interact with her audience more directly and reach her own demographics. That, for me, is very exciting. Crowdsourcing is also a very powerful tool to bring equality to the business. I think ultimately if your story speaks to people, you now have a better chance
than ever to make it come to alive. Thanks for your time and thought, Chung Wei. We wish you all the best with your career. What's next for Chung Wei Huang? Have you a particular film in mind? I am currently in the post-production stage for my thesis film, Midnight Carnival, which will conclude my studies at Temple University, where I am getting my MFA degree in Film and Media Arts. Midnight Carnival is told by an outsider’s point-of-view - in this case a Taiwanese student doing a work study abroad in America - depicting how she experiences working in a traveling, midnight carnival. The film is more accessible and has a stronger emphasis on social commentary, as the film is very much about different cultures interacting within the “carney” culture of the carnival. Beyond this film, I am also developing an idea for a feature film.
lucy sheen Abandoned Adopted Here (UK, 2015)
With her characteristic vérité style, Lucy Sheen pushes the documentary genre to virtuosic heights. Her psychologically acute film deals with themes of personal identity and cultural difference, delivering a personal and nuanced take on an issue of international importance. We are proud to present Lucy Sheen for this year's CinéWomen Edition. Lucy, was it important for you to make a personal film, something you knew a lot about? Oh god yes. It’s not so much about making a personal film, or even choosing a subject that I have expertise in. In the end isn’t that what you do as a an artist – even if it’s just a minute piece of you, or the essence of you – it seeps into your work, you can’t help it. It was more that, people don’t know much about these topics. I get asked the same questions over and over again. For example, ‘How come I speak English so well,’ because the assumption is with my face having the features of an East Asian, I would naturally speak English with a noticeable accent, or not speak English at all. ‘Where are you from,’ and when I tell them invariably, ‘No really,
where are you from originally,’ as if the time it takes to ask the first question will somehow change the where I was raised and how I grew up. At the time when I start the whole process of the documentary,I was probably unaware, how important the personal connection was. It gained even more importance towards the end of the shoot when I decided to use extracts from a recording of my solo theatre piece, which I had performed in 2011. I started this documentary in 2010. Enthusiastic, naive, green and oh so inexperienced. But that's how you learn, isn't it? By jumping into the deep end. Not always the best way, but in the creative and artistic world; sometimes it's the only way that you can progress, by literally taking a leap of pure faith. Working in the UK, in the arts sector; it’s an area of society that is known for it’s tolerance and acceptance of the wide diversity that is “human,” but I’ve never quite been able to square that liberal tolerance with the practicalities and actualities of opportunities and employment for those of us who are not white, middle class and Oxbridge educated. The reality for someone like me who is female, fifty plus and a
person of colour (and a colour that has yet to merit recognition, East Asians are still very much the bottom of the minority heap.) We’re still subjected to institutional and structural racism, prejudice and some eye wateringly appalling inequalities. Opportunities for people like me to progress, competing on a level playing field; it’s more like I’m outside the main park in the scrubland. You add that to my obvious physically different appearance and tag on the added extras that transracial adoption brings with it it’s a hidden, un-discussed book. I want to open those pages, to expose, to capture the soft underbelly of why, I and people like me, even now in the 21st century Britain, are still, discriminated against and represented in an antiquated Victorian and factually incorrect manner. In British society, if you were to mount a theatre production where you expected your white actors to black up and play
characters of Black-African decent, there would be outrage, probably riots. Questions would be asked in the houses of parliament. Yet just a few years ago a theatre production in London did exactly that. Only it was not white actors pretending to be Black, they were pretending to be East Asian. In effect performing in “Yellow face.”Yet those of us from the East Asian community that complained were literally told to shut up. I’ve been told to my face that Yellow face is nothing like Blacking up. Well let me put the record straight. As a British East Asian, I can categorically state that I find the practice of Yellow face, every bit as degrading, humiliating, insulting and abhorrent as seeing a white actor blacked up on stage pretending to be a person of Black-African decent and all the racist and prejudice undertones that that practice embodies. Sorry it’s a pet hate of mine and a real soapbox item for
me. Back to the documentary I was curious about how transracial adoptees are also portrayed or thought about in modern society. Jokes about being adopted in the media as if that is an excuse for at best anti-social behaviour or the fact that the adoptee is somehow less than a “normal” person. And how many in the wider society seek to silence the adult transracial adoptee from speaking out, especially if the adoptee is not towing the party line. I wanted people to begin to understand, that what many in society take for granted, relatives, family, history, heritage, knowing where they fit in as a human being; a transracial adoptee doesn’t have that. They have lost everything, not just the country they were born in, but their language, family, heritage, culture and history. You don’t just get taken away from your family and placed somewhere else. Everything that makes a human being who and what they
are, the building blocks, the DNA of identity, it’s all gone. What better way to help people understand what it is like to be neither one thing nor the other, to be without solid identity, to be conflicted, to have two distinct, lineages – neither of which (for some of us) will ever fully accept you, than to make a film. With its mix of visual clarity and elegantly structured storytelling, Abandoned Adopted Here imparts unparalleled psychological intensity to the documentary genre. Could you take us through your creative process? What’s your writing process like? Oh lord lol! My writing process. I have an idea and I go with it. Trouble with me is I tend to have ideas swimming around my head. I can easily get distracted. So I do have to apply myself and focus. I’ve never really analysed my own writing
process. I tend to make a lot of notes. I scribble down ideas. I suppose, in some senses, I’m a combination writer. By that I mean, I visualise what I write. Well I visualise my ideas. Maybe that stems from the fact that I'm a dyslexic, my spelling was always dreadful and I had the handwriting to go with it. So I picture words, I “see” sentences – I turn them into visualisation, images in my head. I can’t think how else to explain it. Here I treated this documentary as if it was a feature film. I wrote a one-page treatment, a storyboard and then I scripted the documentary. Which in some senses is pretty stupid. I mean, a documentary, you never really know what you're actually going to get. People change, places change, life is never static and your documenting, trying to capture, that which is seen and also the unseen the below the line. I’ve always thought of documentaries as filmic
sculptures. You have a mass of material and it's not until you finished filming all the footage that you can then start the painstaking process of reviewing the material. Finding the true direction of your documentary. Suddenly you see the picture in the material, and then you start chiselling away to craft that material into a coherent film. I knew what I wanted from the get go. With Abandoned I suppose I treated it as if it was a ‘regular film. It would be interesting to compare your films to the cinema of Werner Herzog. Who were your chief influences? I'm extremely flattered - but I'm far from that - wow Werner Herzog that is a huge compliment. My influences, are many, a lot are "old school." I'm a newbie behind the camera. But I’ve been reading and watching since I was in sixth form.
