w o m e n
WOMENâ€™S CINEMA VOL X
CHANTAL BERTALANFFY MARIANA COBRA MERCEDES GASPAR CAMILLE DE GALBERT IRENE GOMES EMILSSON ALEKSANDRA CHCIUK KARA SMITH CAMILLA RUCZIKA GUAN XI URSZULA PIEREGONCZUK
cINEMAKERS W O M E N
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Cannes Film Festival ..…………. The art of Irene Gomez Emilsson
In A Sensory Wonderland …….. Guan Xi’s Mandala
Through the looking glass……… Camilla Ruczika
Dance in Motion……………………. Mariana Cobra
Cannes Film Festival…………….. An Interview with Kara Smith
Cannes Film Festival…………….. Aleksandra Chciuk
In Between…………………………… Camille De Galbert’s
Architects of Beauty……………… Urszula Pieregonczuk
Cannes Film Festival………………. Interview with Chantal Bertalanffy
Restrospective…………………….. Focus on Mercedes Gaspar
An unforgettable symphony of feeling A look at Irene Gomez Emilsson ’s Deserts
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fascinated with images, light, character and language in a broad sI started going to the art cinemas in Mexico City, watching as many films as I could.
I moved to France when I finished school where I did a BA in film theory and aesthetics at the University of Paris I, the course introduced me to the fascinating world of film analysis. What is there to find in a film? How to watch it and think about it with different approaches and through different theories, from semantics to sociology. Besides, Paris is a paradise for film lovers, in every corner you find a theatre with a film you might have never heard of before, perhaps an unknown gem or a classic, a cult film or a blockbuster and so on. My love of film grew strongly. During that period I also took part in student productions in different positions Featuring outstanding performances and (production assistant, brilliant cinematography, Deserts is an art assistant, or even “Deserts is an overwhelming emotional overwhelming emotional experience. director of experience. Combining emotional intensity Combining emotional intensity and photography on and melancholy with joy and sensuality, melancholy with joy and sensuality, Londonsmaller projects) Irene Gomez Emilsson creates a mindbased Mexican filmmaker Irene Gomez which gave me a bending reflection on love, time and space” Emilsson creates a mind-bending reflection practical approach to on love, time and space. Theodora and film and an overview Gabriel's sentimental story is rendered through a sapient on film production. I was able to understand how a game of silences and looks, with a radical take on narrative. production works, what is needed to put together a film. Irene, how did you get into filmmaking? In 2011, after 5 years in Paris I decided to move on and take the next step. I started a course in filmmaking at the I started to rummage through my father’s VHS collection London Film School in which I learn in depth through when I was about 13 and I discovered among other various projects working at different positions, not only works, Godard’s 60’s films. I immediately was drawn how to conceive and produce a film, but also critically into the fresh, vibrant and yet sophisticated characters think about your work . Deserts is the graduation and got highly interested in the use of language, project for the masters at the LFS. thought and references. I was also always impressed by the use of color and frame, and how everything seemed Deserts is an unforgettable symphony of feeling. How did calculated and nevertheless remained new and the idea for this film came to your mind? spontaneous. About that time I also started to take stills and think about light and frame, and the relationship I came home late after having meandered around between the subject and the image. Overall I was London at night with a close friend, we had been
Irene Gomez Emilsson Deserts (UK, 2015)
I���� �� � L����� ����� ���������, ��� ��� ���� ��� ������ �� M����� ���� �� I�������� ����������. A���� � BA �� ���� ������� �� P���� (20062009) ��� �������� �� ��� L����� F��� S����� �� 2011, �� ��� LFS ��� ����������� �� �������������� ��� ���������. H�� ���������� ���� D������ (2015) ��� ���� �������� �� ������������� ���� ��������� ���� �� ��� R�������� I������������ F��� F������� �� F������ F��� F������� ����� �� ��� ������� ��� J��� A����. S�� ����� �� � �������� �� ����������� ��� ������
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I started to rummage through my father’s VHS collection when I was about 13 and I discovered among other works, Godard’s 60’s films. I immediately was drawn into the fresh, vibrant and yet sophisticated characters and got highly interested in the use of language, thought and references. I was also always impressed by the use of color and frame, and how everything seemed calculated and nevertheless remained new and spontaneous. About that time I also started to take stills and think about light and frame, and the relationship between the subject and the image. Overall I was fascinated with images, light, character and language in a broad sI started going to the art cinemas in Mexico City, watching as many films as I could. I moved to France when I finished school where I did a BA in film theory and aesthetics at the University of Paris I, the course introduced me to the fascinating world of film analysis. What is there to find in a film? How to watch it and think about it with different approaches and through
different theories, from semantics to sociology. Besides, Paris is a paradise for film lovers, in every corner you find a theatre with a film you might have never heard of before, perhaps an unknown gem or a classic, a cult film or a blockbuster and so on. My love of film grew strongly. During that period I also took part in student productions in different positions (production assistant, art assistant, or even director of photography on smaller projects) which gave me a practical approach to film and an overview on film production. I was able to understand how a production works, what is needed to put together a film. In 2011, after 5 years in Paris I decided to move on and take the next step. I started a course in filmmaking at the London Film School in which I learn in depth through various projects working at different positions, not only how to conceive and produce a film, but also critically think about your work . Deserts is the graduation project for the masters at the LFS. Deserts is an unforgettable symphony of feeling. How did the idea for this film came to your mind? I came home late after having meandered around London at night with a close friend, we had been discussing ideas about very close friendships or relationships and how the complicity grows through games and the tension is either highlighted or obscured by these. I wrote the script that night and although the structure and the content changed significantly throughout the development process, the characters and their games remained the same. I was interested in the relationship between two characters that are different and yet they don’t exist without the other, the script linked the characters in their movements, thoughts and words. The script started as sequence of scenes in which we would see Theodora and Gabriel, playing games throughout the day in a flat and then cross dressed
Photo: Irene Gomez Emillsson Iinterview by Camille Grenier cinemakers // 9
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Your film delicately weaves present and future, following Theodora and Gabriel's last hours together before Theodora leaves to the desert, featuring a very sapient storytelling. How did you develop the ‘script’ and the structure of Deserts? One of the main ideas of the film, was to have a repetitive structure, using self contained vignettes, that would show the life of the characters throughout the day. This was much inspired by Jim Jarmusch first films, especially Stranger than Paradise where we see a series of scenes interconnected with each other and yet totally self contained where elements and composition are repeated over and over again, but take different meanings in each scene. In Deserts the scenes lack of tonal development nothing really happens, the characters linger in domestic spaces having random conversations, there isn’t a plot but the repetition of both actions and shots lead the viewer to an understanding of the character’s needs and feelings. There is a main structure to the film, from morning to night, lead by the imminent leave of one of the characters. Each scene is different and yet looks similar, the shots are repeated as the actions are. However as the day goes by, the shots or the actions take different meanings as the mood changes, as the light dies. I
interview•by•Bonnie Curtis cinemakers // 11
Irene Gomez Emilsson
in the street, there wasn’t any particular story, just a day in the life of these characters, the playfulness was enjoyable and the characters were beginning to come to life, with very distinctive personalities, complementary to each other. The nature of the relationship was established, as well as the games from early stages. However a dramatic tension was needed to bring these further, this is, prompting the ideas of their games and the core of their relationship through a central idea, rather than just showing their life. Then, came the idea Theodora’s departure. Having her leave and go with them through the last day together put the main action to evolve at a very vulnerable and fragile time for this “couple”. This enhanced the tension and made it grow as the day went by, moreover it gave the narrative something to hold on to, a sort of apnea that would lead the public throughout the story.
cinemakers // 11
Xi Guan Mandala (china, 2015)
With its sensuous cinematography and highly sophisticated use of onand offscreen sound, Room leads audiences into a dreamscape where reality and imagination are inseparable, offering fantastic, surreal images. Certainly the aspect of the film that first hits is Guan Xi's poetic and visionary visuals: Room plays as a visual treat for those willing to experience a break in the laws of cinema and dance. Guan, tell us about your trajectory as a filmmaker and cinematographer. What inspired you to express yourself in this medium?
all my desires, and to express myself. Two themes that I've always been obsessed with are life and femininity. Based on these themes, I try to piece together my experiences, filling them with my desires and fears that conjure my storytelling. I love writing, photographing, singing, dancing, and performing all at once and film summons up all these elements. Compared to the theater arts, a movie has the capacity of breaking space, time, and logic at any time.By using angle and size of the shots, a director can deliver a vision that they believe in.
The camera is like my weapon, It is my medium to communicate language, text, sound, image, and music all at the same time. This medium allows me to release
As a filmmaker, I am capable of shooting all kinds of genres. Whether be it experimental films, narrative films or documentaries. I love to infuse my own
This movie’s storyline is like a puzzle that encapsulates two layers of two different storylines. The first storyline is about the relationship between a girl in a blue dress and other characters, which implies the complex connections between reality and illusion: the girl is stuck in the room and the people, who might be the girl’s imagination, or regard her as their toy, move in furniture and decorations. Nevertheless, these roles finally tear down the girl’s conceptional world. The biggest puzzle here is whether the illusion conquers the reality, or the actuality breaks the imagination. Whereas
in the second storyline, it is about the lives of these people and their dilemma in reality. The poet wants to get rid of his shadow; the lovers undertakes the chaos and pains from the society; the death angel is lighting up a candle. A man, who tries to disguise his loneliness; a solitary clown decides to go on a journey and farewells to his pretending happiness. Both storylines, like ink and milk, blend together, however, also leave a clear boundary. The plots are based on characters. Room opens on a strange looking scene. Since the first scene, the absence of dialog and emphasis on bodies in movement evoke Sergej Parajanov's hallucinatory world. How did you develop your visual style? There are further extensions under a surface. At the beginning, the girl standing in the middle of an unreal and weird empty room, then some “outsiders” interrupt this “peace”, furnishing the room and all of a sudden, such external harmony is broken by the goose that was put into the girl’s arms. The goose is an unreal element, that reverted the real atmosphere that was elaborately built up. The poet whispers secrets into the girl’s ear but, others’ laughter makes the secrets’ authenticity suspicious. Each plot is like a riddle, querying other’s flaws. My visual style is built upon the logic that reality and unreality have mutually intruded each other. I like to create the world that can be easily switched from one composition to another. Like a collage, each element can be formed, deformed, and reformed. Your film features a sophisticated use of onand offscreen sound. Can you tell us something about your approach to sound design? Even though my heart is attracted to more visually dynamic movies I can't deny, my OCD level obsession with sound. For me, the sound is the
Guan Xi Yevgeny•Pashkevich
review by Francis Quettier (France) interview by Camille Grenier Portrait: Guan Xi, All Rights Reserved cinemakers // 9
Room is a film of an extraordinarily youthful vigor, a puzzle with reoccurring motifs slowly pieced together, a series of beautifully filmed allegories. We have been deeply fascinated by your enigmatic approach to narrative, how did you develop the script for this film?
emotions into my work and that's what keeps me going as an artist. Commercial films have never attracted me.
Between memory And history
The room itself is like a big acoustic wooden soundboard and he thought that the choices of instruments would reflect that. Piano, clarinet and violin are in focus, all made out of wood. I found inspiration from chamber music and was looking for a mesmeric, almost trance-like feeling mixed up with peculiarity and beauty. Did you rehearse a lot with the shots you prepared in advance? Before shooting, we rehearsed dancing for two weeks as it was a major task to transfer the literal script to a physical choreography. We brought in actors to a training room since all the characters and scenarios would be built in an unrealistic space, not narrated in a linear world. The actors and I collaborated on creating a back-story and then discussed the relationships between each role, which was helpful to imagine scenes. This world helped them create a body movement that embraced the story. All the shots were developed in my mind during the rehearsals. By watching them practice, I looked for the most suitable camera position and camera movement for each part. The emotional and physical continuity of a dancer was very important, so I decided to shoot with three cameras at the same time, each of which played different functions simultaneously or asynchronously.
nterview•by•Yasmine Mahet (France) cinemakers // 11
code to generate images that help the audiences with composing the story. In one word, sound undertakes and delivers most emotion in a movie. For instance, if you take a movie to be a hallucinogenic soup, the image should be the liquid, and the sound should be the fantastic ingredient. We couldn't record sound on set and that situation gave me the unlimited freedom to re-create sound mix during the editing process. I tried my best to give voice to some unrealistic elements in the movie. In poet and his shadow paragraph, you can hear bird wings’ sound, which is definitely unsubstantial. By adding those unreal things into reality, such as the wind, water, and bird, we can take the audiences on a journey that allows them to experience the scenarios. Additional for the music part, the Composer of this film Sebastian Örnemark wanted to find something organic for the music to ”Room”.
Leben in Vienna Interiority and individuality In Camilla Ruczika’s cinema My interest for the Alzheimer’s disease was peaked C������ ��� ���� �� V����� ���� � D����� ��� when I was very young. It all started with my grandfaA������� ����������. S�� ���� �� �������� ther. He’s been living with his dementia since I was a D�����, G����� ��� E������. C����� ���� � little girl and so has my grandmother, caring for him ������ ���� �� �������� �������, C������ ����� every day, putting her life and needs aside. It was easy ����� �� ��� ���� ���� �������� ��������� to blame him for all his rude comments, unacceptable ��������, ������� ������ ������� �� P������� behaviour and not seeing my grandmother as much. P�� ��� ��������� ��������. A���� ���������� Through the process of making this film and the re�� 2014 ��� ������� ������� �� � ��������� search involved I was able to understand Alzheimer’s ������ ����� ��� �� �������� ��� ��� ��������. better, really allowing me to sympathise with my I� M���� 2015 C������ ��� ��� A���� �� M���� �� grandfather and indeed others suffering with this crip��� C������� "B��� W���� F��������� 2015" �� pling disease. Making a film about people and Alzheim��� A������� G����� F��� C����������. H�� ���� er’s was always on my mind and it all started to come L���� I� V����� ��� B��� S���� F��� �� to life when I found a few heart-breaking stories of P��������� I������������ F��� F������� ��� B��� people who just startS������ P������ ��� B��� L������ “It was a little dream of mine to shoot a ed to live their adult A������ �� S���������� I������������ F��� F�������. film in my hometown after studying film lives and suddenly in London. Vienna is a very “new” location have to deal with an After being diagnosed with the early to shoot a film in and it has so much to “old people”-disease stages of Alzheimer's, Anna, a 33-yearin their 30s. Setting offer because of its classic flair.” old control freak from London, moves the film in Vienna, to Vienna with the hope of treating her Austria was a natural disease and escaping the sympathy and pity of her decision. I felt that my hometown was the perfect family and friends. She seeks the help of an extremely setting and created an obstacle for my character at the rude Austrian doctor who is more interested with her same time. accepting her disease than treating it. Anna, however, Leben In Vienna is my way to pay tribute to all those is determined to prove him wrong and enrols in a affected by Alzheimer’s and everyone who tries to deal language school after reading that learning a new lanwith it. That’s the reason why it was important to me to guage could stop the growth of the illness. There she end the film on a positive note. This film is a collabomeets Cemile, a young, slightly odd, Turkish girl. Preration of my most talented colleagues who were willing occupied with her treatment Anna is uninterested in to go to Vienna with me and my dear friends and family meeting new people and finds Cemile to be completely from around the world who were so generous with their irritating. Anna is about to realise, however, that she is time, trust and money. going to need more than her own determination to truly save herself. C.R.
