w o m e n RO CAMINAL CELIA HAY CARMEN BALTZAR SOPHIA VITELLI YASMINE MATHURIN JULIA CASAL ELLEN PEARLMAN LARRAITZ ZUAZO ROSA CABRERA DIETZ ABBY METCALFE
WOMEN’S CINEMA VOL VI
Rosa Cabrera Díez
cINEMAKERS W O M E N
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Contents 04 Abby Metcalfe
116 Yasmine Mathurin
Rosa Cabrera DĂez
Making magic (Magos)
Ellen Pearlman Noor: A Brain Opera
Nosotras, mujeres del Euskalduna
The Last Gesture
Moi, un Noir. Reloaded
Abby Metcalfe Lives and works in Belfast Northern Ireland An interview by Bonnie Curtis and Jennifer Rozt Druhn Hello Abby, and welcome to this special edition of Women Cinemakers. Before starting to elaborate about your artistic production, would you like to tell us something about your background? Are there any experiences that influenced your evolution as a filmmaker and a creative? I spent my formative years growing up on Cape Cod, Massachusetts before moving with my family to Northern Ireland in 2007 when I was fourteen years old. Somehow, my transatlantic move coincided with the country experiencing unprecedented developments in the film and television industry, so I have been lucky to be in the right place at the right time for getting involved in filmmaking, as recently, opportunities are literally on my doorstep. My trajectory into film began naturally and was born out of childhood curiosity. I have always loved telling stories and can remember my first short stories and scripts were about my animals and the farm I lived on when I was younger. As a child, I use to direct my cousins in plays we put on for family members and record them with our camcorder. It never crossed my mind that either hobby could be done at a professional level. My family has always celebrated different art forms which I believe to have positively influenced both myself and my younger sister (a budding actress). I can draw connections from different examples of how everything in my life led me towards film but to pinpoint the moment that triggered my journey as a filmmaker, lets rewind back to the millennium, when I was in third grade, age nine. I grew up watching movies, and like many kids had a strong affinity for the stories told by Disney classics. I distinctly remember sitting on my living room floor, after watching an animated film on VHS, studying the rolling credits and coming to the realization about how many people it took to make what I had just watched. I wanted to know exactly how everything was done in a movie, as a lot of it seemed like magic to me. I then recall profusely quizzing my mom about what a director was, and it was that
moment that I decided I wanted to become a director, even though I had no idea what it was they did. Fast forward about a decade to my first time on a professional set; it opened my eyes to a whole other world and it was like I had been let in on a secret I had yearned to be told for years, and I felt in my heart that the filmmaking world was somewhere I belonged. It was the birth of my daughter Samantha in August 2011 that gave me the most incentive to follow my dreams of becoming a director and since has shaped my evolution as a creative. Becoming a mother has given me a deeper sense of empathy for life and changed my perspective on the world around us. Sam inspires me every day, which carries through to my projects in their stories, characters and messages. My journey as a filmmaker came into focus when I studied my BA Film Studies and Production degree at Queenâ€™s University, Belfast from 2013 to 2016. It was a very inspiring experience to have access to a fully-equip film studio and have lectures in an independent cinema. I gained a lot of hands-on experience with everything from cinematography and editing to script-writing and working with actors as well as exploring different modes of cinema. I worked on many student productions in every role behind the camera which gave me a greater appreciation for the dedication, creativity and collaboration that each role must contribute to bring a project together. My course also introduced me to the captivating world of film theory and analysis which taught me how to think critically about my own work and draw inspiration from the other directors. Although I knew I wanted to direct, it was my expanding knowledge and skillset from my degree that encouraged me to start to explore my own sense of individuality in what I wanted to make, as well as helping me to build the confidence and connections needed to find my way in the industry. The keystone in the right direction came in my last year of university, when I got the chance to be a sole-writer and director for the first time; everything had been leading up to this opportunity and I was excited to direct my first major project â€“ Concrete Dreams. I feel I can best express myself in the cinematic medium because of its ability to synthesize many traditional art forms at the same time. Cinema has the power to take you out of reality or bring you another vision of the world, of people, and so on. For me the most important thing is connection â€“ touching people at their core. It is the films that remind us of our own humanity, and even generate a new discovery of oneself, that I feel truly resonate with me. Each film I watch leaves something behind that I take beyond the screen to influence my perspective and apply to my own life. I want to create that for
someone else, even if it affects just one person. I want viewers to allow their own experiences and outlook to influence their interpretations about my films and I want to instill hope and achieve a positive influence on people who reflect on their lives after seeing my work. I am determined to stay true to my nine-year-old self by working hard on my ever-evolving filmmaking journey and continue to write and direct my own films. Before starting to elaborate about your artistic production, would you like to tell our readers something about your process and set up. For me, making a film means dedicating part of my life to it. By nature, I approach filmmaking with a very organized, thorough and producerorientated thought process. When starting a project, my mind is already on set going through all the logistics, which in turn helps with my creative process because I can see all angles of the production. I also leave room for editing, as thereâ€™s a lot of unpredictability when it comes to filmmaking and its best to be prepared to let creativity flow when the moment strikes. And I always try to keep notepads with me to keep track of my thoughts, inspirations and to get raw ideas out. The writing process itself is very important to me so when creating any project, I spend a lot of time on back story as I really like details and description. It makes me feel more connected to the story Iâ€™m trying to tell, and enables me to create believable worlds as well as understanding everything within them. I find the most interesting stories are the ones that convey real emotion, entertain us, bring something valuable to the world and deeply touch us as human beings. I feel this is accomplished through authentic and sincere stories where the writer knows a lot about their subject matter, which is why I devote time to developing subtext. My works are usually created with images I have in my mind but I also consider the messages and other ideas I want to share. I establish the tone and look of a film in its conception phases, as that is the core of the project which everything works around. Then I write everything out in front of me, pin up visual references and assemble a makeshift creative space to work in that inspires me. I focus on an idea or image and use my imagination and planning to help describe the scene around it as if I was redrawing something I have already seen, felt, and experienced. I envision the lighting, shot compositions, and atmosphere that I want for each scene and when drawing up the shots, I imagine how each would look framed and mounted on a wall, which helps to make my compositions more filmic. As the project develops and factors change, I will rework a script until I am satisfied as I believe that it is paramount to always finish everything you start. I think itâ€™s too early in my journey to say I have my own style as every characteristic of my filmmaking is constantly evolving and being inspired by new things. For me, the story I want to tell dictates the style, and instead of attaching myself to a specific style, I currently want to create works that are all unique and discover what aspects I like best. Part of my aim as a filmmaker is
For this special edition of Womens Cinemakers we have selected Concrete Dreams, an interesting film that our readers have already started to admire in the introductory pages of this article. What has once captured our attention of your film is the way you provided the visual results of your analysis with autonomous aesthetics: while walking our readers though the genesis of Concrete Dreams, would you shed light to your main sources of inspiration. I am delighted that the film has been well-received. The genesis of the Concrete Dreams originated from a photograph that I took one night in Belfast as I was hastily walking back to my car. In the photo, a young man is walking alone towards us through crowds of sociable bar-goers on a cobblestoned street bordered by whitewash buildings. He is in silhouette beneath beautiful dreamlike lighting. The moment spoke to me, it felt strange, like time had slowed down and I had to capture it on camera. I came up with the premise and began writing the script that same night. Concrete Dreams tells a story about a lonely bar doorman living in modern-day Belfast who has adopted a defeatist outlook on life around him. He compensates for his prosaic reality by fantasizing about a more dramatic life, but ultimately must reevaluate his perspective and learn the importance of being present in the moment. In addition to the photo, the film was conceived through an amalgamation of many ideas, inspiration sources and aesthetics that I had been eager to explore. I have a very varied subconscious collection of things which influence me that suddenly resurface when working on a project and it’s hard to trace their exact roots. Works produced during the French New Wave, Film Noir, Cinema Verite and Postmodernism movements tend to shape me most as a filmmaker and I feel traces of each can be found in various aspects of my film. Instead of making homages, I wanted to create content that was organic and unique to my experience as a first-time director. As development progressed, the story became more personal because my inspirations were infused with my own experiences, emotions and values – which is probably the reason why my aesthetics are autonomous and rare. The mood, narrative and stylistic choices were inspired by my discovery of an emerging literary genre – the Ulster noir (which incorporates the inner and outer form of traditional film noirs but set in the milieu of Northern Ireland) and I wanted to try to pioneer the genre on screen. I felt that being a non-native, telling a story set in Belfast from my perspective was an important one to share. I like to observe, interact with and understand people and life around me and I was inspired to explore perspective, human nature, a collective state of mind and what it means to be connected through the film’s messages and characters. At the time, I also had a preoccupation with technology and its impact on communication as a modern-day distraction that keeps us from being present in the moment – a motif which manifests itself in the protagonist, Gus Riley. The creation of my protagonist became a personal investigation into my own experiences, which really connected me emotionally to the film. I have
to instill hope in human kind, and to encourage seeing the extraordinary within the ordinary – the beauty in the everyday. I’m not sure if that counts as a style but it’s something I will always work toward producing for others. Concrete Dreams differed from other projects I have created, as it was made as part of an assignment - my graduation film for my degree. Lecturers selected my script to be made, and I worked with all-male crew of four with no budget. My creative process had to be adjusted, set within parameters and meet the conditions of that assignment which at times was limiting, but I enjoyed getting to know myself as a director and being able to develop and express my ideas visually as opposed to just narratively on a page.
watched people I care for alienate themselves and become unable to change their perspective. I believe there are aspects of Gus’ personality that can exist in all of us at some point, and I wanted to show the repercussions of a negative mindset and more importantly – that it can be overcome. By telling the story through his perspective, I wanted to keep the viewer following the road Gus is on and ultimately see him emerge from life with a better understanding of what’s important in our world. I think it’s crucial for people to see that on screen because sometimes we get caught up in the pace of life and are unable to see clearly. All I ever hope is that my film resonates emotionally with my audience, if you have connected with my protagonist, the message or any character or moment and felt something then I have succeeded. The most important inspiration for the film was my daughter Sam. The protagonist’s younger sister, Leah, was created in her image, and her confidence and perceptiveness are central to the protagonist’s resolution. For me, it’s essential to include a child’s perspective in stories as there is something deeply profound about how they perceive the world around them that is so vital for us to acknowledge but is often overlooked. Their ability to see clarity on seemingly complex issues and competence to read people and situations can be so refreshing for us when we are weighed down with life’s burdens. When I was thinking about the film’s main messages, I considered morals I want Sam to take with her through life – be present in the moment, the key to happiness is connection to yourself, others and the world around you and that life is how you choose to perceive it. Escaping from traditional narrative form, Concrete Dreams features a brilliant storytelling: how did you develop the script and the structure of the film? I enjoy the traditional narrative, but this time I was interested in making a hybrid between narrative and experimental which incorporated a non-linear structure, an unconventional approach to story-telling and was self-reflective in its content. I began writing the script for Concrete Dreams in October 2015 and one of the first things I did was find clear distinctive personalities and motivations for each character so that I could understand how they move, speak, and relate to others and their environment. I felt invested in each character and what they represented and deliberately put more emphasis on the film being a character driven narrative. Embedded in the story is an intimate character study into my protagonist, Gus Riley, and his loneliness. I wanted to examine the protagonist beginning as a conflicted character who is torn by his need for connection and his discontent for society around him and I structured the film around his journey to resolving his loneliness. I also made Gus the film’s unreliable first-person narrator with a flawed point of view, whose personality flows through his behavior and dialogue. I utilized voice-over as a storytelling device to be both reminiscent of traditional noirs and to keep the viewer looking at the narrative world through the protagonist’s lens. The first scene I wrote was Melanie’s introductory moment beneath a streetlamp as Gus’ love interest. The scene sparked and all the other ideas and scenes built up around it. Once I had all scenes, I loosely referred to some scriptwriting models and arranged causality until I had a story arc that I was satisfied with. The story’s structure is punctuated by the protagonist traversing the boundary
Also, when structuring, I chose settings that personified different stages in Gus’ emotional journey. The garden scene marks the film’s midway point and is a decisive moment in Gus’ journey because his sister Leah metaphorically plants the seed for him to reconsider his perspective. She also informs our judgement of Gus as we given a glimpse of his emotional depth as well as indications that he hasn’t always been lonely and detached. The city settings during the day act as antagonistic forces which drain the protagonist and prevent him from obtaining his goals. The garden is the natural oasis that provides a stark contrast to the synthetic city and allows the protagonist’s mindset to begin its rejuvenation. The library signifies a place of traditional communication where the protagonist finally reconnects with what really matters. One of the themes I kept returning to that ties most elements of the film together was dualism and the exploration of contrasting elements. Everything from the film’s oxymoronic title, shifting between reality and fantasy, transforming characters, aesthetic choices, and dialogue help to convey my protagonist as a flawed character who needs to resolve the conflict within himself. The pre-production stage took four months and happened simultaneously with script reworking. The two main things I learned during the scriptwriting process was that less is more and to trust my gut. Telling a story does not need to be complex, and I had to peel away layers to reduce my script into simpler terms instead of layers of complexity. It is important to show and not tell, so throughout development it was always about finding a balance between saying too much and saying too little. My focus was for the viewer to connect with the protagonist and to understand the message of the film and I had to remind myself that clarity is as essential and subtlety. The second thing was the importance of maintaining my voice in the script. I came under pressure trying to appease and meet the expectations of my course and crew, and I found this took the originality from my script as each alteration brought it further from my vision. It wasn’t until the seventh draft that I realized how impersonal and foreign the script had gotten to me and I reverted back to my initial drafts, and I am really glad I made that choice. It reassured me to remind myself why I wanted to shoot this kind of film and what I wanted to express, which I think is very important for every filmmaker to know from the outset. In Concrete Dreams, Gus fantasizes about a more dramatic life, but soon learns the importance of being present in the moment: how would you consider the relationship between experience and imagination in the character of Gus Riley?
of fantasy and reality and reaches its climax when Gus finally merges his two worlds and obtains the confidence to talk to Melanie in reality, and discover her true character. It’s important for Gus to change his perspective and find connection at the film’s resolution and I felt it necessary to have an ending which offers a glimmer of hope (represented by Ella’s genuineness and Leah) for the protagonist to make the film’s message resonate with viewers. The prism gem serves as a visual representation for Gus’ perspective change. At first the prism symbolizes Melanie and his dream world, but when he gives it to Leah, it is redefined as the object that connects them.