Cahier du Cinema was a magazine I’d pour over with my poor French, and English-French dictionary in hand. I read about Claude Chabrol, Robert Bresson, Jean Cocteau and then I'd go off to the National Film Theatre on London's Southbank - to watch whatever foreign films were playing. There were several key foreign films that have stuck with me. Repulsion (1965) Roman Polanski, Two Stage Sisters (1965) Jin Xie Illustrious Corpse (1976) Francesco Rossi, The Lace Maker (1977) Claude Goretta, The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) Victor Erice, In more general terms directors that have influenced me and made me question, rethink how I view and record those views pictorially would be: Hitchcock, Fritz Lang, Park Chan-wook, Kurosawa, David Lean, David Lynch, Martin Scorsese, Hayao Miyazaki and Tsai Ming-liang. I have very eclectic
tastes. We have been deeply fascinated with your mix of sociopolitical engagement and in-depth psychological anaysis. How did you develop your filmmaking style? I develop by doing and hoping that other opportunities (preferably paid ones) present themselves so that I can continue to develop. My “style” is just the way that I see the world. My experience of life cannot but help shape and influence my eye and “style” if you will as a filmmaker. Because I ‘see’ words, I ‘see’ the poems that I write; I ‘see’ the plays that I write. I visually write my work. I’m sure that sounds weird, it’s difficult to explain. It’s almost like a moving image strip in my head. Sometimes all I see is a few frames; sometimes it’ll be an entire scene. I do feel more often than not that I'm like a
mediocre painter. The images I have in my head, the ideas, I don't quite yet have the skill and experience to translate and replicate faithfully the images I have in my head onto paper or celluloid. Iâ€™m a work in progress; Iâ€™ll get better (I hope). What emerges in front of your camera is the value of multicultural society. What do you hope viewers will take away from the film? What does any filmmaker hope for - that their work will be seen. I hope that the audience will take away a sense of what "otherism" - is. What it is like to function in a society, to have to participate, conform, behave and yet not to be accepted or be viewed as an acceptable participant in said society. If this film makes just one-person think then job done. Tell us about your trajectory as a
filmmaker. What inspired you to express yourself in this â€“ medium? I studied film when I was a student but went into film as an actor when I graduated from drama school in 1985. My first acting job was the lead in the ground breaking British feature film Ping Pong (1987 Po Ch'ih Leong). I think that many actors have a natural affinity for filmmaking - in some senses it's a natural progression or expansion of ones craft. I could have tried to make a "fictional film" covering the same themes, but as this was my first venture into film on the other side of the camera I felt that the best way to share this investigation and exploration of identity would be through the experience and words of "real people." I think that if you get it right in a documentary the "drama" the " conflict" has a hold, has an impact that very few features can replicate. The "drama" impacting on the viewer is real,
not tweaked, or heightened, but actual. Yes I know in some documentaries the use of actuality is augmented and perhaps in of itself heightened by the way the film's story is constructed. I would then say is that truly a documentation? Or is that type of documentary just using the tools of real life footage to construct a half-truth that looks better and plays differently than the reality it is supposed to share? A documentary could just be a series of shots documenting people's reactions to a series of questions, it could simply be a camera left to record the passage of time by filming a burning cigarette or following the path of a someone's shadow. Then there are the one off documentaries and the documentary makers like Claude Lanzman and Shoah. I’m not another Nick Broomfield and I don’t want to be. If I make another documentary, I’d like to continue in the manner that I’ve
started. I need to take a breath or two before I even consider the possibility of the next documentary. But at least I'll be going into it eyes wide open. I'd love to work with Ronit Meranda again. I'd love to do a documentary on the rising number of stolen babies and toddlers in China that poses so many problems and challenges though. But in the meantime I'm hanging back and taking time out from documentaries. Making docs is not relaxing and consumes you whole (if you let it). I made Abandoned in less than five years, quite fast for a documentary. For more than half a century women have been discouraged from getting behind the camera, however in the last decades there are signs that something is changing. What's your view on the future of women in cinema?
Yes things are changing but far too slowly it's like the diversity issue in film and the arts. In the UK there is a real lack of realistic representations of Black, Asian, Ethnic Minorities, Women and Disabled people in the media, film and on stage. Behind the camera in Hollywood thereâ€™s been Jane Campion, then 2009 Kathryn Bigelow, Claire Denis, 2010 Nina Paley - that's just off the top of my head, but names aren't tumbling out. In the UK in modern terms, we've had Sally Potter (Orlando 1992) Gurinder Chadha (Bhaji on the Beach 1993), Carine Adler (Under the Skin 1997) Clio Barnard (The Ark 2010), Carol Morley (Dreams of a Life 2011) so not huge numbers. I'd like to think that progress will pick up and we'll see more and more women per say in the arts. Whether that's as filmmakersâ€™ directors, producers or writers. But females that are hitting the headlines and gaining
recognition as artists. But the cynic in me, having seen the slow progress when it comes to the acknowledgement in the UK (and to a degree I'm sure in the US and other parts of the Western world) how long it has taken to move even a few inches away from the colonial, Empirical, white euro-centric, Oxbridge-educated and privilege male middle-class sensibility, that drives and to a huge degree, in Britain still dominates what arts is. How it is funded and whom it is acceptable to fund. Women being allowed and having the same opportunities and being received and treated in the same manner as their male colleagues, I am not holding my breath. I'm hoping and backing those that speak out and will add my small insignificant voice; there still needs to be a gargantuan shift in the subconscious mind-set, I think. If I manage to keep making films then that's my contribution
and griefing me online for a while. I can laugh about this now, but at the time, it wasn’t an experience I want to repeat again, any time soon. I just remember thinking what the **** have I gotten myself into. I mean if you wrote this as a drama everyone would say it’s unbelievable too over the top. Take three, smaller crew and a chance for me to make the documentary that I wanted. Not just a series of talking heads. I wanted the viewer to actually see, experience, both visually and aurally the story, the experience of being outside the mainstream of being in between too distinct cultures and ways of being. The impressive cinematography, too dam right, that is the amazing work of Ronit Meranda. Her ability to interpret and capture my direction and realise my imagination in camera is Ronit's own supreme talent. Ronit’s ability to empathise and translate that through the
lens, for sure I had written down and discussed I what shots I wanted, but Ronit had to make it happen. Which is why I want to work with her again. I think for me the most challenging thing about Abandoned was having to start over after having filmed for a couple of months. But it was a blessing in disguise. Had that not happened, had I not had to find a new crew, had I not had to let a camera person go –I wouldn’t never have worked so closely with Ronit and I wouldn’t have ended up with the great film that I have now. The challenge of deciding whether the proof of my own concept was strong enough, whether I was strong enough to see the film through to the end. There was no support it was just me, a newbie director, a newbie producer, a newbie documentary maker. There were times when I did feel like a real fraud and thought that I was never going to through this.
I learnt about the politics of adoption in the UK and that how resistance can come from the most unlikely sources. I encountered a group, well not a group, but a couple of individuals both were adoptees like myself. Basically I found out that during my first attempt to shoot the documentary, they were in fact seemingly doing everything they could to sabotage the shoot. I think that was when I realised the level of fear that can surround and stay with the adult adoptee. That adoptees are not supposed to speak out. Adoptees, especially transracial adoptees, somehow we only exist in a state of being, if we are forever grateful and beholden. If we speak out, we are somehow committing a crime. I dare to speak out. I’m too long in the tooth to play games or quite frankly to care if people don’t like me because I challenge the status quo. I am actually aware of what transracial adoption took from me and
what it gave to me. It’s a double-edged sword. It’s a challenge that every transracial adoptee faces. Whether we accept it or not. We all have to come to terms with the loss that has been imposed upon us. And adoptive parents have to rise and be equal to the challenge on how they raise their adoptive children. How they can themselves come to terms with the child’s previous life, how they will deal with this. Thanks for sharing your time, Lucy, we wish you all the best with your filmmaker career. What's next for Lucy Sheen? Have you a particular film in mind? Ha! That's the 64 million dollar questions isn't it - I'm trying to get a short of the ground. A film with no dialogue and with elements of animation or virtual world filming. So anyone out there a fast animator or 3d virtual world builder and filmer please get in touch. I have no
funding for this one (again) so any producers out there interested again please contact me. I have two other "short" film scripts, but it is all about funding. No funding, no filming and I refuse to make films and expect people to work for free or just a CV credit. We should all be paid for our skills, so unless I win the lottery, who knows. I may slowly do a film, literally all by myself, because if I choose to work for free then that's my business. But it's always tough for the independent, unknown, over fifties, female filmmaker of colour. I’m being partially flippant, partially. I'll keep trying because you never know what might happen. After all if I hadn’t been so bloody minded then I would never have met and worked with Ronit and Abandoned Adopted Here would never have been made. I do have a feature in mind, but it's a historical drama and they cost bug bucks.