Leben In Vienna
With its masterfully executed scenes and expressive camera work, Leben In Vienna is a psychologically acute meditation on the blurry boundary between memory, imagination and perception. Camilla Ruzicka pay tribute to all those affected by Alzheimerâ€™s, creating a moody film that weaves past and present, personal pain and courage. Camilla, tell us about your trajectory as a filmmaker. What inspired you to express yourself in this medium? When I was younger, although doing pretty well at school, I never wanted to follow the road of academia. I always wanted to be creative. Film has always been a big part of my life, as a kid the cinema was just so fascinating to me and probably one of my favorite places to go. Like many kids growing up at that time I was obsessed with Disney movies and the stories they would tell. I knew very early on that I wanted to tell stories as well. I was lucky enough to have
access to a video camera and I started filming everything, when we would go on holiday I would be the one with camera. The second we would get home I would be on the computer editing for hours! Nothing else brought me more joy than making my family sit down and watch my creations. When I told my parents that I wanted to be a filmmaker, they had to swallow first, but have been supportive ever since. There was no doubt in my mind that this is what I wanted to do with my life. We want to take a closer look at the genesis of Leben In Vienna: was it important for you to make a personal film, something you knew a lot about? The idea for Leben In Vienna came to me pretty suddenly, one night whilst searching the Internet I found an article about Alzheimerâ€™s. The article talked about people in their 30s suffering from the condition and
In Leben In Vienna masterly weave past and present. We have been deeply impressed with your original approach to narrative form, how did you develop the 'script' and structure of your short film? I remember pitching the film to my writing partner Anastasia Oleynikova. I didn’t have much to go on, in fact all I had was the opening shot: A woman in her thirties running down a dark empty road, alone and confused. This one scene turned out to spark all of the other ideas and we began formulating
each scene after that, often in no order at all, just putting down our raw ideas as fast as we could. The more we wrote the more we started to love the characters, it was an infinite torrent of material. It seemed that it would be impossible to get it all into a short film, we had to start cutting huge amounts out of the script just to bring it down to 25 minutes. We knew it had to be a short film but we didn’t feel it needed to be wrapped up in a neat little bow, the subject is simply not as open and shut as that. We just wanted to show a chunk of time in this woman’s life, just an experience to understand her struggle, to understand her disease. The first time we watched Leben In Vienna we thought of Abbas Kiarostami's cinema. Who among international directors influenced your work? I watch a lot of films in different genres, I like too many films to decide which one of them influenced me. I guess every film I watch leaves something behind and influences me in everything I do. But I’ve always been a huge fan of French and Danish cinema and how honestly they approach every subject. I didn’t want to lose the subject matter into homages and inspirations, I wanted it to be just me and my experience of the condition, no outside influences. It had to be raw and organic. Why did you set the film in Vienna? It was a little dream of mine to shoot a film in my hometown after studying film in London. Vienna is a very “new” location to shoot a film in and it has so much to offer because of its classic flair. A film shot there will always look differently and special. The Vienna film commission were so great in helping me securing all the locations I wanted and made the pre-production so easy for me. I was so impressed by how smoothly everything went when we were shooting outside in the city centre and how helpful everyone around us was. Language is important to the story, it is after all what is
review by Camille Grenier (France) interview by Claire•Auvray•(France-Italy) cinemakers // 23
As the idea began to develop I couldn’t help but bring my personal experiences of Alzheimer’s into it. My grandfather has suffered from the disease since I was born, every year getting worse and worse. I had to watch as my own grandfather slowly lost who he was and I remember how much that scared me and how helpless he was. Knowing that this disease does not only affect older people fuelled my desire to write about it!
how learning and speaking more than one language appeared to help them. This immediately struck a chord with me and I wasted no time in writing it down.
An interview with Camilla Ruczika keeping Anna’s mind intact, so therefore it made a lot of sense to go Vienna and use my own mother tongue as the second language in the film. With little dialogue to use, your actors do an excellent job, making this film above all a very honest one. What is your preparation with actors in terms of rehearsal?
What I like to do is meet up with the actors individually before the whole craziness on set starts and just talk about the script, my research on the topic and their characters. Then there is the rehearsal on set, which is always very magical because on Leben In Vienna it was the first time the characters were interacting with each other, which brought everything to life. One time we got so caught up in the moment, the performances were so amazing and after that we realised it was actually just a rehearsal and we didn’t record it. This film could so easily have been let down by the cast, but both Jacky and Julia were so wonderful, they really made the film special. Your film features gorgeous widescreen cinematography, the Red Camera shines in your hands. How did you conceive
the visual style of Leben In Vienna? My director of photography, Jonathan Petts, and camera operator, Michael Lloyd, and I had a lot of meetings to find the perfect visual style for the film. We all had quite similar ideas and everything just clicked. We were looking at films like Hunting & Gathering, 50/50 and The Intouchables and Jonny did a lot of tests with the camera in London and on location in Vienna. I love the work Jonny did on this film, it was everything I wanted and more. We were lucky enough to have the support of their production company called The Night Factory, who supplied us with the fantastic Red Epic cinema camera. Although I am a firm believer that the camera doesn’t make the film I can’t deny that what Jonny and his team could get out of it was just mesmerizing. Leben In Vienna is a very personal work. What do you hope viewers will take away from the film? I want people to be aware that this disease is one that can ultimately affect anyone. It was important that people sympathies and understand how hard it is to be strong and look for the positive. It’s a terrifying disease and coming from a family that it has touched very closely I wanted to show how putting positivity
Patricia Curtis (France)
into the equation helped us understand and accept it. Hopefully one day there will be a cure but this film is there for anyone who is struggling to accept the reality of the crushing illness. For more than half a century women have been discouraged from getting into filmmaking, however in the last decades there are signs that something is changing. What's your view on the future of women in cinema? Cinema is a boys club, it would be ignorant to deny that, but more and more women are making their mark. I think the future is very bright for us, the tables are definitely beginning to turn. I for one will never let my gender get in the way of the filmmaker I want to be.
space because cinema is definitely changing, and for the better. Thanks for your time and thought, Camilla. We wish you all the best with your filmmaker career. What's next for Camilla Ruzicka? Have you a particular film in mind? Every day my head spins with ideas and I am constantly writing. There is one idea that slowly develops itself into a script and Iâ€™m very excited about it. In the mean time I help others create their visions by editing and producing and then when the time comes for me to step up to the plate, imagine a world and sit in the directorâ€™s chair again I will be ready and super excited.
Women are as talented and as artistic as men and itâ€™s about time we see that point of view come to fruition. I am excited to be honest, there is a whole wealth of stories and ideas that have been suppressed that are now finally coming to life. Watch this
cinemakers // 19
by Camille de Galbert (France) Camille de Galbert is a graduate of the Conservatoire National de RĂŠgion de Grenoble, France, in contemporary dance (2000). She continued her dance training in New York at The Merce Cunningham Studio. As a result of a knee injury, she renounced a dance career and turned her artistic attention to drawing and video projects as a self-taught artist. She then applied her interests to cinema and moving image techniques at the NY Film Academy. Camille de Galbertâ€™s art is at the crossroad of multiple disciplines. Her works on paper are direct and objective extensions of her life; they are not comments, observations, or judgments; they are remnants of the archeology of her past and spirit. While her videos offer ethereal ideas of her spirit, these works on paper offer material testimonies of her actions. In these pieces, her creative intention finds its form in an object with weight, a time, and a place. Through the years Camilleâ€™s craft has grown to blend moving images into a choreography of light, music, and words. She carries-out experimental videos impregnated with the unconscious, the oneiric, her journey as a dancer, as well as her life in the United States, where movements, expressions, sounds, shapes, and faces collide. SIMON is a genre-crossing, dizzying dive; an inside-outside passage through dance. Passage from the imaginary to the real, from childhood to adulthood. SIMON is therefore an inevitable redemption: a meditation, the initiation ritual of a character who faces his own accidents. The body is inhabited by the constant movement of the imbalance into the fall. The gloves drop, multiply, pour, and fall. Hackneyed gestures, infinite shifts from the body. From the camera. From the inside outwards. Incessant inside & outside. An actor prepares for his final entry onto the grand stage. We follow him on his inner journey, from the dressing room to the stage. The opening scene is a tribute to
Pina Bausch. The dark chairs draw on the floor as human shadows. These chairs are us; our humanity, our fragility, our clashes, our excesses. The man falls, gets up, falls again. The man dances with his own life, with his desires and surprises. He dances with the elements, with his fears and inner impulses. Music is the central axis of my work. It is my primary source of inspiration. It is the music that sets my creative process in motion and gives it its rhythm. The figure of childhood appears through the character of the little dog. This dog is the benevolent soul, the reassuring angel that accompanies us and who we care for. And the rampart to solitude, or to the sense of abandonment. Here is the pillow that consoles. Feathers, flakes. It is also the animalistic part of the dancer who rises and falls, gets up, and finally stands up to face his own life. No one is more alone than the actor who enters the stage. No one is more alone than the
child whoâ€™s about to join adulthood. And when the imaginary joins reality, the figure of childhood explodes.
Seamlessly shifting between fantasy and reality, SIMON exemplifies Camille de Galbertâ€™s distinctive approach to narrative, which deliberately exploits traditional notions of dramatic tension, leading audiences into a dreamscape where reality and imagination are inseparable. The electric filmmaking genius Camille de Galbert makes an earnest attempt to fuse poetry and film: every shot in SIMON answers to emotional impulses, estranging the narrative almost in a Brechtian way. Camille, from the first time we watched SIMON, we were struck by your visionary approach to cinematic time and space: can you tell us something about your trajectory as a filmmaker? I was exposed to art and culture from a
Cinema and Beyond The visionary universe of Camille de Galbert very young age. My mother is an artist and my father a contemporary art collector. I studied dance for a very long time and remember there were always videos or films incorporated in the stage design. To me cinema and filmmaking is a combination of all these mediums, a mixture of painting, movement, theater, and moving images and feelings. I have always been drawn to them. I moved to the US when I was 18 to attend the Merce Cunningham Studio and at the time, I was also starting to experiment with drawings and painting in parallel to my dance studies. After a severe knee injury I had to quit dancing and find new ways to express myself artistically. Film was attractive as it offered this combination of movement and visual esthetics.
experience that I’ve learned to express myself artistically and came to filmmaking. Body and music are paramount in my work, I use them to create a pace and structure in the images. SIMON is a visual and arousing cinematic experience. From the first time we watched your film, we were deeply fascinated by your visionary approach to cinematic time and space. How did you develop the ‘script’ and the structure of the film?
I wrote the script trying to imagine myself in this character that is continuously fighting between his conscious and subconscious. I had a clear idea of the set and environment he would evolve in. “It is a time when an unstoppable From the start, I knew I often work on my films and experimental what I wanted him to do videos by creating abstract drawings or transformation takes place, absolutely and feel. It was more mood pieces on paper. It all comes from impossible to be ignored; our bodies about articulating all the inside and is usually very personal. My change from a child’s to that of an adult, these small scenes biggest challenge is to articulate these and we are radically confronted with a together and bring visual ideas into traditional film scripts, it’s new awareness of our very being.” some narrative a constant work in process, and it can elements. I didn’t want to have a pure experimental piece sometime feel like a big puzzle that needs to be put and worked hard to create an hybrid between experimental together so other people can understand my vision. and narrative film. Can you introduce our readers to the Aria Series? After 10 years of dance conservatory in France, you moved to New York to attend the prestigious Merce The word Aria means a progression in a musical Cunningham Studio. How did you background as a movement. The Aria Series is a three part film series, each dancer has affected your cinematic imagery? featuring a different main character, all linked by their inner journey, and their fall or elevation through different layers Contemporary dance is a dialogue between space and of their subconscious. This series is meant to be a movement. It is also a way to address the problematic metaphor about our struggle to comprehend and between our body, time and the environment that understand our subconscious. surrounds us. I remember improvisation workshops and performances were a crucial way to explore one’s own Simon Courchel did an excellent job making this film capacity to move and express oneself. It is through this
above all a very human one. Can you talk about your creative relationship with Simon and how it has evolved through your work together? I knew I wanted to work with Simon Courchel even before writing this short. We are both from France and have a very similar dance background. We spoke about the story and the psychological state of this character and worked on the actions and movements through a series of improvisations and rehearsals. We kept what worked and adjusted on set during the shoot.
decisions about cutting or adapting some scenes and actions but it also brought some new and interesting angles on the initial ideas. The second day was hard physically for Simon Courchel, it was freezing and he had to run and fall repeatedly on the snow for several scenes. Heâ€™s used to this type of intensity on stage but the weather and the long day of shooting really pushed him to his limits. Having real snow on set versus using set design magic also forced him to adapt his way of moving, running and dancing.
Can you describe the shooting of Two Days Contigo?
These hard conditions nonetheless brought stress and pressure - both positive and negative - which helped put him in his character.
We shot the interior scenes first and the exterior the next day. It was a bit stressful as we were pressed by time on both days. I had to make quick
Your talented DP shot SIMON on camera with old anamorphics from
Michael Belcher a RED Dragon Russian Lomo the late 70â€™s, the
same lenses used by Tarkovsky in his last films. From a visual point of view, SIMON is marked by an elegant use of wide angles and static shots. We have been deeply impressed by the natural feel of the cinematography: in particular, we have appreciated the way he uses practical sources in interior shots. Can you describe his approach to lighting? How did you collaborate with him? Mike is not only a great technician, but also an artist. We have the same artistic vision and approach. SIMON being my first short film, it was reassuring and motivating to have his support and trust from the start. He believed in my vision and understood what I was trying to create. For lighting, we had two locations to consider: interior and exterior. For the interior location, Michael â€˘ collaborated with the art
And why? Mike and I paid close attention to the meaning and effect of the camera movements we employed. We tried to be disciplined, because we didn’t want to communicate to the audience that we were simply capable of camera movement. It’s too easy to clutter films with meaningless visual flair. We wanted to create a more restrained visual language, so that when the camera did move, it was a purposeful and more powerful choice. Your film opens with a clear reference to the work of Pina Bausch. The scenes flow like an ongoing assembly, cutting abruptly from one to the other changing perspectives: via a
succession of brief encounters and apparitions we come to see Simon's emotional detachment from the world. How did you conceive the character of Simon? Simon, the character of this film, is completely imaginary and metaphorical. He is a man that’s torn by melancholia and solitude. • I wanted to show his inner struggle and show both his physical and psychological suffering. He’s trying to reach and look for something that’s inaccessible, the scene with the gloves that keep falling from his pockets is a good example. He cannot control his environment and everything around and inside him becomes out of reach. SIMON is a film which favours a psychoanalytical approach, seriously exploring the poetic potential of the cinema. Your striking use of temps mort depicts emotions in places where words or dialogue could not even scratch the surface. Can you comment this distinctive mark of your filmmaking style? Sometime words are not enough to express what and how we feel. Body language can fill this void and explain the inexpressible. What do you want people to remember after seeing SIMON? I wasn’t looking for a specific message when writing and directing this film. Through SIMON, I tried to express a feeling, a state of mind, an inside-outside passage between dream and reality. I wanted to explore a part of our collective subconscious. It is what I want people to remember. Each viewer will react differently, there are several levels of interpretation for this film. Simon is full of references ranging from Pina Bausch to Derek Jarman. You quote, not intellectually, but emotionally. Can you tell us your biggest influences in art and how they have affected your work?
Still from Simon (France) interview by Yasmine Mahet (Belgium) cinemakers // 23
We didn’t have the resources to control the sun over that large of an area, so it was a matter of good fortune that we had a mostly cloudy day. •For camera movement, we asked ourselves...When?
department to build the lighting into the set, so that practical sources could be used almost exclusively and achieve an honest image. For the exterior location, we wanted overcast, shadowless light.