Movies have the capacity to break up time, space and logic and the way in which dreams and their feelings are expressed narratively and aesthetically in cinema has always intrigued me. In Concrete Dreams, Gus Riley crosses between his reality and imagination as a coping mechanism for his monotony and loneliness. I deliberately chose to present the protagonist’s two worlds differently through aesthetic and narrative choices as well as directing him to adopt two distinctive personas for each world. The exploration of both worlds connects back to my underlying theme of dualism. When the Gus is experiencing his reality, everything from his body language to voiceover emits a sense of detachment and dissatisfaction with the world around him. His surroundings are presented through his perspective as dull and he attempts to disguise his loneliness by choosing to observe and superficially judge life at a distance rather than participate in it. Gus’ internalized abrasive critique on society contradicts his external shy character as he dares to unfairly judge the city’s inhabitants for their supposed artificiality and commonness that he resents. His voice-over delivery as he people-watches is in a stream-of-consciousness manner with tones of angst and futility. I wanted to point out that Gus judges the world around him based on superficial qualities that don’t go more than skin deep, but once he engages in life he learns of deeper important truths. Alternatively, when Gus escapes into his imaginative world, his environment, character, and story are transformed as he is transported from mundanity. In his noir-styled fantasies, Gus imagines himself in exciting situations as a better version of himself – more confident and engaged with life. The tone of his voice over when describing Melanie is uncharacteristically poetic. His dreams arrest plot progression as Gus is returned to reality standing in the exact spot he left it in. Both of his fantasies see him trying to reach something unattainable because of his own internal obstacles. I didn’t want to present imagination as something negative but instead I wanted to convey that when you use it to escape an unhappy life, it’s more beneficial to take action to improve your reality first. My objective for depicting a character who oscillates between conscious and subconscious was to reinforce the overall message of the film - the importance of being present in the moment. Gus begins as a very directionless character, always deep in thought whose perspective obscures his reality. As we follow his journey, it becomes apparent that his preoccupation with drifting between what’s real and what’s not has distracted him from what’s most important and been right in front of him all along - his little sister trying to connect, his hopeless and naïve admiration of the woman who is misleading him and the opportunity to adopt a more positive outlook on life. The irony and tragedy of his character lies within his inability to recognize his flawed perspective that inhibits him from seeing important truths and clarity and obtaining connection despite living in a very connected world. In a sense, he must merge reality and dream to change his perspective on life around him. He must become the confident and participating person he imagines himself to be instead of an observer of superficialities to obtain his goal – human connection. Reminding us of Kieslowski’s works, for Concrete Dreams you have combined clever attention to details and accurate attention to close-up shots: what were your main aesthetic decisions?
The film’s visual style was thoroughly crafted and in every aesthetic choice, I paid close attention to detail as each element is important and has its own implications, both on its own and that lends to the film’s overall subtext and message. My aesthetic choices were not built on searching for visual connections with other filmmakers but instead to each carry a more personal meaning. It was always my aim to create two distinctive mise en scene to distinguish between the contrasting worlds of Gus’ reality and fantasies so that when he leads the audience into his dreamscape, the feel and tone of the film shifts. Each aesthetic choice I made with cinematography, settings as well as other visual elements had to support that aim and also work to translate the theme of duality. Also, since the story is told through the protagonist, every aesthetic choice had to keep the viewer looking at the worlds how he wants us to see it. His reality is always set during daytime and is depicted as stagnant, dreary and plain whereas nightfall initiates his imaginative world which is portrayed as mystifying, beautiful and vibrant. It was imperative to maintain a realistic look and feel for Gus’ reality so every choice had to make the viewer stay connected with the protagonist and his story’s verisimilitude. I wanted the fantasies to adopt a more surrealistic style and noir aesthetic, where emphasis is put on creating a sensory experience for the viewer instead of on advancing the story. I prepared every shot to express the Gus’ emotional journey. The camera plays the role of firstperson observer and we never see Gus from another character’s point of view. Almost all shots are either from his POV or have Gus in frame to keep the viewer interpreting the story alongside him. The camera also adopts voyeuristic and foreshadowing qualities. I liked to include shots where the audience can observe someone watching someone else. I used a POV fallacy shot where Gus’s point of view transitions to an objective shot of him in frame, standing before Melanie, to foreshadow Gus’ perspective being changed. I wanted to introduce the viewer to Gus through his reflection in a fogged mirror to immediately establish the dualism of his character and that his perspective is blurred. I employed many facial close-ups, because, similar to Kieslowski does in his trilogy, I wanted to capture the raw internalized emotions of my protagonist. I wanted to stay tight and maintain intimacy to allow the viewer to concentrate on the performance, see the subtleties in his expressions when he is critiquing society or being introspective on his own dilemma. A lot of the time his face speaks without words, and I like to let the camera linger to allow the audience to be a part of those moments and be present with the character in what they are feeling. During Gus’ discovery that Melanie is not what he imagined and that he’s been distracted from being present, the camera slowly tracks back as if he is coming out the subconscious trance he had been in prior to his revelation and the viewer can experience his catharsis with him. The moment becomes more poignant as the viewer watches his fading expression change to reflective as he explicitly narrates his revelation to look at the world in a new way following a close examination of reality. Gus’ stasis, monotony and seemingly detached existence is achieved by repeatedly alternating between an objective camera observing him and a subjective handheld POV on what he observes around him. His voice over combined with the camerawork and editing prevents us from approaching other characters and identifying with them so the viewer is forced to judge and see them through Gus’ perspective. In contrast, the camera movements employed in his imaginative sequences is more fluid to create the physical feeling of a dream where movements seem out of the dreamer’s control. I also employed long shots, elliptical editing and slow motion in his fantasies to replicate how dreams feel disjointed in time and space where details are patchy. I wanted to maintain a level of natural lighting and a flat color palette during Gus’ reality to reinforce the cityscape’s banality during daytime, and filming during April in Northern Ireland had no problem giving us the wet and overcast aesthetic. The discreet and mixed pools of light, venetian blinds, illuminated signs, streetlamps, and chiaroscuro lighting of nightfall recalls
the noir imagery and adds to the stylization that I intended for Gus’ dream scenes. Aesthetically, I aimed to create a surreal, dreamlike vibe when Gus is searching for Melanie by focusing on the peculiarity and beauty of his dreamscape. The entire space is in darkness with exception to a red light that outlines Melanie’s silhouette and emanates from her body onto Gus and the white hazy spotlight that brings the two together. The cameras graceful tracking movements combined with the slow motion of Gus’ searching and her body dancing creates very mesmeric compositions. With intent to recreate a modern-day femme fatal, Melanie wore a black dress and full make-up with red and black being her predominant colors to signify an intersection of danger and lust and her mystifying nature and Gus’ attraction to it. Her costume then becomes very plain (unintentionally matching the library’s striped curtains) when he meets her in reality and discovers her insincerity. Lighting and framing are interconnected and the relationship between subject, image and emotion was always considered when thinking of shot compositions. In the garden scene, Leah is illuminated with pure sunshine in the frame’s foreground while Gus sits further behind her in the shadows which becomes a physical representation of distance and change between the characters. The garden scene is the correction in the film as every scene before this was a reflection of Gus’ conflict. When Leah tries to connect with him and encourage him to change his outlook, Gus’ release of conflict is represented by him being in standard grade as he begins his return to normalcy. The shallow focus combined with natural lighting when Gus starts being honest with himself captures the shimmering bokehs in the backdrop and heightens such moments by keeping the viewer focused on the subject. Choosing good locations gives amazing opportunities for creative and cinematic compositions. I chose to shoot in Belfast because I think it offers a lot of flair in its intersection of new and old aesthetic. I wanted to make the city look familiar yet different and as a result, Belfast became its own character in the film. Belfast outside my fictional world is a very vibrant and unique city but I chose locations within the city that appeared dilapidated, gritty and bare to reflect the character’s obscured perspective. I chose the locations for the nighttime dreamscape to reflect noir motifs – water, bridges, tunnels and alleyways and to provide a contrast to the daytime settings. The overall editing of Concrete Dreams is unconventional in form. One of my editorial decisions was to use a paneling technique within the frame where multiple split screens are used to show Gus’ detachment from his surroundings as well as being reminiscent of his characters duality and preoccupation with artificiality and technology. In the final scene when he realizes Melanie’s insincerity, a vertical black bar comes across the screen to divide them, which solidifies Gus’ anticlimax. Choosing to shoot raw on Panasonic GH4s gave more options for color grading and one of my aims was for the overall color palette to express Gus’ feelings and to make the city look less appealing during the day than at night to replicate his perspective. When Gus is in the city, green undertones achieve a desaturated appearance to correspond to the parasitic environment that is draining on the protagonist. One learning curve was that it takes a lot of light to make something look dark, and sometimes I had to shoot day for night which is why some shots have a blue-ish surreal look. What is your preparation with actors in terms of rehearsal? How did you work with the rest of the crew? In particular, would you tell us something about the collaborative nature of your filmmaking? One of my favorite things about filmmaking is its collaborative nature. There’s something about sharing ideas, discussing a project, having creative breakthroughs, and learning from a new perspective that inspires me. It really motivates me to work with
like-minded, driven and talented people whose individual life experiences and influences affect me. I know first-hand how hard it can be to make things happen and despite any challenges the production faced, I am forever grateful for every single person who collaborated with me and helped bring the film together. When I was writing the script, I always had Daniel Kelly in mind to play Gus Riley. Having worked with him on past productions I was assured that he could deliver a believable and emotive performance which would resonate with viewers so I was really excited when he agreed to play the part. The casting process for the other roles took a little longer and I was blessed to find actresses Laurie Bailey to play Melanie, my sister Molly Metcalfe to play Ella and Storm to play Leah. In the run-up to the shoot, I liked to meet with the cast separately and chat about the script, discuss their character, themselves and work on building a good actor-director relationship based on mutual trust, understanding and communication. I only scheduled a handful of rehearsals which consisted of improv instead of acting out full scenes. I found this more productive because it expanded the actors’ interpretation and understanding of how their character behaves outside the scripted material. I discovered that each actor works differently and requires a different approach so I found that keeping an open mind and being versatile worked the best for everyone. The first-time actors had a chance to interact with each other was when principal photography commenced in the first week of April 2016. I would spend time on set before shooting doing short rehearsals and making small tweaks to blocking or dialogue on the day to ensure I was getting my desired emotional beats. There was something magical about watching their ability to really move beyond what was on the page and give life to the characters I had created, that I sometimes got caught up in the performances and forgot to shout “cut”. In particular, the interaction between Daniel and Storm was so pure and amusing that I would often let the camera roll the in between takes to capture it. For me, the film’s strength lies in the nuanced performances of the characters. Each actor adopted their role with energy, creativity and professionalism and their interpretations and suggestions helped me to be motivated as their director. Daniel captures the essence of Gus and through his expressions, subtleties, and delivery of dialogue really conveys his character’s inner emotions. I learned to trust my actors to bring the emotional depth needed to connect the viewer to my film. I thoroughly enjoyed collaborating with and learning from a talented and committed cast who each took direction well and delivered original performances. In my crew, everyone worked in their isolated roles as they were all working towards their final degree grade. I learned a lot about people, the value of time and energy, and how important it is for everyone to understand the director’s artistic vision and share her ambition to bring it to life. Filmmaking is a live web of inspiration relations in which everyone matters and influences each other and it is vital that each person contributes to the cooperation, passion, initiative, and hard work needed to make the production a success. I think that direct communication, support, pure intentions and an enthusiasm for the film that parallels my own are the main factors that can make or break a crew. I felt very fortunate that collaboration extended beyond my crew and I was continuously surprised and appreciative how helpful and adaptable my family, industry professionals, site owners, spontaneously street-casted extras, and many others were throughout every stage of the production. The production had its fair share of challenges, but I found ways to adapt and overcome them and feel better prepared for my future filmmaking endeavors. There were many logistical issues with equipment, schedules, unfavorable weather, locations, night shoots, and extras so I certainly learned to be calm and positive in the face of adversity. When encountering difficulties, it’s crucial to approach them with the right mindset – resourcefulness,
perseverance and positivity are key to problem solving. If something didn’t go to plan on set, having this approach brought new and interesting angles to my initial ideas. The toughest moments during the production was fusing the role of a mother with the role of a director as sometimes I’d have to prolong my time working on set. However, the whole experience proved to be a valuable one, as Sam perfectly copes with being independent and adaptable. What’s more amazing is how involved she was behind the scenes from going on location recces to writing dialogue and acting out scenes. Even still today, I can see that my involvement with the film has triggered her interest and she since makes her own storyboards, edits videos, and is very cognitive and inquisitive about the entire process and I feel privileged to know the answers. The project and collaborative nature also taught me a lot about myself and helped with my own personal development as a creative. When I watched Concrete Dreams on the big screen in Queen’s Film Theatre as part of my graduation show, I felt a profound sense of pride knowing the effort it took to pull it together. I also realized that I should have made the film how I wanted to make it, even if that meant making narrative and visual mistakes and taking full responsibility for the outcome no matter how uncertain I was. It is important for me as a director to listen and be open to suggestions, but I have learned to trust my instincts and be more careful when taking advice from those who own subjectivities detract from the project; there is a fine line between a good correction I agree with and a suggestion that would make my film just average. Most of all I learned to be confident when making decisions and to believe in myself when trying something new. The soundtrack plays an important role in Concrete Dreams. According to media theorist Marshall McLuhan there is a ‘sense bias’ that affects Western societies favoring visual logic, a shift the occurred with the advent of the alphabet as the eye became more essential than the ear: how do you see the relationship between sound and images? I remember being really young and my mom would play a lot classical music. She would always narrate the pieces by telling me stories based on their musical qualities, and somehow, I could always imagine and feel the story, and see images in my head. I think its innate for us to create images with our imagination based on what we hear or produce sounds based on what we see. With that said, the relationship between sound and images is a complex interaction. The possibilities of how artists manipulate sound and image have only two limiting factors – the increasing power of technology and imagination and how we use sound in relation to images will continue to develop over time. While I believe we live in a very visual world where people seem to favor symbols, visual metaphors, images and other things we can perceive with the human eye, we must remember that sound is also key in heightening our sensory perception and interpreting the world around us. I feel that we should not trade in an ear for an eye or elevates one’s importance over the other, but instead appreciate their mutual implication – how they work together to produce meaning. In film, and other audio-visual mediums, sound and image are part of the same experience where the visuals are typically a viewer’s focus and the sound is used to intensify reactions, contribute to realism or subconsciously alter how the visuals are perceived. When working on the sound design for Concrete Dreams, I employed diegetic sound to maintain the verisimilitude of Gus’ reality. I always wanted two different leitmotifs that enhanced Gus’ emotional journey and the viewer’s connection to
