MAŠA DRNDIC AMIE SCHOW EMMA KANTOR OLYA RADA
SABINE MOLENAAR DAPHNE MACY JULIA KURASHIK JULIE
VICTORIA GARZA SHANAJACLYN VASSILIEVASLIMM GENEVIEVE PRESSLER
SHANNON WALSH VIDEO ART
PERFORMANCE ANN-JULIE VERVAEKE THEATRE VINNSLAN
CINEMA PERFORMANCE THEATRE VIDEO ART
Building on the success of the fifth edition, CinĂŠWomen 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 â&#x20AC;&#x201C;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 Downwind by the talented Olya Rada; the visionary world of Shannon Walsh; Footsteps of a Mermaid, a stunning and poetic work by the talented filmmaker Daphne and much more. CinĂŠWomen Board
COVER Portrait of Olya Rada, Downwind
LEFT Julia Kurashik TOP Still from Better to have loved, Shannon Walsh
Edition curated by
wac* VIDEO ART CINEMA THEATRE DANCE
ann-julie vervaeke When I Close My Eyes (Belgium, 2015) e
Focusing on small, psycologically charged moments, Ann-Julie Vervaeke create an exquisitely nuanced drama. When I Close My Eyes is a visually rich and emotionally captivating film, rendered through a sapient game of silences, looks and temps mort. With its audacious narrative twists and accurate cinematography, is a stunner. We are pleased to present Ann-Julie Vervaeke for this year's CinĂŠWomen Edition. Ann- Julie, tell us about your trajectory as a filmmaker. What inspired you to express yourself in this medium? As a child I had a wild imagination and lots of nightmares. My thoughts would run free and as a result I was afraid to go to sleep. Every evening I postponed the moment when I had to tuck myself in and close my eyes. I waited until my eyes would become so heavy, there was no other option but to close them. Only then was it safe to fall asleep. I would read lots of books and watch films until my eyes would surrender. I watched Indiana Jones over and over and I was stuck on apocalyptic disaster movies. Then I would close my eyes, escape into another dreamworld and lose myself for a moment. But I never dreamt of becoming a filmmaker. It did not even occur to me that it was even a possibility. I always tried to express
myself though. I danced classical and modern ballet, went to speech and drama at the local academy, I also painted and experimented with graphic design but it all felt unnatural to me. I was too introverted and shy. I started taking pictures and read a lot of poetry. This combination felt really good to me and I started believing I could say something from behind a camera. My parents supported me in being creative and finding my own language but also encouraged me to go to university. So instead of going to art school at the age of eighteen, I started Theatre, Performance and Media Studies at the University of Ghent. A new world opened up and I discovered the video art of Eija-Liisa Ahtila, the experimental cinema of Chantal Akerman and the poetic work of Maya Deren. Derenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s poetic films, following the logic of a dream reality fascinated me and it was at this moment it started dawning upon me that I had found a language. A unique language, where I could express myself through vision and sound. It became a very personal medium in which I could communicate without words. It was like writing poetry, writing a love letter, a stream of conscienceness, but with images and sound. I finished my master degree in theatre and literature and applied for film school a month later.
interview We want to take a closer look at the genesis of your film: how did you come up with the idea for When I Close My Eyes? Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve always been curious about why people find it so difficult to say what really goes on in their hearts and heads. Are we born that way or is it something we learn from our environment? The unsaid is often the basis of sorrow a lot of people struggle with. The inability to talk about the things that really matter. That unspoken state of mind fascinates me. Words and feelings are hanging in the air and donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t seem to ever touch ground. Allison is stuck in such an unspoken state. She is full of ideas, memories, desires, fears and hope, but she fails to express that for some reason and she finds herself trapped within herself and her environment. I also tend
to dwell in the past or the future. For some reason I find it difficult to be present in the present. I am either looking back or looking forward to things. The character of Allison is an extension of this feeling. She lingers in the past, not knowing her solution lies in accepting the present. When I Close My Eyes is marked by an elegantly structured storytelling: we have been deeply fascinated by your enigmatic approach to narrative. How did you develop the script for When I Close My Eyes? It was an intuitive process. When I started writing, I had beginning, middle nor end. I just had a feeling that I wanted to convey. I started doing research and writing around the unspoken state of mind, watched a lot of films and read a lot of books. I would
write random scenes and dialogue. I tried to create the inner landscape Allison was in, the sounds she heard in there, the frustrations she had to deal with. It was a slow writing proces. Luckily I got the necessary support from my mentor Nathalie Teirlinck. She was patient and steadily guided my writing. Later I would connect the scenes emotionally and work to a climax. Initially there where two parallel storylines. Allison in the present, in the car, moving forward to her new life and Allison in the past, in her old house, holding on to her dreams. Thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s why it became some sort of a road movie where the characters are heading in two opposite directions. But showing those two worlds would be to literal, so I tried to blend her dreamworld into her present world. I
read a lot about magical realism, where they talk about a borderland between two parallel worlds, a deconstruction of the binary opposition between an ordinary external reality and an extraordinary inner reality. There is an elusive contact between reality and magic. Allison would find herself in that borderland, where her past and present connect and engage in one another, where they are intertwined. Your use of temps mort is a distinctive mark of your cinema which immediately reminded us of Chantal Akerman's work. In your Director's statement you said "In film I tend to thematize the elusive, the unspeakable, which is why I am very curious about what happens before or after the drama. " Can you comment these words?
I am really honored you thought of Chantal Akerman. She has always had a big influence on the way I look at cinema. The way in which she approaches the everyday, her use of long takes and her love of domestic interiors. I love it when the camera is stuck in a place where something happened before. The psychological approach to the characters and the instantaneous nature of a moment are essential here and therefore take precedence over a possible storyline or plot. Instead, the unspoken, momentary nature of life gets a leading role, the silences between characters make sense. When the camera lingers for a moment, the everyday act emerges. It is hiding in a place people don’t even think of. It becomes something invisible but it is always there. When people look back on their lives, they tend to thread the important
moments together. What took place day after day, without any special meaning or emotion, is often omitted. Just like in classic Hollywood cinema, where the natural way in which the everyday relates to us is simply ignored. But when the classic building blocks do not fit well together, gaps and cracks between the stones appear and tell us more than the scenes themselves. The story must be distilled from the images, the silences, the passage of time. It’s then you discover what happens between the actions, showing a world of desires, hidden glances and tension. Just as in the silent, communication depleted world of Edward Hopper. How did you conceive the character of Allison? Allison was initially based on the main character of a book by Bart Moeyaert, “It Is Love We Don’t Understand”. It
tells the story of a little girl that is constantly looking for happiness and constantly thinking about life and yearning for love. She’s in that brittle transition of adolescence when you can’t be a child anymore but you don’t want to grow up either. Allison is also on that border between childhood and adulthood. She prefers to remain a child, without responsibilities, without sorrow. But what happens to her youthful innocence when something painful happens? What happens when the underlying anger and the inability to express things collide? What happens to a person when external events in the real world come together with the inner fantasy world? Those questions helped me to conceive Allison on paper. Allison is at an age that embodies both vulnerability and strength. But she might confuse that strength with power or aggression. So I created a voice in Allisons head, a little voice that was
imagining weird thoughts. Dark thoughts would bubble up and she would shake her head, hoping the violent thoughts would fall out. I was lucky to find Alix Jana Cale, the actress who plays Allison. She embodies every contradiction and frustration in Allison and when she opens her eyes a whole new world opens up to us. It was really important her eyes could tell the story. I casted Alix because, for me, she actually was Allison, but the Allison before her parents split up and everything became different. Your film features impressive performances, did you rehearse a lot with the shots you prepared in advance? We didn’t rehearse a lot, because I wanted the relationships between the characters to be natural and self-
Stills from Original title: Le Pli Dans Le Space
evident. Especially the bond between Allison (Alix Jana Cale) and her mother (Clara Van Den Broek) and Michael (Wolf Vernier) and his father (Patrick Vervueren). I did not want to put Alix and Wolf or Alix and Patrick together too often, because I wanted them to discover each other on set. I am looking for real reactions. Or as real as possible. Especially when working with children, you cannot rehearse too much, because they would anticipate on actions and reactions. I talked a lot to the actors about the situations they were in, how they could or would react, what they would think. Everybody knew exactly how they felt at certain moments, they knew what I wanted to see and they just showed me. I did meet up regularly with Alix though, because I wanted to know how far she would go emotionally. She’s a very enthusiastic girl and she loves acting. She’s expressive, making her a little bit to theatrical in the beginning, but she understood soon enough that
acting in front of a camera needs a different approach than acting on stage. We have previously mentioned Chantal Akerman: can you tell us your biggest influences in cinema and how they have affected your work? One of the first directors I encountered was Maya Deren. “The woman with the enigmatic expression at the window, silently observing from within”. Her best known short Meshes of the Afternoon articulates an aesthetic and thematic vocabulary in which I can truly find myself. Deren focuses on the psychology of the characters, emphasizes the blurred line between dream and reality, plays with time and space, and thematizes a search for (female) identity. I was inspired by the dreamlike state and unconscious mind of the protagonist, caught in a web of dreamlike events that fade into reality.