Cannes Shorts A selection of short films from the prestigious French festival
In Jūnana, our heroine Alexandra is 17 – in a way the personification of the “in-between”: trapped between being a child and being an adult, she knows change is inevitable but she wants to hold onto being a child a little longer, a time when everything seemed a little less complicated. Her emotional chaos grows when being confronted with Japanese culture, and she does not know what to do about these new and confusing feelings, how to articulate or come to terms with them. Therefore, she starts to clash with Charlotte,
interview•by•Solveig Kiel (Germany) cinemakers // 11
The title of the film refers to being 17, jūnana means seventeen in Japanese. Unequivocally, being 17 is a fascinating time in one’s life and therefore bound to be made into stories. Due to the fact that everyone has experienced difficulties when growing up – be it trouble with the parents, to fit in socially or to feel comfortable in one’s skin – it is easy to relate to the struggle that teenagers face. With 17, our own expectations of the world change, just as much as the world has different expectations from us; we are supposed to “act like an adult”, “be a man”, to “grow up”. Nonetheless, it is a time when a newfound freedom slowly opens, or is about to open its doors to “adult stuff” – driving cars, drinking and smoking, sex – a world that yearns to be explored. Hence, 17 is a magical age, an age where everything seems possible. It is a time when we want to conquer the world, when we already have figured out everything, when we fall in love for the first time, when we are allowed to be reckless, when we get away with anything, when we eagerly anticipate adventures, when friends are more important than family, but also a time when we are perhaps the most vulnerable. It is a time when an unstoppable transformation takes place, absolutely impossible to be ignored; our bodies change from a child’s to that of an adult, and we are radically confronted with a new awareness of our very being. Suddenly, we are supposed to be ‘responsible’. Moreover, questions of identity arise, together with the question of where one’s place within the world could be; who are we supposed to be, who do we want to become?
though their friendship means the world to her, and she holds onto the somewhat childlike notion of ‘best friends forever’. Accordingly, the way Alexandra and Charlotte’s friendship is initially portrayed is reminiscent of a kid’s friendship, e.g. they sleep in the same bed and take a bath together. Alexandra, however, denies her changing body and covers herself up in the public bathhouse scene, as opposed to Charlotte, who is comfortable with her physical transformation into womanhood, and wants to show off her feminine charms. Ultimately, contrary to Alexandra, Charlotte loves her newfound freedom within the grown-up world, especially since she is far away from parental control, though she does not understand the rules of that world yet, just as Alexandra does not understand the rules of Japanese culture. Both girls pretend to be what they are not;
Charlotte is not a woman yet, and Alexandra not ‘Japanese’. Ensuing from this discussion, the central subplot of this film explores what it is like to be ‘in between’, and being adolescent is also a metaphor for a cultural “in-betweenness”: Alexandra is neither child nor adult, neither French nor Japanese. Effectively, she looks Japanese and speaks a little of the language, but does not understand the culture as such, since she has not been to Japan since she was little. Does this make her ‘Japanese’? To her, it is like she looks at Japan from the outside in, as if a glass wall surrounds her; she can see, hear, smell and touch, but cannot access cultural subtleties that especially take place interpersonally. When she was little, she could effortlessly choose between ‘being’ French or Japanese, but she wonders what has happened lately. Somewhere on the way
With its accurate cinematography and elegantly structured storytelling, Junana is an adventurous work of cinema. Chantal Bertalanffy captures the pain and exuberance of adolescence with emotional depth, offering
a psychologically penetrating meditation on the notion of identity. Chantal, tell us about your trajectory as a filmmaker. What inspired you to express yourself in this medium? According to my mother, I declared at age 3 that I was going to be a writer. About ten years later, I decided to become a film director, without actually having a clue about what a film director does, but I was fascinated with a certain Mr Hitchcock, who was a character in the Three Investigators book series, only that he turned out to be a real person. Around that time, there was a retrospective on TV showing most of Hitchcock’s American films – and so I stayed up many nights until late, glued to the screen. Then of course I bought the book on Hitchcock, which led me to Truffaut, the French New Wave leading me to Italian Neorealism, and so I spent my pre-internet era teen years unravelling seemingly mystical links between movements, directors, genres, and so on. So before I knew, I had found my calling Actually, I have tons of examples of how everything from very early on in my life has led me towards cinema, be it random encounters (my favourite being cinematographer Raoul Coutard) or fantastic opportunities such as working on a communist film set while travelling in China. Studying film theory, however, was very important to me and though I always knew I wanted to be a director, it was only at university that I realized what kind of films I want to make. In a nutshell, the discovery that identity is basically a construct absolutely blew my mind! Ever since then, I have been dreaming of my own cinema as a place where identity is not a static entity, but a place for it to be the dynamic, fluctuating, constantly changing something that I perceive it to be. First things first, after university, it was time to learn the craft, so I attended The London Film School to obtain practical
Left: Chantal Bertalanffy interview by Alexandra Ros•(Belgium) cinemakers // 25
The cultural ‘in-between-space’ Alexandra inhabits is not easily defined, it is not a country and not a culture, perhaps it is only an empty space lacking any shared identity or feeling of togetherness, therefore forever yearning for something missing. At the same time, an empty space can be moulded, painted, sculptured into whatever we would like it to be, so that new stories emerge. Consequently, of course many positive things come with being bicultural, but from a filmmaker's point of view, the most exciting stories derive out of conflict. Alexandra is torn between two cultures, trying to figure out who she is, where she belongs. In a changing world, it is becoming more relevant than ever that issues about the in-between-space should be brought to the screen.
of growing up, she lost the ability to “understand” everything Japanese, like a superhero loosing his powers. Hence, Alexandra has difficulties to understand Daisuke when he speaks Japanese to her at first, literally having lost the ability to socially participate in Japanese culture.
Cannes Film Festival
training. A very hands-on school, I learned everything from recording sound to designing a film set, using lights and of course working with actors. True to my 3-year-old and 13year-old self, I then embarked on the journey that is independent filmmaking by writing and directing my own short films. Was it important for you to make a personal film, something you knew a lot about? I must admit that I wasn’t really thinking about making a personal film as such, but I guess it is true that Junana became very personal in the sense that my preoccupation about this thing identity is seeping through, despite the story dealing with a girls’ friendship. I think knowing a lot about a subject
matter makes a film more authentic, and authenticity is essential in cinema, but it doesn’t necessarily make it personal. For example, I can research into a topic that doesn’t interest me that much and still write about it, such as setting the film in the countryside of Japan (I’m a city girl), though of course the point of this film is not the setting. The film is personal because the investigation about my main character Alexandra’s identity becomes a personal discussion of my own identity, and therefore an emotional investment put into the film. Consequently this exploration becomes the theme of the film, and the theme is about finding out who you are. We want to take a closer look at the genesis of your film: how did you come up with the idea for Junana?
The ﬁrst feature ﬁlm by young Latvian director Aik Kara petian, People out there, offers quite an interesting look at working class society. The story depicts the life of Jan, a young struggling lower class young man who is at the edge of a personality break down. After seeing a beautiful upper class woman, Sabina, he starts wondering about personal changes. He wants to get into that attractive world, but to do that, he has to lose his friend and the environment that shapes his character. The main characters are shown in such a real way that members of the audience may even wander if the actors might actually have real connections to the world they are portraying. They create a lifestyle that is recognisable in every society, so everyone can ﬁnd something familiar to themselves inside this movie.
The premise of the film was about two teenage girls being away from home and how that, together with the question of what it means to grow up, affects their friendship. As many writers do, I wanted to portray adolescence from a very romantic point-ofview and liked the idea to call the film Junana, 17 in Japanese. The twist to this otherwise very common coming-of-age story was that one of the girls is part-Japanese, so that on top of the usual teenager issues, she also has to deal with cultural problems. In a previous short, I had developed the idea of a triangle relationship and I thought it would be interesting to include a boy as the love interest of one of the girls, hence complicating the friendship by changing the dynamic between the girls. Since there is this unspoken taboo in mainstream Hollywood cinema about showing a love story between a Western girl and an Asian boy, I thought this is another twist and something interesting to portray. As of the setting, the house and shrine seen in the film belong to my family, so it was an easy choice to set the story there.
One of the most interesting parts of the plot is its religious aspect. At one point, Jan tries to ﬁnd the way out his criminal life through this source, but not only is he not ready for such a change, the new world is also not welcoming him neither. Discovering the true nature behind this God-worshiping group Jan`s attempts slow down or turns into an opposite direction. Aik Karapetian`s vision shows us real life and characters, he doesn’t create a fairy tale as it is clearly seen through the ﬁlm´s ending. Even though Jan´s lifestyle is barely changed, we can’t say that there aren’t any changes at all. Jan grows up emotionally, his relationship with his friend Craker becomes tighter, yet at the same time he is no longer afraid to stand against him. The visual composition work plays a big part in this unique realism as well. I was pleased to see dark shadows and different angles making the story even more realistic. The main idea that Aik Karapetian is sharing in his awardwinning movie is that there are people out there living their lives. Some of them are good-looking and richly dressed in expensive coats; others just steal them and try to hide all the past and all the bad things revolving around them. And in all of them there people inside, just waiting to be revealed in the way that is possible to them.
review by Ugne Cesnaviciute (Lithuania) interview by Zowi Vermeire (The Netherlands) nisimazine kaunas // 27
Mariana Cobra Breaking the boundaries of dance cinema and unequal society. A particular aspect of The Regret is the unconscious the relationship between the feminin and the Mariana Cobra's The Regret is a spellbinding masculine and the way women have put herselves in meditation on female positioning in the society. The status of acceptation of male concepts with is someboundless imagination of Mariana leap off the screen thing we clearly see from ages until nowadays. The in this psychologically penetrating film exploring the photography was made to focus and follow this unconscious relationship between the feminine and unconscious. The Regret is based on the book "O the masculine. The Regret is a surreal and genreRemorso de Baltazar Serapião", by Valter Hugo Mãe, bending work of art, a technically audacious and which raises questions about the feminine, emotionally gripping dance film. Mariana, tell us about representing the degradation of the woman. The script your trajectory as a filmmaker. What inspired you to has three acts that pictures a symbolic scenery express yourself in this medium? concerning the female positioning in the society. The presentation of the feminine inferiority socially I started filming independent bands’ concerts and preconceived is pushed to the point where the consent performances and itself faces its degradation, reassuring is a spellbinding that’s the beginning of the position of a male sovereignty. The “Mariana Cobra's female submission branded on the meditation on female positioning in the society. everything. character's body, generates multiple The boundless imagination of Mariana leap off My passion for music migrated to meanings, inspiring the art direction to the screen in this psychologically penetrating slowly use, as visual and conceptual film exploring the unconscious relationship cinema and that’s how I started working in the reference, the work of Artur Bispo do between the feminine and the masculine.” cinema field as an Rosário, who prints in it signs that assistant director to understand and learn more about the "speak" about his own existence. whole process of filmmaking. At the same I was working on other director’s films I started to develop my own projects. The presentation of the feminine inferiority socially I felt like telling some stories that have a certain message, preconceived is pushed to the point where the consent that could share thoughts and feelings, that can make you itself faces its degradation, reassuring the position of reflect about something in life, somehow get identified. it’s a male sovereignty. The female submission is branded amazing when you get to touch the deepest feelings of on the character's body, through her movements, her another person, that is why I feel like expressing myself in costume, generating multiple meanings that most moving images. women can identify. " On behalf of his love and his jealousy, Baltazar Serapião gradually violates his wife I am really inspired by real people, especially women. Ermesinda, so no one else is interested in her, thus Reflections on things I’ve lived and felt, it’s all part of my having her to himself only. Through his creative process. Cinema for me is not only about telling unconsciousness we are guided through his deepest stories through images, but indeed touching people’s feelings which is a result from a misogynistic, religious
The language of body on screen and physical actions create art as a social critique. The book is about the power of love, on behalf of his love and his jealousy, Baltazar Serapião gradually violates his wife Ermesinda, so no one else is interested in her, thus having her to himself only.
We want to take a closer look at the genesis of your film: how did you come up with the idea for The Regret? How did you come across the work of Valter Hugo Mãe?
Through his unconsciousness we are guided through his deepest feelings which is a result from a misogynistic, religious and unequal society. The difference is that in the book the main character is Balthazar, and his craziness about women. “The Regret” is about Ermesinda, her submission to this love and subject of violence: physically and morally.
hearts, and indeed that’s what motivates me to go forth in this medium. Cinema it’s my favorite art, and that’s because it touches me so deeply, it takes me out of my reality and brings me another vision of the world, of people, on relationships, behavior and so on.
The Regret actually was born thanks to my sister Heloisa Cobra who also works with cinema but as a costume designer. She wanted to create costumes that would tell the story and to be a total reflection of the character’s personal experiences at the time. She read the book “O Remorso de Balthazar Serapião” written by Valter Hugo Mãe, a great Portuguese author and artist, who has received the José Saramago Prize in Literature in 2007 for this novel. She invited me then to join her on the creation of a narrative film to tell the story of this woman called Ermesinda. As a costume designer, she would sew by hand the story and life of this woman and as a director, I would bring all the emotional distress suffered and accepted by the character. In a way, we wanted to feature her body as a blank canvas, where clothes
cinemakers // 18
We have appreciated your dynamic, kinetic style of filmmaking. Did the overall structure unfold before the camera, or were you already aware of these various pieces of the puzzle? Glad that you appreciated! I was aware and wanted the film to be very dynamic and crescent in a sense that slowly you would also feel Ermesinda’s pain. We’ve prepared the cinematography for that planning big sequence shots in smooth movements, so you would feel like following her movements and feelings. Heloisa has worked in workshops with a lot of different kinds of women in order to stitch all her names,
Yasmine Mahet (France)
spot feelings on Ermesindaâ€™s costume, so that would carry a lot of energy, love and pain from a lot of us. During the process we got inspired by a lot of women, their stories, our stories, feelings and so on. We have been deeply fascinated by your use of symbols, from the first scenes the viewer enters into a dreamy filmic mystery. How did you develop your filmmaking style? I want to bring all the feelings of the character to the screen, so the audience could be touched or even feel her pain. So myself, Julia and Heloisa (my partners on the script) created actions to be made in between all the dance performance once we wanted to plant messages in the scene. I really enjoy working as a team so my crew was really involved also in the creative process, I love to put everybody on the same boat to discuss and reflect about all elements of the film. As we started involving them and also other women, friends, we got to think and talk more about these symbols once we wanted to make sure that they were all on the script. The script was divided in 3 acts, in the first one the character is presented, Ermesinda in her purest essence, dancing
slowly and very light, discovering her own world. The second act represents her marriage, her spirit getting connect to a strong and violent energy, the presence of Balthazar on life. The third act brings the sinister power of love, when Ermesinda accepts all the moral and physical violence he has submitted her, the unconscious relationship between the feminine and the masculine. We needed a perfect location to present her unconscious, to develop the film in THE REGRET. Indeed I wanted the scenes to be very dynamic and dramatic at the same time. Researching a great location and having a organic cinematography was something essencial for this project. Every film can be different, I donâ€™t like to be limited or attached to a specific style. The Regret is a mind-bending meditation on female positioning in the society. What do you want people to remember after seeing your movie? Happy to hear that, it was indeed the idea to be a mind-bending meditation film, I want people to have their own conclusions about the film, but my hope is that people can really take care of
cinemakers // 19
Cannes Short’s Corner
Kara Smith’s Blotter at Cannes
The central theme of the film explores the effects of LSD in the context of a clinical assessment and so I wanted to in some way recreate that experience for the audience by playing on the emotional composition of the narrative. In a way, period dramas can be somewhat predictive as it's a time that has already occured so I also wanted to structure the film in a way that wasn't expected - that made audiences feel the discomfort or freedom that perhaps the characters themselves were feeling.