zhi-min hu My Color (Canada, 2006)
Zhi-Min Hu is known for her unique visionary imagery. With a radical and disturbing take on narrative, My color is a dark, visually rich, and emotionally captivating surreal film. Throughout the work Zhi-Min Hu experiments with a remarkably expressive use of darkness to give contrasting shape to different lighting zones within the frame. We are proud to present Zhi-Min Hu for this year's CinéWomen Edition. ZhiMin, tell us about your trajectory as a filmmaker. What inspired you to express yourself in this medium? I was quite impressed by French Experimental avant-garde Silent Cinema, Luis Bunel and Salivador Dali’s Un Chien Andalou (1929), which is a disturbing, eccentric and fascinating film. I envy their honesty, boldness, and freedom. I've always cherished
Salvador Dali’s paintings; he opened the door to surrealism for me. I truly believe our dreams tell more about ourselves than we understand about ourselves. If you know how to decode my film, I am naked in front of you. This may be an anxiety shared by other experimental filmmakers, for every element in their films is premeditated within their sub-conscious. Experimental film may seem like an enigma; however, it is the most “close to truth” or “honest” film form when compared to documentary and fiction. In addition, experimental film is not just a way of expression, but also a new approach to cinema development. Regardless of the method of narration or camera movement, experimental film challenges conventions and widens our
perceptions. In the history of cinema, experimental films have inspired many great fiction filmmakers. How did you come up with the idea for My color? I became very depressed by ethnicallybased conflict between cultures. I live in Montreal, Quebec and witnessed a clash between an English-speaking student and a French-speaking student during a class break in film school. I should note that the university was English speaking. However, in this case, this class was an exception and was taught in both English and French with the language alternating each year. In that particular year, the class was presented in French. During the break, one student asked questions in English and the teacher replied in English. Upon hearing this, a Frenchspeaking student became angered and demanded that both the teacher and
student communicate in French. In Montreal, employees who speak in English during a break can be warned or even fired, a dynamic that was born from historic wrongdoing between Quebec's English and French settlers, but that remains as an issue even today. What I find interesting is that the English and the French have inhabited Montreal since Canada was first explored. Both languages have also coexisted and mingled over time; in fact, French was once the dominant official language in England. Still, given very long memories, many French-speaking Quebecers that are bilingual refuse to participate in English conversations. Biases and attitudes associated with historic conflict can fade; for example, as time passes and generations change, deeply rooted animosity can evolve into peaceful coexistence or even appreciation. I am Chinese and grew up with a culturally-rooted hatred of the
Japanese because of horrific transgressions that were committed upon the Chinese people during and after World War II. However, while a film student, I became a friend of a Japanese girl in my class and traveled to Japan. I fell in love with the Japanese culture and the Japanese people. I understand the grudge held by many Chinese against the Japanese imperial mentality, but I am sickened to read articles filled with hate against the Japanese people. To many, the Japanese and Chinese are similar in appearance; in fact, I've been mistaken as Japanese from time to time. The two countries share the same writing characters and similar architecture. In fact, when I visited a Japanese castle, I felt like I had been sent back two thousand years to China. The similarities continue and exist in calligraphy, painting, fashion and hairstyle. News describing the clash
between Israelis and Palestinians has become more and more depressing. Many have lost hope and no longer see any way to resolve the issue. In some cases politicians have sunk to the level of arguing about what to argue about, which seems absurd to me. Although there are distinct differences between the factions involved, they both share the same God, similar customs regarding food, and have lived in the same region for thousands of years. Unfortunately, the world has learned that both sides also share the same color blood. So, why do historic differences in ideology and identity cause so much chaos in the world when we are so similar in nearly every other way? Why are we so close, yet so far? I decided to make an experimental film to express my thoughts and concerns regarding the phenomenon. When we watched My color we
immediately thought of Carmelo , a rare masterpiece Bene's of the underground European cinema scene. There is very much in keeping with Derek Jarman's allegorical approach to filmmaking too, where the surreal and absurd are rendered in naturalistic images. Who were your chief influences? The primary influences behind My Color come from Mime, Beijing opera and Japanese Noh. In both Noh and Beijing opera, the artist's face is either painted or the artist wears a mask to symbolize the role of their character. In My Color, the mask is skin tone. In the aforementioned forms of theatre art, mise-en-scene is not a key element and unchanging lighting is used; the focus is customarily placed upon the artistâ€™s performance. I found this to be an efficient and powerful way to visually express stories related to emotion,
psychology and other inner-world themes. We have been deeply fascinated by your sensuos low-key cinematography. Can you introduce our readers to your approach to lighting? I have always been fascinated by films from the black and white era. The images are full of high contrast, layers of shade, and strong outline. In both The Blue Angel (1959) and Shanghai Express (1932), the close-ups on Marlene Dietrich with single lighting over her head are very expressive and stunning. I love how it illustrates the character and her personality. It was my inspiration for the cinematography of My Color. Of course, there are modern examples; the choice of a black and white format for Schindler's List (1993) evokes the stark realities of the time period and makes the films violence all the more horrifying. So many scenes in the film are haunting because of masterful contrast between light, sha-
dows and darkness. It is a cinematographic work of genius. Your cinema is marked by a stunning mix of realism and surrealism. How did you develop your filmmaking style? I appreciate the painting styles of impressionism, expressionism, and surrealism and the combination of these artistic methods definitely influences me. For example, I use saturation and exaggeration to evoke an emotion or idea. Over time I realized that the contrast between realism and surrealism is similar to the visual contrast presented by black and white film. The combination of realistic and surrealistic formats in my film represents a natural progression from the use of dramatic visual contrast toward more cerebral dissimilarity that induces deeper emotional responses. My color has been shot in film: can
you describe your shooting process? What challenges did you face while making your film? Today, digital production has emerged as a major medium for the majority of lowerbudget independent filmmaking. Shooting in film represents a far more complicated and difficult process. Resources and support are shrinking year by year. Thus, the cost associated with film has become less and less affordable for independent filmmakers. Traditional film retains a unique charm and character and generally allows more flexibility from a cinematic and technical perspective. For My Color, I simply could not have achieved the images that I desired through the use of a digital camera. My Color is in fact an exercise shot during a cinematography class. The underlying theme was a simple study of skin tone and lighting. However, I was strongly motivated to push the film far
past its simple requirement, for imagery without meaning is like a pretty woman or a handsome man lacking a soul, they can’t be beautiful.
For more than half a century women have been discouraged from getting behind the camera, however in the last decades there are signs that something is changing. What's your view on the future of women in cinema? I was once hired as a cinematographer for an independent film project as the only female member of the tech-team. I arrived on time, ready to begin. Before revealing my role or my name, I sat began conversing with two cameramen and a grip. After about ten minutes of chatting, the grip became impatient and asked, “Where is Zhimin? How can the cinematographer be late on set?” At that moment I revealed that I was ZhiMin. The three rather tall men looked at me in
disbelief and made it very clear that they were not pleased I was there. Despite this, I kept smiling and shortly after shooting commenced I proved that I "knew my stuff". The two cameramen quickly changed their attitude and we became an efficient team. However, I had an especially difficult time working with the 55-year old grip, who was particularly spiteful and constantly battled over light settings and other decisions. Thanks to the feminist movement and with the support of filmmakers that believe in gender equality, cinema now offers more opportunity to female filmmakers, allowing them to shine. The overall landscape is still difficult due to a deeply rooted "boys club" mentality, but the industry is progressing in a positive direction. Overall, I believe that as time passes there will be more and more female directors and cinematographers working in mainstream cinema.