Belgium, the region I grew up in. She often focusses on the impossibility of communication following personal trauma and provides us with fascinating in-depth character studies. She tells stories that deal with loneliness and shows us non moments which reveal more than moments where things happen. In her last feature Kid she shows us the point of view of a seven year old boy against drastic and irreversible changes in his life. This is done with so few words and through daily actions, that the audience has to construct the dialogue itself. Through the passage of time she shows the small shifts in the emotional landscape of the seven year old and tries to depict what is not there, emptiness and loss. What do you hope viewers will take away from your film? I want them to feel Allisons pain, her inability to communicate and her
frustration. I want them to be physically connected to the film and care for Allison and what she is going through. Thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s no big plot for the audience to hold on to, thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s no actual story. So I would rather want to convey an experience, a moment, a mood. I want to share feelings, thoughts and questions. 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? In Belgium there are already a lot of promising and renowned female directors. They inspire me to keep going and they are the example that you can combine a family with directing. I hope I can do that too. I just hate it when people get stereotyped. I am really
She wanted â&#x20AC;&#x153;to put on film the feeling which a human being experiences about an incident, rather than to record the incident accurately.â&#x20AC;?Carlos Reygadas also tries to share an experience with other people, but he does it in a different way. His third film Stellet Licht moved me in a way I cannot describe. It is a film in which Reygadas combines both extreme long shots and close ups to force the viewer, via the slow pace of the static long takes, to sit in an interpretive role. Every interpretation of a shot is the responsibility of the viewer. We look from static camera angles to everyday situations. Often, the camera stays behind when everyone has already disappeared from the screen, revealing the silences between the characters, the (empty) spaces created in places where
there was narrative action, creating a kind of meaningful interval. Such a strategy is similar to the way Chantal Akerman lingers a few seconds before she cuts to the next task of Jeanne Dielmans routine. At the same time Reygadas magnifies the ambient noise and the personal space of the characters. He combines slow traveling shots with the haunting, everyday sounds of crowing cocks and mooing cows off screen. This intensive use of environmental sounds and pointof-hearing, gives the viewer a cinematic experience and communicates an inner world and subjective perception. As a viewer you gradually get drawn into the main characters inner world. Belgian filmmaker Fien Troch inspired me in the way she handles the unspoken state of mind you often find in Flanders,
Production still from When I Close My Eyes
shocked when people say they don’t like your film because they find it too feminine and they don’t like that feminine style. I don’t see my films as predominantly feminine. I never looked at it that way. But I must admit that as a woman you bring a different quality to cinema. I see it as an advantage today to be a female director. We are all different and that is what makes it so interesting. But I would love to see more women in the crew department as well. All the directors of photography are men. I would love to work together with a female DOP. There are very talented women out there, in all departments, but the thing is, we want it all. We want to be creative, have a career, have a family. That can be scary and I think women in the past have had to choose. Now they don’t want to make that choice anymore, they
want it all.x You just have to try and figure it out. It is going to be hard but it is going to be really fulfilling. Thanks for sharing your time, AnnJulie, we wish you all the best with your filmmaker career. What's next for you? I am currently working on my first feature film. It is based on a book about an obsessive friendship between two teenage girls. It’s about the urge to crawl into someone else’s skin and the painful awareness that such merger is not possible, it can only lead to destruction. I am also writing another short and I’m going to work on a play with an actress I know. It’s all in the first stages, but it is already really exciting! We’re applying for funding as I speak.
Directorâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s statement Filmmaking
is an unique language. A language where you can express yourself, not only through vision, but also though sound. It's a very personal medium, in which you can communicate, without words. For me that's cinema. Communicating feelings with images and through sound.People are often full of words, ideas and stories, but fail to express themselves for some reason. Therefore the unsaid is often a base of sorrow people struggle with. Such a silent, communication depleted environment entails a world of desire(s) and hidden glances. We must read between the lines. In film I tend to thematize the elusive, the unspeakable, which is why I am very curious about what happens before or after the drama. I want to know what arises between the actions. I want to show the things that happen between the lines, leading me to a more descriptive way of telling a narrative. I want to convey a feeling, a moment and state of mind. Life is a succession of intense moments, impressions and feelings rather than a story. Instead of focussing myself on a plot-oriented settlement, I try to look at situations and experiences as such. I look for a density of intense moments rather than a synthesis. The psychological approach to the characters and the momentary nature of life are essential in my films. The everyday act plays an important role. I notice that under all the unsaid, unconscious moments, there's a big emotional change going on. A change accompanied by a large inner movement with an apparently ordinary appearance. The emotional moments and changes in life often lie in the little things: even small patterns shifting or small changes in perception can evoke a big change in the end. In the meantime I try to ad glimpses of fantasy, memory and dreams into the everyday reality. It's exploring the limits between dream and reality, exploring the elusive gap between the invisible and the visible world. I would like to grasp that elusive moment, when those worlds connect. The moment those opposite worlds engage in one another, skipping a spark whose light reveals a truth begin the reality of everyday life and dreams. Being able to convey that feeling, like conveying the feeling of a dĂŠja vu through cinema, would be magical.
cinéwomen/15 cinéwomen/15 cinéwomen/15
shannon walsh Better To Have Loved, (UK, 2015)
Better To Have Loved? stands as a brave and uncompromising piece, where logic is swiftly replaced by creativity. Shannon Walsh blends a heady mix of sexual frankness and overt allegory in her debut dance film: since the first scene the audience enters into a dream where temporality is suspended. Shannon, tell us about your trajectory as a filmmaker. What inspired you to express yourself in this medium? For as long as I can remember I have been obsessed with film. I’ve always been dazzled and inspired by cinema, artistic performance and most importantly storytelling. Film has been my constant companion for the last 20 years, motivating me through hard times, enlightening me with the wonderful world we live in and inspiring me to tell and visualize stories! My passion for photography grew through my incredible upbringing in Oman, in the Middle
East and my experiments in filmmaking developed through my studies at University in Cardiff. As my knowledge developed, I began to experiment more with cinematography, blending different artistic mediums and expressing myself through cinema. So, when it came to making my final film piece for University, there was no question as to the making of ‘Better To Have Loved?’ Through my studies in Dance at college, I’d always had my heart set on an emotional dance film, and this would finally be my opportunity to truly express my inner self through film. Your use of light and color depicts emotions and feelings in places where dialogue could not even scratch the surface. How did you get into dance cinema? Since the age of 5 I practiced modern dancing and performed in competitions around the UK. I was
brought up to adore and respect the incredible talents of Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, which fuelled my passion for dance through to GCSE and A Level Studies. It was through my studies at A Level, however, that my interests began to develop into more contemporary and experimental dance through the films ‘Wyoming’ by Siobhan Davies, ‘Blue Yellow’ by Sylvie Guillem and the choreographies of William Forsythe. I found it beautiful how dance and cinematography could be married together to create an art, which allowed you to express a thought or an emotion. Therefore, I found that while being inspired to create film I often choreographed movement, rather than fictional dialogue. I decided that instead of pursuing a career in performance, I would pursue my greatest passion, cinema, and in
particular, dance cinema. How did you become involved with Better To Have Loved? And what attracted you to this film? ‘Better To Have Loved?’ was my final film piece at University. The project was to collaborate with another art form to create a new piece of cinema. This was my perfect opportunity to bring my passion for dance and my determination as a filmmaker to create a piece which would allow me to express myself, my inner emotions and visually explore my experiences as a young adult. Unfortunately, at the time, I held onto an abundance of anger, hatred and unhappiness from a previous abusive relationship. However, I decided to let it fuel my creativity, and to hopefully create some closure, and move forward. I knew
that dance would express these emotions in ways dialogue could not, so dance, for me, was the perfect medium to explore my experiences, and infused with experimental cinematography and editing techniques I knew I could create a piece of art that depicted the raw truth of physical and emotional abuse. What was the most challenging thing about making this film? The biggest challenge of â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Better To Have Loved?â&#x20AC;&#x2122; was the task of not collaborating with other filmmakers. I created the entire film by my self, collaborating with two professional dancers and a composer. The greatest task was on set, prepping equipment, setting up lighting, filming and directing all at the same time! While it was a huge challenge and a lot of
work, I learnt more than I could have ever imagined from making this film, including my strengths and weaknesses as a filmmaker. Another challenge was the emotional toll it took, not only on me, but also on my female dancer Zosia Jo. When we first met over coffee to discuss the making of this film, we discussed our own personal experiences of abuse, and how we could use it in the film. Whilst on set, the most crucial factor was the emotional responses of Zosia and directing and performing these sections were very challenging. However, Zosia was an incredibly determined and talented performer and the end results were more than I could have ever asked for. From the first time we watched your film we were deeply impressed by your distinct style blending
baroque images and fantasy. Better To Have Loved? reminds us of the purest form of filmic tableau, where a single image is presented over the coarse of an entire scene. How did you develop your visual style? Well I started out as a film fanatic, loving all things film. But what first caught my eye was the distinct editing and creative style of Guy Ritchie in his early works of ‘Snatch’ and ‘Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’. His quick and quirky cutting techniques were unlike anything I’d seen in mainstream cinema, and it got me exploring my own abilities on my editing suites. I was then greatly inspired by the use of lighting in dance film, such as the works ‘Birdsong’ by Siobhan Davies and ‘Revelations’ by Alvin Ailey. As I made more short films
I began to follow a dark path both in my writing and cinematography and began to refine my style as a director into a more fantasy/picturesque style. I sought to create films that were beautiful in every shot and for every picture to tell its own story, similar to how each movement of choreography has a meaning or purpose. ‘Better To Have Loved?’ was the first film I directed independently, and therefore my style had no boundaries and developed into what it is today, a style that I will proudly embrace in my future projects. It would be interesting to compare your film to the cinema of Derek Jarman. Did any specific director appeal to you? Derek Jarman’s work is fascinating, and I’m flattered by your comparison.