As a writer, I've always been influenced by classic Hollywood films - specifically the dialogue. I wanted to create a story that would allow me to pick up on the dynamics and venecular of that time period, but I didn't want it to feel irrelevant. On a more subconcious level I also wanted to touch on the gender norms of that era - not only as civilians but as actors. It seems to me that during that time film roles could be very prescriptive and I wanted to somehow play on those ideas.
I had the incredible fortune of working with a very gifted cinematographer - Neirin Jones who had a very strong vision for the film. Through his eye we were able to really define a vintage aesthetic that we felt was respectful to the era (1960s) but still felt contemporary. We wanted to pick up on the textures that we available on the set, the fabrics and colours because it was reminiscent of the LSD experience that the character was going through and so when were looking at the interiors we were considering the wall papers, carpets, panelling etc. And then in post we had the idea of gently bleeding the colour back into the
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How did you develop the structure of the film?
cinemakers // 18
From the first time we watched your short film, we were deeply fascinated by your cinematography. With a mise-enscène that mixes the surreal and the ordinary, Blotter makes wonderful use of of interiors. What were some of your aesthetic decisions?
film, starting in a kind of unknown, colourless position and ending up somewhat enlightened. James Barbour and Daisy Moore did an excellent work in Blotter, how did you collaborate with them on this film? James and Daisy were both a joy to work worth - very talented actors and so generous. On paper I tried very hard to create characters that were flawed and complex but then James and Daisy were able to move beyond what was on the page and create characters that really meant something in a real way. In the beginning we talked a lot about the backgrounds of the characters and I had given them some references of other characters that I felt were flawed in the same way that my characters were. We also researched together archetypes of that era and discussed ways that we could bring those elements to life in this film. It was a real joy working with both the actors and I've worked with them since. What did you enjoy about working on this project? This is was my first project where I was the sole writer/director so it was really interesting to get to know myself as a director and
develop my ideas visually - as opposed to just narratively which I normally do as a screenwriter. In that respect it was wonderful to collaborate with film crew - it was such a talented group. Writing can be so solitary, it was great to explore a film in a collaborative way. Blotter was selected for the Short Film Corner at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. Can you tell us something about this amazing experience? Being selected to screen at Cannes was such a great honor and an education. It's such a unique experience to be enjoying cinema and filmmaking with thousands of other people who love the industry as much as you do. I loved it, I hope to go back soon! You are currently working on a documentary, can you tell us something about this project? Yes I just completed my first feature documentary which I co directed along with my sister, Karli Powell. The documentary features the story of desegregation of education in Bermuda. The film just screened at the Bermuda International Film Festival in In March and we're hopeful that it will be selected for screening at
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Cannes Short Corner
In the beginning I was training to be a professional pianist. Very quickly I familiarized myself with the musicians milieu from the Lodz Academy of Music, with composers such as Zygmunt Krauze. Krauze dealt with the art of XXth century avant-garde painter Wladyslaw Strzeminski. In his “Unistic compositions,” he translated Strzeminski’s paintings into music. As a teenager I had time for observation. I watched various artistic mediums, although at that time mainly in the world of music. I started to pay attention to what happens during playing, to emotions and the particular choreography of a musician’s movements. The music school I attended led to my first concert tours abroad. I sang in choirs. This is when I took out my camera for the first time. I had my father’s point and shoot 35-mm analog camera. I realized that I was taking it out in moments when others were usually putting it away in their pockets. I still remember a voice saying: “Listen, nothing will come out of it”. I was taking pictures
•interview•by•Solveig Kiel cinemakers // 11
���� � ������������ CAMERA STYLE AND FOCUSING ON PERFORMANCE, ALEKSANDRA CHCIUK INITIATES HER AUDIENCE INTO A HEIGHTENED SENSORY EXPERIENCE, EXPLORING THE RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN BODY, MATTER, TIME, AND SPACE. "FLUX OF SOUNDS IN THE BODY IS MANIFESTED IN MOTION. MOTION OF THE BODY IS THE THOUGHT OF SOUND", ALEKSANDRA SAYS. HER POETIC AND EMOTIONALLY POWERFUL WORK VARIATION ON BLACK CREATES STARTLING METAPHORS FOR THE CLASSIC MIND-BODY DILEMMA EXPLORING THE PHYSICAL RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE ARTIST AND HIS MATERIAL. THROUGHOUT THE FILM, THE MECHANICAL ELEMENTS OF THE PIANO RESPOND TO EVERY PULSATION OF ALEKSANDRA'S BODY AND EXPAND LIKE A LIVING ORGANISM. THE VIEWER IS ASKED TO FOLLOW THE LOGIC OF SENSATION: SURREAL SCENES ARE RENDERED IN CLEAR, PRECISE IMAGES. ALEKSANDRA'S POETICS OF CLOSE-UP, GESTURES AND SOUNDS IMPARTS UNPARALLELED PSYCHOLOGICAL INTENSITY TO THIS VIDEO PIECE.. ALEKSANDRA, HOW DID YOU GET INTO EXPERIMENTAL CINEMA?
Variation On Black by•Aleksandra Chciuk
in intimate situations, at meals, en face, from worm’s-eye view; I was entering “open” Spanish houses, I was waving the camera at the moment of releasing the shutter, etc. I was 11-12 years old. It became a kind of obsession. I lost my group because of taking pictures. I wanted to remember everything, every alley, with its smell and details. After graduating in geography, I was admitted to Photography studies in the Direction of Photography department of the Lodz Film School. There, I met Jozef Robakowski, the work of Zbigniew Rybczynski, the history of the Film Form Studio. The classes with Jozef Robakowski awakened in me the need to catch the world in moving frames. It was at this time that I also discovered figures such as Nam June Paik, Bill Viola, Maya Deren, Carolee Schneemann and Sophie Calle. We want to take a closer look at the genesis of your film project: how did you
come up with the idea for Variation on Black? The idea for this project results from the experience of intense piano practice in my childhood. I tried to shape, in gestures and in body movements, the memorized impressions and tensions resulting from playing this instrument. The grand piano always seemed to me as a powerful empathic wild animal, a whale. I wanted to tame it, control it and to find a new language to communicate with it. Variation on Black is thus an attempt of exploration of that connection, “impossible relationship”, perfect synergy between the human and the instrument. The concept of the film Variation was emerging very slowly. At the beginning, the work was supposed to be divided into three video pieces, static shots presented one next to the other in galleries spaces. Each
of them was planned to represent the draft of a subtle gesture looped infinitely. The first one was meant to show a shot of rising hands, anticipating the gesture of striking the piano keyboard, as expected by the spectator. Instead, I close the fallboard and my hands fall down on my knees. I intensively rub my fingers against my skirt. Such nervous rubbing against clothing is a characteristic behaviour in children before a public appearance, as they do not know what to do with wet and cold hands from stress. Hands, the most important instrumentalist’s attribute, are the measure of his excellence in playing. In the second video, I rub my cheek against the closed grand piano’s lid. This way I show tenderness. In its smell I am looking for its past, the history of those who played it before.
In my films I touch the subject of body and motion embedded in a determinate context. I am interested in mutual dependency and interactions between sound, body and nature. Sound has a a major impact on humans. I do not mean an everyday contact with a surrounding soundscape but what emerges from beneath the threshold of consciousness, like scents we encounter, evoking an overwhelming emotion. Flux of sounds in the body is manifested in motion. Motion of the body is the thought of sound. Sound like smell elicits projections and is a carrier of memory.Variation on Black is an attempt to express in gesture and movement impressions and tensions connected to playing a piano.I prepared the piano with my body. The conceived sounds are the result of a direct, physical contact with the instrument. Strings set in vibrations under the pressure of my body affect my movement and consequently the intensity of the performance and the sound. Together we constitute a closed cycle, raw, uncurbed, sinuous hybrid. The origin of the idea lies in the experience of an excessive piano practice in my childhood, when a special intimacy developed between me and the piano. Daily dialogue, physical and sensual contact with a matter which shape was formed in my imagination, provoked a release of this problem in the latter film process. Piano has always appeared as a giant, cosentient, wild animal, a whale I wanted to tame and I wanted to find a new language to communicate with it. Variation on Black is an attempt to explore this bond, an impossible relationship, an ideal synergy of a man and an instrument.
Variation on Black has its roots in your childhood experiences. Was it important for you to make a personal film, something you knew a lot about? I think art is in general, an expression of the most personal experiences. In the case of Variation, it is particularly true as
And the third video work: I am playing the instrument’s pedals holding them with my hands, generating a rhythmic beating. A kind of inappropriate way of playing, no pianist sits under the piano, however, this movement seems to be natural, placed in the context of possible applications of the instrument. With time the idea of Variation has changed radically, but all elements, situations from the initial project, are included in the film. There was a cumulation of events
and people, which influenced significantly the progress of the piece, so I decided to create a short film. The shooting of Variation was very quick, it took practically one day. The set, the Book Art Museum in Lodz, was not coincidental. At the age of 8, I played the same grand piano for audiences at art show openings. During that time I did not understand the reason of these meetings, but I remembered well the aura and behaviour of these slightly odd visitors. The day before the shooting I saw the film Breaking the Frame by Marielle Nitoslawska in the Film Museum of Lodz. The atmosphere of the film and the personalities of these women generated in me a wave, it could be called a wave of inspiration. The increased flow of desire, passion and excitement smouldering with the feeling of approaching understanding, induced a dream. In this dream Maya Deren entered the piano. Thus, I knew that this will happen. I was offered a gift.
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Cinema and Music The Potential of Becoming in Chciuk’s Variation heightened reality. The film's elegant cinematography the film is based on experiences “taken out” from my and deeply pensive tone recalls no doubt the great works childhood. Without them, the film would have no raison d’être. by Darren Aronofsky. How did you develop the visual I was recently asked if I considered engaging an actress to style of the film? What were some of your aesthetic play in Variation. I could not imagine then, teaching someone decisions? such-and-such movements in the piano for the camera. This film was only possible under a condition of full understanding In art, there is a continuous exchange of sensitivities and and full commitment to the situation; under liberation from visions between artists. However, I was not searching for a acquired habits and manners (is it possible to wean the actor visual connection with another filmmaker’s work. After the away from playing?). To a large extent the film was possible first trial shooting for Variation I understood that both the thanks to intuition (but intuition resulting from 'these’ movement of the camera and that of my body must reinforce experiences). I am not saying that an actor cannot do it, but each other mutually. I wanted the camera to play the role his preparation would be of a different nature. And the nature of a witness, but an active witness, like Stan Brakhage of this film lies in its sincerity. All elements of the set were operating his camera during his wife’s labour in the film important, the artistic understanding with the Window Water Baby cinematographer, the connection with the “In my films I touch the subject of body and Moving.Working on place, the room, the piano. motion embedded in a determinate context. I shots, I pay a lot of attention to the course of I think that with every project, I am looking am interested in mutual dependency and movements in the frame, for this kind of nature as an expression of interactions between sound, body and nature. which in turn must have sincerity, a kind of authenticity. This sincerity Variation on Black is an attempt to explore its proper space to can be included in the dynamics of the body an ideal synergy of a man and an instrument.” “resonate”. I am happy movement for example, under the condition when the impression of time is finally lost. That means that that it arises from a primal impulse. It is very important for the work already fell into its right “timeline”. me the location where the shooting takes place. It is the place I make drawings, drawing each frame, making the core of that initiates the impulse. I choose the shooting locations the film. I prepare trial shots, analyze them and then select intuitively and this way, paradoxically, I am sure there is no the “right ones”. At this stage, I already know what the shots, coincidence. I admit that I am often attracted by sounds, lighting and atmosphere will be like. The storyboard becomes wandering “clouds” or sound “threads”. Sounds, like odours, a graphical music score. I write many remarks in the recall images, and are memory vessels. That is why I often notebooks that I have always on me. end up in places from the past. Man is built by the memory When I work this way, I often dream about the pieces and of his own experiences. I also search for answers in those dreams. Sometimes, I realize that I do not know: “where does this picture, this We have been deeply fascinated by your original precise thought, comes from”? approach to cinematic time and space. Variation on I think of films as music pieces. In this way I try to construct Black balance realism and expressionism, using their formal qualities. Variation can also be a prepared-piano chiaroscuro and symmetry to create a sense of
The Mistery of the Ordinary
��� ��� ��������, PAINTERLY COMPOSITION AFTER ANOTHER PUNCTUM CREATES A NEARLY APOCALYPTIC IMAGE OF ITS TIME, AND CONFIRMS URSZULA PIEREGOŃCZUK AS ONE OF THE MOST INTERESTING FILMMAKER OF HER GENERATION. WITH ECHOES OF ANTONIN ARTAUD AND ALEJANDRO JODOROWSKY, PIEREGOŃCZUK’S CINEMA CREATES INDELIBLE DREAM-STATE IMAGES THAT SEAR THEMSELVES ONTO YOUR BRAIN. WHAT EMERGES GRADUALLY IN PUNCTUM IS A NARRATIVE OF CONTINUAL ESCHER-LIKE TURNS AND AN UNPRECEDENTED INTERSECTION OF THE PERFORMATIVE GESTURE IN THEATRE AND CINEMA. URSZULA PIEREGOŃCZUK ORCHESTRATES THIS VISIONARY FILM PLAYING WITH THE WAY THAT MEMORY STRUCTURES ARE EMBEDDED IN THE UNCONSCIOUS, ENGAGING THE VIEWER IN CINEMA'S PROCESS OF TRANSFORMING REALITY. BOTH SHOCKING AND DEEPLY POIGNANT, PUNCTUM IS A STYLISTIC TOUR DE FOURCE THAT DISPLAYS PIEREGOŃCZUK’S MASTERY OF THE MEDIUM. URSZULA, HOW DID YOU GET INTO EXPERIMENTAL CINEMA? No doubt, the cinema has always been considered the most effective propaganda medium. Audiovisual culture tells us how to live, what we should desire, what lifestyle to choose, who we should become, or how to interpret history... A series of progressive messages in
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the form of images forces the viewer to let them “sink in”. The emerging clichés penetrate our exterior and interior. We constantly run a risk of being in a world filled with appearances. To escape the imposed thinking patterns is perhaps our greatest and shared challenge. Film is an art form which is the closest to our experience of the world. It is based on motion that makes the subsequent images follow one another. According to Deleuze, reality is marked by a constant flow of various images. A visual message is aggressive by nature: it invades your senses like a virus infecting the body. The recipient is lured into this world and accepts its rules. A motion picture is a finished work, a closed message that attracts the viewer's attention but leaves him or her passive until they leave the cinema building. The cinema differs from writing in that it limits our freedom to a much greater extent. Today, to unwind after a busy day we turn on a TV and much less likely grab a book that forces us to take some mental effort. On the one hand, the cinema is a beautiful art form with a huge potential; on the other, is a very effective manipulation tool. Rendered through a visionary mise-en-scène that mixes the surreal and the ordinary, Punctum is a work of both great beauty and vivid darkness reminiscent of Romeo Castellucci's imagery. Can you introduce our readers to this experimental film?