A number of women have already earned their place in big-budget projects, including Kathryn Bigelow (director of Point Break, The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty) and Penny Marshall (director of Big, Awakenings, Cinderella Man). We still have a long way to go, but I have faith that ability and perseverance will eventually result in gender equality on the set. What do you think about the contemporary Canadian cinema scene, from an experimental filmmaker's point of view? Unlike fiction or documentary, experimental film is considered somewhat "defiant" and has a limited market and audience throughout Canada. The genre relies primarily on government funding for the arts, which has been cut significantly over recent years making funding difficult to obtain. The
number of formal venues and film festivals that showcase or include experimental films is relatively small, a fact that I obviously find disappointing. Finally, there is little promotion of the genre and the community needs more support. Thanks for your time and thought, Zhi-Min. We wish you all the best with your filmmaker career. What's next for you? I am working on a fiction project in the field of cinema dâ€™auteur which explores a fusion of experimental film elements within the framework of a fiction film. It's an exciting and challenging project that I truly take pleasure in.
jade bryan The Shattered Mind (USA, 2015)
Moodily sensual cinematography and expressive performances make a psychologically penetrating work. This acute study of a teenager fighting against her traumatic experience is a film that comes at the viewer in a torrent of rough emotions. We are proud to present Jade Bryan for this year's CinĂŠWomen Edition. Jade, how did yu get into filmmaking? I studied film at New York University, where I received a BFA degree in film production. It was a tough school because I was the only deaf person in all my classes. I used sign language interpreters for all my classes. I had no background in filmmaking before that. I learned everything about the world of filmmaking at Tisch. Before entering a film school, I was studying advertising design at the Fashion Institute of Technology. I always tell people that filmmaking discovered me. I didnâ€™t discover it. It sort of fell in my lap because it knew that I am the person called to tell stories. I have been making movies, music videos, documentaries and writing
scripts for 25 years now and loving it! The Shattered Mind is a visually lovely but darkly realistic investigation of childhood trauma. How did you become involved with The Shattered Mind and what attracted you to this film? The Shattered Mind, based in New York, is a psychodrama and psychological story about a hard-of-hearing teenager who juggles family, peer and culture conflicts while in search of her own sexual identity, freedom, and self-realization. Zhane Rain is an intense and carefree high school senior with three generations of hearing and deaf family members who unravels family secrets behind the traumatic brain injury that caused her deafness. Like the character, Zhane Rain, I also endured a traumatic brain injury as a child. As a result of that injury, I also lost my hearing, so I know what itâ€™s like dealing with family secrets, or not having to know the cause of my hearing loss until very recently. While growing up, I felt like I was living my life
with a big “?” over my head every time someone would ask me how I became deaf. I’d tell them that I had no idea. The film, which I wrote and plan to direct, is fictional, but I used some of my own real-life experiences while writing the script. I like dark, intense and challenging story. I remember when I was young, in my teen years; I was trying to find myself. We all go through that. Writing and reading books saved me. I used write a lot of dark poems. Sometimes I would have weird dreams about weird stuff. I applied some of the dreams, poems and life experience in my films. I do not remember the fall. Maybe that’s why I had those haunting and bizarre dreams. I am not afraid to push the boundary in my writings or my film. I like to evoke or invoke emotions and thought-provoke stories. I also like Hallmark-lik inspirational stories. I’d like to see how it could transform from paper to the screen. That’s what I did with The
Shattered Mind. Of course the rest of it is embellished or exaggerated. That’s the nature of being a creative writer; you let your mind be as imaginative and innovative as possible. The Shattered Mind has won 8 awards; best featurette, best supporting actress, best sound, best narrative short, best psychological drama, audience award, diversity and inclusion award, (dis)ability award film, and nominated for best actress and best drama. The accolades won’t stop coming! It has been an amazing year for our team. I hope a distributor will pick it up so we can expand it. A lot of scenes, about 65%, were taken out to make the film for $40,000. This is a $2 million budget film due to high end visual effects. It’s not over for The Shattered Mind. What is your preparation with actors in terms of rehearsal? Before we did the actual production, we
held a staged reading. It helped me develop the script and see what type of cast I will be working with for the film. Then we had the audition for the shoot. I kept some actors. I remember I had a very hard time finding the right actors to play the mother and the daughter. I am very picky about my leads because they are the key talents who will carry the film. If I cast a bad actor, the film will do not well. This is my vision. I hired a casting director to work with me when we held the audition. Even though, I have a good sense who to cast for the role, I still need someone else’s on my team. Especially, when it comes to casting hearing actors. Although, I have some residual hearing loss, I am not able to hear how they sound. Vocalized and oral accent is everything. I will not be able to catch that! Whereas, sign language, facial expression and body language are also considered “visual accent.” That’s my department. I will know what will work and what will not. Let’s talk about the two main casts, who played the mother and the
daughter. A good friend, Michelle Banks, who is also a deaf actress, introduced me to D’bora Ware, a deaf woman who never acted in her life. When she submitted her audition reel, I knew she was right for the part as the mother, Brianne Davis-Baldwin. She is natural, attractive and very easy to work with. And the camera loves her! She takes instructions well. She won the award for best supporting actress from Global Independent Film Awards for May 2015. She deserved it because she gave it her all. The main character for Zhane Rain is hard-of-hearing. This is my story. I am hard of hearing. Anyway, there was a deaf actress who was cast for the part. She signs and speaks very well. A conflict had arisen and didn’t think it would work out. I was left without a main talent. I had to send out another search for the lead on facebook as well as other casting sites to find a replacement and fast. I remember thinking my production was about six weeks away, and I was getting ready for
rehearsal. I also remember the stress that came with it. There was no way I was going postponed the shoot because all the out of town actors flight tickets were booked and scheduled to fly to NY to get ready for rehearsal and the shoot. Everything was set, shooting locations, production schedules, rehearsal spaces, all the reservations and deposits were placed. Postpone? No way! We’re not a Hollywood production, we’re a low-budget, indie film production company and we cannot afford to cancel or postpone the shoot! I had to find someone fast and pray that she does deliver. It took leap of faith. After the post went viral, a Facebook friend of mine who is an interpreter saw the post. She instant messaged me and asked that I give her daughter, Kyra Korchak a chance. I was hesitant. She practically begged me to try her. I was concerned because she didn’t know any sign language, is not deaf, and has no knowledge of deaf culture, which is very
important for the story due to the fact the family are all deaf except for her brother. Having her interacting with the deaf family plays a critical role. If not deliver well, the deaf community can tell something is off and that it is not natural. So they sent me the audition reel. I watched it and I was convinced by her performance. Kyra was able to pick up on a few sign languages but there was still a lot of work to do. She was willing and available to commit. I figure I will worry about the signing part later. So Kyra was cast for the part. One of the advantages for this role is that the character, Zhane Rain, lives in the best of both world; the deaf and hearing world. Zhane Rain is always on the fence with everything, her identity, her sexuality, etc. The ability to sign well for the role does not have to be mastery. Zhane Rain’s signing is skittish because it’s how I envisioned and crafted the character to be. What’s important is her ability to dialogue naturally with the deaf family and her deaf
peers. I was really worried about that. What helped a lot is that Kyra was also a natural and adaptable. I hired a sign language coach, Katina White, to coach and train her to sign. Kyra managed to learn what she could in three weeks! As a result of all of her hard work and commitment, Kyra is the finalist and is nominated for best actress for the Peachtree Village International Film Festival in Atlanta, Georgia from September 14-20. What a journey I had to go through! It took me three years to find the right actor for the role as Zhane Rain. The actors had three weeks to prepare; learning lines, blocking, pair up with one other to develop chemistry. Some actors did not have acting experience so I hired an acting coach to prepare them for on-camera shoot for a day. As a deaf filmmaker of color, I am a huge advocate for increasing positive representation for deaf talents of color in film and television. The mainstream entertainment industry does not spotlight
enough of our talents in film and television. They create and give more speaking roles to the white deaf actors. In addition, the industry gives deaf roles to hearing actors. This upsets the deaf community. They use deaf actors of color as props (background fillers). The deaf community and Deaf Talent Guild (founded this year) want to make sure that the deaf roles are given priority to deaf actors. The guild is for deaf actors in film, stage, television, multimedia and related professionals in the entertainment industry. The guild focus and recognize excellence and promote awareness. I am a member of the guild. However, as for my film, The Shattered Mind, sometimes the choices are slim and as a producer/director, I had to go with my guts and be ready to receive all the flaks thrown at me. I’ve already been prepared for that. It’s what it is but I can understand their reasoning because I support it 100%. But as a producer, I have the final say. Vision is everything. Performance over
American Sign Language is how I do it. Not the other way around.
tion. He referred me to Al Rivera, who was totally available for my shoot.