My main inspiration was, in fact, from experimental cinema, drawn through my studies in Avant-‐ Garde film at University. However, one Avant-‐Garde director in particular appealed to me most significantly; Maya Deren. ‘Meshes of the Afternoon’ was, in my opinion, a beautiful work of art, with Deren’s graceful use of movement, contrasting lighting and experimental editing. Deren created a mysterious dream like atmosphere within her films, which would hypnotise you into her strange experimental world of work. This was my most significant inspiration for ‘Better To Have Loved?’, to attempt to capture the audience’s attention through a mysterious dream like state, where the characters fall in love outside of reality. Also, the transitions between each section of my film were inspired by Deren’s graceful transitions used in ‘Meshes of the
Afternoon’ and ‘At Land’ where Deren would create the illusion of stepping through a ‘portal’ into another scene or location. I was also hugely inspired by Siobhan Davies, the choreographer and director of ‘Wyoming’ and ‘Birdsong’. Her style in movement and choreography was the main inspiration for my vision of the contemporary dance and therefore inspired Zosia’s choreography of her solos and duets. By definition cinema is rhythm and movement, however rarely in mainstream or narrative cinema we assist to such a spectacular dance like in Better To Have Loved? How do you conceive the rhythm of your work? Personally, I find that discovering a concept for a film is the easy part,
because finding the rhythm and structure of the film can be extremely challenging. This was especially true for an experimental dance film exploring abusive relationships. The rhythm and structure were crucial to its success in a world dominated by fictional, linear narrative, mainstream cinema. However, during my research, I came across a wonderful book of poems called ‘Rapture’ by Carol Ann Duffy, which told the story of falling in and out of love in the most dynamic and visually creative way. This book fast became the structural basis of my film, beginning with isolation, developing a relationship, falling into physical and emotional abuse and concluding with a newfound strength in independence. I then chose several poems that described the different situations artistically and I used the words to inspire not only the
choreography but also the rhythm of the edit. I’ve used this method of using research to find artwork, literature and music to inspire ideas for several of my films, and would recommend it to anyone finding it difficult to develop an idea or to imagine a visual style. We would like to catch this occasion to ask you to express your view on the future of women in cinema. For more than half a century women have been discouraged from getting behind the camera for decades, however in the last decade there are signs that something is changing. What is your view on the future of women filmmakers? For me, discouragement only makes me more determined to prove people wrong. I’ve been victim to sexist
comments on set and in production meetings, suggesting my inability as a woman to do anything other than make up or costume design. But their ignorance is beginning to be questioned, by both men and women, and I feel that things are beginning to change. The making of this film has fuelled a new confidence in me, and the graceful, powerful performance of Zosia Jo has made me increasingly proud to be a woman in filmmaking. It is empowering to see a growth in female filmmakers both in the big screen and in the independent scene, and with some big names beginning to speak out about sexism in Hollywood, I’d like to think we can only move forward to finally finding gender equality in this industry. It won’t be anytime soon, but I’m optimistic it will happen. Thanks for sharing your time,
Shannon; we wish you all the best with your filmmaker career. What's next for you? Have you a particular film in mind? First of all, I would to thank you CinéWomen for this incredible opportunity, and for all the wonderful thoughts you’ve had on my film. I am currently working on the script for a charity film funded by Comic Relief, which will be filmed late this summer. It is a dark, harrowing piece about young boys in domestic abuse situations. While it has been a difficult piece to work on due to its content, it has also been an interesting step from ‘Better To Have Loved?’ in developing my writing skills and transferring all the lessons I’ve learnt. I also have a few short film concepts on paper, a couple of which are dance films, which I hope to make next year.
geneviĂ¨ve pressler Awaken My Blindness, 2015
Awaken My Blindness is a story about a young lady who is metaphorically blind of herself and the world around her. Her blindness is rooted in the long process of adapting to society without questioning how she felt about it and the consequences of her decisions. Afraid of being casted out, of being different and strange, she couldn’t face her true self neither look through the dirty glass and discover something new and amazingly controversial and beautiful. To discover who she is and what she is really made of, meant to discover defaults and failure - nouns that are as if prohibited to be spoken in the youth circle today. Out of her confusion, physical and psychological noises of city surroundings, and depression in the fast-paced world, she finds a way for a mystical resumption, thus discovering what makes her be who she is and the joy in this new perspective of life. Her eyes are not merely there to help her move in space, but they become a shining door. “He is there shining more than ever. We have to be ready to see the Lord today, and not tomorrow. If we do today right tomorrow is going to be even better, if the Lord grant us tomorrow, but He wants us to live the eternal present!” Marino Restrepo. This phrase of Marino Restrepo’s testimony, complements the new adventure the protagonist of the short film is passing through. To discover today is her biggest account, realising how happy one can be just by simple,
ordinary and fundamentally important experiences, as paying attention to the colour of the sky today, the movement of clouds, laughing with friends, waking up, the grass being blowed by the wind, the cat in a reflective mood and so like humans can be, absorbed by the nature that we so often ignore! Awaken My Blindness is an experimental work that envelops in the concern of the present life, decision making and pathways, but that metaphorically ends with a new beginning of discovering one self in a world full of joy and miracles hidden in ordinary routine and surroundings. Art is made by many and not just one, the same can be said about love and happiness, thus, being this the film’s final message. We live with each other, for each other and not just for us, and yes we can change and determine better pathways, and another glorious day will be there shining in our hearts, just ordinarily and simple as it can be! With her unconventional approach to composition and narrative, Geneviève Pressler captures the pain and alienation of a young lady with emotional• depth, offering a psychologically penetrating meditation on the notion of identity. Featuring sensuous cinematography, Awaken My Blindness is a fascinating look at a woman lost in her own mind. We are pleased to present Geneviève Pressler for this year's CinéWomen Edition. Heather, tell us about your trajectory as a filmmaker. What inspired you to express yourself in this medium? First of all, thank you for this opportunity. As
a young aspiring director of 22, what most inspired me to choose this career is the fact that films can be like dreams. I am fascinated about dreams. Films hold something magical, because it can transport you to a different world. It can be an imagined idyllic place, or an existing city, as well as, it can put you in a hole of oneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s mind! It can be red to blue, white to yellow, it incorporates all we seen and listen, but surprisingly it lights in us subjective feelings we associate with those images and sounds! What a complexity of chemical reactions as the scientists would say. What inspire me to express myself in film, is the composition of images and sounds that can provoke in the audience what I cannot utter otherwise. It is hard to tell a story only with words, but if I can show people what I have seen and felt, it can awaken in them the same or other kinds of feelings, and thoughts, a
psychological experience of life. How did you come up with the idea for Awaken My Blindness? I developed the idea of Awaken My Blindness by observing other young students at university, and reflecting upon our generations that often live a virtual life. The way I saw how many young people see the world as a hole we are stuck in, seemed to me very superficial. I myself went to the process of finding out what life truly means to me, and how we interact with a society and a political system that often donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t satisfy and complete us. Therefore, for me the discovery of a spiritual world parallel and interlinked with ours, was a great relief and comfort to me, specially because I believe God speaks to us through our whole human experience. The short film also express that experience
of being lost and then found and able to see a new world full of possible happiness. Awaken My Blindness is a poetic, intense film which delicately weaves past and present, featuring an enigmatic approach to narrative and character. How did you develop the script and the structure of this short film? Continuing this thought of how to express oneself in cinematic language, the idea of Awaken My Blindness, emerged as a proposal to reverse traditional story telling, in order to find a way to better embody and depict the psychological struggle the character was facing. How do you approach a subjective feelings of being lost, downfall, anxiety and insecurity using classical images of someone leaving the house or running down the hill?