Yasmine Mahet (France)
Well, we were shooting throughout 2013. The entire project is made up of several short video pieces, each devoted to a different character. The characters experience the trauma of war, both directly (as victims or executioners) and indirectly (as victims’ children). During the editing, these short pieces were combined to give a picture entitled Punctum. Punctum is the title of the first segment and of the entire film. The term is borrowed from Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes. In Barthes, punctum is a “prick”, that is, a detail in a photograph that determines the subjective reception of the viewer and makes this very photo unique for him or her. You can say it is an element found in the image that for some reason or other is very compelling for the viewer and makes its way to the subject of the image. The film opens with a series of photographs that contain my own punctum. They go back to the early 20th century and set the entire picture in the war context. Among them, there is a photo of a squad of cadets with a white dog resting on one of the soldier’s lap, and a photo documenting the demolition of the Orthodox church in Lublin after Poland regained independence. The action is not set in any specific time and place. Since there are some references to World War II visible in the costumes, props or set elements, for example, a bas-relief
inspired by Wojciech Wróblewski’s series of paintings "Execution", the viewer can guess that the time is around the 1940s or 1950s. One more thing is that the film does not have a linear narrative. The stories of the characters faintly overlap. We get to know them as quickly drawn sketches. We see only slices of events and none of them seems crucial enough to dominate the storyline. We are guided across this hermetic world by a cool and detached voice of the narrator. He introduces a woman who lost her family during the war. Her son Robert disrupts the linearity of the film. He dies as a boy but comes up again in the film as a youngster devoid of memories but with a sense of past tragedy. This character is identityless but at the same time could be anybody else who, while having a stroll in the deserted setting, seeks answers that justify their existence. I did not aim to create a quasi-documentary or a mimetic picture. The world I made only touches on war trauma. True, the film lacks “bright” spots and is far from natural and spontaneous. The gloomy and pessimistic scenes do not have their counterpoint. The atmosphere is heavy and marked by the feeling
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The use of voice-over is a topos of your cinema that reminds us of the stream of consciousness of literary models. What is the role of text and voice in your work? The use of a voice-over that unfolds the story is a device known from different film traditions. It goes back to the almost-forgotten custom of storytelling within communities, and I mean both fictional stories or such that served a role of an intergenerational interface. You should be aware that a voice coming from “nowhere” and not mirrored in the picture conveys a special load of expression and pathos. David Lynch used it in Mulholland Drive in a masterly way. During the scene in a theatre, the female singer faints but her voice is still heard. That voice did not need a body to keep resounding – but we needed a body in order not to permit the component of eeriness into our world as it is likely to stir our deposits of fear. In Punctum the narrator is omniscient. He “soars” above and seems to control the presented world. This was intended to be somewhat perverse: someone whose strangeness is even deepened by the introduction of the English language while the actors speak Polish. The voice-over dares to talk about the characters and to the characters about their weaknesses and death. They seem like puppets that play their tiny roles in the narrow space of their desires. This is some peculiar terrarium in which the creatures are relatively free to move but their surroundings seem a confined and pre-set mock-up. The introduction of the voice-over was obvious because of the subject of the film: it prevents us from approaching the characters and getting identified with them. It works a bit like in real life: it blurs the past moments. Having a voice-over has its advantages: it stratifies the film’s diegesis, clarifies and elucidates the picture, or introduces a gradation of viewpoints. A narrator has a broader perspective but it is bereft of human features.
Interview•by•Caitlin Tennant cinemakers // 11
of acedia. This effect is additionally enhanced by the set design. The scenes are very vivid, yet they are strongly severed from what our world is like. Despite its fragmented character, the project reveals a complete form; you can say it is a poetic confabulation roused by the wartime literature and journalism.
Punctum Poland, 2014
On the other hand, actors can see less: they experience but are not able to explore. From the first time we watched your film, we thought of Gilles Deleuze's words "Cinema makes it impossible to think, because before we can interpret one image it is already replaced by another. Before we can grasp an image it is already passed, the process of association is constantly interrupted, deconstructed, dislocated. Thus, what cinema advances is not the power of thought but its inpower". Punctum invites the viewer into a hypnotic, subjective flow of figurative images, surreal scenes are rendered in clear, precise images. How did you develop the narrative structure of your film? Indeed, Punctum is a stream of images. The film has no linear narrative or time linearity, which results from a rather unusual approach to the work on the script. The characters are merely sketched out: we do not go deeper into their world, we just pay a fleeting visit. The
absence of psychological realism of the characters was a conscious intention right from the start. The work on the script did not start with the idea of the plot, an issue or a thesis to prove, but with an image. I always see the depicted world with the elements of set design that I am going to build, along with the colours, figures, or frame layout. This is very sensational. An image comes up that carries emotion and mood of the scene. The longer the work on the script, the more ideas are generated. I start opening up to the problem, sometimes I cannot even think of anything else. This is a bit like a fascinating jigsaw puzzle because at the same time I always try to think about editing, sound, and light. At some point, dozens of notes on the individual scenes slowly start coming together to form a loose but not illogical composition. I always keep in mind the significance of the rhythm of the film, where to lay emphasis, a powerful opening, and ending that would bracket the story well.
the set was rare but present. It was seen in the acting and sometimes in the set design. The shooting took two weeks. The location was an old abandoned warehouse in Lublin. One day, an idea came about to use one of the warehouse walls for the scene of crucifixion. It was a beautiful wall: huge and peeling off, split into two equal parts by a central pilaster. We mounted the transverse arm of the cross on it and did not even modify the lighting. Sometimes in the scenes with multiple characters we were made to change costumes because the layout of spots and contrasts in the frame affected the composition. I imagine that for many directors such details are negligible. Perhaps, I am a slave to the imperative to control all the layers of the presented world and treat them as equal and mutually dependent. A few months after Punctum, I started working on another picture Parabellum Luger. It was a quasidocumentary on the designer of the Parabellum pistol, Georg von Luger, and the history of the gun itself. It evolved from a pure utility object to probably the most recognizable model of a gun in the world. These two films would often be screened together in galleries or cinemas. Parabellum was to some extent influenced by the previous film but followed a completely different style. I used the same voice-over, but, in formal terms, it was found footage. The picture was a mosaic of pre-selected already existing cinema pieces. I was able to influence the editing but not the visual content of the scenes. It was an interesting experience; I like to go back to it. It was like a tinge of conventional cinema in the highly charged atmosphere of my earlier films. No doubt, it was also a breakthrough as now I tend to think about the formal differentiation of my pictures. You are an eclectic artist, we know that you like to control every aspects of the process, from the scenography to the editing. Can you tell us something about the shooting of Punctum? My work can be ranked as cinéma d'auteur in which the director has also other roles to play: script writing, editing, set design, etc. Currently, I work with three and sometimes four people. I worked with cameraman
Stills from Punctum (Poland, 2014) Kleber Mendoça Filho cinemakers// 13
We used widescreen imagery to enhance the theatrical effect of the scenes. Mise-en-scène was planned right from the beginning. Building a hermetic world in which every frame is a consciously composed image is a trend that you treat like a style. The set was first designed and then built in the studio. The outdoor location in an abandoned industrial space was chosen carefully to fit the developed interiors. One of the key decision was the make-up. Actors’ faces are painted with a white paint. The idea was to make them blend into the created space. Obscuring their natural colour of skin which shows that we are alive allowed the occurrence of a strange space somewhere in between and a formal purity in which all the present elements stem from one another. Improvisation on
From a visual point, Punctum exploits the widescreen format’s capability creating a complex mise-en-scene. What were some of your aesthetic decisions?
Ridden by Nature A stunning collaboration between Kathi von Koerber and butoh master Atsushi Takenouchi
With its expressive location photography and sophisticated editing style, Ridden by Nature is a transporting experience. Using specific locations as inspiration for larger emotional inquires, Kathi Von Koerber creates an emotionally complex meditation on the relationship between man and nature, resulting in a work at once raw and deeply poetic. Kathi, tell us about your trajectory as a filmmaker. What inspired you to express yourself in this medium? Ridden by Nature is an ode to the earth and all the life and beauty it spawns. Dancing in nature is a vehicle to allow the earth to communicate through us. The dancer becomes the extension of the earths energy and the synergy co-created within this symbiosis. In the 90s I spent time in China studying calligraphy and landscape painting. The ancient masters depiction of nature in its magnificence though monumental paintings, the human is always depicted as perspectively small and as a part of nature. The word "Qi" in Chinese that we in English can translate to spirit, the force of energy is what binds these realities together. It was with this intention the film was made in order to preserve the longevity of this union and prayer. It is a form of remembering where we come from and where we wish to go, being a citizen and guardian of this beautiful planet. Ridden by Nature is the result of a ten-year collaboration between Kathi and and butoh master Atsushi Takenouchi. Can you talk about your creative relationship with Atsushi and how it has evolved through your work together? I met Atsushi in 1997 when touring Europe with my
•interview•by•Caitilin Tennant cinemakers // 11
The film “Ridden by Nature” is a tribute to the elements that compose the earth, bringing to the forefront the currently strained relationship of humanity with the earth’s ecology in hopes to inspire state and community action in response to the current environmental crisis. ‘Ridden by Nature’ witnesses the immense power of the earth’s biosphere through the art of film, dance and music, revealing the fierce and sacred existence of these visually stunning environments.
A Living Landscape performance group at the time called the Ransom Corporation together with the co-creators the Kuffner brothers from New York. It was at a time where we as group of young artists, dancers, filmmakers from all over the world where exploring movement, poetry, and ritual as a form to interact with nature, and awaken the viewer in their dialogue with what is greater than us humans on earth. Upon meeting Atsushi and Hiroko in Paris, it was a kindred meeting, where it seemed inevitable that we needed to dance together, a collaboration was waiting to be unravelled.
Kathi Von Koerber
I there upon invited him for 7 years consecutively to hold workshops in the wilderness of upstate New York, where we together pushed the limits of dancing in nature with people from all over the world. Dancing in Rain storms, dancing on rivers, camping and dancing for 7 days, performances in the the rawest of nature, with no music, no choreography; attempting to reveal each dancers carnal existence to the soul and spirit of the earth. As a filmmaker it seems imminent to archive these times, and slowly it gently evolved into the making of the film 'Ridden by Nature'. Taking the time to Travel and visit
sacred sights around the United States and dance the requiem and memory of the earth and its different biospheres. In the many years that we have known each other, we have inspired one another and mirrored one another in dialogue with nature and creation. It has been a great inspiration to find a brother like Atsushi who is willing to be a spirit dancer throughout all the ties of his life. There really is no other way. We have been deeply impressed with the structure of the film. Did the film unfold before the camera, or were you already aware of these various pieces of the puzzle? Thank you. As a film maker and dancer I believe in improvisation. And that is only a term given from an analytical point of view. In other words "Leave space for the unspoken to be expressed or seen". When filming in nature under the conditions we were working, where storms come and go, currents of wind and water change, temperatures below -20 degrees Celsius, ice bergs falling; you can only hope and pray that we will be at the right place at the right time. It is also a very joyful and demanding process to watch the signs and listen to what the earth would like for us to
Somehow the direction of the film became even more focused on the necessity, importance and sacredness of water. The spirit of water, the life force, the vitality and the respect towards its immensity. In essence the water cools and calms the fire in us, in this earth and in reference to all our emotions, our fiery society alchemized of gold, money, ore and petroleum to mention a few. There were so many of these stories and signs, you could ask about each location and there is a story that we can tell; either by how the energies of the earth spoke to us, or by the guardians of the land, or the myths and history that came with the specific sights. The earth is a very very sacred land, and it speaks. Butoh is a vehicle to listen to the source. In effect I give thanks for the earth being so patient with us, for us to learn to read what might look like a puzzle.
you develop your filmmaking style? The filmmaking style is based on the philosophy of Chinese landscape painting and the flow of Qi. One breath, for each letter in Calligraphy is an entire single brush stroke. It embraces the entirety. Nature is greater than man, and honoring the infinite perspective of nature, and its grandeur. James Ewen the camera man I met in Mozambique on the island of Archipelago, while he was filming the manatee under water. I was struck by his independent spirit, and interest to film such a shy and hard to see mammal that is so special. When I invited James to join us in Alaska to film humans on icebergs he was inspired, and the challenge of binding an environmental film with humans spirit essence was close to filming animals in nature. I am a romantic and thanks to great teachers as Benjamin Hayeem in the 90s in New York and inspirations as Maya Deren, the editing was a magical process of weaving time, motion and color with
sound. As in Butoh allowing us to move beyond limitation of form and reason. Can you describe the shooting of Ridden by Nature? What was the most challenging thing about making this documentary? Making Ridden by Nature was not a challenge in fact it was a dance. It is true when we started in 2003 I never thought of how it would complete itself. I was open. It was a story that needed to be told. As an independent production we danced to film, and we filmed to dance. What I find more challenging is bringing it into the world, as an artist I am not a marketing agent. The film is here to last and be seen by those who are willing to search and see. I find the film industry sometimes quite disheartening, as the genres it classifies as film, take the imagination away from the viewer. If you were to ask a film documentarian if this film is a documentary most would say no. There for it is a dance of trusting to simply make a film of this
demonstrate on film. For example when we were planning the trip to Alaska and Hawaii where the majority of the chapters Air, Fire, Water and Spirit were filmed we were planning to film the Volcano Pele as its lava enters the sea. One of the few spots on earth where this is accessible to see. When we finally flew to Hawaii it was the first time in 26 years that the lava flow stopped flowing into the sea that week. Incredible the message.
Your film features intense editing and camera work, reaching spectacular visual heights reminding us of Vittorio De Seta's experimental documentary cinema. How did
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It is this mixture of orders, representations, kinds, and styles, and his break in them, his degeneracy, his principal characteristic. The histories have always the external vision, and he hospitalizes it, and also they can have a multiplicity of points of conference, of other prominent figures. One gives entry to the life in all the beings, animals, human beings, plants, objects, spirits, or beings of the universe. And sometimes, royal prominent figures can intervene in his own name, or we them can recreate. Here we have recreated Caddy Adzuba, the journalist who fights to improve the situación of the women in the Congo, submitted to the sexual violence. My idea, in a beginning, was to bring it in order that it was doing of yes same, but ultimately, I desisted for the shortage of money, and for the complication. The meeting arose when we are in the women's meeting, the club of the 25, invited by Isabel Betina Caparrós, and with that I coincided with Ouka Lele. The two, we ask for permission him to count his history. Barbara Allende realized his video - art "Porquoi", and a great installation, and I changed one of the histories of the movie and incorporated his testimony and his fictitious figure. Flights it is a story, is a movie of road, and is of also of adventures, is a tragicomedy (nearby more to the world of the baroque theatre in romantic scenes: caves, abysses, desert). It is
interview•by•Alex Cavallari cinemakers// 11
The history departs from a style, which I began in the short " The right of the potatoes ", and that I want to continue in my following full-lenght films " Love to death ", and in the adjustment of " The life is a dream ", that I call "degénero", in him break the procedure of the kinds, are checked, and interbreed, conjugating any resource of another art, industry or way: television, theatre, story, poetry, photography, video - art, documentary, animation.