The Shattered Mind features an expressive, poetic cinematography, which reminds of the atmospheres of the films by Pedro Almodovar. Can you talk about your creative relationship with your DoP and how it has evolved through your work together?
Al’s background is more of a gaffer / lighting designer. He worked on films, “My Name is Khan, Dhoom, Washington Heights, Brother’s Keeper and a couple Bollywood .He has just developed an interest in director of photography. He shoots from Panasonic Lumix Gh3 and owns 20 Canon lens. I was reluctant to hire him because I wanted to a DP who owns a Red camera. I have done extensive research about this particular camera. The reason why I wanted this camera is because of some visual effect scenes in my film. Al asked me why I wanted to shoot from Red. I told him because Red increased pixel density that gives my film more area to work with in post.
For The Shattered Mind, I had originally planned to shoot from a Red Epic camera. I had this planned for three months. The DP backed out 4 days before the shoot! I lost my mind. I find it disheartened that people are backing out on me! On that same day, I put up an ad on Mandy.com to find a replacement fast. The next day, another DP who owned the Red camera answered my ad. He loved my story. But he realized he has taken on another job. He did not want to commit and then leave in the middle of my production. He wanted someone to commit 100% to the produc-
Basically the RED shoots in 4000x2500 pixels, opposed to most cameras, which shoot 1920x1080. His camera shoots 1920x1080. Therefore shooting from Red
can be compositing in special effects, coloring, wire removal, green screen, – all of that stuff I can have more control over because the image itself is bigger and there is more space to work in. I wanted production value quality work. He said he could give me the same kind of quality. He also told me it is about the story, not the look of the picture. I do agree with him, however, it is my story and I have a right to decide what I want to shoot from. He gave me the ultimatum whether to hire him on the same night after our meeting because he needs a full day to pack his equipment. My shoot was set for two days later. I had no choice but to hire him and increase about 50% more of his salary. Ouch! That hurt like hell, but I could not put off my shoot. My actors were already traveling to NY to prepare for the shoot. Anyway, we shot for thirteen days straight. I am happy with the result. Working with Al was a challenge. First, he’s a dude. Second, he
has never worked with a deaf director on a film before with 75% deaf cast. Everything was new for him. There were some communication barriers. There were very little funds in my budget to hire interpreters to facilitate our shot lists and whatever was discussed throughout my production shoots. None of the interpreters weren’t interested in helping me out. Sometimes the actors became the interpreters! Technically, they are supposed to focus on their acting role, and not taking any interpreting responsibilities. They wanted to help. They care about the film. Anyway, Al has his shots vision and I have my own shots vision from a director’s lens. Sometimes our visions clash. It’s funny, I originally wanted to work with a female DP but she wasn’t available. Al was able to deliver the artistic inspiration film feel and cinematic soft touch on some of the characters. He brought life out of the characters. He sets the moods right with his lighting design mastery. He also has a
way of stylizing each scene to suit my expectation or exceeded my expectation. He spent a great deal designing the lighting for each scene to make sure it sets the right mood or atmosphere. For example, when the actors prepare for blocking, he’d watch their movements and interactions, which helps him prepare the shots. Sometimes there would be changes in the blocking set up to accommodate the camera angles. Sometimes I would agree, sometimes I want the specific set ups. As a director, I get the final say. My picture, my vision, and I make sure that the DP does the job. One of my peeves as a deaf director is making sure that the actors hands are within the frame and not cut off. I see that happens a lot in television and in the movies where the deaf actors signing their lines get cut of. A lot of Dps need to be educated on that. It’s important that they have a sign language coach or sign master on the set working with the
director to prevent that from happening over and over again. That will not happen with my film. I only allow it when it’s absolutely necessary, for aesthetic purpose. For example, it was challenging getting the actors in the car while we had the camera mounted on the side of the car so that their hands could be seen within the frame. The DP and I didn’t have to look at the camera lens or the monitor. We had to trust it. I was in the back of the car giving instructions. We did a couple takes. Overall, I was pleased with all my shots. Working with Al, was like working with a big shot misogynist. I’m not kidding. He works on Hollywood and big budget films. It prepares me to become stronger and take on challenges head on. I used to be fearful and scared if I would one-day work with a cocky, impatient DP, especial white men who act like they would call all the shots. I learned a lot from working with him. If you ask me,
would I work with Al again? Probably, yes. Why? He does the job. He delivered 100%, sometimes more. He was always on time, ready to shoot some picture. I know I will be worker with bigger ass in this industry. Come on, bring it! They will learn. I think like a man, anyway. This is about awareness and collaboration. Period. What do you hope viewers will take away from the film? My hope is that the viewers will finally see that there are deaf talents of color who can deliver excellent acting performance, just like any actors. They have stories to tell, experience to share. I want the viewers to connect with them from a universal emotion. I want for them to identify with the actors’ pains, fears, struggles, you know, the human experience. Most important, I’d like for them to realize that we need more stories like The Shattered Mind, espe-
cially about a black deaf family told from our perspective in film and on television. We need so much of that in the mainstream entertainment industry. You see, everyday, we deal with oppression, ignorance and bigotry. I tell these stories in a passionate manner with a strong urge to spread messages of love, awareness, diverse communication, education, uplifting, and peace-sharing that have been neglected by today’s ignorant and troubled world. These messages need more potency to be heard everywhere. As an artist who is deeply in touch with emotions, I respond well to human connection and the human condition; I want to tap into these emotions by making films that expose the human side of Deaf and Hard of Hearing people from all backgrounds, especially people of color. Before The Shattered Mind you worked for 9 years on your feature
film “If Your Could Hear My Own Tune”. Can you tell something about this amazing experience? If You Could Hear My Own Tune is my first guerilla-style indie film and was my first feature length film I wrote, produced and directed for under $30K. I am proud of the work. A lot of lessons were learned during the making of that film. We first shot it in 2001-2003 and finally completed the work in 2011. Why the time gap? We ran out of funding and didn’t have postproduction funds to complete it. So between these years, before crowdfunding even existed, I raised pennies through hosting fundraiser events and saved up to finish it. I never want to go through something like that again. Never. But it was an amazing journey. Do you have any advice for filmmakers who have their own stories they’re burning to tell although they lack the funding or infrastructure to do so? If your passion is to become a filmmaker, make sure you learn the art of entrepreneurship because you will only be the one to advocate for your own film. No one else will. It will be a different story if you depend on mommy and daddy’s money. But seriously, learn the ropes of business for filmmaking.
any picture, be able to break barriers and set new limits. They should be able to make any picture fly. Male Dps should mentor them. Female Dps should also mentor aspiring female Dps as well. Thanks for your time and thought, Jade. We wish you all the best with your filmmaker career. What's next for Jade Bryan? While The Shattered Mind is touring the festival circuit until the spring of 2016, currently, an agent that I sought is exploring digital opportunities with production companies to see if they would be interested in producing one of my TV pilots. I wrote two pilots for television. The first one is a dramedy entitled, "The Two Essences" about a mother and daughter who goes to the same college and "The Innocent Project", a SciFi/drama series about a deaf woman and an incognito spy. As you can see, my passion is to increase positive representation of Deaf People of Color of all nationalities in film and television because hardly anyone is telling our stories. It’s time we pave the way for them when the doors were often closed. Someone has to tell his or her stories.