It all becomes a metaphor, but I was trying to avoid that as much as I could, so I could explore the use of jump cut editing and (reverse) slow motion to incite in the audience the sense of emptiness and discover of a new world through the subjective perspective of the character. Of course, the bathroom scene of the lady looking for the first time at her reflection on the mirror became a metaphor of her finally seeing her true self and having to deal with the negative and positive aspects of it. But the classical medium close-up shot was placed in the middle of the short film to signalise an important break in the film. It was also a transitional element to represent the change of her previous mindset to another. I developed the script based on a typical routine of a young person that lives at home, goes out and
In this article:
Photos by Stefanie Duesenberry
hang out with friends, however, this same person lives a battle with herself. She becomes blind of the good things around her, and she only starts to see those things when she has this mystical experience which is represented by the dull candle light. Hope is the main message of the film, and I firmed that narrative and essence of the film, when the UK Insight Student Filmmaker Award 2015 called for entries with the theme “The truth is out there. Have faith!”. Then, I used the following thought as a psychological line for the film “You know when you want to cross the road, cars keep passing endlessly, and you keep waiting for a minute to be able to cross? There is always a second of a minute where you think it might be possible. A second of hope that makes you cross the line.”. Directed with conscience and clarity, Awaken My Blindness is an extraordinary portrayal of the ties that bind us. Drama is stripped down to its essential elements, giving the viewer a strong sense of emptiness. Did you rehearse a lot with the shots you
prepared in advance? Not really. A lot was left for the spontaneity of the moment, however, done several times. I did rehearsal a couple of times the bathroom scene, but the actual shot was made just once, because I was satisfied with the way the camera captured the moment of surprise and estrangement of the character. What challenges did you face while making Awaken My Blindness? The challenge was in the actual time to produce the short, and the courage to go through it, because at the week I shot it, I was in the middle of my exams at the university in England, writing loads of essays and having a small life crisis as usual. It was fun, but also breathtaking, specially having the marathon of editing the material in the same week. When we watched Geneviève Pressler, we thought of Athina Rachel Tsangari's imagery. Who among international directors influenced your work?
Thank you so much for comparing my early work with Tsangari’s, which carries a great depth of emotions and iconographic forms. For this work I was much influenced by the 20’s surrealist movement in Europe and the New Wave movement with Godard, however, the feminist movement of Agnes Varda, Claire Denis and Sally Potter also played a great role for me. The director Glauber Rocha, Roman Polanski and David Lean are also iconic figures that wakened in me my political standpoint, and how politics and history can be portrayed and debated in film. My latest influence was Alejandro González Iñárritu’s film Babel (2006), Cedric Klapisch's Paris (2008) and Lola Randl’s Die Erfindung der Liebe (The Discovery of love) (2014), which explores multiple narratives bound together in one story line, and evokes melancholic emotions that questions fate and differences of social classes. What do you hope viewers will take away from the film? That there are ways to change our perspective, and that simpleness of ordinary life can be such a joy in one’s life!
But if this ordinary life is not satisfying, make it then! We can change our destiny with the tools that are in our hands. It is up to our engagement and power of will! Human experience is often the starting point of your artistic research. What draws you to a particular subject? Feelings and the origin of things. There is nothing more subjective and abstract than feelings to me, and therefore an ocean of possibilities. They are not only the source of thought, but serve as guiding light. It is because I feel annoyed, chased by, extremely happy or satisfied that I begin to ask myself why. The question why is what makes us human. We can reflect upon things in a unique way, but it is because of that, that we sometimes stop living properly. We think to much, and all the joy we could be living, we exhaust it in thought. It is because I feel that I see the world through different classes, but it is what I do with it that will determine how I live, consequently provoking more and more
feelings. And this is the most intriguing part. In real life, the result we see from one’s action is merely based on a feeling this person had before, or the absence of strong feelings. Life for me is a spiritual journey that is traced by humans in blindness. We can only see what our eyes can see, but there is a world of possibilities and feelings that cannot be seen, but only felt. Nobody can explain that, and this is the beauty of life. Life is to be felt, and how everyone experience that is what makes me incredibly curious. 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? My general prospects for the future are very dull. Of course, there has been an increase of woman working behind the camera in the past decade, or at least, society has been paying more attention to that lately. However, it is very hard to compete with great names such as Hitchcock, Ingmar Bergman, Steven Spielberg, Werner Herzog, Quentin Tarantino and now George Miller. What women will need to create in cinema that exceeds any of the works these men have been doing until now? Or is it the publicity that will have to change its’ light spot? For this reason, I believe that as well as the simple minded image of feminism has changed from a fight between men and women rights, to a more equal based society, the world is changing to the understanding that differences are good sometimes, but in ways that encourage people, and not serve as prejudice. Even though, I am very young, I perceive that the future belong to those who can work close and well together, regardless of the gender. This is, however, very hard if you are outside the Western liberal approach to gender roles, where the culture and mentality of society might be a great boundary. Thanks for your time and thought, Geneviève. We wish you all the best
with your filmmaker career. What's next for Geneviève Pressler? Have you a particular film in mind? As a matter of fact, I just finished shooting in Mosqueiro Island, Northern Brazil, my newest short film Gritos da Terra (Screams from Earth), thanks to my Brazilian producer and co-director Zienhe Castro. Based on my own screenplay, the short film happened to be directed by two women of different generations who, however, found an incredible harmony to both direct this film with one vision. The film endeavours to represent fictionally the decay of humankind, consequently reversing the imposition of rationalism and superiority of human beings. Most importantly, the film aims to raise environmental awareness by making use of a modern, surrealist and non-traditional line of thought. The film was also a social project, because within the process of producing the film, we encourage people from our region to collect waste materials to construct the interior art design of the film. To better consolidate the essence of the film, we worked close together with a vulnerable community in the Marajó Island, Northern Brazil, where we taught through workshops how to create useful objects from waste materials, I gave dance classes for the kids, and finally we recycled market boxes to create bookshelves to store the donated books from Belém, Northern Brazil, to the community. It was an incredible work, and if our crowdfunding campaign is successful in raising the funds to finish the film, we hope to release the film in 2016 in as many international film festivals as possible. So, if the readers want to know more about it, please don’t hesitate to contact us and support us in whatever way possible. I would like to thank you very much for giving me this opportunity to exchange knowledge and views, but also I give you thanks for appreciating the initial work I have been doing, that is to bring the message that we can transform our realities and enjoy the complete simpleness that life holds for us, until it lasts.
julia kurashik Titolo che inizia per Clown (Russia,
When we saw for the first time Julia Kurashik's we immwdiately thought of Terrence Malick's words "When people express what is most important to them, it often comes out in cliches. That doesn't make them laughable; it's something tender about them. As though in struggling to reach what's most personal about them they could only come up with what's most public.".Julia Kurashik displays an extraordinary cinematography in this intense film, proving her ability to tell such a sorrowful story through her poetic and nostalgic visual style.• We are pleased to present Julia Kurashik for this CinéWomen Edition. Julia, tell us about your trajectory as a filmmaker. What inspired you to express yourself in this medium? Since a child, I’ve always been keen on singing. According to my teachers, I had neither a voice nor an ear for music. Well, giving it up was not exactly what I was dreaming of, this is why my inner sense found a way in film footage. The Empty Space by Peter Brook, I fill with a melody. From neo-classical Stalinist buildings that keep their windows open wide, thus making you hear the noise of dishes, to my very own heartbeat. It must be noticed that my regular blood-heat is 37.7 centigrade, which is one degree above the average. Perhaps, this is the reason why my heart boils faster. I am like the
flame incorporating oxygen from around. I wish I could sing instead… but, unfortunately, I cannot. We want to take a closer look at the genesis of your film: how did you come up with the idea for• Clown? To screen two full-length movies I needed to prepare a narrative short. It might sound funny that I had never been to circus before doing Clown. Well, I watched Oleg Popov on TV when a child, he’s been living in Germany since 1990s. But my Clown is more a Wise Gudgeon by Saltykov-Shchedrin. It is a small man that lives in undertones. He dreams in color, and this is where he lives. Oppressed by the system, he’s been adjusting for all his life to finally come out into his fairy-tale… or did he not?
I fell in love with fishing in my green years. I love catching different gudgeons with my father. Waiting for the bite, he would tell me Russian fairy-tales which have always been carrying some countercultural message to the people. What tales do go on to say is the attitude of him we call Russian Ivan, Sunny Clown or Hans from now to the authorities (the circus manager here). Russia as a circus, Russians as its workers. In the movie, we consider the “one in a million” who is craving for changing his place and social status… which makes him undesirable.