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mixture says especially cinema, theatre, literature and art. And inside the cinema, adventures, comedy, fantastic, road-movie, drama. And the literature it enters inside a magic realism. His origin is a story, a statement of trip, in the style of the Odyssey, of the Amadís de Gaula, the Cuisse, or of " The manuscript found in Saragossa ". In fact, each of the prominent figures who are appearing in the statement have a guide's function, in this emotive labyrinth and of ripeness of the personage. In his writing I thought very much about the film of worship: “The night of the hunter”. Art is present because China is a photographer, and hence the beginning of his speech, in which performance is mixed, and within it, the circus. The final idea is to make a video-art, streamlined and eventually returning to their photographs. In the film's three trips, with its evolution: the outer with his adventures in the real world, the internal (maturation and resolution of the character) and his look as artistic author. Sometimes, one has used theatrical resources, the actors are caught in immense spaces and at the same time limited. To
I peeped of a throat, under a bridge, in a cave, in the desert, in the forest. The whole movie is at the same time a flight and a jail, and always a representation. The game of the representation is permanent. In the ravine, China finds a beggar who is looking at the bottom, since lost, sat like in a theatre, contemplating this space of the nature, since others they would see a movie. She accompanies him in this to see in the distance, and tries to begin a conversation, which turns into the impossible one for the difference of languages.. The dramatic moments are punctuated ticket absurd, surreal, or black, or elements of another genre comedy, is how if metiéramos a saw or an ax on the drama and lyrical moments. Routed shooting has been slow because we ran out of money during filming and I had to put all my savings, borrow from banks and loans from friends to finish filming, editing and posproducir. The film, initially also had parts of the documentary, but eventually that part has been taking shape in an external project, the documentary "Funerary Rituals of the newly dead," a name also has
exposure to China in the film, which is transferred from the screen to reality, and premiered in Madrid and Zaragoza so far, and we expect to accompany the film distribution. Silent and hidden behind her camera, Mercedes Gaspar leaves the floor to her characters, crossing the blurry line between fiction and documentary in her intense film Escapes. Mercedes, tell us about your trajectory as a filmmaker. What inspired you to express yourself in this medium? I studied Image and Sound (audiovisual communication) at the University Complutense in Madrid. I studied also Spanish History at the University (UNED) and Direction for Cinema, Television and Radio at IORTVE Madrid and Theather direction at RESAD in Madrid. As a child I was part of theater groups and studied piano and music theory. I've worked in television TVE and other audiovisual media. I`ve worked as a teacher at the university and other film schools. I've always been a producer, director, screenwriter, and I worked on editing my films. I also made costumes for film, and I like
making collages, and photos, and write poetry, short stories, plays, but increasingly the efforts of production, postproduction, and distribution, eat more creative side. Surely my interest mockumentary, comes from my work on television. Some things should seem casual ... The film should carry a sign saying "this film does not follow the rules of cinema, but any means of expression." Also wanted the actors seem trapped in a space without walls, as in a theater. For example when they, at night, are looking to Mus, in the abandon station. Or at the scene under the bridge, the child and her abductor, or at the scene of the ravine with China and the Tramp. Like the ghost of freedom, (el fantasma de la libertad) BuĂąuel film`s the characters are trapped and can not leave inexplicably. I had been writing the adaptation of "Life is a Dream" t of death, and tragedy that ends in comedy and vice versa, they also have to do with the Spanish Baroque theater, with the tragicomedy. On the other hand I'm from Aragon, in this area is normally a sense of black, ironic, absurd humor.... The surreal element is
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Between fiction and documentary
also present in my work, whether in image, humor, topic, other senses...The modern viewer is already used to the mix of genres, codes, languages... We want to take a closer look at the genesis of your film: how did you come up with the idea for Escapes? In this film there are many issues, and different parties as often happens on a trip ... One part, with regard to the confrontation of death came when my parents died. In fact I realized that I had never experienced grief, and that's why I took a long time, too, that sometimes you live so out of reality, customs traditions, which in some facts of life, not even you know as solved. Modern man lives in his individuality, very separate groups, communities
that might support you. Sometimes it is simply by immigration, others by the abandonment of any tradition, customs...that leaves you only to life, like China. This film originally had more presence of "Funeral Rituals of the recent dead." Then I separated part documentary and is a job I'm doing gradually. And part of fiction, history. It was the funeral rituals nombrede of the newly dead, in the work of the main character's own Escapes, in his video-art end, based on photographs. On the other hand it wanted to incorporate the denunciation of the violence against the woman. Because of it there uses the royal history that Caddy Adzuba had counted on the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In a beginning it was a escape of her of the pain caused by the loss of the father. Later I was giving me account of which he
was escapes of other things, and of other problems. And I saw that many of the prominent figures in the movie are fleeing also of his reality, of the life, of a situation...
Your "escape" is not only physical. First and foremost, your film is a surreal, metacinematographic journey. Can you introduce our readers to this idea behind your film?
Your observational style proofs to be perfectly fitting as a counterpart of the emotional rollercoaster your characters live through. How did you achieve this balance?
The star has been escaping the reality, building an artistic world, avoiding his feelings, avoiding pain. In his escape all these feelings arise, and her escape this should solve those other runaways who had not solved the other side on their way encentra other characters that must also confront his life, and stop running, face their fears and problems. Actually as subtopic of the film is the father's death, and his confrontation of the protagonist with her, becomes a metaphor further, that flight from death, present throughout the film ...
There is no possible compromise, but they achieved by his positivism, and for simplicity, for its natural goodness, his innocence .... but the viewer sometimes feels attacked. I also wanted to appear at many points on the screen the image being cut with a knife, that is burning or breaking even with music. While watching your film we got a sense of this very observational style that combines tragic and humor in a very innocent way. Is that something you aim for? In the film all the characters are quite innocent, Raul, China...In our capitalist western company the individuals can continue being children in more time. They must not fight, or the life be looked. They have not matured. China in addition displays of an immeasurable optimism, and of an innocence that comes from his artistic world, of his evasion towards the creation. I am fed up of that the prominent figures are rare, wicked, selfish, et ... because of it it wanted the simple, and innocent some, which enclosed can do bad jokes as RaĂşl. The point of view of the protagonist is kept, she looks at the reality, and we see at what she looks. Because of it there are moments in which the landscape happens, while we listen to the music, she feels, and thinks. I have looked for a more oriental narrative tempo, of I remind the personage. These innocents life treats them badly. My idea always was to produce a contrast. You go from a slap to a kiss, slap a smile. I wanted the viewer to feel attacked, which occurs in the film say a classical melody tempo broken by moments of twelve-tone music. The movie melodrama with the story is mixed.
As in the film "The Seventh Seal" â€?Det sjunde inseglet'' by Bergman, death is present, accompanying life. What was your research process like? How much of what we see on screen is based on facts and records?
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Waiting for Gaspar’s “Life is a Dream”
The film is fiction, except the stories of women in the residence. I wanted the same Caddy Adzuba Told the story of That Woman in Congo, as is Told us in a meeting of women, but That was not possible..
references. From the first time we watched Escapes it reminded us of Agnes Varda's fluidity in storytelling. Can you tell us your biggest influences and how they have affected your filmmaking?
The Next, another story is based on some documentaries, Although the history of the experiences of Mustafa(Mus), has to do with a holiday in Morocco, Where We Talked with some children living sex tourism, but in the film, the story Mus, it is more a story in the style of the Arabian Nights, however Which hides a harsh reality. The bogeyman, was a character I always thought I Should Go in animation, is the record Whose character is more symbolic.
Overall the surrealist movement and especially Luis Buñuel, are always present in my work. In this work he has more influence the Mexican Buñuel”Los olvidados” Los forgotten, and “Simón en el desierto” Simon in the desert. Writing the script was the clearest reference The Night of the Hunter by Charles Laughton. I also thought Miracle in Milan, by Vittorio de Sica. Also Apu Trilogy by Satyajit Ray , and indian cinema in general.
What was the challenging thing making this film?
The hardest part is being a producer and director at the same time. Get the money. The new equipment, programs and facilities in cameras, editing and postproduction, that change continuously. He was too accustomed to 35mm. Your
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But actually influences also come from other fields. I wanted to tell a story the way of the Odyssey, of Don Quixote. or “Manuscrit trouvé à Saragosse” by Jan Potock. I wanted the protagonist scour, and follow his particular ordeal, as he found the stories of others. I always thought of all Chinese films he had seen. Also in Takeshi Kitano. “Kikujir”o. I think much of the type of character of Amelie by JeanPierre Jeunet. Of course, I thought of Agnes Varda, "Sans
toit ni loi" and that encouraged me to tell a story like this. On the other hand I was always thinking about during assembly in analis tales Propp
adptación “Life is a Dream”(la vida es sueño) by Calderon de la Barca, and Love to death, a story of fantasy genre, with my script. By assumptions have many creative projects, in which I move to tiny steps, or advanced for years ...
You are not only a film director: your work ranges from poetry to theater. Can you introduce our readers to the multidisciplinaire nature of your art practice and thinking? I like to tell a story mixing genres, styles, and any kind of art, I do not think only in commercial cinema, locked into formulas. The viewer is smart enough to appreciate works of any gender and type, and is also prone to innovation and experimentation. You can follow a story telling from different media and arts. Thanks for sharing your time, Mercedes, we wish you all the best with your filmmaker career. What's next for you? Have you a particular film in mind? I have two feature films, I'm looking for co-production of the
Mercedes Gaspar (Spain) cinemakers// 19
I tried to find a language for the film - not just telling stories. I picked the Picasso painting because it said more than I could explain. I need images, I need representation which deals in other means than reality. We have to use reality but get out of it. That's what I try to do all the time.
.…..IRENE.GOMEZ.EMILSSON……………………… I intended to use repetition for the film to resemble a memory, or a dream, where the elements come back and forth, as memories and dreams are constructed by repeated moments or meshes memories and thoughts. This also highlights the idea of the rupture that is about to come. Gabriel lives in this schematic world, where things repeat incessantly, the presence of Theodora is to him part of this routine, however the imminent fracture is being felt, the main action evolves in a very vulnerable time. The routine, the repetition is about to be broken. Rather than telling a story with a thick plot, I wanted to use a very simple one, a main basic idea and then develop it. My aim, in Deserts, was to let the details fill the gap of a plot, small objects, references, repeated actions, would give the audience a thread to let their interpretation develop. There’s also the idea of quotidian gestures and details that come into the film. While writing the script, I was keen on using vain, banal and everyday items, movements, and actions, as starting points of the scenes; waking up, pouring, coffee, lighting a cigarette, changing clothes, teeth brushing, taking a shower. These small things, are present throughout the film repeatedly and stand as everyday poetry, enhancing the intimacy between the characters, and making the arrival of the separation all the more present and harmful. These gestures are repeated actions that relate to memory and how we remember by repetition. Your cinematography seems to be deeply influenced by the emotional
potential of color, it reminded us of Théo Angelopoulos's work. How did you develop your visual style? While preparing the production I was interested in Hopper’s composition and lighting, how his characters relate to the space in wide compositions, and how this generated feelings, rather than a proxim ity to the character’s faces. I paid atten tion to how Hopper depicts archetypical characters, their faces do not show any emotions, as if the space would do it for them. However the paintings transmit different impressions to the viewer: tension, exclusion, melan choly. I wanted the spaces to evoke the tension and melancholy that is growing between the characters, only by their relationship to the space and their positions within it. I asked the actors to prioritize body language and movement in relation to the space. Also in Hopper’s paintings, boun da ries, between interior and exterior spaces are materialized by windows, doors or light contrast. The light break through, stands for introspec tion, I wanted to do the same, make the light and the windows a boundary between the characters, their space and the out side world, as an impossibility of esca ping the (inner) world they inhabit. Although I didn’t have Angelopoulos in mind when working on Deserts, I love his work. I re cen tly discovered The Weeping Meadow and found myself immerged in visual and dramatic poetry. Every single shot is a gem. I’ll certainly carry it in my mind for further work. Both characters were born at the same
time and I believe they don’t exist without each other, and it is perhaps what makes the core of the film. What will they do when they are not together? They seem to belong to each other and yet they are growing apart. I believe that is what makes their relationship endearing and what pushed me to develop the charac ters. I thought about Theodora as a lively character, clumsy dreamy and independent. I like female characters that you can’t really seize, that seem to be away already. I believe Harriet did that very well and she besides gave a different and interesting tone to the character, making her less absent minded much more present and somehow stronger. I think the shots came into my mind as I was writing. I had always a shotlist in mind and then it was developed with the camera department. During rehearsals, I encouraged the actors to find the rhythm of the scene, as in a choreography, in order to bring to life the shot I gave them indications of pace, and a rough idea of the space, indications of movements, and then let them play with that so they could compose the shot. How to fill with move ment, or immobility a space, a wide shot? That was the challenge I brought to the actors. Fortunately as the production was delayed, we had a few rehearsals to work on this matter. We started by rehearsing half scenes without dialogue, finding the right movement, the right energy that would allow the shot to develop. One of my main intentions was to put emphasis on duration, favoring long static or slightly moving takes to show the develop ment of an action, to see the bodies moving within the space,
................................................................................ embracing it. I was interested in how quotidian gestu res, that become poetic and allow the audience to observe, distantly yet enga ging with the characters. One of the long wide and static shots, in which Gabriel, decides to dance in order to catch Theodora’s attention was inspired by a scene in Permanent Vacation by Jim Jarmusch. Although in this case along with the camera department we decided to go even wider and let the character much more within the space creating a dynamism while the actor is moving and an anxiety of the body during the beats a sense of wait and despair. Mark, Sandra, and I decided to use mostly wide lenses to create a sense of space and allow the characters to move within the set. The deep focus allows the characters to blend the subjects to the space. When shooting long takes, the actors are the ones that need to find the rhythm in order to make the shot work dynamically. One of the shots was actually inspired by the actors and their movements. When Harriet, took the Dylan Thomas book and started to play with it, and Charles started to follow it made me think of a shot that would follow the book, grasping the actor’s movements within the space. In order to create contrast and a sense of closeness, I also went with closer shots at specific moments, using longer lenses in which we would feel the intimacy between the characters. The closer shots allow, to share the intimacy with Theodora and Gabriel and then breaking it by going to a much more detached an
observational and composed vision of the relationship. As I said before Jarmusch has a big influence in the construction of frames and the overall structure, but I think it also had an influence in the construction of the dialogues and the way the charac ters communicate. Juan Suarez in a book about the American director explains how in his early films “relationships develop in the realm of the unsaid little is actually verbalized unconscious minute gestures, body language and reflex reactions, these tell of a growing closeness and an even tual falling out” .communicate via other means than usual words. Poetry, prayer, gestures or in a mixture of foreign languages as if the everyday language was obsolete lacking of meaning and there was a need of using alternative ways to express themselves, in outbursts of words, contrasting with the dominant silence. Besides Jarmusch, there’s of course Godard’s ideas that I always keep in mind. As in Godard’s early films especially Une Femme est une femme or Le Mépris, the scenery the set becomes structurally part of the film. It is not me re ly there as a place where the characters live, but it is part of the mise en scène, almost as a character. For example the set in Deserts is used as a split screen space , using the partitions of the set in order to create two different spaces within the frame the characters are separate yet thinking about the other and the departure. They are alone, in the fragmented spaces, but always in relation to one another. This is highly inspired by Godard’s film le Mépris, where the cha rac ters a separate from
each other within the frame by doors, partitions walls, objects, furniture and this is stresses the discord between Paul and Camille. The domestic space with its inherent structure is at the core of the action, and physically demonstrates how the characters relate. I like taking pieces of ideas,and refe ren ces, playing with them, making them work in other ways. I like being playful with the films and books I like, as an exercise of memory, homage, and above all as way of constructing worlds and stories with meshes found in other screens, other drawers or pages.