it and to contribute to the film’s pacing; one to signify the protagonist’s dream sequences and one for his reality. The alternative trance-like music used for the dream sequences as well as the exclusion of diegetic sound heightens the viewer’s sensory perception of a dream and adds to the surrealism of his fantasies. I was very fortunate to collaborate with a musically gifted family friend who let me use his original song Lonely Stranger in two separate renditions. The beautifully poignant lyrics and solo plucking of guitar chords at the beginning of the film as Gus meanders through the city capture the irony of him being alone in a city full of inhabitants. The song repeats at the finale, but is accompanied with an uplifting tin whistle and the lyrics are in past-tense which conveys the protagonist’s journey from lonely to reconnected. There was a lot of nostalgia attached to his song, and the lyrics fit perfectly into the film’s narrative and my creative vision. We want to catch this occasion to ask you to express your view on the future of women in cinema. For more than half a century, women have been discouraged from getting behind the camera, however, in the last decades there are signs that something is changing. What’s your view on the future of women in cinema? In particular, do you think that you being a woman provides your artistic research with some special value? I think it is an exciting time for women who want to work in cinema. The ongoing societal changes in relation to equality are bringing issues surrounding underrepresentation of women in the industry to the forefront of people’s minds. Highlighting and discussing gender imbalance within the film industry is the first step in promoting change. I know that in Northern Ireland and Ireland there are many incentives being put into place to encourage women’s involvement in the industry such as funding for female-led projects as well as initiatives aimed exclusively at creatives who are also mothers. Movie making is an all-consuming task and its schemes such as these that I feel are a game-changer for women. Strong women from the early years of cinema through to today have fought to find their place in the industry and I believe this will continue as more and more women have been making their mark not only in directing but also in different roles behind the camera. It is important that women are treated as equal partners on the filmmaking process across all production roles and particularly the key creative roles which have the most influence on the end product and therefore representation of women on screen. I believe that one way to work towards to achieving a gender equilibrium in the industry is by being conscious of how women are portrayed in front of the camera. It wasn’t until studying women in film at university that I gained awareness of the dominant cinematic codes that have been consciously created over time by patriarchal intuitive. Women are generally exploited and placed in stereotypical, objectified roles which audiences subconsciously accept as the norm. Much of mainstream cinema still maintains a pre-existing system and we need to review the messages about women that are being distributed to the masses. If we move away from and can reprogram these ideologies, the way we create and interpret cinema as well as how we view women in the world will begin to transform. I also think it’s important to teach our children to model diversity and to never limit themselves. I know that women have something important to offer to the cinematic medium and I believe we need more female-driven texts both in front of and behind the camera to bring a more balanced perspective to the world of filmmaking and also encourage
gender equality across the spectrum. The female cinematic voice plays a key role in how we see ourselves and the world around us and we need the creative energy and vision of women as it is both important for aspiring creatives to have visible female role models as well as viewers to see things from a woman’s perspective. It can be intimidating putting our voices forward and demonstrating our talents in a currently male-dominated field, but, we must remind ourselves that women are as talented and artistic as men, and together we must value each other, embrace our differences and encourage one another to develop and reach our potential. With fairness, understanding and appreciation anything can be achieved. I think women can bring more empathy to the screen and filmmaking process which everyone could benefit from. Everyone has a story and if a woman wants to use the cinematic medium as a platform to tell it, then she should have the schemes and collective industry mindset in place to support her. I believe once we start seeing more content made by women, things will start to change for the better, perhaps even on a global scale. I think that like with any pioneering movement there will be challenges, but women undoubtedly have the strength both in creativity and determination to continue to challenge and redefine the standards of cinema. Thanks a lot for your time and sharing your thought, Abby. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? I am very thankful for the opportunity to reflect on my film. Since Concrete Dreams and graduating from university last year, I have found myself on many production sets working in different freelance positions. I am grateful for the opportunity to meet influential people, continue my training on set and be in an environment that inspires me. I eagerly anticipate my next opportunity to direct, and I will continue to work hard to earn my seat in the director’s chair. In my free time, I am developing my own projects from a few ideas that I’ve been wanting to explore and share cinematically. At present, I’m interested in expressing myself in the short film format which I find to be very accessible to audiences as well as a great avenue to develop storytelling. I want to challenge myself to focus on quality over quantity and really make a significant impact on viewers in a short space of time. I aim to continue to improve my technical abilities as well as cultivate my own style and creative voice by searching for new inspirations and ways to evolve and shape my art. I love how cinema has the ability to capture a moment in time and preserve in history, and with this in mind, I think my next project might focus on reflection, memory, nostalgia and my daughter and be more personal and unconventional in form. Finally, the most important thing for me is balance. All being well, I have many years ahead of me to continue to establish a place for myself in the filmmaking industry and I will keep taking small steps to get there. Moments are fleeting, and time is especially precious now. I want to be there for my daughter when she is young and cherish every second, so right now I am focused on being present in the moment.
Rosa Cabrera Díez Lives and works in Madrid, Spain
Master`s degree in Screenwriting for Film, Television and Playwriting UAM/ Escuela de Guion Madrid, Rosa Cabrera has also complemented her education at the prestigious International Film and Television School San Antonio de los Baños (Cuba) with highly regarded teachers such as Benito Zambrano, Yolanda Barrasa or Julio Rojas. BA Audiovisual Communication at Rey Juan Carlos University of Madrid. She has written the screenplay of BARATOmetrajes 2.0 , a successful documentary about the low budget films in Spain (Spanisches Filmfest Berlín 2015, London Spanish Film Festival 2014, Festival de Cinema Espagnol de Marseille 2014, Cebu International Documentary Film Festival 2014 and Gijón International Film Festival 2013). As director, she has written and directed XY-XX (2017), Making magic (2016), Victoria (2014), Jade green (2012) and Seventy times seven (2010). Rosa has written as well the screenplays for the films projects The genesis of Lía, Bad luck and Praga, now in development. She worked as a cinema critic in the highlyacclaimed weekly Digital Fanzine magazine (2007/08) and at the International Film Festival San Sebastian (2008/2009). Rosa also has worked as editor in Europroducciones TV and as a coordinator in the five editions 36-Hour Survival Film Festival in Lerma, Marbella, Zaragoza, Logroño and San Sebastián (2010/2011).
Rosa Cabrera Díez
Rosa Cabrera Díez An interview by Francis Quettier and Dora Tennant Hello Rosa and welcome to WomenCinemakers : we would start this interview with a couple of questions regarding your background: you have a solid formal training and after having graduated with a BA from the Audiovisual Communication you nurtured your education with a Master`s degree in Screenwriting for Film, Television and Playwriting and you also also attended the prestigious International Film and Television School San Antonio de los Baños (Cuba) with highly regarded teachers such as Benito Zambrano, Yolanda Barrasa or Julio Rojas. How do these experiences influence your trajectory as a filmmaker? In particular, how does formal training inform you as a creative? The only way to learn how to make movies is by making them, but as far as I am concerned, both education and academic training are very
important, at least for me. Those who get along in life never really stop studying and learning and I love to learn new things every day. A few years ago I was in EICTV, Cuba, and it was an incredible personal and professional experience, a great opportunity for exchange of ideas. I learned from the best and I had the chance to meet a lot of people from many different parts of the world. I learned a great deal about people, their countries of origin and their culture. Recently, I finished a Master`s degree in Screenwriting for Film, Television and Playwriting. There, I had the opportunity to obtain an in- depth knowledge of each subject and I learnt a great deal. I´m sure that I am a better professional thanks to all those experiences and I hope that it is reflected on my shortfilms. For this special edition of WomenCinemakers we have selected Making magic (Magos), an extremely interesting film that our readers have already staterd to get to know in the introductory pages of this article. We would like to take a closer look at the genesis of Making magic (Magos) : would you tell us how did you come up with the idea and how did you develope it?
On the other hand, I have always loved mockumentaries. These kind of films take the form or style of a documentary film but does not portray real events. They usually show unconventional stories and have original structures and aesthetics. Mockumentaries prove the extent to which itÂ´s easy to distort reality so I thought it would be logical and very fun to shot as a mockumentary the story of a real character that is also imaginary. Escaping from traditional narrative form, Making magic (Magos) features such elegantly structured storytelling that creates coherent combination
The Three Wise Men are popular figures in traditional storytelling of the Christmas celebrations. In Spain, it is a very special festivity, particularly for children. They await the arrival of the Three Wise Men, who come in through the windows house by house, sharing out presents on just one night. They arrive on the 5th of January and on this day parades are held all over Spain. After the parade, children go to bed early but very excited, awaiting for Melchoir, Caspar and Balthazar to come and leave presents around their shoes. But this wait is not only magical for them. Grown-ups have a good time too and, just for one day, they themselves become children again. When I was a child I used to celebrate this day in a very special way with my family, and I still do. And I realized I wasnÂ´t the only one, many other people still do, trying to keep the illusion of this day even if they are no kids anymore. Many people around me kept great memories of their childhood, specially, of that magical day, and I have always believed that it woud be a good story.
Developing the script is my favorite part of the process. Difficulties and challenges are always there, but, at the beginning, everything seems possible and you can really write everything you want, everything you can imagine. I love research, itÂ´s very fun for me and, in this case, I specially enjoyed it. I looked for a coherent combination between fiction and reality and it was very important that the result was consistent. The key of the story was the character of Baltasar Legba, who at first refused his destiny but, in the end, embraces it and acceptes it with pleasure. Baltasar is a real but fictional character at the same time. He is traditionally referred to as the King of Arabia and gave the gift of myrrh to Jesus. I was not interested in the christian aspect of the story, I wanted to rewrite a new one. So I invented some things but I also researched a lot and I readed about Haiti, about vodou, the Haitian Revolution... and I discovered the country has an amazing but terrible history. Haiti is the first independent nation of Latin America and the Caribbean, the only nation in the western hemisphere to have defeated three European superpowers (Spain, UK and France) and the only nation in the world that was established as a result of a successful slave revolt. At the same time, it is the poorest country in the western hemisphere and one of the poorest in the world too and it has a long tradition of corrupt policemen. Haiti is a punished country but heroic in a certain way and I liked the idea the man in charge of preserving the illusion and magic in the world had been born, indeed, in Haiti, a kind
between fiction, documentary style as well as animation. What was your process like? In particular, how did you develope the script?
of poetic justice for the country. Moreover, as we all know, the truth really is stranger than fiction and when I started to ask, everybody seemed to have an incredible story to tell about The Three Wise Men, both children and adults. I wanted to mix the fictional story of Baltasar with real interviews of people who wanted to share their memories of the night of the 5th January and the day after, and everything the Three Wise Men meant for them. We have been really impressed with your medium shot, as well as with your clever attention to details: what were your aesthetic decisions? In particular, how would you describe your cinematographic style? The aesthetic of this short film was very important because we wanted to give a homogenous and unifying aspect for a story that mixes fiction, reality, animation, color and black and white. I have given that question a lot of thought and, at the end, I chose a simple style, without artifice. We use documentary camera techniques with talking heads and cinema veritĂŠ pieces. The recreation of Baltasar's past in Haiti was the most complicated. We mixed still photos with engraving and animation. It was difficult but, thankfully, we had a terrific crew. For Baltasar LegbaÂ´s present and his fight against Bokor, we looked for a cinematic style as realistically as possible, we wanted to show Wise Man Baltasar walk among us. Making magic (Magos) proceeds in a kind of dialectic manner: what importance has for you to make a
ItÂ´s very important for me, Making magic will always be special, one of my favorite works. This is a very personal short film, not only for the story, but for all the work behind, the hundreds of problems and challenges we had and how we handle them... We run a crowfunding campaign to make the movie and everyone got involved in an amazing way. And, besides, many of the people interviewed are family and friends, so, for me, Making magic it was a rewarding and an unforgettable experience. What is your preparation with actors in terms of rehearsal? How did you work with the rest of the crew? It took a long time to find the cast of the short film. We could not find the appropriate actor for Baltasar but finally we found Armando Balboa and I feel really lucky to had him. I have always felt that Baltasar must be a magical storyteller and Armando has that, a wonderful ability to tell you anything and you stay, listening to him, totally immersed in the tale. He has a powerful physique but he built his character with a lot of sensibility and humanity. During the preproduction of the short film, we rehearsed and worked on the character of Baltasar and his background. Armando understood that role from the beginning and it was very easy to work with him. Making magic is the first experience with the camera for Miguel, who plays the role of Lucas. I think he did a great job, Armando and him are a wonderful duet! Miguel is
personal film , something you have researched a lot about it?
not an actor, he and his family are my friends and I´m very grateful he was encouraged to participate in the short film. I had already worked with several members of the crew in other short films. Some of them were new, but they catched up in a short time and it was very easy to work with them. The whole cast and crew did a great job and despite all problems and weeks of delays in shooting, everyone was involved in the project. It was a long and hard experience but also a very satisfying one. Your inquiry into the character of Baltasar Legba, that is going to come out and tell the world the truth, even if it isn´t yet ready seems to be pervaded with a very subtle, still effective sociopolitical criticism. Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco once stated, " the artist’s role differs depending on which part of the world you’re in. It depends on the political system you’re living under ". Not to mention that almost everything, could be considered political. Do you think that Making magic (Magos) could be considered political in this way? What could be in your opinion the role of a filmmaker in our everchanging, unstable contemporary societies? I agree, almost everything could be considered political. I never thought of the story in that way but, of course, Baltasar Legba is an outsider, a rebel who is swimming against the stream, he fight against Bokor, a group with enough power to induce people into their life style. If you lose the illusion you become an alienated person, asleep and, therefore, much easier to be controlled. Baltasar´s character tries that, each and every one of us,
keep our dreams and hopes intact, our ability to amaze ourselves and make things matter. He became a dangerous man with this fight an the guys on the top got real nervous, so they wanted to kill him. And that, of course, can be considered political. Political is everything that affects the human being. A filmmaker always want to entertain people. ItÂ´s our first obligation, to get people forget their own troubles for a while and immerse themselves in the story you are telling them.This is not an easy task! But, I think there should be more than that. BuĂąuel said "We do not live in the best of all possible worlds. I would like to continue to make films which, apart from entertaining the audience, convey to people the absolute certainty of this idea". It seems to me that sometimes we must also tell other stories that provide us with something else, stories that perhaps are forgotten or silenced, stories that we do not always want to hear but which we need to know in order to evolve as a society. And to do it responsibly, knowing why you tell these stories and how you do it. We want to catch this occasion to ask you to express your view on the future of women in cinema. For more than half a century women have been discouraged from getting behind the camera, however in the last decades there are signs that something is changing. What's your view on the future of women in cinema? Little by little but things are changing. Things are changing in cinema because in society they are doing it too. Fortunately, every day there are more women behind
the camera, writing, acting… and, even more important, women producing and taking decisions from the bottom up. There should be different voices. Women tell different stories than men. Neither better nor worse, just their own stories. We need to have fictional stories in which to be reflected and, everyday, there are more people who are convinced that it has to be women themselves who tell those stories from a female perspective. It is a fact, not of justice, but of coherence, we are half of the population of the world. And, of course, the support between us is crucial. I think it´s very important to promote equality and create spaces for the development of women filmmakers such as festivals, grants, artistic residences or magazines like WomenCinemakers or others. We should not fool ourselves, though. Media have started to spend more money on movies written and directed by women but only when these stories have earned money and they have realized that people want to see them. Nowadays, watching films made by women is trend. I suposse capitalism turns everything that crosses its path into merchandise. It's not exactly the ideal situation but, for now, it´s a start. Creatively, it´s a good time for us, but we can´t relax, there is still a lot to do, there are many things to change. In the battle for equality, we have centuries and centuries of disadvantage. But I'm optimistic. The advance of women is unstoppable.