For more than half a century women have been discouraged from getting behind the camera, however in the last decades there are signs that something is changing. What's your view on the future of women in cinema? I’d like to see more women get involved in film production, especially behind the camera. It is stated there’s an increase of 3% female Dps. Hollywood misogyny, awareness and absence of opportunity play a role of the reason there are such a few female Dps. I feel more women should be encouraged to be able to shoot
lud m么naco Enjoy the Drama (Canada, 2015) Titolo che inizia per
With its sparse, poetic imagery, Enjoy the drama is an emotionally penetrating journey, a kaleidoscope of dreams and memories. The story is simple, yet the implications of its characters’ actions and emotions are profound: rather than focus on acute or dramatic moments, Lud Mônaco relies on simple gestures to create a mind-bending meditation on the feminine universe. We are pleased to present Lud Mônaco for this year's CinéWomen Edition. Lud, tell us about your trajectory as a filmmaker. What inspired you to express yourself in this medium? I started my film career when I was twenty, selling popcorn in a cinema in
South West London. It was a multiplex with 14 screens and around 20 people working per day. I used to disappear and sneak myself into the screens to avoid my work reality, by getting immersed into the movie's world. I got caught a couple of times, but luckily they never fired me. I ended up addicted to films and I began sharing my opinion about the new releases with my family and friends. So that was when my grandfather decided to give me my first handy-cam. Until then I'd always write to express my feelings, but with my new-old grampa's cam I discovered the quite faithfully ability of film to immortalize moments and emotions. We want to take a closer look at the genesis of your film: how did you come up with the idea for Enjoy the drama?
I was invited to participate in a film laboratory called Kinomada, set in Québec. Among with other participants from all departments of filmmaking, we were challenged to pre-produce, shoot and pos-produce many shorts in ten days. I had really clear what I wanted to talk about, but due to the improviser nature of the event I chose to wait and see how I could concretize my idea, according to the available resources, spaces and the people I would meet. Before “Enjoy the drama” become a film, it was a successful homicide attempt. I had a really bad heart ache and the person who I loved said that to me... I died for around a year. But when I resurrected I saw it from a completely different perspective and I found the sentence quite brilliant. So I thought I could do something with the concept of it.
We have been deeply impressed with the structure of the film. Did the story unfold before the camera, or were you already aware of these various pieces of the puzzle?
the structure, but it completely lost its intensity. The second version of Enjoy the drama could definitely reach a wider public, but I chose to preserve the intensity of it. I believe it is the spice of the film.
The short film was unfolded on set under the idea of shooting daily situations in all the different spaces of a house. Its structure was developed along with the editing process. I knew how I wanted to start and end, so the main editing task was to experiment and find a composition of scenes that could well illustrate the daily life the way it is, made of positive and negative situations. That was the only rule. The cuts were decided by the feelings. It was quite curious 'cause when I got back from QuĂŠbec I tried to do a second version of the film, rationalizing the cuts and changing
To be able to produce a film which is set mainly within in the interior of a Quebecois house yet still manage to convey the vast possibilities of the outer world is an impressive feat, indeed. What was the most challenging thing about making Enjoy the drama? I think the proposal of the laboratory itself was really challenging. I was invited to shoot a film in a really short period of time, in a country I didn't know, surrounded by unknown spaces and people from a range of backgrounds. The atmosphere was favorable for creating, experimenting
and making network, but it required a really proactive attitude, therefore a lot of energy and soul. We were based in this massive theater in the centre of QuĂŠbec. I didn't have a phone and if I had to find someone I would have to run throughout the building to find this person. Two days before the shooting I still didn't have a location, but I gave a shout and someone offered me a house with a cat. I think the challenge was to be able to improvise upon the circumstances and link my ideas to the reality of resources and time. In the Director's statement you said "I have relied on the internal movement of the shots to preserve the freshness of memories". In your film you create a genuinely affecting mood through precise rhytms and gestures. How did you develop your filmmaking style?
I think most of our innermost feelings come from remembrance. When I decided to use the memories I resorted my own ones and I realized it consisted of many situations with random start and end points. I came to the conclusion that the exercise of remembering can be well defined by the concept of a collage, in which the peaces are instants we recall with independent meanings, but if they all come together they can reach a deeper significance. It was indispensable to film these pieces in the most organic way possible, to be fair to the nature of memories. That's why I took the decision to release the camera and let the actresses run free. Can you describe your collaboration with Maggie and Tatiana? I met Tatiana and Maggie at the laboratory. We got connected from
the very beginning and I invited them both to work with me, even before having the script ready. In fact we ended up on set and the script still wasn't ready. But that was on purpose 'cause I wanted to write the story along with the actresses. They read the voice-over and they were aware that we were going to shoot a few daily situations. On the filming day we sat and I explained to them the shooting schedule, which was planned mostly according to the mood of each sequence. So basically what we did before turning on the camera is get on set and I would describe the situation, giving to Tati and Maggie a conflict and a goal. They were totally free to create. There was no mistakes, anything could be harnessed, for example the cat's appearance. When we shot the scene of Tatiana sad on the couch, the cat turned up and lied
behind her. Probably Tati's energy attracted the animal to try to comfort her somehow. Tatiana and Maggie gave in themselves to this project and I was faced with two really talented actresses. Experimenting with them was the richest part of making this film, indeed. Did you rehearse a lot with the shots you prepared in advance? There was no official rehearsal. In average we shot 3 takes of each sequence. The repetition could compromise the freshness of the gestures and the rhythm. What do you hope viewers will take away from Enjoy the drama? Enjoy the drama is a metaphor. It's about daring to cross the door between your surface and your deep intimacy.
Once you put down this barrier it means that you are finally facing yourself. And that implies you overcame your fears, your shame, your self-judgement, self-pity, nothing scares you and you are now in control of yourself. So the drama dies and although death is still dramatic, that's when the enjoyment is possible. When we watched your film, we immediately thought of Athina Rachel Tsangari's atmospheric cinema marked by a gentle naturalism. Who among international directors and animators influenced your work? I didn't know Athina's work before you guys mentioned it on the first email. I found it really inspiring especially because of her authenticity and her honest way of expressing herself. She's now definitely a new reference
for my next film researches. Well, and about my influences I think they are also like a collage... For example, the audacity of Pasolini, the burnings houses of Tarkovsky, the shot guns of Glauber Rocha, the love triangles of Truffaut, the sarcasm of Vera Chytilovรก, the constant search of Antonioni, the intense romances of Rohmer...And also, although they're not film directors, they constantly fulfill my ears and heart while I'm creating, Caetano Veloso and David Bowie. They can awake even the deceased, that's an admirable skill! For more than half a century women have been discouraged from getting into filmmaking, what's your view on the future of women in cinema? I don't really know. I think anything I say would be like playing the lottery.
I'm not into the genre study. It's my subconscious that talks about and through women. I didn't have a masculine reference at home, I was brought up under female eyes. So more than women in cinema and in future, I can talk about it in present and in a general social context. I do believe that today we, women, have a much more active presence in this world. Our voice now occupies space, but it still feels like it's something obligatory. I just hope that in a near future we won't need any special laws, campaigns, ong's, nor governmental help to be respected, heard and get chances to succeed. I really wish it will all get normalised. Meanwhile I'll keep creating and speaking out the feminine universe. Thanks for your time, Lud.