The character of Igor really fascinated us. Did you base him on someone you knew? Should you have really got fascinated by Igor, you have just admitted you like a Russian. He is simple, he is smart, and which is more, he is kind-hearted. Sure, every nation has scoundrels, but we are never to judge the whole one through the prism of governing individuals. Representing the youth, we can’t but but realize it is today we are building the Cultural Bridge of texts and films for our children to step on it and go over hand in hand. We have been deeply impressed with your cinematography. How did you develop your filmmaking style? Every other person in this country today has an expensive camera to make HD videos. In the strive for the seeming perfection we have lost the soul. Look! There is none in standardized narrative shots or, for example, music videos. Zero. Just zero, like what the
Ridiculous Man by Dostoevsky found himself as he took a look from the outside. I want each and every person calling themselves directors, cameramen and actors to take a look at themselves from the outside. In The Clown, we willfully rejected this trendy vision and resorted to Soviet 1980s’ and 1990’s films. They were just perfect so as to show the wasteland the country became. Our dress designer made everybody bring our casual clothes to underline the commonness. As to the lights, we enjoyed the works of Vittorio Storaro, so you can see his rays in what we made, too. Our makeup artist had fun experimenting, so he bought all needed just on a local market. Our plan was to make it look real in every small detail. So, it is a documentary about a person on the one hand, and a feature film about a clown on the other. As trite and boring the life of characters is, so the grey and dying the film was to ensue. We have previously mentioned Terrence Malick, yet your filmmaking style is very far from what is generally considered 'academic'. Your nostalgic atmospheres
remind us of Fellini's film in your film the fantastic and the absurd are rendered in clear images. Can you tell us your biggest influences in art and how they have affected your work? Thanks for the comparison and tickling my vanity. The day the clown cried has not yet come. The character is trying hard to survive and be himself. I adore literature, music, art and theatre, and cinema is a synthetic art to unite all of them. The mood is vital for art, be it painting, cinema or music. Mood is found out in accents produced by lights, music and people. One can find them and be inspired by them, notice and borrow from everywhere, like museums, last century’s cinema, collections of books and records. The main thing is be open and to find something that matters personally for you in many different things. If my Clown were as brave as wonderful Álex de la Iglesia’s Balada triste de trompeta, then my comedy’s plotline would have begun with
drama. Both its political context and mine are a thin red line that weaves through the characters’ lives. Why is it Nino Rota’s The Godfather I took the score to open up? Why not the one from 8 ½, you may ask? As a matter of fact, recorded on counterfeit VHS cassettes, dubbed by the famous Leonid Volodarskiy, The Godfather Trilogy were a kind of family films, and Nino Rota’s music was inspiring. The melody was the first for me to learn to play on the guitar in Ulyanovsk Art School. The Clown is a paraphrase of virtuosity and poetic sentiment of the main character’s creative process. It is crisis, it is search, it is trick of imagination; dead ends, intellectual climate, a backstage person’s intrinsic flow of subjective and objective. What do you want people to remember after seeing your movie? The main thing is that the movie be seen by our children and grandchildren. It must be interesting from both an artistic point of view and plot. Let every spectator find something for themselves. I want people to start getting
interested in cinema and inspired by it, and not just watch. Via cinema, we form the spectatorâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s artistic taste. We are now living in the era of mass consumption. The amount of spam pouring from the TV screens, monitors, and movie theaters, is enormous, making it difficult to tell sincere art from that registered and stamped. The Internet gives us the freedom to disseminate information, what we are appealed to by the Church of Copymism, but totalitarian structures are trying to hide the cultural heritage of our ancestors. Using metaphorical images, we are to tell the audience what is going on around. Sometimes the information told from the screen via visual content comes to the mind faster, becoming a tool for authoritarian leaders. Could you take us through your creative process when starting a new project? Russia is a land of fields and empty spaces. When you go by train, and it is a two days 'journey from my native town of Ulyanovsk to Sochi, where I live now, you can
often catch 4'33", the famous melody be Johnny Cage Speaking of Sochi, I have prepared a film about the events and life before the Sochi Olympics and after them. So many lives changed... I also have two ready-made scripts for a full length feature film. I want to make a film based on the novel by A. P. Chekhov, but in in the cinema Department of the Ministry of culture, I was told that the Chekhov is not fashionable and will hardly bring them any profit. Since all events happen in the 19th century, the costumes and scenery for now, it will cost a lot. So we postponed it till things go better. This is where I want to quote Anton Pavlovich: "When he [the rural teacher] left, Anton Pavlovich looked behind him, smiled and said: Good guy. Hardly will he teach for long... â&#x20AC;&#x201D; Why? â&#x20AC;&#x201D; He will be hunted down... banished... On reflection, he added softly and gently:
cinéwomen/15 cinéwomen/15 cinéwomen/15
— In Russia, an honest man is something like a chimney-sweeper, who nannies frighten small children with..." Do you think it is harder for women directors to have their projects green lit? I think it is not about being a woman or a man, but about what kind of movies you make. Although, I may not have faced sexual discrimination (smiles). I can only judge about the difficulties I face in Russia, my country. In Russia, being a rookie director is really difficult. It's not about the talent, but about links and relationships. If you don't have them, you don’t have your film watched. Let me give a piece of advice to Russian beginners from a Russian beginner. It is necessary that you build a network of connection in the industry. Of course, you need to have some knowledge, but if you don’t, then the elders will help you. They will impose their point of view, for a rapid time to value. You will have a team of professionals gathered, thus you will have your film made.
Your presence will turn out not necessary, because they know their job. Fortunately or not, I have chosen a different way of becoming a director. Time will tell if it was a good decision (smiles). Thanks for sharing your time, Julia, we wish you all the best with your filmmaker career. What's next for Julia Kurashik? Have you a particular film in mind? Thank you for your attention to what I do. I'm planning the following film for the summer of 2016. A full-length film about the people affected by geopolitical interests, about how a foreign war influence the lives and relationships of ordinary people. The shooting of the film is planned on the territory of Abkhazia and Georgia, with the support of Georgia. In Russia it can be brought into circulation only as a documentary, but documentaries are not demonstrated in theaters. It would therefore be represented as a feature film based on real events, a story told in the language the spectator speaks.
shana vassilieva In Continuum (UK, 2015) e
"WITH IN CONTINUUM, I INDULGED IN THE DEPTHS OF MY CREATIVITY AND STRIVED TO COMMUNICATE AN OVERALL FEELING OF UNTETHERED ARTISTIC EXPRESSION . CONVEYING MULTIPLE LAYERS OF REALITY WAS IMPORTANT FOR THE CONCEPT OF I N CONTINUUM. I WANTED TO BUILD TREMENDOUS AMOUNTS OF ENERGY THAT, AS SHE DANCES SIMULTANEOUSLY IN THREE DERELICT REALMS , WOULD BUILD TO SOMETHING LARGER . THE COLLECTIVE ENERGY SHE EVOKES CAUSES HER TO FOREVER BE IN CONTINUUM. IN THIS INSTANCE , THE IDEA OF BEING “ IN CONTINUUM” REFERS TO THE DANCERS ' DESIRE TO FOREVER EXIST WITHIN A DIVINE STATE OF PERPETUAL DANCE ."
When it comes to my style preferences in art film, I prefer very little dialogue; I want people to get lost in the visuals, their metaphors and not so easily unravel the film’s meaning. With this in mind, I’ve always loved how unique interpretive dance can be—its message just barely visible through the veil of consciousness. The fact that In Continuum was shot mostly improvised helped to propel a multilayered way of comprehending otherwise concealed thoughts or feelings, whether from the dancer or myself. Through the emphasis of instinctual, unpredictable, free movement in camera and dance, that improvisation became my vehicle to explore authentic feelings and unconscious ponderings. Thus, the story was mostly assembled in editing.
From the first time we watched Shana Vassilieva's film In Continuum, we immediately thought of Michelangelo Antonioni's words "We know that underneath the displayed image there is another - one more faithful to reality. And underneath this second there is a third one, and a fourth under the previous one. All the way to the true image of that reality, absolute, mysterious, that nobody will see. " We love artists and cinematographers crossing the boundaries of cinematic genres. Shana, how did the idea for In Continuum come to your mind? Does it have something to do with a personal experience?
The idea for In Continuum came to me as a result of pent up creative energy I think. I’ve been creating online branded video content for almost 5 years now, and till this point I didn’t really allow myself the benefit of putting intense focus on a passion project. I’m proud to say that In Continuum is definitely a mental projection of my innards; In Continuum is my wild hair. Your dance film invites the viewer into a haunted flow of clean figurative images. How did that concept develop, and who were some of your chief influences? This haunted concept developed out of the psychology of what a film looks like stylistically when embellished by the
characters state of mind. Expressionistic film aesthetics are emoted from the character's elevated state of being—like transcendence, frenzy, bliss, etc. Sofia Coppola’s Virgin Suicides, Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem For A Dream & Black Swan are chief influences in what cinematically influenced In Continuum, all of which impose this kind of visual language. I've carefully studied several films that, through editing and cinematography, translate psychological manifestations into a cinematic language that the audience can also feel. All human psyche has the desire to experience altering vices in which reality is left behind and curiosity satisfied, in this instance Maleficent’s vice is dance. I utilized “boundless" cinematography, light leaks, lens flares and experimental editing tricks that together create a type of spell, literal and figurative, that propels
Maleficent into this higher state of being. As confirmed by Michael Delahoyde, “Psychological or spiritual truths they feel can best be conveyed by distorting the surface of the material world.” You produce something hypnotic and memorable with this piece. How do you conceive the rhythm of your films? Because In Continuum’s story concept was finalized in editing the rhythm was conceived by the course of necessity in telling the story. The pace of the film also comes from an evolving bond between the mood of the song and the progression at which Maleficent’s dance evolves. Music and sound act as the speedometer of In Continuum, dictating just how intense or hypnotic the situation is visually. I wanted to build tremendous amounts of energy that would be the catalyst to then cause her dance to play backwards in a frenzied state till we are back to the beginning.
This realization tells the audience that her dance is now in continuum and has no real end point. In your Director's Statement, you say the idea of being in continuum refers to the dancers' desire to forever exist within a divine state of perpetual dance. Can you introduce our readers to this fundamental concept behind In Continuum? As said earlier in the interview, all human psyche has the desire to experience mind altering vices or elevated states of being in which reality is left behind. In this instance Maleficent's vice is dance. This creates the reasoning behind why Maleficent's desires to forever exist within that peak “high” and divine state of perpetual dance. Thus, the collective energy she manifests through dance causes her to ultimately evoke a spell of sorts.