Your cinema provides the spectatorship with a multilayered visual experience. So before leaving this conversation we would like to pose a question about the nature of the relationship with your audience. Do you consider the issue of audience reception as being a crucial component of your decision-making process, in terms of what type of language is used in a particular context? Of course, nowdays there is a very important relationship with the audience. Cinema habits have changed and a lot of things are different now. The type of language you use, the context, the age of your public...There are factors to be taken into account. But the audience is not a crucial component in my decision- making process. I try to concentrate only on the kind of story I want to tell and in the best way to do it. And, then, show the movie to people and let the chips fall where they may. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Rosa. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? IÂ´m working on my next project right now. It will be a very special shortfilm, a love story, and the whole cast and crew will be women. But the project is still in preproduction. I hope we can do a better job each time and enjoying doing cinema. Thank you very much for the interview and the opportunity!
An interview by Francis Quettier and Dora Tennant
Larraitz Zuazo An interview by Francis Quettier and Dora Tennant
Hello Larraitz and welcome to WomenCinemakers: to get started, we would ask you a couple of questions about your background. You have a solid formal training and you graduated with a Master in Practice and Theory of the Creative Documentary, that you received from the UAB, in Barcelona: how did this experience, along with your ten years long career influence the way you currently conceive and produce your works? Hello, first of all I would like to thank you for the opportunity you have given me by selecting my work for this issue. I think you do exceptional work providing women film makers with this platform for gaining visibility. I am very grateful to be part of this.
As regards my career, since I completed by audiovisual studies, and later my master’s degree, I have always been working with documentaries in one way of another. I have carried out different audiovisual production works, like the production company which I currently manage, Begira. Documentary language has always been very present. On the one hand through direct participation in different productions, whether as editor or director. But I also believe that this training or passion establishes the working method in other kinds of works. Videos which could be more corporate, institutional, advertising, …. I’d say that they are marked by the documentary prism, which is in the end my way of looking at the world. It has been in the last two years that I have devoted myself more specifically to directing documentaries, with the production of “Nosotras, Mujeres de Euskalduna” and “163 Días, la hulega de Bandas”. In a way, I have had the opportunity to find myself again with the line
For this special edition of WomenCinemakers we have selected Nosotras, mujeres del Euskalduna: when walking our readers through the genesis of your captivating film would you tell us if it was important for you to make a personal film, that touched your personal sphere, something you knew a lot about? This project came to me as a proposal from Zinebi, as part of its commitment to the cityâ€™s emerging directors. A few notes on the subject were enough to get me captivated right from the beginning. I immediately felt part of it, largely due to my personal involvement. As I mention in the documentary, my generation could be the last to remember the Euskalduna struggle. I was born in 1980 and the memory of the burning streets of Bilbao is part of my childhood memories. At home everyone was nervous, with the radio on, â€Ś my parents knew and were friends with many of the workers. Precisely because of this, while I loved the project I also felt a great sense of responsibility. Euskalduna was very important in Bilbao, and still is. Knowing that many people from Bilbao will have an eye on the result of the documentary, as it is an issue which has marked them for life â€Ś In a way I was scared but on the other
which I started in 2004 by focusing my studies on documentary cinema.
But there are two other aspects which personally link me to the project. Obviously the fact that I’m a woman. Like one of the main characters says “we are talking about women, aren’t we?”. At the end of the day the documentary aims to recover the memory of a group of women who went unnoticed at the time, and were then forgotten. I don’t want to doubt that with a bit of awareness anyone can portrait stories like this one, but I would say that because I’m a woman I have more empathy and a very special relationship with the main characters, and I believe that this is shown in the end result. I am sure that they felt very comfortable with me and as a result they opened up during the interviews. These interviews are the fundamental core theme for recovering this story… And finally the issue of the city. The landscape. Change. The reconversion... I love my city. I am completely from Bilbao, and I’m proud of it… A city with a lot of history, with a very hard and longsuffering recent past but which has been able to rise up and reinvent itself…. However I am not going to deny that there are aspects which have disappointed me. I am obviously talking about institutional decisions which make the cities change in one way or another… I have always thought that Bilbao’s industrial past should be a cause for pride and as such part of our landscape memory. But I have the feeling that the fever in recent years to clean up the city’s image and
hand I was very driven. Luckily it appears that I have been successful in this challenge.
Nosotras, mujeres del Euskalduna is not a classical talking heads documentary and manages to capture extraordinary moments of genuine emotion where dialogue could not even scratch the surface. We appreciated the way Nosotras, mujeres del Euskalduna finds a point of convergence between personal pain and public anguish: How did you conceive the balance between the emotional level of your narrative and the real situation you described? Without doubt the strong point of the documentary is in their discourse, in the emotional discourse. There is a clear evolution from how they start to how they begin to changing, looking deeper, remembering, accepting… and telling.
to become a tourist attraction has led to it losing its way in the urban planning and aesthetic decisionmaking. In this aspect, the entire Abandoibarra area, where the Euskalduna used to be, is one of the best examples of what I’m talking about. For me, a little vague homage to the shipyards is not enough. For me it’s a real shame to think that the change could have been done differently, without the promenade looking more like an avenue in Miami than what Bilbao used to be just over 15 years ago... Right from the beginning I knew that the documentary would be my platform to make this small complaint… while at the same time paying homage to the Euskalduna as such. To the factory itself. Of course, over and above the struggle, the workers and the women.
I think that we did the process well. For many intense days in a row, during which they found their new position little by little. And they started to believe, which they had found very difficult to do at the beginning. The nerves at the beginning, thinking that they were of no interest, that they couldnâ€™t remember very well â€Ś which were hurdles which were overcome until the climax was reached, which was the filming on the bridge. Giving them their place in this struggle, in this story, but also in such a literal way, closing Deusto bridge, with everything this entails on the logistics level, just for them and place them walking along the middle â€Ś was the culmination of a brutal empowerment process. Then only the interviews were left .. And I knew that they were ready to talk about everything. And this is how we achieved such an emotional discourse, which complements the story of the events themselves at that time, giving it the added force of these women talking from the inside.
These women have spoken a lot about Euskalduna throughout their lives. But never from an alter where they have been defined as the central characters. The greatest challenge was to take them out of the discourse which had been learnt, accepted and memorised over so many years so that they could speak about themselves without feeling ashamed. And that is why we had to do more than just tell them that they were the central characters: they had to feel that they were.
We have appreciated the film’s expressive color palette, stunning widescreen compositions and elegantly structure statics: what were your aesthetic decisions when shooting? Most of the film’s aesthetic decisions are based on contrast. The clearest example is when we superimpose today’s landscape with old photos. This shows the change in the clearest manner. It’s impressive. And in the same way I wanted to put a bit of distance also on the chromatic level. The black and white of the photos, the grey of Bilbao in the 1980s … I wanted more saturated colours to overcome that aesthetic and I also think that it is in line with the discourse which I would say is, in the end, optimistic. A discourse which recovers a lost memory and which encourages future generations to fight, with blunt but kind language. Why not. Spoken words play a crucial aspect: how did you balance the equilibrium between dialogue and the messages conveyed by images? In particular, how would you consider the relationship between sound and moving images in your work? Nosotras, is to a large extent based on the spoken discourse of the main characters. There is a lot of text, because the aim was to build a story based on their testimony. For that reason, it was highly important to find spaces where the documentary could breath.
But on the other hand, I like the silences. Transition silences and silences in the discourse. Due to what they mean and due to their impact. I am not afraid of silence in a conversation. I am not usually in a hurry to continue with the next question, because I have also seen that they are the moments which can be most relevant. Due to what is sometimes hushed up, and many other times due to what comes after one of these pauses. If you don’t rush into the conversation and allow the person to travel in their thoughts, there are times when the result is a testimony which you would not have otherwise achieved. Your film honors the memory of a group of women who took part in the Assembly of the Women of Euskalduna, supporting the workmen on strike at the Euskladuna shipbuilding company. Just as Bellocchio’s films, Nosotras, mujeres del Euskalduna ceaselessly interweaves the personal and the political: Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco once stated, "the artist’s role differs depending on which part of the world you’re in. It depends on the political
In my decision to remember the Bilbao of the 1980s, I knew that the audio would be another character. I thought the idea of reconstructing the sound of the factory in operation on today’s images was very evocative. A direct sound would did necessarily have to be illustrated. I believe that they are very powerful moments, and this is what I have been told by the factory’s workers who felt as if they were transported in this way back to their jobs.
system youâ€™re living under". Not to mention that almost everything, ranging from Caravaggio's Inspiration of Saint Matthew to Joep van Lieshout's works, could be considered political, do you think that Nosotras, mujeres del Euskalduna could be considered a political work?Moreover, what could be in your opinion the role of filmmakers in our unstable contemporary age? Without doubt Nosotras, mujeres de Euskalduna is a political film. Documentary is a genre which helps to make a complaint. The gender issue, working class struggle, social policies, â€Ś we talk about all of this. I believe that our generation has a responsibility to recover the memory of stories which have been forgotten. Which have not been resolved as they should have been. And to think about all of this from contemporaneity. In this case, I think that this has been one of the most interesting aspects: a younger generation has recovered the story of these women and made it more visible, using its own audiovisual language, from its own prism. And this has allowed for the story to reach parts both within the scope of the generation which experienced that struggle up close and also younger people. Your exploration of such dramatic series of events seems to be very analytical, yet Nosotras, mujeres del Euskalduna strives to be full of emotion: how would you consider the relationship between analysis and spontaneity within your work? In
I like to start to film with everything measured and planned. When it comes to getting testimonies or working with people, I try to get to know them very well and analyse the people before starting. In this way I know what each of them can contribute to the filming. However, I don’t close the door to spontaneity. But I usually also plan this. When we decided to bring together 7 of these women in a place close to where they locked themselves in 34 years ago, I was very clear that we then had to let things unfold as they happened. The interesting thing was to see the reactions, the conversations which sprung up between them… In general, I like to keep the script quite tight to the filming. That requires a lot of work beforehand, knowledge and research, but in that way I feel more comfortable working later. It is also true that documentary is a genre with its own life, which is something that I always say, and if things completely change during the filming … well that’s fine; surely it is because the facts themselves are better than the script. And when that happens, it’s marvellous. We would like to pose a question about the nature of the relationship of your art with your audience.
particular, do you like spontaneity or do you prefer to meticolously schedule every details of your works? How much importance did play improvisation in your process?
What are you hoping Nosotras, mujeres del Euskalduna will trigger in your spectatorship? As I mentioned before, our audience was in theory going to be people from the generation before ours. Women and men who saw that struggle close up. Who themselves knew the industrial, working class Bilbaoâ€Ś That was for me my primary responsibility. Wanting to depict such an important subject for our city and do so in such a way that it would fit in with the understanding of all those people. The result has been very satisfactory. The day of the premier the room was full, and there was such a long queue that many people were not able to enter â€Ś. And at the end of the opening credits the apprehension about whether I had got it right or not, as regards the way, language, message, ... completely disappeared. It was very well received by the audience, and to my surprise was also very well received by the men who used to work in Euskalduna. For them it is a very sensitive and entrenched issue, which in many cases has not been overcome, and they are very demanding with regards to everything relating to the Euskalduna. But the film also connected very well with the subsequent generation. A younger, political and courageous generation which has looked to these women as an example to follow and which also sees documentaries as a clear instrument for social demands, to recover the memory and for dissemination. And this is very interesting.
On this issue I am very positive. I have seen women’s presence increase over recent years. But we shouldn’t become complacent. What’s more, I believe that the industry, production companies and the institutions have to make a firm commitment in this regard. 10) Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Larraitz. Finally, would you like to tell our readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? Immediately after completing the Euskalduna project, I started on another documentary, “163 Días, La huelga de Bandas”, recovering the memory of the longest strike in the history of Franco’s dictatorship. I currently have a couple of project which I plan to start soon. I am having a really good time with all of this, as they are very enriching experiences where I am learning a lot … I intend to continue along similar lines while I am able to. Exploring new language channels to put on the table subjects and stories which are worthy of debate. It’s an absolute luxury to be able to dedicate myself to this.
Before leaving this conversation we want to catch this occasion to ask you to express your view on the future of women in cinema. For more than half a century women have been discouraged from getting behind the camera, however in the last decades there are signs that something is changing. What's your view on the future of women in cinema?