……GUAN.XI.………………………………………………… The emotional and physical continuity of a dancer was very important, so I decided to shoot with three cameras at the same time, each of which played different functions simultaneously or asynchronously. In order to utmost decrease the amount of cut, maintain actors’ physical and emotional state, and guarantee to maximize expression. I never took cameras to the training room, but I could catch each shot on set. I decided to let the camera dance with the dancers that eventually helped me to reach my expectation. What was the most challenging thing about making Room? The most challenging thing was the last scene when everyone pushed down the room. It was an like adventure to implement the last scene because we had to transport the intact room outside. On top of that, we needed a deserted land, which was flat enough to put down a room, and large enough to make sure that it would still look spacious after the walls were pushed down. All of those plans had to be accurate, logical, and strategic, which made us go crazy. Most importantly the last scene had to be accomplished in one go. So we arranged one person behind each wall with a transparent rope and they could not appear in the image after the wall fell in with our wide angles lens camera.Phew! Now that was a challenge I can't forget. However, in the end, we chose to use five cameras to take the last shot, and people that controlled the rope stood 50 meters away from their assigned walls. Our well planning paid off and the scene wasn't as hard as we had
imagi ned. All the other scenes were shot in a room that was set up on stage. Another challenge for me was taking two positions during the shoot, I was the director, and the cinematographer, which was a like a double-edge sword for “Room”. The advantage is that I could control both the image and the emotion; however, it gave me a huge amount of pressure and distraction to communicate with actors from time to time.As top dancers in China, all the actors took part in performing and choreogra phy for Beijing Olympic Opening Cere mony. While as a movie director, direc ting dancers is quite different from directing professional actors, since dancing movie allows physical movements and emotional expressions happen simultaneously. How to protect their physical and emotional status was my key concern, and I have learned a lot from such challenge. We would like to explore now your latest film Mandala, a co-production between China, Tibet and USA. How did you come up with the idea for this work? Life is like a mystery for me, and every thing that I came across in the journey was a piece work of reincarnation. I first went to Tibet when I was 18 years old, every moment I could feel my soul was being touched and comforted. The gorgeous plateau scenery and Tibetan religious commissions seemed familiar to me while every cell and pore in my body told me that I was back home. Tibet felt like a home away from home. So, from then on, I went back every year, like visiting my own home.
Mandala is a journey story about loss, death, recovery, and reincarnation, which happens from the United States to Tibet. The little trinkets in the film were fragments of my growing experiences, which included my understanding, the puzzle, and an undying desire towards reincarnation. Such a personal story was meaningful to me. The movie is about healing from this chaotic world and enlightening from the past, present, and future. A girl who lost her lover embedded the feelings into a belief: if she reincar nated, her lover would come back to her in a similar way. She gradually recovers from her misery and illusion so she can start a new life with hope and love because she put down the past. All of this is part of the belief system in Tibet. On the another hand, the film accom plished my dream that manifests culture collision and fusion. Besides, I have always been obsessed with female themes, as a female director, I found it divine to combine all of the elements in a single movie, which like a mirror reflected all my inspiration and beliefs. So I came up with an idea, and together with my crew gave frame, blood and flesh to “Mandala”. Mandala features gorgeous wide screen compositions reminding us of Carlo di Palma's work. With one startling, painterly composition after another, your film creates an intense, suspended atmosphere. Can you say your biggest influences in cinema?
................................................................................ Blow Up, directed by Michelangelo Antonioni, was one of my favorites in high school. Carlo Di Palma generated his distinctive aesthetics of photogra phy, which greatly influenced me from then on. I worship his aesthetic of color control, and precise composition. The movies shot by him encompasses his formal and pristine visual style, which has a cruel but beautiful imagery. I feel, the intense distance, seduces you but never lets you get closer. Many directors leave long lasting impressions on me, such as Luis Buñuel, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Ingmar Bergman, Julio Medem, whose masterpieces have influenced me from different aspects. I wish my films are games between reality and illusion, filled with dark rhymed atmosphere. They should be eerie but not ugly, unreal but full of emotions. I’d like to use a character, Medusa to reflect my understanding of most outstanding female destiny in the past half century. Medusa’s beauty can be compared to the ideology about women’s talent. In the myth of Medusa, men were turned into stones after looking into Medusa's eyes, due to her lethal allure. According to Perseus’s logic, in order to avoid such tragedy, Medusa must die. Was It her fault to be such a beauty? Of course not, I deny Perseus’s logic, on the contrary, it was because of patriarchal curse towards the growth of women, whose careers and talents were suppressed and hidden. As a female director and cinemato grapher, (which is quite rare in the film
industry) I am very grateful that I was born in an exciting time in which my creativity and ideas can be accepted and respected. The gender biases are now getting blurred in my opinion, but its important embrace our own strengths and fight for our rights. The core element of the patriarchal culture is to objectify women as exhibitions. The idea of objectifying women not only from the audience's point of view but also from male characters in movies reflects our society. The male is the symbolic of power in this society, so their watching “items” forms a field domain, including sex implication and reference. Those dominators use the strong implication power through images to manipulate audiences’ value, in order to reach their own aim of control. As a female film maker, I take respon sibility in evoking the public to not only accept the female figures under patriarchal value but also it is the essential problem for feminist researchers and directors. I want to create a voice for female themes, female characters, and stories with a female scent, of which I will be proud and insistent. Thanks for your time and thought, Guan. We wish you all the best with your filmmaker career. What's next Can you tell us something about your next film? I would like to pursue being a cinema to grapher as my career path but also, I dream to direct films that convey my artistic voice and share stories with the world. Keep shooting all kinds of short/ long film. Hope all the movies, in which
I performed as a cinemato grapher, can be invited to film festivals. Meanwhile, my work “Mandala” has just entered festival circuit, and been accepted and awarded by several film festivals. Hopefully, I can raise funds for a long feature film “Mandala”.
……CAMILLE.DE.GALBERT……………………………… I discovered Pina Bausch when I was a kid and she did influence me a lot. I think she understood everything. I like this quote from her: "It is almost unimportant whether a work finds an understanding audience. One has to do it because one believes that it is the right thing to do. We are not only here to please, we cannot help challenging the spectator."
making progress toward gender equality but it takes time to change a society and a culture established over centuries.
LIGHTHOUSE FILMS is a stunning crew. Can you tell us something about the story of your group?
I’m currently writing the next one, MARIE, who will have more narrative elements through a double layer story and series of dream-like scenes. The main character will be a female this time and she will be supported by a mysterious man. It will still feature psychological exploration and experi mental elements but it will be a much more complex and elaborate film.
LightHouse Films is a New York based production company and director’s agency that represent me as a director. They always believed in my work and have been very supportive from the start even if I only had experimental video work and no actual commercial or films under my belt. Thibaut Estellon, EP on SIMON and partner at LightHouse supervised the film from start to finish and did an amazing job bringing all the crew and talent together and make this first short a success. 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? Women had always been as talented as men, we just didn’t have equal access to these opportunities. I believe female filmmakers can bring new visions and approach to cinema and deserve the same support and respect as male filmmakers. Our generation is
Thanks for your time and thought, Camille. You are currently working on the next chapter of the Aria Series. Can you tell us something about this amazing project?
The passage between interior and exterior will still be present as in SIMON but this time more literally as it will be between life and death.
The title of the film refers to being 17, jūnana means seventeen in Jap anese. Unequivocally, being 17 is a fascinating time in one’s life and therefore bound to be made into stories. Due to the fact that everyone has experienced difficulties when growing up – be it trouble with the parents, to fit in socially or to feel comfortable in one’s skin – it is easy to relate to the struggle that teenagers face. With 17, our own expectations of the world change,
just as much as the world has different expectations from us; we are supposed to “act like an adult”, “be a man”, to “grow up”. Nonetheless, it is a time when a newfound freedom slowly opens, or is about to open its doors to “adult stuff” – driving cars, drinking and smoking, sex – a world that yearns to be explored. Hence, 17 is a magical age, an age where everything seems possible. It is a time when we want to conquer the world, when we already have figured out everything, when we fall in love for the first time, when we are allowed to be reckless, when we get away with anything, when we eagerly anticipate adventures, when friends are more important than family, but also a time when we are perhaps the most vulnerable. It is a time when an unstoppable transformation takes place, absolutely impossible to be ignored; our bodies change from a child’s to that of an adult, and we are radically confronted with a new awareness of our very being. Suddenly, we are supposed to be ‘responsible’. Moreover, questions of identity arise, together with the question of where one’s place within the world could be; who are we supposed to be, who do we want to become? In Jūnana, our heroine Alexandra is 17 – in a way the personification of the “in-between”: trapped between being a child and being an adult, she knows change is inevitable but she wants to hold onto being a child a little longer, a time when everything seemed a little less complicated. Her emotional chaos grows when being
…............................CHANTAL.BERTALANFFY…… confronted with Japanese culture, and she does not know what to do about these new and confusing feelings, how to articulate or come to terms with them. Therefore, she starts to clash with Charlotte, though their friendship means the world to her, and she holds onto the somewhat childlike notion of ‘best friends forever’. Accordingly, the way Alexandra and Charlotte’s friendship is initially portrayed is reminiscent of a kid’s friendship, e.g. they sleep in the same bed and take a bath together. Alexandra, however, denies her changing body and covers herself up in the public bathhouse scene, as opposed to Charlotte, who is comfortable with her physical transformation into womanhood, and wants to show off her feminine charms. Ultimately, contrary to Alexandra, Charlotte loves her newfound freedom within the grown-up world, especially since she is far away from parental control, though she does not understand the rules of that world yet, just as Alexandra does not understand the rules of Japanese culture. Both girls pretend to be what they are not; Charlotte is not a woman yet, and Alexandra not ‘Japanese’. Ensuing from this discussion, the central subplot of this film explores what it is like to be ‘in between’, and being adolescent is also a metaphor for a cultural “in-betweenness”: Alexandra is neither child nor adult, neither French nor Japanese. Effectively, she looks Japanese and
speaks a little of the language, but does not understand the culture as such, since she has not been to Japan since she was little. Does this make her ‘Japanese’? To her, it is like she looks at Japan from the outside in, as if a glass wall surrounds her; she can see, hear, smell and touch, but cannot access cultural subtleties that especially take place interpersonally. When she was little, she could effortlessly choose between ‘being’ French or Japanese, but she wonders what has happened lately. Somewhere on the way of growing up, she lost the ability to “understand” everything Japanese, like a superhero loosing his powers. Hence, Alexandra has difficulties to understand Daisuke when he speaks Japanese to her at first, literally having lost the ability to socially participate in Japanese culture. The cultural ‘in-between-space’ Alexandra inhabits is not easily defined, it is not a country and not a culture, perhaps it is only an empty space lacking any shared identity or feeling of togetherness, therefore forever yearning for something missing. At the same time, an empty space can be moulded, painted, sculptured into whatever we would like it to be, so that new stories emerge. Consequently, of course many positive things come with being bicultural, but from a filmmaker's point of view, the most exciting stories derive out of conflict. Alexandra is torn between two cultures, trying to figure out who she is, where she belongs. In a changing
world, it is becoming more relevant than ever that issues about the inbetween-space should be brought to the screen. I think all screenwriters out there will agree that writing a script for film is one of the most difficult tasks there is (*laughs). There is no one way of writing a screenplay (short or feature), although there are hundreds of books out there telling you what to do. At the beginning, I experimented a lot and tried out various approaches, e.g. taking the three-act-structure very seriously. In a way, it did help to structure the film, because if you know that on page so and so, something needs to happen in order to propel the story forward, then you can work towards that. At the same time, I decided not to take the screenwriting “rules” too seriously and followed my instincts. One thing, however, which I tried to achieve, is very much grounded in this beautiful quote by Robert Towne (Chinatown): A movie, I think, is really only four or five moments between two people; the rest of it exists to give those moments their impact and resonance. The script exists for that. Everything does. I think this quote has a lot of truth in it and is very much why we like to go to the cinema. Looking at Junana retrospectively, I think I learned more from making it into an actual film than completing the script. Directing, and subsequently editing your own work really forces you to rack your brains as how to make drama work. In fact, as a young cocky novice writer, I didn’t see the bloatedness of my script, so thank
................................................................................ you for your kind description, but it wasn’t that the story was this concise and straight to the point to start with. I guess the only way to understand this was by learning it the hard way, and as a consequence, an entire subplot ended up on the cutting room floor. It was painful to see more than one beautiful scene go, knowing how much thought and effort went into it (let alone the blood, sweat and tears of cast and crew), but no one likes to watch a selfindulgent film, if it doesn’t work, away with it. Ultimately, though it cannot be generalized, I’d like to imagine a good screenplay as an organic entity where if one scene is taken out, everything simply collapses. You are currently pre-producing a feature version of Junana: can you tell something more about this exciting experience? Yes, I am very excited to announce that the story of Junana continues – or more accurately, is being reimagined into a new story, currently in development with a Berlin-based production company. Junana, the feature, was selected to participate at a production development workshop called Ties that Bind as part of EAVE, which specializes in European/EastAsian co-productions. This was a very exciting opportunity to get first reactions and feedback from European/Asian producers. The second part of the workshop takes place in Singapore in December, so until then, the script needs to be finalized and first steps towards production will be taken.
What's your view on the future of women in cinema? Firstly, with Salma Hayek openly talking about sexism in Hollywood during the Women in Motion talks at Cannes this year, the discussion of the role of women in cinema is definitely more relevant than ever. I’m an optimist and would love to say that more women will make films in the future, in mainstream and outside of it. However, let’s look at the facts. My heroines are the Claire Denis’ and Catherine Breillats of this world, and yet, it is still extremely difficult for a female filmmaker to get to where Denis or Breillat are today, and the (financial) challenges these filmmakers are facing when putting together a film are almost as tough as for me as a first-time filmmaker. If this is different for male art house directors of their status, or this is simply the nature of the independent scene, I didn’t research, but I went to numerous women-in-film panels and the complaints are always the same. Secondly, while I aspire towards a career path similar to that of Denis or Breillat, I know that plenty of people, even filmmakers, have never even heard of them. Why is it that female filmmakers remain invisible while their male counterparts are celebrated in the media (Haneke comes to mind, only a few years older than Denis and Breillat; sure, he won the Palme d’Or, but Breillat’s earlier films were quite provocative as well)? For example, this is a little embarrassing, but until I went to Cannes in 2013 when Japanese director Naomi Kawase was a member
of the jury, I had never even heard of her! That was a shock since I used to pride myself with my knowledge about films directed by women, actively seeking out female directors and making a point of watching all of their films (let’s not forget I’m part Japanese!). The problem is definitely the invisibility of great female filmmakers from around the world that are championed at filmfests, such as Lucrecia Martel or Claudia Llosa at the Berlinale, but the moment the unreal world of a filmfest is over, they seem to go up in smoke. Kawase’s films are not distributed in Germany (are her recent films now?), which may or may not have been the reason I didn’t hear of her, and perhaps the same goes for other female filmmakers as well. Now why is that? I assume that distributors eschew away from directors like Kawase, because especially her earlier films are not easy to watch. I’m not getting into a discussion of mainstream vs. art house (at least I want to mention Catherine Bigelow), but I’m quoting feminist film theorist Claire Johnston about women making films: “At this point in time, a strategy should be developed which embraces both the notion of film as a political tool and film as entertainment”. Johnston wrote this 40 years ago (!), but I think it is still very much relevant today. Story is king and ultimately, we all want a good story well told, but yes, gender politics cannot, and should not be ignored when creating a story. Ultimately, it is about finding the right balance and maybe this is the key to the future of women in cinema. In this context, I think Lynne Ramsey is someone interesting to watch out for.