Each indication of magic achieved through tonality change, time manipulation, special effects, etc. represents the changing or intensifying phases within that journey of reaching the pinnacle. It’s about a dancer who is “mainlining creative energy” in order to achieve a divine state of being within dance. In this instance, the idea of being “in continuum” refers to the dancer forever existing within a divine state of perpetual dance. What was the most challenging thing about making this film? The most challenging aspect about making this film was finding the story in the edit. Most people would never leave the story for post, but I thought for this circumstance it would be an interesting film experiment. Because Maleficent exists within multiple layers of reality/ locations, as well as lighting variations
within locations it was quite a challenge to edit everything together to look seamless. The music is also quite complex and lends itself to a wide variation of highs and lows, which in this case I matched in action the whole way through. In Continuum is marked by a refined cinematography. What camera did you shoot on? Can you describe your approach to lighting? I shot In Continuum on a Panasonic GH4 and a Panasonic GH2, the majority of which was shot with the GH4 model. Good cinematography is like a silent actor, providing those subtle psychological nuances that push the story forward. Dance is expression without dialogue, and is a cinematic language that communicates through movement. Therefore, a sense of untethered cinematography was
important to capture. When it comes to lighting, I prefer to utilize Terrance Mallickâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s approach and use natural light wherever possible. However, I also like to fill in areas where I think highlights need to take place with LEDs if I canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t do it with reflectors. The natural light ended up being instrumental in communicating mood changes. It felt quite poetic when the natural light and fog seemed to provide a story of its own. For example, because there was no ceiling in the derelict brick room there are moments when Maleficent is dancing and as the sun changes so does the mood and tone of the film. For more than half a century women have been discouraged from getting behind the camera, however in the last years there are signs that something is changing. What is your view on the future of women filmmakers?
I think the future for female filmmakers is going to get interesting. Studios are realizing more and more that women tell engaging stories as audiences respond enthusiastically to films like: Unbroken, Wild, The Hurt Locker, Frozen, etc. However, we also have to be honest and realize that the numbers haven’t changed much in 30 years. “Female directors accounted for only 17 of the top 250 grossing films of 2014—a mere 6.8%” – indiewire.com. So, generally it seems that more men are still being hired over women for big budget studio films. "The public’s interest becomes what the public is interested in—the most popular media." So, we need to look outside of popular media for our entertainment if we want to see more stories from women, and vote with our money by supporting films created by women. It’s odd to realize, but we mostly like films in popular media because those who have
stereotyped our interests market them to us. We have to recognize that only a small scope of film options are actually marketed by popular media. Fortunately, numbers show that the independent film circuit is much more friendly to women; half of the films in the U.S. dramatic competition at Sundance were directed by women in 2013. Can you tell us your biggest influences in art and how they have affected your work? My biggest influences in art are Sophia Coppola, Darren Aronofsky and Devin Super Tramp. From Coppola, I’ve admired and taken influence from the dreamlike aesthetics signature to her style. She is so successful at putting whimsy into something otherwise potentially mundane, especially in the case of Virgin Suicides. I like to think that I’ve been able to enter into my own
version of this dream world with In Continuum by using things like lens flares, light leaks, etc. Aronofsky, has been a long time favorite director of mine and has influenced many of my stylistic choices. He has an in-your-face experimental style that resembles few comparisons within the upper echelons of film. The visual spectacle present in his films, such as Requiem For A Dream or Black Swan, are done not for the visual aw itself, but rather to communicate psychological undertones of the characters. Thus, I like to embellish my visuals through cinematography and editing oddities using techniques like jarring cuts, time manipulation, special camera rigs, etc. Beyond these top tier directors, I am a huge fan of what the internet has to offer. There are so many treasured
video gems I discover from film artists on Vimeo and Youtube. More specifically, Devin Super Tramp is one of these online sensations that has had a huge impact on my camera work. I use the same brand of camera rigs he does, Glidecam, in order to achieve the “boundless” cinematography you see within In Continuum. I’d have to say that the Glidecam rig itself has even influenced my work greatly, allowing me to achieve shots I used to dream of. Outside the realm of film art, my Aunt, Lona Hymas Smith, a famous woodcarver, taught me so much about how to infuse passion into art—giving it a life of its own. She had such an amazing way of channeling the best of her talents and truly created pieces that seemed to breath. Thanks for sharing your time, Shana, we wish you all the best with
your filmmaker career. What's next for Shana Vassilieva? Have you a particular film in mind? As usual, I am working on several projects at any one time. At the forefront this moment is a project that we just finished production for. The project is a collection of stories about elite athlete women in the Middle East who are empowering others and improving their communities. In collaboration with UT's Center For Sport, Peace and Society, ESPN Women & The US department of State, we filmed two different Syrian refugee camps in Jordan, local girls playing basketball at Girl Power in Egypt, a bike race that benefits local kids near the Dead Sea and so much more. We plan to have a sizzle reel and Behind The Scenes videos very soon. Then, 4 short documentary stories will follow in the months to come. I am also invested in a few personal projects.
Most exciting is a short documentary film series filmed in Madagascar that chronicles travels, endemic species, culture, local people and the unexpected story that followed as a result of leaving the comfort of designated tourist zones. I am very near to releasing a 4K short documentary that will introduce people to the Madagascar project and imagery. We are also starting a mobile library in connection to our journey there. I plan to document the mobile library project too. My husband, an avid drone flyer, and I have also extended the reach of our cinematography and are taking to the air with the DJI Inspire dual operation system. This has been a dream for a couple years, and it will truly make our shot selections limitless. Heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll be remotely flying, while I remotely control the camera attached to achieve jaw dropping aerial shots.
olya rada Downwind (Germany, 2015)
As write Jean Gouda, one of the surrealism's points of departure is the observation that everything that emerges from the mind, even without logical form, inevitably reveals the singularity of that mind. The logic of Downwind is the logic of a dream—stylistically, the film owes much to the surreal fantasy world of Jean Cocteau and Alejandro Jodorowsky. We are pleased to present Olya Rada for this year's CinéWomen Edition. Olya, how did you get into filmmaking? One day nearly 10 years ago, I had the idea to try to "make a movie". In my imagination, I drew a couple of beautiful pictures, and suddenly I was passionately obsessed with desire to "bring them to life", so that other people could see them. For the first time in my life I realized that technology makes it possible, and this discovery made me dizzy. It was just as if I had received an electric shock. I went to the store and bought a simple tape camcorder on the money I saved from my university scholarship. The shop assistant asked me: "What do you want it for?" - "I want to make movies" I said. He gave me a very serious and concerned look and said: "But think
well. It will be very difficult." I thought about his words, and suddenly realized that it does not matter to me how difficult it can be. I want this more than anything else. And I will do it. I think, the words of the shop assistant were very true. But I never regretted my decision.I was filming for a long time kind of blindly without knowing what and why, just experimenting. I went for a walk and filmed people on the street and then, when cutting, tried to build a story from the documentary material. And all the time I really wanted to get an education in this field. But by the time I had already by inertia graduated from the Faculty of Foreign Languages, and in Russia a free education is available to people only once in a lifetime. That is how the idea came to try to enroll in a film faculty somewhere in Europe. I did not manage to do it the way I imagined, because an emigrant’s path is full of adventures. But I think the life experience is the most precious knowledge a director could get. Instead of Director’s faculty I graduated in film studies at Berlin Frei University. I studied film theory, analyzed and watched movies. For many young people who want to make films, such studies may seem a
waste of time. But I think there is no universal way to a directorâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s profession. There is an inner desire that leads you ahead and opens the door. That is how it was with me. I kind of entered the world of cinema through the back door which often remains unnoticed. Years of study were like a journey into the deep forest, I was walking on and on but did not know yet where I would end. Gradually, I changed, my perception of a movie became more delicate and profound, and I started to understand more and more clearly what kind of movies I want to do. And, of course, all the time I went filming and the folder "My Videos" was filled with an infinite number of films which disappointed me almost immediately. In other words, I made mistakes with diligence - one by one. I tried and tried. Over and over. This is similar to how a child learns to walk.