Ellen Pearlman Noor (which translates as ‘light’ in Arabic) is a brain opera that asks, though metaphor, analogy, sound, text, light, movement, brain sensors and audience interaction with an ‘actor’ wearing an Emotiv EEG brainwave headset just one simple question – “Is there a place in human consciousness where surveillance cannot go?” Noor is an original ‘brain opera’. Though artists have been working with EEGs producing musical events, no one has ever created a full audio visual brain opera. Using an EEG enabled headset, the performer’s emotional states, at various times, launch digital databanks of video, audio and spoken word enabled events while simultaneously displaying the performer’s brainwaves live-time for audience viewing. Story Noor is loosely based on the true story of Noor Inayat Khan, a Russian born, European raised Sufi Muslim Princess whose father Hazrat Inayat Khan brought Sufism to the West. During WW II Noor became a covert wireless operator for British Intelligence by parachuting deep inside occupied Vichy ruled France. For a period of three months Noor (code name “Nora”) was the only communications link transmitting critical information back to the Allies. Caught by the Gestapo, who were unable to break her to find out any information about her transmission cell, Noor was shot inside the infamous Dachau prison shortly before the end of the war. Noor is also a metaphor for issues of surveillance, privacy and faith. The performer’s brainwaves are displayed live-time for the audience to see as she interacts with them, and the story. As the performer’s emotional states change, different videos, sonic environments, and parts of the libretto are triggered on four different screens. This in turn changes the performer’s emotional state, which changes the mood and responses of the audience. Only the screen displaying the performer’s brainwaves is active all the time. The other four emotional states cause the displayed images and sound to ebb and flow, depending on the live-time interaction between the audience and the performer.
Ellen Pearlman An interview by Francis Quettier and Dora Tennant Hello Ellen and welcome to WomenCinemakers: we would start this interview with a couple of questions about your multifaceted background. You have a solid formal training: after having earned your diploma in Film/Video and Photographic Arts from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, you nurtured your education with a MA of Telematic Art, that you received from the University of Calgary and with a Ph.D. from the School of Creative Media, Hong Kong City University: how do these experience influence the way you currently conceive and produce your works? And in particular, how does the relationship between your cultural substratum and your travels inform the way you relate yourself to the aesthetic problem and art making in general?
Having a global perspective is enormously important in terms of joining the conversation about issues that affect large groups of people, which is the direction my arts practice takes. It has also helped me see my own and otherâ€™s regional differences and strengths. Although I am a native New Yorker, some of the focus of my concerns is not particularly supported in New York. This has led to me form three art and technology organizations to curate and promote my focus; The Volumetric Society, Art-A-Hackâ„˘ and the ThoughtWorks Arts Residency, which I am able to direct with a fantastic ThoughtWorks employee who is also an artist, Andrew McWilliams. At this point in my life, my personal issues and struggles only enter my creative works if they touch upon themes that resonate with larger concerns; surveillance, systems of control, new technologies, stream of consciousness, and the birth of repressive systems, especially when confronted with individual and collective
Having advanced degrees that combine art and technology has been helpful in two ways. The first is it has given me a container, or structure to create complex, original works that otherwise would not have been possible since they often take two or more years to develop. The second is it has enabled me to jump outside of the sales directed art world to present my work at conferences, panels and in publications that have nothing to do with the typical profit-driven venues for arts production. Your approach reveals that you are a versatile artist, capable of crossing from one media to another. The results of your artistic inquiry convey together a coherent sense of unity, that rejects any conventional classification. So we would like to ask you if you have you ever happened to realize that such multidisciplinary approach is the only way to express and convey the idea you explore. In particular, when do you recognize that one of the mediums has exhausted it expressive potential to self?
resistance. I have also, inadvertently touched upon my own reservoir of epigenetic memories. Although my family has resided in New York for over a century, my current arts practice is delving into issues that have never touched me personally like racial annihilation, and persecution.
Due to the overwhelming inundation of multitasking devices and apparatuses that inundate us on a daily level, the single channel art object, whether a painting, sculpture or even installation, though compelling, does not usually engulf one, though on occasion it can. The real world is a dazzling moment-to-moment display of visual, auditory, interactive, olfactory, kinetic and somatic experiences. It is occurring constantly, and never shuts off or stops, not even in sleep. In sleep, or at least section of it, dreams take over as complete immersive experiences. How can a creative practitioner incorporate, emulate, or compete with that? Attention and focus are the only way I have found to differentiate consistent mental static from deeply felt lived experience. Noor had to be a brief opera because the performer was only able to wear an EEG headset for 20 minutes. Having only 20 minutes to change the perception of the viewer from the moment they stepped into the space was quite challenging For this special edition of WomenCinemakers we have selected Noor: A Brain Opera, that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article. What has at once captured our attention of this interesting transdisciplinary research project about the theme of surveillance is the way you provided the visual results of your analysis with autonomous aesthetics: when walking
The issue of surveillance was paramount to my process of developing the opera. I was (and still am) particularly focused on biometric and especially brain surveillance. When I conceived of the opera in 2013/14, I was vaguely aware of actual brain surveillance. By the time the opera premiered, I had read extensively on the academic and military research being done on consciousness, cognition, and mapping the brain. This is why I subtitled the opera, “Is There A Place In Human Consciousness Where Surveillance Cannot Go?” – it was a rhetorical question. After the opera premiered, both Facebook’s Building 8, as well as Elon Musk’s Neuralink came into being. Facebook’s Building 8 signed a deal with 17 research universities to work on optical imagining for the brain, part of which is using something called the ‘semantic’ brain, or how the brain stores and recognizes specific types of images both live time and in dreams. A former DARPA U.S. Military director is spearheading the initiative. Neuralink wants to eventually implant chips into the brain, and is also working with former DARPA employees.
our readers through the genesis of Noor: A Brain Opera would you shed a light about your usual process and setup?
How does one show this without being didactic, or literal? The answer I came up with was a cross between the limits of technology using metaphor and allusion. After much testing of different consumer grade brainwave headsets I chose the Emotiv because it offered the most stability and widest range of emotions. Most headsets only offered two and it offered four: interest, excitement, meditation and frustration. Once I was worked with those four emotions using a performer (the amazing Saba Arat, originally from Istanbul), I built databanks of images, sounds and a words from the actual life of Noor in a prerecorded libretto that bore a resemblance to the main heroine of the opera, Noor Inayat Khan, a Sufi Muslim Princess and WWII covert operative for British Secret Intelligence. I used video images I had shot over the years, and worked with my sonic artist Taras Mashtalir, and librettist, Natali Federova (both from St. Petersburg, Russia) to hone the sonic environment and background dialogue. The development of the opera took about 8 months of technical testing â€“ it was extraordinarily difficult, as I was essentially asking a collection of technologies to do things they were not originally designed for. I wanted a certain measured threshold of the performerâ€™s emotional response to turn on and off corresponding videos, sounds,
We have appreciated the insightful combination between words and sound featured in Noor: A Brain Opera. According to media theorist Marshall McLuhan there is a 'sense bias' that affects Western societies favoring visual logic, a shift that occurred with the advent of the alphabet as the eye became more essential than ear. In Noor: A Brain Opera you seem to go beyond such paradigm: how do you see the relationship between sound and images? I learned something startling true early in my media career. Though we think that the eye, and visual perception is privileged over all other senses, what I learned from working in time based media is that sound is much more important. This is not true for a single visual image, but in terms of my brain opera,
and spoken words. This meant for example, if the performer was experiencing high levels of frustration (in relation to the story) the visual, sonic environment, and spoken words would correspond mood-wise to frustration, anger or fear. The same held true for meditation, etc. Once the technology was actually functioning I had less than a month to test it out on volunteer audiences. What became clear is the technology and its immersiveness was overwhelming. The test audiences asked for a story, or narrative to help them navigate through the environment. Saba and I worked out a spoken live time dialogue about Noor Inayat Khanâ€™s life to help the audience navigate through the experience.
the sound, then the words, and then the visuals set the tone and the mood. This is not something visual artists consider as primary, but its easy to test this. Take an image and add one sound track. Take the same image and add a completely different soundtrack. The associated meaning changes. Reverse the experiment by changing the image, not the sound. The difference is not as profound. That is why in the brain opera I was very careful with who I chose to compose the sonic score, and the worlds for the libretto. Atmospheric temperament is set by the auditory sense, and supported by the visual, in a subtle combination. Drawing from the true story of Noor Inayat Khan, your inquiry into the theme surveillance in our media driven age is pervaded with subtle still effective socio political criticism. Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco once stated, "the artist’s role differs depending on which part of the world you’re in. It depends on the political system you’re living under". Not to mention that almost everything, ranging from Caravaggio's Inspiration of Saint Matthew to Joep van Lieshout, could be considered political,what could be in your opinion the role of Art in the contemporary age? Art is a symbol and sign system representative from the region it emerges from. This creates art history, which is the history of a culture as viewed through it visual symbolism. With the advent of
globalism, art history has become a mash up of cultural appropriation, whether intentional or not. The lifting of symbols from one culture into another (usually, but not always one with culture displaying more economic means than the other) is in itself a political act, whether consciously or unconsciously. Hans Belting and James Elkins discuss this quite well in the former’s books on the end of art history, and the latter’s discussions of the layers of symbolism in cultures. Elkins include graphics (charts, medical imaging), commercial (advertising and logos) and then the fine arts, all of which add to a nuanced identity of a specific time and place. The first layer of politics in “Noor” is the layer of implied brain surveillance, an implied stance that has become more real every day. The next layer is the layer of Fascism and Nazism and WWII. The layer beneath that is the layer of Noor herself, both as a woman, and as a Muslim doing covert work for British Secret Intelligence, and helping save Jews. I was stunned when I found her true story and documentary “Enemy of the Reich”, narrated by Helen Mirren. It touched every point I was interested in raising, plus it had the extra bonus of being emotionally engaging. I thought long and hard about how to make “Noor” a work that suggested a nuanced layering of ideas, but was never overt. Being didactic or polemical would have defeated the purpose. I
Multidisciplinary artist Angela Bulloch once remarked "that works of arts often continue to evolve after they have been realised, simply by the fact that they are conceived with an element of change, or an inherent potential for some kind of shift to occur". Do you think that the role of the artist has changed these days with the new global communications and the new sensibility created by new media?
This is a question that I think is two questions. There are artists who are, or who have been working in new media, and those who have not. Claire Bishop addressed that problem very well in her seminal September 2012 ArtForum piece, “Digital Divide”. There are artists who want to work with new media, which means becoming acquainted with code, and those who don’t, or won’t. Painting will always be painting, and the same is true for the other plastic, tangible arts. Mixed media can incorporate some of these changes, but then it becomes a continuum of just how much the artist will deem it necessary to pay attention to these factors, or just bypass them. It’s a radicle jump to work in the digital or electronic, and that is how I define new media – it is essentially non-tangible, though it needs to be experienced through tangible means. Rather than attempting to establish univocal senses, Noor: A Brain Opera seems to urge the viewers to elaborate personal associations: when discussing about the role of randomness in your process, would you tell us how much important is for you that the spectatorship rethink the concepts you convey in your pieces, elaborating personal meanings? When I contemplate creative artworks that permanently changed my perceptions of what
wanted to be evocative and leave it to the individual viewer to take the extra step into considering, or personally and privately opening up to the questions Noor raised or that they thought Noor raised. For some it was just a story about a brave woman. For others it was an engulfing experience that overwhelmed them, leaving them almost speechless when they understood the implications of actual brain surveillance. The most difficult point was conveying Nazism to a mostly Chinese audience. I discovered their association with WWII was focused on the Japanese rape of Nanking. All the Euro-centric ideas we have, which are so fixed about WWII vanished because of the geographic location where I premiered the opera, which was in Hong Kong. That made me realize I had to tap something more universal and fundamental that went beyond just the historical.
reality, or my conceptions of reality were about, they were works that allowed me to enter the experience. Once I entered the piece, on my terms I was moved by it, and emerged thoughtful, shaken, and with fresh insights. The pieces I can associate with the experiences never dictated or directly told me what to feel, rather they created an environment or experience that provoked my own perceptions in a way that they were forever changed. A good example is the first time I ever head â€œThe Knee Playsâ€? from Einstein On the Beach by Phillip Glass and Robert Wilson. It was a free, excerpted performance, and I wandered into it playing at Memorial Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts completely by accident, having gotten off a bus at the wrong stop. I heard some sort of music and decided I might as well walk towards it source inside the church. Once I opened the door I almost fell to my knees with the force of a type of sound I had never experienced before. That never left me, and absolutely redefined how I think about sound. This is a type of re-framing that guides my own practice, where the randomness is not quite as random as it initially seems. That is mastery of the art that makes it appear so seamless. I have learned over the years that what appears easy and seamless is anything but that.
My starting point with a production like this is contemplating the implications of mixed reality presentations. At this point 360 cinema, VR and AR (virtual reality and augmented reality) are on the rise. I think they are really important technologies, but limited in their scope. My ideas about mixed reality take into account these types of technologies, as well as biometric markers that measure different human responses, including brainwaves. I ask how can the technology best be deployed? During Noor not only does the main performer interact with the audience through touch, gaze, and movement, but the audience witnesses the performers brainwaves and responses live time thus creating a palpable live time feedback loop between the performer and audience in the context of a story, the immersive visual and sonic environments. This approach reaches beyond language and takes into account haptic
(touch), sonic (auditory), thematic (story) interactive (live performance) and biometrics (brain signals and live time display of brainwaves). Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Ellen. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? I am already conceiving on my next brain opera, “The Last Wedding Party of Eva Von Braun.” There will be two characters fitted with brainwave headsets, and a sort of responsive nervous system. Currently, I am in dialogue with potential partners, but am open to new collaborators. I am also putting together curatorial proposals from the three organizations I run, The Volumetric Society, ArtA-Hack™ and the ThoughtWorks Arts Residency. Recently I taught the world’s first co-lab on cyborg art in conjunction with the Cyborg Foundation at Parsons School of Design in New York. In the next few months I plan to spend time in Europe getting to know the European new media scene much better, and if anyone reading this would like to get in touch, please do!
An interview by Francis Quettier and Dora Tennant
One of the hallmarks of your work is the capability to create a direct involvement with the viewers, who are urged to evolve from a condition of mere spectatorship. So before leaving this conversation we would like to pose a question about the nature of the relationship of your art with your audience. Do you consider the issue of audience reception as being a crucial component of your decision-making process, in terms of what type of language is used in a particular context?