….................................KATHI.VON.KOERBER…… Making Ridden by Nature was not a challenge in fact it was a dance. It is true when we started in 2003 I never thought of how it would complete itself. I was open. It was a story that needed to be told. As an independent production we danced to film, and we filmed to dance. What I find more challenging is bringing it into the world, as an artist I am not a marketing agent. The film is here to last and be seen by those who are willing to search and see. I find the film industry sometimes quite disheartening, as the genres it classifies as film, take the imagination away from the viewer. If you were to ask a film documentarian if this film is a documentary most would say no. There for it is a dance of trusting to simply make a film of this nature. A film like Butoh that defies tempo and speed as we know it.
the film. Together we spent many hours discussing and assembling the film, allowing the film to tell its own story.
Matyas Kelemen did an excellent job assembling this film with visionary editing. How did you work with him?
We chose to shoot at 24p, as an artistic form to recognize the rawness of nature. As much as I love HD it is hyper accurate, and eaves little room for the audience to imagine. There is something dreamy and innocent that I like to leave the space for imagination. Sometimes the lack of accuracy allows other senses to be more awakened.
Thank you. Matyas is an old friend of mine, we have been working together since the late 90s in film and editing. He has a deep understanding of film and sound being a profound tool to evolve consciousness. I am very greatful to him for giving the final push to edit this film to its completion, as he was a big supporter and believer in making the final post production possible. Matyas has been there for the first Butoh workshops with Atsushi and documented our nature dance artists in residencies back in the day. Matyas has an incredibly good eye for color, and feeling the thread of the story line, that weaves itself through the pulse of
The palette of your film is dominated by blue tones. Can you comment this peculiar aesthetic choice? It is a choice we made, as we like to push the film to mirror the hue of the real eye. The colors to pop little. It gives a sense of 16 mm, more romantic to the viewer. The blue also bringings forth a deep inner reflection, and an underlying note of the presence of water. The old Mini DV format brings the film a grainy, vivid look. Why did you choose this format?
Your hypnotic imagery reminded us of Bruno Dumont's early films. Can you tell us your biggest influences in cinema and how they have affected your work? Maya Deren’s” Meshes of the afternoon" and the "Divine Horsemen”, “Soy Cuba" Segeui Urusevsky the camera man and his style. Filmmakers like Zhang Ymou and Wonk Kar Wai.
Jean Cocteau’s "The blood of a poet".There are so many inspirations, but here to name a few. I am very optimistic about women in Cinema. Just like Women in Butoh. Where ever we look the healing of the woman is to feel safe to express her views, and I like to add in a sacred way, as the nature of the woman is to nurture and educate. As all people were born through the mother, i hope very much that this message will be portrayed by women in Cinema. That it holds a place of value as constructive, beautiful and inspirational for all young people. Assisting women to understand why we need healthy women and men to maintain planetary equilibrium. Women in cinema bring a flavor of unexpectedness, and we need this in life. We women think different, more circular and our nature is to weave the facets of life together, bringing harmony to even the most challenging aspects of life. Thank you for giving myself and the film an opportunity to be portrayed by you. I feel "Ridden by Nature" is a blue print for future projects. Currently we are planning to make project in South America where I live, with the indigenous peoples dance and nature. Also we are teaching workshops, based on what can be seen in the film, for participants to access their own potential and activate nature that has been deforested, mined and desecrated.
… MARIANE.COBRA……………………………………… The Regret actually was born thanks to my sister Heloisa Cobra who also works with cinema but as a costume designer. She wanted to create costumes that would tell the story and to be a total reflection of the charac ter’s personal experiences at the time. She read the book “O Remorso de Balthazar Serapião” written by Valter Hugo Mãe, a great Portuguese author and artist, who has received the José Saramago Prize in Literature in 2007 for this novel. She invited me then to join her on the creation of a narrative film to tell the story of this woman called Ermesinda. As a costume designer, she would sew by hand the story and life of this woman and as a director, I would bring all the It is part of a socio-historical system that has conditioned women to a hierarchically lower position on the scale metaphysical perfection, producing a force field of asymmetric relations between men and women in our society. Did you rehearse a lot with the shots you prepared in advance? I met up with the performer and also choreographer Patricia Bergantín in advance and really got admired by her work. We had met a few times to talk about the book and the story and how I wanted her to feel all violence the character had in her body. We rehearsed in front of camera on the shooting day, we prepared the script with parts of the book and actions and symbols I wanted Patrícia to show in the performance.
From the first time we watched The Regret, we thought of Angelica Liddel's theatre. Can you tell us your biggest influences in dance cinema and how they have affected your work?
discussing all this - I think not only men but also women - we will be able to observe and better understand what’s actually happening.
Pina Bausch is indeed a inspiration, the way she connects the body to feelings is amazing. For me her dance cinema shows and inspires a world of possibilities, how a human being can exteriorize thoughts, symbols, to be a moving poem. When I read the book I thought that dance would be an amazing way to express all of Ermesinda’s feelings and pain caused by the love she had for her husband. I started researching body movements that could help the evolution of the violence she suffers. So the camera decoupage was all connected to her body. In the last decades women definitely have had a bigger participation in cinema, but we are still far away from an equal position not only in cinema, but in the arts and indeed leadership positions on society. We should all get together to make our voice stronger and to not be afraid to express our view and sensibility. We have to talk about it. And this question is not only relevant to men. Prejudice against women is not practiced only by them but also by us. There is a set of rules with which we are educated for a long time, where men speak and women listen, men act and women observe, men are active and women passive. By the time we start
���� � ������������ camera style and focusing on performance, Aleksandra Chciuk initiates her audience into a heightened sensory experience, exploring the relationships between body, matter, time, and space. "Flux of sounds in the body is manifested in motion. Motion of the body is the thought of sound", Aleksandra says.
………………………………ALEKSANDRA.CHCIUK…… If this video were a painting, it would be by Francis Bacon: the set of Variation On Black reminds us of the flat color fields present in paintings like Study for a Bullfight No.1, while the figure of the pianist catches the constellation of forces generated by the dialogue with the musical instrument. Can you introduce our readers to your original, fresh approach to body and sound in your art? I am very happy that you found such similarities. Francis Bacon is my favourite painter. It is possible that my brain involuntarily aims to achieve similar body constellations. I noticed such analogy in another video work of mine, The Man and His Book. The frame, and the analysis of the human body conformations in a sitting position, may resemble Bacon’s painting Study for Portrait. In Variation, I wanted to create a meta-instrument, a selfsufficient organism. The body with the instrument resembles a kind of pulsating self-generating hybrid. I tried to arrive at the moment when the breath is in tune with the vibration of strings of the instrument.Another aspect is the pure perception of sound and its impact on the body. Since childhood I felt how sounds translate into a kind of internal vibration of organs (viscera). Even without hearing, the sound vibrations can be felt through the skeleton. I know Evelyn Glennie, an excellent drummer, who is deaf. I also often dream of string vibrations and similar things which I can feel physically. In Variation this translation occurs literally. The body is tightly pressed by the lid of the instrument against the strings in the resonator. Vibrating by the movements
and the pressures exerted by my body, the piano strings influence in turn the way of my moving inside the instrument, which translates into the intensity of playing and emitted sounds. I perform “forest walks” with instruments. Here, the way of moving reflects nature’s movements. In Rise Moon (2015) the instrument guides me, serves as a kind of tentacle, a body extension enabling the exploration of the environment. To look where the eye cannot reach. When I am approaching the tree bark with a PVC pipe and I am “blowing” the sounds in it, it is in fact the tree that determines the trajectory and the rate of my movements, it is both nature and instrument. Then, as a kind of an anteater, I am creating with microbes a concert on macro and micro-entities. The energy is sucked in and out, it’s circulating. It’s astonishing, how instruments taken out from the urban culture may, in their resonance, literally in their vibrating, belong to the primal world of nature. I collect instruments, and apparently, each new one initiates a consecutive entry into nature. Moon is also an instrument, it is a Turkish drum called “daff”. A striking work of seemingly improvisational form, Variation on Black is in fact a highly layered film, open to several different readings. What are you hoping your work will trigger in the audience? Without any doubt, Variation is a very personal work. During a recent directing workshop that I led, I said to the participants a simple thing: “art is the only medium that enables us to “digest”
(to push through) issues that are unsettling for us. One has to approach the heart of the matter. If we do not try to challenge it we will come to a standstill”. It is certain, that the principle of the world’s existence is change movement. After the performance Variation in Leto gallery during Warsaw Gallery Weekend 2014, one girl came over and told me that “she knows me now”. We saw each other only once. She could have understood nothing about the performance, but thanks to the sincerity of the message, the dialogue with the spectator occurs on a different level, a level that does not require the use of precisely defined terms. It is enough that a thought, an emotion, emerges and guides the spectator towards a yet unknown direction. A little discovery will take place. Can you tell us something about the shoting of your film? What was the most challenging thing about making Variation on Black? Revealing personal feelings? The biggest challenge was working with the piano and simultaneously controlling the sets, light, etc. The identification of instrument’s body in contact with my own. Getting used to physical discomforts. I have never tried before to enter the piano and play it this way. I did not know what would happen. After the shooting I found out that the string tension in a piano reaches several tons. I guess some kind of risk must be included in such experiments. While shooting I had to quickly find the proper body configurations. I had to find the places in the piano where the
………………………………………………………………… preparation results in interesting sounds but also where the tangle between me and the instrument is the closest possible. I felt the stings pulsing.I found myself in a yet unknown confrontation. Indeed, it was a very personal experience. We have previously mentioned Francis Bacon and Darren Arofnosky, can you tell us who among international artists influenced your work? It will certainly be contemporary music composers such as Alvin Lucier, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Iannis Xenakis, Giacinto Scelsi, György Ligeti or George Aperghis. The experiments of John Cage (his collaboration with Cunningham) or these of La Monte Young are also significant to me. The mindset of Glenn Gould as a pianistartist. The choreographic component in work becomes more and more important to me. I watch and analyze the works of Sasha Waltz, Marie Chouinard or Pina Bausch. Fluxus was an important support to me, with the creations of Nam June Paik high up on a pedestal. All films of Maya Deren one by one were a big discovery for me: Meshes of the Afternoon, At Land, Ritual in Transfigured Time. Her fascination in anthropology, psychology of dance, mythology and confidence that creation for the joy of creation itself is the most right way to self-realization makes Deren one of the biggest inspiration for me. There are also such gems as L'année Dernière à Marienbad by Alain Resnais. The record of everyday life of Jonas Mekas in As I Was Moving Ahead
Occasionally I Saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty is very touching. These are films that once you see them you cannot escape them anymore. I am interested in the fate of relationships, mutual influences of strong personalities, as the one between Katarzyna Kobro and Wladyslaw Strzeminski. Lech Majewski’s The Garden of Earthly Delights deals with the essence of a relationship, of living in a relationship, in a beautiful way. 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? Sara Kathryn Arledge, Shirley Clarke, Maya Deren, Barbara Hammer, Su Friedrich, Chantal Akerman, Marguerite Duras, Agnès Varda, Agnès Godard, Claire Denis, Ulrike Rosenbach, Lucrecia Martel, Pipilotti Rist, Sadie Benning, Yael Bartana, Valie Export, Ellen Kuras, Jolanta Dylewska, Reed Morano... are some of the names that come to mind right now, but the list goes on. We could fill entire pages with the names of filmmakers and video artists creating during the last half century. During the last decades these women have consequently, with great charisma, broken society’s stereotypes. They have crossed the frame, created new standards. They are artist warriors. Their art has a mission - they’ve prepared the way for those to come. They’ve proved that they are no less creative, brave, strong and mobile than men.
This way, the world has met with the camera-branding woman. Nonetheless, the process of transforming the deeply rooted binary gender system, still is on. Most women have gone through this process. This clash with discrimination is the echo of a long generational education in the codes of professional systems, between men and women. It is a system that prevails from the upbringing in many homes to this day. Conquering this barrier will lead to strengthening the bonds between women in a societal, private and creative field. This translates into a clear respect their decisions and increase interest in them. I am not referring to a creation of a hermetic group of women artists, but rather reassertion of the power of women to forge their own path without looking at though and societal boundaries.
………………………URSZULA.PIEREGONCZUK…… My work can be ranked as cinéma d'auteur in which the director has also other roles to play: script writing, editing, set design, etc. Currently, I work with three and sometimes four people. I worked with cameraman Sławek Jóźwik and lighting technician Jacek Wierzchoś on my first film Russian Romance. The same team was behind Punctum. None of us has film-making qualification, we are self-thought film-makers. I remember that the early cooperation with the crew and actors on the set was very demanding and stressful. It was much smoother when we were shooting Punctum. The biggest challenge was the depleted crew due to a low budget. So far, I have been financing my films on my own, so the money has never been big enough. Sometimes the cameraman would help out with the light and I had to find time to prepare make-up. We stayed up till late to get the set ready for shooting the following day. I remember that when working on Russian Romance it was terribly cold while on the set of Punctum it was sizzling and stuffy. Still, the crew were getting on very well. We all pursued a common goal, everyone contributed something to the project and was very aware of that. I think that this kind of mind-set allowed us to finish the job against all odds. What is your preparation with actors in terms of rehearsal? Everyone in the project get the script and storyboard in advance. Before we start shooting, I talk about it with the actors and crew.
The script did not envisage too many interactions between the characters, so if we rehearsed, we did it before the actual take. In many cases, the first takes proved best as they were free from tension, which sometimes accumulated when the time for recording a scene was getting shorter. Our work on Punctum was quite unusual. The photography took two weeks and several scenes were included spontaneously, they were not in the script, for example, the scene with May and a soldier on a table or small Robert playing with a paper bridge. It was completely new to me because the earlier film, Russian Romance, which is more linear and has no narration, had been authentically faithful to the script.
Not that radically but Punctum alludes to the concept of Artaud’s theatre. He was of the opinion that theatre called for cruelty and horror. Similar ideas are discernible in Castellucci’s plays, Krzysztof Warlikowski’s works, or Jodorowsky’s movies. Punctum is an emotionally moving picture, but how strong the individual scenes are depends on your subjective reception. I appreciate artists who think about the cinema as a whole and are capable of escaping the conventional approaches. They certainly have something important to say to us and, at the same time, their created world is so “dense” that almost inimitable. There are many such directors, just to mention Ingmar Bergman, Peter Greenaway, Louis Bunuel, or Tarkovsky. David Cronenberg,They inspire me with their attitude and a strong and adamant message conveyed in their works.
The cinema inherently is subject to a certain degree of hybridization. Its language is not homogeneous; it works by the image, text, and sound. In the 1920s or 1930s, the cinema was considered modern if it drew inspiration from other arts, for example, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) by Robert Wiene was inspired by German expressionism. In visual terms, Punctum is like a painting exercise, and it is so not so much due to the setting but due to the lighting. We used top lighting to make the character’s faces much sharper and their eyes concealed in the dark. Illumination is crucial as it ultimately decides whether the film is going to be gloomy or positive; it helps give life to the still elements of set design. Moreover, it has an effect on our perception of the characters. What advice do you have for other female filmmakers who are trying to make their way through a still maledominated industry? Our times allow women to develop professionally and be creative if they want to almost in any geography. To become a good film director, you really need vast professional experience. Your prior experience determines the quality of your work and its power as a medium. No less important is your personal charisma or good communication, which you learn when working with people. It is true that there are not too many women in the industry, but that does not mean that they cannot make it and be successful.
Photo by courtesy of Aleksandra Chciulk Â©