We wish you all the best with your filmmaker career. What's next for Lud Mônaco? Can you tell us something about your next film? It's a pleasure, thank you for your interest in my work. I'm now just back from another film laboratory, "Off-Courts Trouville", in France, and I'm currently working in the postproduction of "Soif de Fenêtre", my most recent short film. Apart from that I've been applying for funds to carry out the development of my first feature project. It's inspired in an assay (Dialectic between potatoes) I did in 2012 with the Portuguese actress, Catarina Vieira. It's a philosophical comedy, here I leave a tip of it: God commits suicide, a bomb drops in Iraq and Augusta and Katia meet up at the McDonald's queue.
nathalia syam Titolo che (UK inizia 2015) per Thaara
Oscillating between the documentary and the fiction style, Thaara explores the story of an immigrant in West London. Silent and hidden behind her camera, Nathalia Syam takes the viewer through a roller coaster of emotions, escaping from the documentary clichès. We are pleased to present Nathalia Syam for this year's CinéWomen Edition. Nathalia, tell us about your trajectory as a filmmaker. What inspired you to express yourself in this medium? Firstly, thank you for choosing our Thaara for this year’s Cine Women Edition, we are very grateful. My interest in filmmaking started during my teenage years when I initially wanted to become an actress. I loved the idea of portraying different Characters. After acting in a few plays and short films, I became interested in the art behind the camera. The wide range of subtle ideas and emotions film as a medium could communicate and by its sheer potential to inspire, influence and educate impressed me. I started off by making short films that premiered at small-scale festivals. I then got an opportunity to assist a South Indian Filmmaker, Shyamaprasad, which gave me real hands on experience in the process of
feature filmmaking. Having thoroughly enjoyed this experience, I enrolled to study Film, Theatre and Television at the University of Reading. My degree was an eye-opener to the world of Cinema. The Combination of Film theory and Critical practise in film meant that I was able to benefit from the best of both worlds. Alongside my degree, I continued to gain experience and had the opportunity to work for a production company based in the Pinewood Studios, and when the time came for my final year university project, I chose to make Thaara, which I feel communicates a subject that is rather close to my heart. Human experience is often the starting point of your filmmaking. What draws you to a particular subject? Cinema, being a powerful medium, has an infinite scope to bring numerous issues to light. An important element to any film is the depth to which the characters are captured at and human experience is vital in order to create that depth. I am also a strong believer that part of any films’ success depends on the audiences’ ability to connect with the characters and since experience is the common factor that both the characters and audiences may have, I am drawn to recreating situations that are plausible in real life. Thaara is an unusual cinematic cocktail of fiction and documentary. How much of what we see on screen is based on facts and records? Are there any moments in the film that are pure invention on your part?
Having spent a religious amount of time on research, this entire film consists of confirmed facts and records. Thaara represents various problems and issues faced by illegal immigrants in London such as the below average salaries and the poor quality of living experienced by certain group of immigrants. Thaara can be considered to hold certain documentary characteristics due to the way and circumstances under which some of the scenes were filmed. For example, there is a scene that was set in an Asian grocery store. Working on a low budget, we were given no longer than an hour to film the entire scene. Since this scene was filmed during the shop operating hours, I was able to capture the real essence of the store by filming their workers and some customers. In order to save time and to also stay true to the concept of realism, I decided to film this scene without having to make any changes to the set (not that it would have been possible anyway). While this is an example of documentary style filmmaking present in Thaara,
the fictional element is also present due to the way I controlled numerous elements of mise-en-scene. I controlled elements such as the dĂŠcor, lighting and composition in order to give the spirit of reality that I wanted to convey through this film. So, it seems right to call Thaara a cinematic cocktail of both fiction and documentary filmmaking styles that were combined to recreate scenes that closely represent the current social situation in Southall today. Whatâ€™s your writing process like? Research is an integral part to my writing process. I am obsessed with researching on every single detail down to the kind of fabric that my charactersâ€™ should be wearing. For Thaara, I started off with research around the subject by interviewing numerous local residents and charity workers within the area. My regular visits to Southall also meant that I had the opportunity to observe and make notes on the general atmosphere within the town. Components such as the languages they
spoke and the way they publicly dressed and addressed each other proved useful in incorporating elements that helped with depicting reality in this film. After having conducted a satisfactory amount of research on Southall and its people, I felt confident in being able to portray some of these social issues through my film. In terms of the script, in order to stay true to the concept of realism, I decided to leave room for improvisation in certain scenes. This was beneficial during the shoot since it allowed my actors to play around with their roles and eventually allowed us to create a scene that was very close to the reality that I had in mind. My sister (Neetha Syam) is usually my writer to all my films expect for those that are part of my university modules. Our writing process usually comprises of numerous long discussions regarding the possibilities and plausibility’s of each scene. We are fond of including characters that we usually have already come across in life. We are both religious about research again and are constantly improving and re-writing our
drafts to get the best possible results. We want to take a closer look at the genesis of your film: how did you come up with the idea for Thaara? In preparation to this film, I was particularly interested in the idea of portraying a current social issue through my film. The lives of illegal immigrants in London have always been of interest to me and as a result, I decided to combine these two ideas in order to set my film in a place that isn’t often spoken about – the other side to London. Having worked for a charity that aimed to support immigrants with social problems, this topic was familiar to me. In order to understand these issues better, I researched on a number of articles and reliable news sources. I enjoyed making frequent visits to meet with the charity and to also run small focus group sessions that some of the staff members and the local people of Southall were kind enough to take
part in. These focus group meetings were hugely beneficial in finding out more information about the on-going issues that are faced by immigrants who are illegally overstaying their visa permits. As a result, I came across many stories that were combined in order to create the story of Thaara. The story is based around a young woman (Thaara) who is illegally overstaying her student visa permit in Southall, Greater London. One of my top priorities was to make a film based on an open-ended story that does not try to address or redress any social issue. I wanted the audience to feel and experience the sense that this plot was a result of the various events that came about from the immediacy of life. I therefore aimed to merely touch upon a social problem rather than to proffer a solution as, realistically, my solution will only be fictitious and may give an illusionary closure to a problem that is still very prominent. You have a peculiar sense of time and
rhythm. How did you develop your filmmaking style? In order to illustrate reality through my film, my research encouraged me to include some neo-realistic filmmaking characterises such as on-location-filming, the presence of non-professional actors, utilization of natural lighting and the sense that the plot came from the immediacy of life. The time and rhythm in Thaara is predominantly influenced by its narrative structure that stayed true to the characteristics above. Dividing the film into eight segments with a foursecond fade to colour transition in between, I allowed each division to hold a section that is central to the storyline. Being the editor to Thaara, I slowly fell in love with a rhythm that helped me portray the subject through a pace that would both be gentle and effective at the same time. I wanted to create the sense of a lived in world that formed a powerful platform for my characters to come to life in. As a result, Thaara aimed to explore the relationships between immigration,
economic exploitation and sexism in a meaningful way. Can you tell us your biggest influences in art and how they have affected your work? My major influences in art are usually ranked according to the genre and style of the project I am working on. Some of my all time favourite directors are Satyajit Ray, Francois Truffaut and Walter Salles. While numerous characteristics from the neo-realistic filmmaking style had a major influence on the choices and decisions made on Thaara, through trial and error during the filming process, I decided to take a personal approach in portraying realism through my film. As a result, I created a rule in where the final film would consist of numerous shots that were not repeated at any point. The film is linked using 47 shots that all consists of different frames and set ups. Although this rule proved difficult at first due to the extra time that was needed to complete filming, I was pleased with the end result as it gave
a sense of ‘realness’ in where a moment is not repeated from the previous angle or scale. Thanks for sharing your time, Nathalia, we wish you all the best with your filmmaker career. What's next for Nathalia Syam? Have you a particular film in mind? It was of great pleasure to have been interviewed for this year’s CineWomen Edition. While the plans to develop Thaara into a feature is in the pipeline, my writer (Neetha Syam) and I are currently preparing for our first feature, which will be in Malayalam. While it is too early to comment on its contents, the film will be approached with a style that will be very personal. As mentioned in the beginning, we believe Cinema has an infinite scope to bring numerous issues to light and we hope to do just that going forward.