Julia Casal An interview by Francis Quettier and Dora Tennant
Hello Julia and welcome to this special edition of Women Cinemakers: before starting to elaborate about your artistic production would you like to tell us something about your background? Are there any particular experiences that influenced your trajectory as a filmmaker? I have always been attracted to movies, since I was a kid spending a great deal of time watching VHS of Hitchcock and Woody Allen. When I grew up I decided to study film
making, but a few years later graphic design crossed my path and I ended up working in the field that reunites all of these disciplines, motion design. Even if I do really enjoy the challenges that animation brings, at the moment Iâ€™m trying to go back to my real passion and to spend more time working with film and people. For this special edition of Women Cinemakers we have selected the Atomica, an interesting film that our readers have already started to admire in the introductory pages of this article. What has at once captured our attention of your inquiry into the relationship between natural environment and
This project was commissioned by CAB, a Spanish contemporary art museum. They were preparing an exhibition with the nuclear theme as the leitmotiv, and they wanted a project that will show this nuclear power plant, which is located in the same region as the museum. A colleague who is a photographer made a series of stunning pictures, and I made this video installation. We both had creative freedom and decided to focus on the human side of the project instead on the nuclear aspect of it. I felt really fortunate to be able to address such an interesting topic, especially with artistic flexibility.
contemporary technology is the way you provided the visual results of your analysis with autonomous aesthetics: while walking our readers through the genesis of Atomica, would you tell us what did address you to this theme?
I had from the beginning this idea of making a piece where time is not linear, as my primary goal was that the spectator would feel the atmosphere of this peculiar place, free from a particular narrative. As Atomica was conceived for a museum exhibition, I wanted to make an infinite loop, where every person could walk into the dark room and feel the place and going out whenever they felt to, without the limitation of a beginning and an ending. The shots worked a bit like living postcards, featuring moments more than stories. In the end, the loop was not possible for technical reasons, so I adjusted the material to follow a specific flow of images, again, guided by a crescendo of emotions, picturing a living mosaic instead of a story. The images that you have captured, such as nuns, hunters and cows, are rich with
Escaping from traditional narrative form, Atomica features a brilliant storytelling: how did you develop the script and the structure of the film?
symbolic references: do they play the role of metaphor in Atomica? I was aware of their visual strength when I shot them, and therefore of the metaphor. These visual symbols fit absolutely this Valley, and I used them to support the feeling of oppression, the melancholy and the solitude of this rural area. The nuns were especially difficult to convince to get in camera, but I knew it would be a powerful shot that was worth fighting for. When they are present, they almost as visually strong as the nuclear power plant. We have appreciated the filmâ€™s expressive color palette, stunning widescreen compositions: what were your aesthetic decisions when shooting? From the beginning, what took my attention the most was the contrast between this very touristic latent place, full of beautiful landscapes, and the nuclear shadow over the area, which ruined this potential. It was clear
We have appreciated the way you have combined slow moving images and statics into coherent unity: Did you pursue such result instinctively or did you methodically structure the process? In particular, do you like spontaneity? I decided to work with slow moving images from the beginning, but the combination of more static shots came naturally during the shoot. I knew it was the best way of capturing the valleyâ€™s essence, and the rural decay. I love spontaneity, and I do believe that is an important component of creativity. Often the best ideas come in the most unexpected moments, and even if I know structure and work are essential, I usually trust my instinct.
that I wanted to show these amazing contrast in some wide compositions, that would work almost as some slow-still-life framings. I also used only a 50mm lens which conditioned the aesthetic decisions.The vibrant colours came naturally in the post production phase, to show the richness of this strange paradise.
What I have learned is that in the documentary genre this is of particular importance, as reality is always different from any prep work. Reminding us of Tsai Ming-liang's work's work, your artistic production in the field of animation is marked out with a personal style: who are, if any, some of your chief influences from contemporary scene? In particular, how would you describe your cinematographic style? It’s difficult to identify with a specific style when I’ve been working on so many multidisciplinary projects, most of them being commercial work. I’m still experimenting and learning when I get to work on personal projects, or I have some freedom in creative decisions. There’s always a bit of myself in every piece, but it's very tricky to try to define what it is. It’s difficult to pick names from the contemporary scene as influences, as I’m an avid consumer of any kind of film and art. There are some modern
We can recognize a subtle sociopolitical criticism in the way the contrast between the rural environment of the Valley of Tobalina and the presence of a nuclear power plant: in the ending lines of your artist's statement you remarked that corporations might be evil, nuclear energy might be destructive, but people only get to live. Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco once stated, "the artist’s role differs depending on which part of the world you’re in. It depends on the political system you’re living under". Not to mention that almost everything, ranging from Caravaggio's Inspiration of Saint Matthew to Joep van Lieshout's works, could be considered political, could in your opinion Atomica be
directors that I really appreciate, like Richard Linklater or Agnès Varda, but I am sure that anything that comes my way has the ability to influence me, from a street performer, to an unknown illustrator, to the most commercial tv series.
considered a political work? Moreover, what could be in your opinion the role of cinema in the contemporary age? My goal with Atomica was to use this visual and auditive contrast to show this sociopolitical reality subtly. I mainly used sound to show the nuclear power plant presence in an almost indirect way. I wanted to feel how different peopleâ€™s lives are around a nuclear power plant, so I wasnâ€™t looking for a clear political message. I do believe these lives are full of grey areas, and which is positive for some, might be terrible for others. It was still tough and a bit irresponsible to ignore all the political aspects of it, so I spent many hours talking to neighbours and finding out about corrupt practices and quite dreadful facts. This came into shape with a text that accompanies the video installation and the pictures, where we exposed all our findings, in what can be considered a political statement.
We want to catch this occasion to ask you to express your view on the future of women in cinema. For more than half a century women have been discouraged from getting behind the camera, however in the last decades there are signs that something is changing. What's your view on the future of women in cinema? I do believe times are changing for women in the creative fields. I still think thereâ€™s a long way to go, and I feel sad about the fact that a female director is still an odd reality. There is still plenty of sexism in the industry,
I find that documentaries and political works are rising in the contemporary age. I love the idea that we have this massive window, the internet, where everyone can become a witness and expose these critical times. More than cinema understood as commercial screenings and theatre exhibitions, I do believe video work is becoming a tremendous tool for fighting and showing reality.
but I am sure that we are on the right track. The challenge is not only to get more behind the camera but is also to get more exciting and leading female characters on screen, something that is starting to change. We need to get rid of the label â€œfilms made by women for womenâ€?, and accept once for all that art and stories are beyond gender. One of the hallmarks of Atomica is the ability to create direct involvement with the viewers, who are urged to evolve from a condition of mere spectatorship. So before leaving this conversation we would like to pose a question about the nature of the relationship of your art with your audience. Do you consider the issue of audience reception as being a crucial component of your decision-making process, in terms of what type of language is used in a particular context? I took very much into account the context of this piece, and I tried to put myself as a viewer, to make a film with a language that
Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Julia. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? Thanks so much for having me. As I mentioned earlier, Iâ€™m focusing right now on moving away from animation and keep on working on film. I recently found out about the great process that is shooting real people, thatâ€™s why Iâ€™m finishing a short documentary about tinnitus sufferers. My focus is to keep on producing personal projects and overall, keep on learning this art.
would fit an art exhibition. I do believe that is very important to be coherent with the medium that you are using and to take advantage of it. I wanted the viewers to be an active part of it. The piece was conceived from the beginning as an art project, and that really affected the way that I approached the theme.
Yasmine Mathurin An interview by Bonnie Curtis and Jennifer Rozt Druhn
Hello Yasmine and welcome to Women Cinemakers : we would start this interview with a couple of questions about your multifaceted background. You have a solid formal training: after having degreed with a BA of Political Science and Government from the York University, you nurtured your education with a MA of Journalism that you eventually received from the Ryerson University. How did these experiences influence the way you currently conceive and produce your works? And in particular, how does your multicultural substratum due to your Haitian roots and your life in Canada inform the way you conceive and create your artworks?
When I started studying Political Science, I went into it thinking that I wanted to change
the world. My logic was if I could understand how people in power work, then I could help change it. Naïve, I know. Then after I finished my BA, I landed a fellowship with the UNHCR in Geneva Switzerland and that experience changed me in a lot of ways. For one it was a very real reality check to the limitations of bureaucracies. But the other thing that came out of it was realizing how much advocating for human dignity could really look a lot like storytelling. I moved around a lot in my early childhood. My family did a lot of back and forth between Haiti and Canada, so very early on, I remember noticing what life was like for those who had, and these who didn’t have as much. Like one second I’m in a world that is hot, sweaty and where the hustle of the street-market and poorly ventilated car and the next I’m bundled up with layers of sweaters and trying to push through Canadian winters. I think my mixed upbringing opened up my mind and my
For this special edition of Women Cinemakers we have selected Kinsi’s Corner, an extremely interesting project that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article. While walking our readers through the genesis of Kinsi’s Corner, would you tell us if you how did you developed your initial idea? I developed the idea for Kinsi’s Corner around the time where Black Lives Matter was starting to lead a lot of the online conversations. Around that time I was pursuing my Master’s of Journalism. The conversation and rising activism around #blacklivesmatter was really beginning to be at the forefront of a lot of different conversations in my network, in the news, on my social media and in real life. I remember noticing how weird it was for me to jump from watching the news reports about another black death at the hands of police, then
imaginations to differences… whether that meant economic, race or geographical. It opened my eyes to how much of your life is affected by your environment, and how much of it can affect your perspective on the world around you and your sense of self. But also how much, in spite of these differences, we share this universal need to live dignified lives.
From the first time we watched Kinsi’s Corner, we have deeply fascinated by your original and clear storytelling. How did you develop the script and the structure of Kinsi’s Corner?
First of all thank you! I developed the script with Fatma Hassan and Hani Ali and Karimah Gheddai who were also part of the filmmaking program. When I shared the idea with the film with them, they were incredibly helpful in
jumping to other trivial things I would see on my social media feed, like silly Gifs, cat videos or memes. I remember how strange and important it was for me to be as informed as I was distracted. I found that tension and juxtaposition really interesting and weird. An opportunity arose for me to participate in Refuge Production’s filmmaking boot camp. It worked with my packed Graduate school program so I jumped at the chance. There was opportunity for mentorship and most of all part of the learning included the chance to produce a short film. The program was filled with women of Colour from different skilllevels and backgrounds. They were all storytellers with a curiosity or passion for filmmaking. That’s where I found my team for the film and made it happen.
The driving question that helped us figure out the structure was this question about feeling restless from the horrible stuff happening in the news, and trying to find a safe place to truly rest and call home. We toyed with different ideas about how to translate that feeling into the narrative. A lot of the discussions we had we reflected with the realities in our own lives. We were all young black women from different backgrounds struggling with this similar tension and after a lot of back and forth we settled on what you end up seeing in the film. shooting style created entire scenarios out of small, psychologically charged moments: Kinsi’s Corner accomplishes an insightful exploration of the relationship between peace amidst her chaos. What did you enjoy about working on this project? Your
I really enjoyed thinking about how I could create a clash of worlds, from Kinsi’s physical environment (the forest) to her parent’s voices, to her virtual online world. My real world and my friend’s real world is online as much as it is offline. So exploring that juxtaposition in Kinsi’s story felt really honest and fun for me.
helping me flesh out Kinsi’s journey to get down to the bottom of her truth.
Kinsi’s Corner has also drawn from the specifics of the environment. How was this film affected by its location? The film was shot in this area in Toronto called High Park in the spring. It’s funny because when the team and I went location scouting, we were really hoping to find more green space, with blooming trees and more green grass. In our minds we had envisioned peace for Kinsi to look like a beautiful garden with a lot of greenery. Instead, the park was very dull, grey and brown and the remains of the winter could still be felt. We didn’t realize it then, but the dullness ended up working out in our favour because it created a great contrast with the beanie bag where Kinsi sat and her bright yellow scarf. It also helped tell a more interesting visual story.
During the editing process the team and I debated a lot about the kind of sound that would really drive the narrative of the film, and I felt really strongly about using Claude Debussy’s Claire De Lune. The piece starts out really gently and has a quiet and subtle way to bring you into a bit of a louder chaos. I don’t really listen to a lot of classical music, but I really fell in love with the piece when I heard it.
I think that being a woman predisposes you to experience life in a way that is different than a man. Then you compound the other layers through which we live like race, class being abled bodied – all these factors and the ways they all intersect for me as a young black woman affects how I tell stories. I think there is value in my predisposition in telling stories that feel honest and human…now whether or not the world values this predisposition or the artistic work that comes from that is another story. But given that the media industry is having a moment with the word diversity and gender, maybe that’s going to change. I really enjoyed the fact that the crew responsible for making Kinsi’s Corner happened was all women. This included the mentors we had guiding us throughout the process and I enjoyed that energy. Your observation seems to be very analytical, yet strives to be full of emotion: how much importance does intuition and improvisation have in your process? Intuition for me is everything. A lot of my ideas come from my gut instinct. When I think about the hard decisions I made in making this film, from the choice of the set, to the music, these were all instinctual. But
Do you think that your being a woman provides your artistic research with some special value?
One of the hallmarks of your work is the capability to create direct involvement with the viewers, who are urged to evolve from a condition of mere spectatorship. So before leaving this conversation we would like to pose a question about the nature of the relationship of your art with your audience. Do you consider the issue of audience reception as being a crucial component of your decision-making process, in terms of what type of language is used in a particular context? I do think about how audiences are going to receive my work, but I don’t let my consideration for them distract me from my vision for the story. With Kinsi’s Corner, I really tried to create a story
I’m also a first-time filmmaker, and this is my first fiction narrative project, and my first time directing. I like to approach the process with a balance of following my gut and allowing the actors, the environment and everyone involved to bring other aspects to the story. It can be a bit challenging for me to let go of that control and allow space for improvisation, but I’ve found it easy to let go, when I know that the team I am creating with believe in the importance of the getting the story right, and getting it done. I’m still learning how to balance the two every day.