Before actually walking, one needs to make so many steps and fall down many times! Skills and courage develop gradually; it gets easier and more interesting. But even when people can walk, they still occasionally stumble. This is normal. The most important is not to be afraid of mistakes. Because there will not be development otherwise. We want to take a closer look at the genesis of your film: how did you come up with the idea for Downwind? I walked along the bustling city which celebrated a festival and among many booths and tables with drinks and food there was a table with people who were standing for the rights of unborn children. In addition to brochures they also distributed a model of an embryo at the age of 10 weeks. I took one of these plastic babies with me. I really liked it, as
it was made of the same ordinary plastic the majority of children dolls are made of. I first realized that a doll also is nothing but a model of a child at different ages and that this embryo is just one link in the chain of models. That is when the main metaphor of the film appeared â&#x20AC;&#x201C; the parallel between dolls and children. And as the main event of the film was a decision of a young woman to have an abortion, dolls symbolized unborn children. The topic of abortion is partly a taboo in our society: it is kind of unpleasant and inappropriate to talk about. And at the same time it's the issue many women have to face. Personally, I had a secret fear for a long time: what if I suddenly get pregnant? I was not ready yet to become a mother, and at the moment I had not found the man who I would like to share my life with. "Downwind" was born into the
world, when my daughter was 4 months old. And there is something symbolic about it. Probably this was the lifetime moment of liberation from fear of a possible need for abortion, from fear to choose between someone's life and transforming my own life. You describe the film as a "surreal fairy tale". How did that concept develop, and who were some of your chief influences? As soon as the connection between dolls and children turned logical and not only visual, other elements of the film puzzle began to take their places. I did not know still what exactly this film has to say but I felt how powerful it was. Before I loved to draw and never knew what would
appear in paper in the end; each line was responsible for the emergence of the next one, it was similar to creative meditation. There was a good drawing with secret meaning, which was not always clear even to me, only when I forgot about everything and just listened to my intuition. Something similar happened during the work on the script of "Downwind". I saw before my eyes a little blond girl from the back, which was looking at the shop windows where dolls were set according to their height. In the next frame the girl was not there anymore, but a new blond doll with big blue eyes - just like her â&#x20AC;&#x201C; took the empty place in the window. This scene of the film already existed, but I did not know at all what kind of a weird doll shop it was. I was going through the city looking for a place that would help my story develop
further. Deep inside I felt that if I was here and now, and a new film was building up in my head, all of its components were also somewhere nearby. And suddenly truly by chance I found the place. It was an old flower shop, which was closed for renovation. And there was the next element of the puzzle: a flower vending machine. It looked completely abstract - empty, dusty, without any colorful flowers. In the film, it embodied the abortion process: exchanging someone's possible life for something intangible, invisible and perhaps completely unimportant in future... I just tried to imagine a brief encounter of a possible mother and her possible child at the moment of decision-taking, as it is a magical moment. At that moment two possible realities are very close to each other. It gave the whole film its surreal character.
Downwind is marked by the presence of unusual objects - a significant use of mise-en- scene throughout the piece. Can you introduce our readers to your peculiar use of symbols? I believe that things are powerful mediators between us and our imagination. They seem to perform the role of a rope bridge into our subconscious and help to draw different emotions, prejudices or expectations out of there. The visual peculiarities of objects, their colors and geometric shapes allow them to become abstract in our eyes and arouse various metaphors in our perception. For example, we can see a blue music player and interpret it according to the plot of the film and our own experience as youthful dreams and sense of freedom. The most wonderful thing is that it happens in our perception
in a completely natural way, if the film is full of these "sensors". That is why I try to create for each movie a whole new world whose elements are carefully selected to interact with each other and help me to tell the story with more expressiveness. I'm not trying to artificially assign a symbol to a subject. The subject itself must take its place in the history and become its expressive element. That hidden force, that each element adds, makes eventually its symbolism in a film story. The thinner and the more emo-tional a story gets, the more refined becomes symbolic potential of the objects in the film. All this eventually gives extraordinary synthesis of narrative and visual. That is the result I strive for. What was the most challenging thing about making this film?
To hold until the end – not to lose faith in myself, in my idea and be able to withstand all the difficulties. For example, it was very difficult to find actors. I tried and failed to find a little girl: I was promised help and was refused. But in the end, at the last minute I found the girl Thea, who was as if cut out for this role and dissolved completely in the atmosphere of the film. A similar situation was with the role of the woman who there was no one to play. I realized with horror that the only person who could do it was me. It was necessary to overcome the internal conflict with myself, focus on the main thing, do the acting and directing at the same time. Now I'm glad that it happened. Perhaps to perform as an actress was the last puzzle element of the film. And anyway, I think that life itself plays an important role in the development of
any film in addition to creative process in a director’s mind and co-authors’. The film has not yet been finished, yet it is talked about a lot, it is being prepared. And at this stage of interaction with the outside world almost always new elements are included into the concept of the film and they modify and enrich it. For example, due to different circumstances one often has to look for new ways to implement an idea. And sometimes actors’ charisma gives very special depth to the atmosphere of the film. All this is impossible to know beforehand, until you start the preproduction and shooting process, but it largely determines what the end result of your work will be. In my opinion, this is one of the most "challenging" stages in any film creation. The author should be able to take quick and clear decisions to cut off the unnecessary, but be willing to
experiment, and not to lose the message of the film at the same time. Could you take us through your creative process when starting a new project? I am always guided by impulses that come to me from life. They are conversations, situations and images of people, objects, places or rooms. Sometimes it happens that a few of these elements meet successfully in my mind, and the first frame of the movie comes to light. Based on it I try to feel and understand the topic and direction of the film. Usually it is something familiar that has occupied my thoughts for a long time. But the most important thing is to find a good idea. There must be the click in it that will turn everything upside down, surprise, shock, touch the soul ... And this click must work 100 per cent,
under any circumstances, no matter what forms and nuances the film acquires in the process of development. The idea is the first cornerstone, which makes the foundation of a new film, and it must be so strong that the entire structure could rely on it later. Thus I do my best to formulate the idea and key moments of the film for myself. And, of course, "visual stuffing" of the film is very important to me: actorsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; look, set design, clothes and so on. There are no random objects and people in the frame for me. This is a very exciting and important part of my work which I probably will never be able to delegate fully to anybody. Your art is rich of references. We have previously mentioned Jean Cocteau, referring to the surreal world of his films, however your visual imagery seems to be closer to Toshio Matsumoto's early work. Can
you tell us your biggest influences and how they have affected your work? For a long time my only spiritual mentor and example was Andrei Tarkovsky. Although not all of his movies I really liked, but I was fascinated how unique and original his films are. Probably the most important thing I have learned from him is not to try to please anybody with my films, not to cater for mainstream, but to listen to myself, my soul. Because it is impossible to please everyone, but it is important that you personally like what you do and how you do it. In my own work I've always wanted to create something unusual and even shocking in a good way. I was always glad when I discovered the movies that were not afraid to be "different", "nonstandard". My own understanding of creative goals gradually evolved from such examples. Perhaps short films by Jamie Travis, a young Canadian director, played the important role. When a few years ago I saw them for the first time, I was absolutely delighted. Madness borders with normality so closely that it is breathtaking. And then, a couple of years ago I discovered cinematic world of Roy Andersson and since then it has been a great pleasure to watch his films for me. These last two examples have opened for me the doors to a new visual style of films. It is based on creation of the film world, which is not afraid to be too elaborate and theatrical, but on the contrary thanks to it the film acquires strength and independence. It made me desire to make films which border visually with the genre of fairy tale. Do you think it is harder for women directors to have their projects green lit today? I think it was never quite simple. Todayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s time is quite trouble-free for female filmmakers: in many countries the rights of women and men, at least formally, are
equal and everything depends on how talented and diligent a person is. However at the same time, there are some factors that are beyond neither time nor society changes. For example, women continue to give birth to children and devote a lot of themselves to their families. Meanwhile it is impossible to be a director "part-time". This is a profession that requires absolute dedication. In addition, it seems to me, in most cases the work of a woman on the film is a very personal and deep process. Women often think and act intuitively. It is our nature and a very valuable quality, which unfortunately does not always fit into the rigid framework and terms of the film industry. Mastership is to follow your intuition and at the same time cope perfectly with all challenges of film work routine. Thanks for sharing your time, Olya, we wish you all the best with your filmmaker career. What's next for Olya Rada? Have you a particular film in mind? Thank you very much! Since this October I am starting my studies at the department "Film" at Hamburg Art School, which is based on the tradition of the artistic film d'auteur and aims to develop independent creative innovation. I think this study will be a natural continuation of my path as the author film is my lifestyle: what I have been doing since I first took a camera in my hand and till present days. As part of my studies, I am preparing to shoot a short feature movie: a parable about adults, children and happiness. About what adults leave in their childhood and what they lack all their lives. This is a topic that has always worried me, and I have already fallen in love with the project.