petra lottje I donâ€™t miss anything (Germany 2014)
Focusing on small, psycologically charged moments, Petra Lottje create an exquisitely nuanced drama.I don't miss anything is a visually rich and emotionally captivating animated film, rendered through a sapient game of silences, looks and temps mort. From a narrative point of view, Petra Lottje's film seems simple, but it encompasses an entire world, depicting emotions in places where dialogue could not scratch the surface. We are proud to present Petra Lottje for this year's CinéWomen Edition. Petra, tell us about your trajectory as an animator and filmmaker. What inspired you to express yourself in this medium? For many years now, my artistic means are drawing and video. „I don’t miss anything“ therefore unites both of my artistic passions and at the same time it is my first animated film. What really
attracted me to it was learning the technique, a completely different approach than in my earlier works. When I realized that I would implement and narrate the story, it became clear beyond a doubt that I would not do it either as a documentary or a feature film. I wanted „I don’t miss anything“ to be a completely homogenous film, drawn frame by frame and very solemn, without sensational elements. I am intrigued by visual freedom and being in control of characters and spaces. Furthermore I wanted to animate frame by frame, look closely and dedicate myself to the media and the images I envisioned. We want to take a closer look at the genesis of your film: how you come up with the idea for I don't miss anything? Different factors led to the idea of „I don’t miss anything“. Most of my
friends and people like myself have reached their middle age, which is often a cause of looking back and reinvention. Furthermore there is the topic of child molestation, which has been discussed more openly for a couple of years now. However, when I worked on the film and released it, I discovered that it is still a taboo subject. In a movie, you can show homicide and torture and even murder and rape. But sexual abuse, for instance of a father to his own child, is often withheld or appears on the sidelines, not being narrated properly.The story of „I don’t miss anything“ is based on an authentic event. In Germany, two generations have now lived without war, violence or bloodshed in their country. My generation has the time to think and to reflect, to question German history, and to look for symptoms in our own personality. And to report, as I did with „I don’t miss anything“. One more thing is
that I live and work in Berlin, a city that has been marked by WWII. We have been deeply impressed with your enigmatic approach to narrative form. How did you develop the 'script' and structure of I don't miss anything? During the preliminary stages as well as during the work I researched a lot of things. I dealt with psycho-genetics and individual cases to become familiar with the topic.The first storyboard was full of details, since I considered smallest trifles to be important. But then I filtered out more and more and concentrated on the relevant points that are really important for story and narration.The beginning and the ending were the first things I had clearly in mind. As realistic scenes I wanted the initial war-scene and the woman at the end. We shot the final scene before the whole story was devel-
oped. And we spent weeks looking through „Wochenschau“ material (WWII propaganda films) to find this one „Stuka“ (Dive bomber), the falling bomb, the rolling tank, fire and explosions. Lutz Garmsen digitized the material before the character design for the characters was completed…I knew I wanted to build the story from an idyllic situation and then drive it forward psychologically to gain strong narrative virtue from the contrast. Then I developed the routes between the pictures, the paths to the key-scenes. One key-scene is, in my eyes, the son growing on his mother’s lap until he is much too big. Another important picture is „family constellation” from the middle section. Again and again, decisions were made during the process of animation, for instance to show the children’s room scene through a mirror and by that showing the only human pair of eyes. Naturally, because it was my first animated film and I had underestimated
the effort, some scenes were dumped after being laboriously drawn.I was lucky to have passionate and experienced animator Lutz Garmsen by my side who could estimate the effort of our project and saved us from time-consuming mistakes. Concerning music, I asked Norbert Riechmann to create a rural theme for the idyll and to use material from Schubert’s „Erlkönig“. These „deconstructed“ elements we used to underscore threatening situations. From the first time we watched your film, we immediately thought of Simone Massi and Yuri Norstein's work. How did you develop your visual style? Very soon, I opted for the characters’ nakedness after the idyllic scene. Another easily made decision was not to give them eyes to see and no mouth to speak with. The sober and faceless appearance
of the characters enabled me to concentrate completely on their body-language and story. Applying different elements and layers, for example the curtain, the stool, the chicken, the mirror and the realistic footage were important for telling the complex story and keeping the golden thread of the story going. I don't miss anything is a highly layered work, what challenges did you face while making this film? Planning exactly for 24 frames per minute and learning the programs were new challenges, requiring extreme concentration. Up to this point, I had produced lots of material for my video work and then used only the best parts. Doing „I don’t miss anything“ this was not possible- everything I wanted to see, I had to draw and animate. During the work I realized how high a goal I aimed for to draw ev-
ery single movement of the characters. Not only because of the number of frames to produce- I suddenly realized how complex and difficult it is to let a chicken walk like a chicken and different humans walk differently, and how close you have to look to capture a characters’ body-language and put it in motion. I’m very glad to see that we did a good job! A completely different challenge was to be, for two years, very much into the films’ subject, which isn’t an easy one.And it was really exhilarating to collaborate with such an enthusiastic, creative and professional team! I don't miss anything is an emotionally complex meditation on worldwar II. What emerges in front of your camera are the fears, hopes, and alienation of a disillusioned generation. Can you introduce our readers
to this fundamental idea behind your work? Every family, every epoch has its own history and experiences are carried further from generation to generation. „I don’t miss anything“ is an example for that. Here, „real“ war is hidden behind the curtain and maybe out of sight - but not out of mind.On the stage, it is continuing by different means. A highly private, speechless, nearly cold war, from which none of the involved parties can get away. So, the curtain is a theater curtain, under which unpleasant things can be drawn - but not always and not forever. To this date, I think it is easier to think about things and incidents that happen elsewhere and to have your own skeleton in the closet. That is natural and necessary to survive. But I am sure that something blocked out will come to the surface and wield influence - on your
own life as well as on the future. There are many badly hurt people behind closed doors who unknowingly or on purpose cause harm to other people, which is not visible from outside. These injuries are not a collective war-experience but highly private and intimate. If those injuries are not an object of discussion, if they are blocked out, following generations will suffer from them too. I don't miss anything is an emotionally captivating work, indeed. What do you hope viewers will take away from the film? In the meantime, many people have watched „I don’t miss anything“, and I am confident that they have been touched. people with similar life-experience like myself as well as people who up to now barely came in touch with this
topic. By „I don’t miss anything“ I invite you to follow, to empathize and to scrutinize yourself. The film already did open doors for good discussions and can be transferred to several different war- and family-experiences. It becomes explicit that by every misuse of power, when destruction takes place, where dependencies are generated and oppression rules - man is leaving traces for succeeding generations. If you realize that in the moment war, death and flight are happening and absolutely anarchic atrocities are committed- how long will it take for these people and their children until this is processed and cured? Human experience is often the starting point of your artistic research. What draws you to a particular subject? I ask myself if the basic human desires and needs, fears and irritations are in-
herently different for the single individual or if they are archaic facts, always with a new costume. For me, art is a form of communication, the opportunity to ask questions, to get to the bottom of things, to mirror, to reflect. For more than half a century women have been discouraged from getting into filmmaking and animation as well, however in the last decades there are signs that something is changing. What's your view on the future of women in cinema? I would prefer this discussion not to be necessary! It would be just about making/producing good, valuable films. Sponsorship, screenings, festival attendances and fees should not depend on gender. Unfortunately it is obvious to me that the wish is not enough. Women explicitly are gaining ground, there are incredibly good female film-makers, animators, screenwriters, producers,
artists! But it will take time for sure until there is real equality in this branch. That female „handwriting“, female approach, female way of working on projects could go hand in hand with male forms of approach, without either of them smelling trouble. I feel that only this way both sides can learn from each other and benefit. I just remember Meryl Streep’s and others’ reaction on Patricia Arquette’s acceptance speech at this year’s Oscar night! Something in this system is not (yet) right and the reasons for that are probably deeper than we believe. I ask myself when will be the day this barrier between women and men at work will be gone. Thanks for your time and thought, Petra. We wish you all the best with your filmmaker career. What's next for Petra Lottje? Have you a particular film in mind?
Let me thank you as well! And: At the moment I am working on an animated film again- completely different from „I don’t miss anything“, less a narration than a chain of drawings blending into each other. It’s about the „big topics“: love, power, religion, desire, death. Everything arises and vanishes in a single stroke - a form of metamorphosis that is related to my one-stroke-drawings. The stroke will form itself to bodies, to objects and plants, forms and allegories. It is about human existence, the general as well as the highly individual one. For the moment I play with the idea to lay out the work as an installation and to give the metamorphosis a period of three hours, and to close the circle in the end.