In terms of language I opted out of using verbal language in this film part of it because I’m working on getting better at writing dialogue, I don’t think I’m very good at that yet. But the other reason is because I think it felt more truthful to the story to experience it without much being spoken. Our online lives are experienced quietly. The tension we feel, however loudly it may be when expressed online, is predominantly quiet in real life. This has created a sort of disconnection to other people that is almost jarring in contrast to the online lives we lead. I feel this contrast in my own live very often… and this reality is a quiet and lonely most times. I thought it would be interesting to let the imagination of the audience fill-in the gaps of the story where they existed.
I wanted to see. I wanted to carry the audience into Kinsi’s world, then at the end leave them asking questions about Kinsi’s sense of peace. I think audiences of my generation are very similar to Kinsi. We ask questions about self-care yet we are hyperconsumed by the digital world, and the demands of our real lives don’t escape us either. I don’t believe previous generations have had to grapple with this as much. Everything around us seems to be constantly competing for our attention. So for me, as a young filmmaker those are the questions that I think are interesting and important to ask and explore.
I can see my work evolving by straddling the world of fiction and non-fiction filmmaking. I’ve wanted to get my foot in the door in documentary filmmaking, as I can see my background in Journalism and film can merge. I recently took part in the Emerging Filmmaker’s lab at this year’s Hot Docs International Documentary festival thanks to the support of Corus Entertainment for emerging diverse filmmakers. There I’ve been working on developing a short documentary project. I can’t say too much about it, because it’s still in the early stages but I’m very excited to really get started on shooting it. I’m also working on a non-fiction web series about identity and belonging that will be released sometime late summer with This Is WorldTown. The digital age is where we’re all moving towards and there’s something exciting about being able to be a young filmmaker right now. There’s something powerful about knowing I have direct access to an audience, through social media, regardless of gatekeepers. This possibility makes me excited for what could be in store for me in the future.
Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Yasmine. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving?
Sophie Vitelli Lives and works in Italy
In suburban London, 4 girls meet at their school to record the video of a dance routine they hope to enter to a pop group competition. While Kat wishes to transcend her reality, into a world where the word 'extraordinary' indicates a predisposition for fame, the other girls fill the space with a look on everyday life as an already extraordinary phenomena. Sophie Vitelli
written and directed by Sophie Vitelli with Amelia Bennett, Lily Knight, Kate Newman, Rhiannon Ross director of photography Will Hazell assistant dop Hannah Burton sound technician Francis Cullen editors Will Hazell and Sophie Vitelli costume logo design Jacopo Maria Bartolozzi choreography Jolley Gosnold
Sophie Vitelli An interview by Francis Quettier and Dora Tennant Hello Sophie and welcome to this special edition of
: before starting
to elaborate about your artistic production would you like to tell us something about your background? Are there any experiences that did particularly influence your evolution as a filmmaker and a creative? Thank you! I grew up in Umbria, a region at the heart of Italy, traversed by the Appennini mountains. When we were kids me and brother werenâ€™t allowed to watch much television so we had to invent our own games in the woodland or in the fields around the house, it was probably the biggest training I could get. As I grew older, all the implications of growing up in a multicultural and multilingual family, especially a sense of not
entirely fitting in to a specific cultural identity, while feeling this huge desire to understand “how it works” and how to take ahold of it, made me increasingly interested in theatre and film. It’s a field where I feel I can really nourish a personal and professional desire to experiment with different forms of storytelling, how they affect language, how they affect narrative structure and its relationship to reality. Before focusing on directing I attended the University of Bologna which was also an important part of my formation. I first graduated from a course which a historical and philosophical approach to the arts, where I also studied visual arts and literature, which is why my practice has stretched across different mediums. Before starting to elaborate about your artistic production, would you like to tell to our readers something about your set up? And and who are some of your chief influences? I have to admit that to me film is an extension of thought, of poetry, which allows me to keep working and experimenting with text. My creative process starts with thinking a “poetic context” - poetic, because it does’t unfold as a narrative event in my head, and context because it’s a grouping of ideas, sensorial elements and facts observed in the reality around me. I try to do as much research as possible and as that is happening, words, images and sounds will come to mind. Usually my
performance piece or film, as a kind of “literary object”, to be observed from different angles, as if it were a sculpture. This is one of the reasons why
is in 4:3, and
a little box. John Cassavetes and Werner Herzog were my favourite directors when I was studying film. They both worked in what you could call chaotic environments, one worked in the huge metropolis of New York and the other was so often found filming in the jungle. I’m attracted to the idea that if chaos hides a secret order, you can access it if you can articulate it. In my view Minimalist aesthetics kind of aspired towards this form of articulation, and definitely the way I think of my work. I’ve also watched a lot of Italian cinema, which from the Italian Neorealism onwards carried a huge responsibility in narrating the fragmented social and political story of the country. This brought me to believe in film as a tool for philosophical enquiry, whether it comes from a poetic and infatuated glance at the world or a political desire to bring attention to forms of injustice. we have
For this special edition of selected the
, an interesting film that explores
, that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article: while walking our readers through
would you tell us what’s your writing process like? Superwind was my graduating project from drama school in
tendency is to think of the work- whether it be a
London. It had started as an adaptation of “Mine-Haha, On the Bodily Education of Young Girls” a short novel written by Frank Wedekind in 1903. Mine-Haha is a strange story that takes place in a fictional world where young girls are sent to an isolated boarding school, and educated into becoming carriers of a normative idea of femininity, extraordinary examples of female grace. They spend their days in uniforms going from ballet to music classes, and have to obey to rules which restrict them from becoming too close to one another. Wedekind’s point of view on the relationship between power and sexuality definitely reflects a time when such forms of power were institutional, but although times have changed, this story resonated with me and the age we’re in now, power is still practiced on the female bodies and identities, except it’s as if now we do it to our selves. Mine Haha thus carries a tone of darkness, but it was the narrative style which both confused and captivated me. Wedekind spends most pages describing the visual details of the everyday life of the girls, as if suspended between a state of enchantment, and a position of denouncement. Rather than creating a direct adaptation of the book I chose to experiment with transposing this style to the screen, with a focus on the notion of extraordinary. In Superwind the notion of extraordinary is played out in two versions. One belongs to a distant dreamworld which we don’t even get to see (although we can imagine what it looks like), reinforced by all kinds of
extraordinary succumbs to an idea of individual redemption, of fame and success, of beauty and talent as phenomenas to be televised. On the other side of the spectrum I wanted for the extraordinary to be a form of resistance, an ability to see something precious in the apparent ordinarity of real life. What was your preparation with actors in terms of reharsal? The four actresses and I knew each other already before the filming, we had shared a lot of classes at drama school. I was confident in their talent and abilities to be creative collaborators to the project, so the process was wonderful. Before filming we did a lot of improvisations, particularly based on the changing room scene. I’d ask them to play out that situation for about half an hour while the camera was on and I’d be noting things down that I thought could be used in the creation of their characters. We also took dance classes together, we opened up about our teenage musical idols and influences, watched music videos on youtube and listened to 90’s pop songs in order to discover how our female identity had potentially been influenced by that material. In
subjects are often shot from behind,
rituals of “femininity”. Here the definition of
suggesting an idea of spiritual isolation, reminescent of Edward Hopper's paintings. Could comment this peculiar aspect of your film? When the girls are shot from behind they are alone, these are moments where they’re guiding us through the film, into their personal vision of the world. They’re making themselves known beyond their identification with the girl band. It’s an intimate moment between audience and character, and yes a spiritual one too. From a technical point of view shooting from that angle made it possible for the scenes to be relatively unplanned, I wanted them be taken into unpredictable directions by the actresses. At the same time, reminding me of Wedekind’s
these shots “de-face” a character, they sort of become avatars of a virtual world as you chase them around from a position of superior attention, or at least of safety. Gus Van Sant plays with this effect in
by the students at Colombine High School through what to them is an ordinary school day, but we as the audience we know something more than them, we know they’re walking into a scene of horror. It makes them vulnerable, because they’re walking into the unknown, but also it makes them perfect targets, so the whole time I found my self wanting to tend to them, protect them somehow. In
you have worked with four actresses:
what challenges did you face in this collaboration?
actors is that although you like to believe in a degree of creative freedom for everyone to share, you have to be able to guide the project towards a precise direction. It’s hard not to lose the spontaneity in a performance when you’re limiting the scenes too much, or leaving them too open. It was difficult to find a balance between certainty and uncertainty for the actresses to work on. Reminding us the style of Jim Jarmush's Permanent vacation, in the
Diana builds a dream city
in her mind: how would you consider the relationship between experience and imagination? I consider that very important! To me that’s what film can be at its best, a relationship between imagination and experience, a kind of literature in action. In a film you’re always asked to look at the world across a particular angle, the same way a character looks at the streets he/she walks along through their version of reality. Nothing is entirely objective in film. In Permanent Vacation Allie walks into an abandoned house on the premise that he’s going to visit the house he grew up in, which was then bombed during a war. Although it’s unlikely, it’s never clear whether these bits of information are true, but because he’s imagining it, we end up giving the same value to the building he walks in, we, as he, transform it to serve the story. I honestly
The biggest challenge of working collaboratively with
believe this “technique” isn’t just a game, it’s a political instrument which can emancipate a place from forms of human control, monetisation and reduction to its mere functions; it acts on our relationship to the world. An opportunity to practice imagination is the biggest gift the arts can give to us, because it directly affects the quality of our lives. You are a versatile filmmaker and your works oftern incorporate an intimate vision to accurate aesthetics: do you think that your being a woman provides your artistic research with some special value? I never consciously integrated the fact that I’m a female into my artistic process, but at one point of my life I definitely felt like my imagination was being conditioned by a male perspective, simply because I was trying to imitate styles and stories of male artists I loved, I was thinking from a point of view which was not my own. And although I’m one to believe that there should be a fluidity across genders, girls go through very specific struggles. However I don’t think being a woman director should provide my research with some special value, but I think that the fight that is happening within women to free themselves from forms of oppression and voices which are not their own makes them motivated and prepared for a certain kind of human enquiry. We have the way you alterne static shots and hand-held camera: what some of your aesthetic decisions?
prefer those shots because they give the actors the time to
play with a scene. Once on set they are the artists and I wanted to make sure they had the time and space to explore their character and the spaces they were in to improvise, this is not always possible but in the future Iâ€™d love to able to make it the priority. Of course not all actors have this way of working but to me those are the moments where mistakes, accidents and revelations occur, the most precious moments of a film or performance in my opinion. Take Cassavetes for example, his films are mostly handheld
and his scenes, although scripted, seem to have a real sense of play and improvisation, of truth. The camera is an inquisitive eye trying to capture magic things which go on by them selves, a director needs to create the right circumstances for that magic to exist. Before leaving this conversation we would like to pose a question about the nature of the relationship of your art with your audience. Do you consider the issue of audience reception as being a crucial component of your decision-making process, in terms of what type of language is used in a particular context? I have thought about it, especially because so far Iâ€™ve been experimenting with different formats. However I donâ€™t think it should
necessarily be part of a creative process. Sometimes an idea takes an unexpected turn, and something interesting can come out of that even if it’s out of context. The relationship of my work with the audience, I hope, is one of sharing of thoughts, ideas and feelings on a topic or setting, a common concern or unexplainable feeling for something. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Sophie. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? Thank you! I’m currently working on a performance piece with friend/dancer Frida Giulia Franceschini and a professional magician, in the role of co-director/writer. I’m also working on a project which I started last year, it’s a workshop for children in filmmaking. The kids are expected to write, direct and act in their own short film, by using their surroundings as a “parallel narrative universe”. Film in this case is more like a tool by which adults and children can collaborate through in interpreting the world around them.This year we’ll probably repeat it in three major cities in Italy, particularly in more marginalised districts, it will be the highlight of my year - it’s great fun to work with kids, and always turns out to be a huge learning experience for me as well.
Carmen Baltzar Lives and works between London and Helsinki
In GYPSY, a Finnish Romani woman interviews white Finns about their impressions of the Romani minority that has lived in the country for over 500 years. GYPSY is an anti-ethnography in which white people talk about brown people without being granted the roles of expert or saviour. It investigates issues of depicting Otherness. Listening to ordinary Finns speak about Romani people may seem strange. Yet most representations of people of colour that we see, read and hear are by white people, and they are widely deemed objective. GYPSY invites the viewer to reflect on their own perceptions of Otherness. There are no Romani people to be seen on screen and the filmmaker rarely challenges the speakers, so it is up to the viewer to make up their own mind about what they are hearing.
Carmen Baltzar An interview by Francis Quettier and Dora Tennant GYPSY - MUSTALAINEN is a captivating anti-ethnography by Finnish Romani director Carmen Baltzar in which white people talk about brown people without being granted the role of expert or saviour. Baltzar's shooting style is simple and essential still effective and capable of addressing the spectatorship to trigger their own perceptual and cultural parameters: we are particularly pleased to introduce Carmen Baltzar and her work to our readers. Hello Carmen and welcome to this special edition of Women Cinemakers: before starting to elaborate about your artistic production would you like to tell us something about your background? Are there any experiences that did influence your evolution as a filmmaker and a creative? I’m not one of those people who is able to pinpoint decisive moments that made me want to become a filmmaker or an artist, it’s more of a case of drifting. Growing up, I wanted to be a choreographer. There were two things in my life I felt like I needed to stay sane: dancing and writing. It took me some time to find the courage to start actually pursuing a creative profession. I hadn’t fully realised it wasn’t going to happen by itself if I went on studying something else. I did a psychology
degree before going into film. Filmmaking is still not an imperative, it’s something that I decide to do because I really want to, not because I have to. I find the process itself excruciatingly difficult at most times. I keep reminding myself I’m not exactly saving lives and no one dies if I fail in whatever I’m trying to achieve. Like most people I know, I love films. I feel like it’s such a common sentiment it doesn’t really mean much to say it. I’ve also grown up watching a lot of theatre plays, and right now I’m interested in looking at the frame as a kind of stage: mostly static. I love Roy Andresson’s aesthetics, and I would also like to create transportive, independent alternative realities within my films. A cinematic experience that influenced me the most was going to see Ana Lily Armipour’s A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night at my local cinema in west London. I absolutely loved the film but the experience was more than that. It was made with complete artistic integrity and unique vision, something I had subconsciously thought was only reserved for white men. I went home thinking there is space in this world for me to do my thing without compromising myself. Before starting to elaborate about your artistic production would you like to tell to our readers something about your process and set up? I made GYPSY on a practical Masters degree on Ethnographic and Documentary Film. It goes without saying that we watched a lot of documentaries with ethnographic elements in them. I grew tired of the unquestioned colonial attitudes that I was exposed to very quickly. The portrayals that white filmmakers make of brown and black people are rarely unproblematic. The whiteness of the
I was very involved with these questions of colonial representation at the time, and I wanted to explore whether I could find a way, as a Finnish Romani woman, of representing Romani people that I felt comfortable with. The outset was paradoxical, because it entailed representing Romani people as representatives of their ethnicity. This in itself is a colonial outset, where people of colour are portrayed as representativeness of their distinctive ethnicity, whereas white people get to represent humanness, not whiteness. I couldn’t think of a way of bringing a Romani person in front of the camera in that context. So I thought of swapping roles: having whiteness in front of the camera and myself behind it. Whiteness is the obscure pseudo-objective viewpoint that’s usually behind the scenes talking about the Other. I wanted to bring it in front of the camera, and explore what it means to speak of the Other. If I watch a white-made documentary about Romani people, I learn more about whiteness than I do about Romani. Documentaries that try to speak of the Other are actually about whiteness. GYPSY is an investigation of this thesis. For this special edition of Women Cinemakers we have selected GYPSY - MUSTALAINEN. What has at once captured our attention of your film is the way you provided the visual results of your analysis with autonomous aesthetics: while walking our readers through the genesis of GYPSY - MUSTALAINEN, would you tell us how much did your Romani roots address your choice to explore the mtheme of Romanophobia? I don’t have Romani roots, I am Romani. The reason I don’t use the expression Romani roots of myself is because it’s often understood as a reference to genetic bloodline instead of identity. Being Romani is about
filmmaker is rarely addresses, and the representations are mostly objectifying and passive. It’s obviously not a film-only issue, the same thing happens in TV, media, the arts, and academia. That being said, white saviourism is so inherent to documentary film I’m not even sure what would be left of it was it to be taken out of the equation. Character roles in documentary film are always assigned by the filmmaker. It’s 2017 and any claims of objectivity should be out the window by now, but that’s only true in theory. The practice, actual films, tell a different story.