LEFT OLYA RADA
victoria garza A sinking tale (USA, 2015)
A Sinking Tale takes us into a fairytale that looks lovely, a woman is getting married. But encloses a social problem about the pressures of the role that women are obliged to comply and, sometimes not even allowing themselves to question about it, "Do I really want to get married?", "Do I want to have childrens?", "Is it fair that I didn't have sex with someone else?", and the most important one "Am I goint to regret this?". Victoria Garza gracefully combines elements of fairytale, romance and drama in an authentic, incisive portrait of a young woman. From a simple story, she creates a psychologically penetrating meditation on love and freedom. We are proud to present Victoria Garza for this year's CinĂŠWomen Edition. Victoria, tell us about
your trajectory as a filmmaker. What inspired you to express yourself in this medium? I feel that my need to escape from reality inspired me to create my own world. When I was a child I was told that magic didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t exist so I started imagining stories in my head, as I grew older I started to draw them and then I began to write them down. I used my family as actors, made them costumes and produced the sound effects with my toys. I never thought it could be a profession until one of my schoolteachers told me I was going to be a filmmaker, when she saw a video I made as my final project in school. Being a filmmaker gives us the opportunity to keep playing like children, and thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s one of the most important things in our job, to translate that feeling to the audience. People need to keep dreaming about a
better world and continue to have hope. We want to take a closer look at the genesis of your film: how did you come up with the idea for A Sinking Tale? I love Disney movies and I grew up watching princess movies where the prince charming always comes along to change the princess life. It was confusing for me to realize that; first, I don’t want that for myself; second, most of the time, life is not really like that; third and most important, it’s wrong to think that a women’s life consists in waiting to be saved by a man. I come from a small town, where a lot of people think it’s weird if you don’t have marriage and having a family as a life priority. When I left Torreon, my
hometown and decided to move to New York to become a filmmaker I knew I was leaving that option on the side, I wasn’t going to wait for a man to change my life, I was going to change it myself and I’m happy with my decision. But there was a part of me, as a child, that wanted to be a princess; that’s why I decided to make this film, not because I hate Disney princesses but because I needed to make this defragmentation of my illusions as a child evolving to my ideals as a woman. The story is simple, yet the implications of its characters’ emotions and actions are profound: we have deeply fascinated by your clear story-telling. How did you develop the script and the structure of A Sinking Tale? As I was saying before it's a
defragmentation of my favorite fairytales. I took every princess I like and broke important elements in their stories, letting them free. Then I thought: What’s something that a princess would never do? Talk about sex, use the toilet, get dirty; then I put my princess in that situation. The main character felt trapped inside a stereotype and fought to destroy it. In every chapter the princess gets more "naked" in her emotions and we can go deeper inside her, in moments where apparently nothing happens. I always like to work with scenes where "nothing happens" because that's real life, I want to show moments where everyone can relate to, mixed with a little touch of fantasy because I want the audience to end up thinking "maybe this could
happen to me". A Sinking Tale features a sensuous and original cinematography reminding us of Julio Bressane's cinema: how did you develop your visual style? Before studying filmmaking I majored in Graphic Design and that gives me the tools for when I’m working on my visual style. I’m very meticulous about the way my frame looks and I’m a maniac with preproduction so I carefully pick every object, color and shape I use. I like to think about the psychological effect the images may have on my audience. I get different and specific inspirations for each project but I’ve been told that my work is very visual and is usually inspired by pop culture and I agree. In A Sinking
Personality disorders, love and sexuality are some of my favorite topics. Those are three things very attached to us and at the same time so absurdly simplified by society
Tale, I worked with•Annie Leibowitz Disney Dream Portrait series. I tried to recreate some of the images and elements and mixed them up with an urban touch. I wanted every frame to look like a painting from a fairytale book. Human experience is often the starting point of your artistic research. What draws you to a particular subject? I pick something that moves me in a certain moment and then I keep working on it for years until I know it's ready to develop. I use my personal experience and context, whatever is going on around the world.I like to build characters in my mind and then imagine the situations they can get involved in, based on their personality and problems. I love to explore the complexity of humanity and the duality between right and wrong, I also try to show what I feel everybody
thinks but decide not to say out loud because it wouldn’t be right. Personality disorders, love and sexuality are some of my favorite topics. Those are three things very attached to us and at the same time so absurdly simplified by society. If we all are so different from one another and we go through very different experiences how is it possible that we all have to be judge by the same rules, think the same way and experience just one kind of love and one kind of desire. We are just labeling people, preferences, states of mind and I’d like to make clear that nothing is ever clear, everything is always grey. I want to make sure everyone understands I don’t make my movies based on the position I have over these topics. For me making a film is a way of analyzing the situation my characters are going through, not my political point of
view. For example I made a short film about abortion and another one about rape, but when I work the stories I’m not trying to fight for our right to have an abortion or to punish or defend a situation, I’m exploring the emotions of the characters that are living the story, so we can go through their decisionmaking process based on their circumstances. I make emphasis on this because, as a filmmaker, when you use controversial topics and you don’t pick a team is more difficult to get support from others, I believe this happens because the viewer doesn’t know how to feel about what you are showing them, but that’s exactly what I want, to have people questioning themselves. We have previously mentioned Julio Bressane, yet your imagery seems b I hate it when you’re in film school,
surrounded by people who are always talking about Metropolis, Citizen Kane, Rear Window, and Federico Fellini, with all due respect, for me is like “I get it, you made it to film school, me too, get over it”. Of course I have been inspired and influenced by many artists through my career but I wasn’t born a filmmaker and my family is not artsy, so when I was a child my inspirations where Tim Burtons movies, Walt Disney, Sailor Moon and other anime cartoons and I believe you can see it in my work. I like to use colors and I don’t limit myself when I research for references, I can find it in a soap opera, a Taylor Swift song or a philosophy book. As I grew up I got obsessed with Wes Anderson and Michel Gondry and I still like them. It was later in life when I
started to get serious about filmmaking and Internet gave me access to more information, movies and culture. But my early influences linger, I can’t erase my memories, It will always be a part of me forever. So yes, I can think about a hand held shot inspired in Hitchcock but I’m probably going to think about someone else first and I can’t lie about it. Right now, I get more inspiration from art. I study art history a lot and I think art is always giving us a reflection of who we are as society and there is where I find the answers to my questions. Paintings, photography, conceptual art, performance, those are my best motivators. Sometimes I’m reading about Sophie Calle’s work and I see a specific scene. I also like to use music to build the mood of a scene. Psychology theories are also very important for me to consider.
I dropped out of Film School when I had one year left to go, I remember I thought “how can I make something different from my classmates when we are all getting the same tools?” So I decided to study a degree in Digital Arts and I got more involved with virtual reality, interactive art and digital video. That is without a doubt the best decision I’ve made, now I feel I have a different approach to building my stories, when I work on them I’m not writing a script, I’m making a project, where the script is just part of it. But if you want a more specific answer, as I said before, for this project I got my inspiration from•Annie Leibowitz to build the frames; Monet’s paintings for the color palette and lighting; Lars Von Trier for language and acting style, I was thinking a lot about Melancholia when I made this short.
What do you hope viewers will take away from the film? I want to encourage women; I want to inspire them to start living their lives and to stop feeling guilty for having aspirations. We want to catch this occasion to ask you to express your view on the future of women in cinema. 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? We are a generation of women that support each other and we are breaking through the stereotype of women in the work field who pit against one another.
Here in Mexico there are several groups of creative women who gather together for projects and find work for one another, talented editors, sound operators, cinematographers, directors; crafts that are usually destined for men are now in our hands due to women collaborating with each other and evolved men who understand talent and preparation have nothing to do with gender. The jobs for women on set were usually wardrobe or styling but this is changing for us and I believe the union of women as a minority, in this industry, is giving us power to overcome prejudice. There’s still a lot of work to do, and that’s why it’s important for us to stick together. Is not a war but it’s nice to meet people you can relate to. I didn’t see the importance of supporting each other until I found myself in the real
world, when you realize that you’re alone and that the only strangers that get close and help you are those who see themselves in you. We are a team, not because we are all women, we are a team because we share ideas and my ideology is that women deserve as much as men in whatever they want to do. If she chooses to dedicate herself to her job, I’ll admire her, if she chooses to leave her job to raise her family I’ll admire her as well. I have a feeling that we tend to go to extremes and extremes are usually wrong. I love to see a crew formed by women but I also love to see women directors working with men in their set, because for me this is about equality and respect. With this particular question my first thought was “we are going to rock cinema” but I have to be objective, there’s going to be good and bad women directors as there are good and bad men directors. It’s not that we are
better or deserve better just because we are women. What I really, truly believe is that having women work in film brings a fresh new air to this art, not only because we have our own ways and points of view, but primarily because we are giving voice to the other half of the world and that is the greatest achievement. There are a lot of stories that haven’t been told, at least not from a women’s perspective but now we have the opportunity to make a difference, as women, as filmmakers, we can work together because we share the same ideas and we can work on projects that will be watched by other women and they’ll know “I’m not alone!” and with time maybe they’ll say “I’m not alone and I’m going to do something about this”. This is what gives me the strength to overcome frustration and fight to be listened. Thanks for your time and thought, Victoria. We wish you all the best
with your filmmaker career. What's next for Victoria Garza?
fighting for whatever they need to fight.
I’m working on my first feature film, I’ve had this idea running in my head for a while now and I feel it’s finally ready to materialize. As I said before, when I pick a story it’s because I’m trying to figure something out and this is no exception.
For this project I’m going back to my hometown, the story has a lot of me in it and I just couldn’t see this filmed anywhere else. I’m carefully designing very experimental exercises for my actors and I’m also planning to invest myself fully in it and allow myself to play while I direct the project, I want to lose myself in it, the way an actor does. My crew will be integrated mostly by women. I’m at a point in my life where I’ve met wonderful women who’ve earned my respect and I choose to work with them, not just because I want to support women in cinema, but because I know they are the best in what they do and there is nothing that would make me more happy and proud than to be working next to them.
The core of this movie is to find out which is the limit to fight over love, in it’s many forms, from your true passion to interpersonal love, I want to understand the breaking point, until is healthy to go on. How do you know if you still have the opportunity to change things or just give up. The title of the film is “Todos nos estamos rindiendo”, which means: We’re all giving up. The title might sound a bit depressive but I actually want to bring hope to every person who’s going to watch it and encourage them to keep