My critique is structural, not personal. Nevertheless, I’m a Finnish Romani woman, I made this film in my home country and it would be simplistic to claim I’m approaching the subject free of emotion and personal history. Romanophobia is as deeply ingrained into Finnish culture as it is to any European culture. I’ve noticed that in Finland, within the liberal demographic who is not overtly racist towards Roma in my presence, there is a sense of taboo around it. I invariably get asked where I’m from when meeting new people because I don’t pass for white Finnish. When I say I’m Roma, I usually get a silence as an answer. The history and present of deeply rooted racism weighs so heavy that there is a difficulty of even speaking. So there was a sense of breaking silence in the making of this film. White-generated Romani representation in the media and arts creates the public opinion of Romani people. Romanophobia feeds of public misrepresentation. As long as these representations dehumanize Romani people into passive objects of interest, at the disposal of whiteness, at the conditions off whiteness, Romanophobia will stay as it is: alive and well. The absence of Romani people in your film urges the viewers to elaborate a personal imagery for Gypsy, drawing from their own personal imagery. This way, your film invites the spectatorship to challenge their personal parameters, both on the immediate perceptual aspect and on the cultural one. How much importance has for you this aspect of your film? In partic6ular, is important for you to address the viewers to elaborate personal associations and interpretations? I’m glad to hear you found the film invited personal reflection. While it’s not my job to tell people what to think, I can describe what sort of questions I had in mind myself. As I mentioned before, whiteness is the viewpoint from which most of what is thought of as information and art in Western society comes from. I’m interested in what sort of an impression the white viewpoint leaves when it’s at exposed. I made this film in a very white university context, and that shows. Whiteness is only invisible to whiteness, and to the rest of us it’s
more than just blood, we are our own people with our own distinct culture. That is what I am of.
GYPSY is an investigation into the act of speaking of the Other. I’m not personally that interested in the content of the contributor’s speech for obvious reasons. As a Romani woman, I can’t expect to learn anything new. I said I’m not going to tell people what to think but I will say this: If you find yourself questioning the validity of what the speakers are saying, you are questioning a lot more than their individual viewpoint. When whiteness is the all-perceiving neutral and objective viewpoint into everythingness, as a society, we choose to believe it. The characters in this film are not making false claims about their position. When whiteness is stripped of invisibility, obscurity and self-assigned roles of expert and saviour, what is left? How did you develop the structure of GYPSY - MUSTALAINEN? Is spontaneity important for you or do you rather prefer to meticulously structure each step of the shooting process? I would describe my process on this film as instinctive but purposeful. I started working with a mental image I had, and I ended up making a film that’s virtually identical to that mental image. My impression is that this happens rarely with documentaries, but since this film is about the act of imposing pre-determined structure on reality, it’s fitting. That being said, I worked intuitively in the sense that even though I knew exactly what I wanted to make and how, I didn’t conceptualize and intellectualize all of those decisions during the process. Throughout the filmmaking process I tried things that were different to my original mental image, but mostly ended up going back to the original vision. Instead of cutting the interviews one after another, I tried cross-cutting. I tried adding quotes, sound, music and information, and making myself visible. But I found that adding anything killed the simplicity that makes the film anything. Inquiring into how educated people have the choice fighting racism, GYPSY - MUSTALAINEN. Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco once stated, "the artist’s role differs depending on which part of
pretty obvious. So my endeavour into “exposing” whiteness may be redundant to people of colour. That doesn’t mean the film is made for a white audience. For myself, there is a sense of liberation in inverting positions. I’m hoping some may share that sentiment.
I’m with Orozco on this one. I also agree that everything can be considered political. Not being political would mean living in extreme privilege that guarantees your safety in all possible situations and having no empathy for those who are not in the same situation. That safety is an illusion especially with climate change but perhaps it’s a sense of omnipotence that comes with privilege that nevertheless maintains the illusion. No one’s existence is apolitical, because we are all subject to the current chosen state of affairs. Politics are about the way we have chosen to arrange our existence on this planet. That’s broad. Anything I make is likely to speak to my own view on that. My inspirations and starting points may be easily defined in political terms, but I don’t like to intellectualize too much while I’m working on something, because it kills nuance. I’d rather work with intuition and feeling than political statements. I don’t think art needs to work on clearly definable terms. That differentiates it from journalism and activism. Categorizations are never true, but in some ways art is for the unconscious and journalism and activism are for the conscious mind. Art and film is about experience, and that experience in itself has value. The West values conceptualizing over experiencing, so things have to be intellectualized to have value. Art will always get lost in translation in that process. In that sense, anything I say about my film is redundant, I don’t think it adds anything to it. But this is the culture that I work in so here I am, intellectualizing. As for the role of art in current society, I do think it’s to maintain freedom of imagination beyond neoliberalism. Difficult to achieve in practice since artists need to eat too. But it’s an ideal to strive towards. It’s true that educated white people have the most societal power currently so if they’re not fighting racism they are part of
the world you’re in. It depends on the political system you’re living under". Not to mention that almost everything could be considered political, do you think that your work could be considered political in a certain sense? Moreover, what could be in your opinion the role of Art in the contemporary age?
the problem. I have a lot of appreciation to the contributors of GYPSY for being willing to participate. I think of them as the ultimate allies, because they were willing to put their personal benefit aside to help me construct my structural criticism. None of them thought they could possibly have anything of interest to say about Romani people, and all of them felt some discomfort about doing it. They were aware that the structure within which I placed them didn’t leave them much space, and that it wasn’t a fair portrayal of them as a person. They’re risking saying things that are not right and may offend someone. They’re saying ok, I’m willing to put aside my personal benefit because this weird girl has some weird vision about dismantling racism in cinema, and she’s subject to it whereas I’m not so maybe it’s up to her to decide how she wants to do it so I’m going to help her. I don’t have time for a single white person who claims they would have done better. Most likely they’re not ready to put themselves in the spot. The film’s simple still effective use of colours and lights depicts emotions and feelings in places where spoken words could not even scratch the surface: what were your main aesthetic decisions in terms of composition and shooting? I had pre-determined I was going to shoot the interviews with my characters sitting in the middle of their living room sofa, on a locked frame. I can conceptualize now that it’s about imposing structure: a structure that is determined by me, the filmmaker, on the characters. The frame leaves them no space to move, their existence on the screen is purely defined by me. I didn’t want to cut away to anything else because I felt like they needed be almost held captive by the frame. I didn’t shoot any cut away material. At a rough cut screening at university, one of my tutors, Lasse Johansson, a filmmaker originally from Sweden, said the framing spoke to him about the homogeneity of Scandinavian culture. And it is striking how similar people’s rooms were. All the walls are white. Just saying. 8) Spoken words play a crucial role in GYPSY - MUSTALAINEN: according to media theorist Marshall McLuhan there is a 'sense bias' that affects contemporary societies favoring visual logic, a shift that occurred with the advent of the alphabet as the eye became more essential than ear: how do you see the relationship between sound and images?
We would like to catch this occasion to ask you to express your view on the future of women in cinema. For more than half a century women have been discouraged from getting behind the camera, however in the last decades there are signs that something is changing. What's your view on the future of women in cinema? In particular, do you think that your being a woman provides your artistic research with some special value? Important topic but I do think we need to be clear on what we mean by women in cinema. Talk about women in film often means talk about white cis-women in film. This is a Hollywood example so it’s very far from my own context but I’m going to use it anyway: the Geena Davis institute on Gender in Media is doing great work by creating practical research-based tools for promoting gender equality in film. However, most of their stats just speak of “women” without differentiating between white women and women of colour. Therefore, as a woman of colour, you can’t expect that stat to apply to you. As a trans woman, you can’t expect it to apply to you. As a disabled woman, you can’t expect it to apply to you. If you’re all of those at once, don’t even start. Since the institute is not fully taking into
The beauty of film is that it can transcend language and work on a non-linguistic level as an audiovisual experience. That being said, GYPSY is a film that’s revolved around speech, and I was fascinated with the relationship of spoken and visual language while making it. I’m glad to hear you picked it up. As I was transcribing the interviews, I found the spoken words somehow transformed when they became written language. My personal interpretation was that the words had more weight as visual language, so I’m partial to McLuhan’s sense bias. It’s a Western cultural agreement that language of worth should be in written form, and that act of preservation gives it more value. The thesis of my film is that the speech of my characters has as much value as any non-Romani person’s Romani representation. For this reason, I’m distinctly giving their speech the added value of turning it into text. That’s why the subtitles are visually so central.
account ethnicity, gender identity, disability and sexual orientation, it’s fighting for the media representation of white, abled, heterosexual ciswomen’s, not that of ‘women’. They have all these great resources and research tools and I wish they were more intersectional about the information they choose to take into account. It would be fine to talk about women in cinema if it truly referred to all women: the reason I’m wary of it is because it usually means white, abled cis-women. My approach to equality within film is intersectional. That being said, I’m optimistic of course. I think that’s the only way to be. As to whether my gender identity provides my artistic work special value, it does in the same way as all the other things that make up for my experience of being in the world: they translate to my work in ways in that are hard to dissect because I’ve never been anyone else. I do think it’s obvious that the variety of humanness should be represented in film: behind and in front of the camera. It’s so obvious. We’re not all white heterosexual males, so our cinema shouldn’t be centered around that experience. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Carmen. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? I’m currently working on a short documentary on Western ideas of parenthood in the age of climate change. Reproducing is about continuity of species, but that continuity is under serious threat at the moment. I’m interested in how this affects the choices and feelings of those would go through the bodily experience of having children. Ever since the pill, we are supposed to have reproductive freedom, and we think of reproducing as a largely individual decision. Climate change is seriously brining the societal level into the equation. Because I’m in the beginning of my career, I’m still finding out what type of a filmmaker I am through the process of making films. Truth be told, I don’t know. I feel like I need to make at least 50 more films to have even a preliminary idea. The only thing I’m sure of is that I’m not interested in defining my work in terms of categories: fact, fiction, art, film. I don’t find them very useful.
Celia Hay An interview by Francis Quettier and Dora Tennant The Last Gesture is a captivating work by multidisciplinary artist CĂŠlia Hay: inquiring into the notion of image as starting point of performance, she initiates her audience into an unconventional and hightened visual experience capable of triggering the viewers' perceptual parameters and encouraging a cross-pollination of the spectatorship. Hello CĂŠlia and welcome to WomenCinemakers: to start this interview we would like to ask you a couple of questions regarding your multifaceted background. You have a solid formal training and after having earned your BA plus a MA of Photography, that you received from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design: how did these experiences influence the way you currently conceive and produce your works? I think it has been determining for my practice to study photography within the context of art schools and not in a school of photography. Actually, I came to study art to learn sculpture, I was doing mostly installations back then (I was a big fan of Annette Messager and Louise Bourgeois). Whether while studying art in France, at MarseilleMediterranean College of Art and Design, or in England, at
Central Saint Martins, I have always had a total freedom of experimenting with any medium or technology, may it be through installation, sound, or video, which I often mix. I have learned then to think the image medium not solely in terms of representation or document. That is how I started working on some photographic mises-en-scĂ¨ne, the ambiguous and somehow dark portraits of people frozen in moments of waiting or wandering. I was trying then to focus on performative processes of shooting to create latent situations floating between fiction (these were partly staged photographs) and reality, as a way to produce images as strong as possible (which required a profound commitment for me as well as for my models). What really fascinated me was how we established a deep and yet ephemeral connection at this very moment, in silence, the mix of trust and tension, et cetera. Therefore, the process of images production has always been central to me. Thus, I try to conceive image as both the reason why a situation takes place and its result (or at least a fragment of it). Later on, I applied these performative processes of photographying to filmmaking. Working with moving image gave me an opportunity to extend the moment of photography in time but also to make the process somehow more visible. I could not have done films if I did not have this practice of photography beforehand, not in the way I currently do it at least. Before starting to elaborate about your artistic production, we would invite our readers to visit http://celiahay.fr in order to get a synoptic view of your
Photo by Helena GoĂąi
People say there is a certain darkness in my work, both in its style and content. To me this is not the actual matter : I just try to go as deep as possible, and this has something to do with the flesh. That is why the body is central and omnipresent in my work, as the theatre of inner experiences, and obscure desires. That being said, I always try to avoid spectacular images. I am much more fascinated by latent situations, intimate and complex relationships, rituals, and the idea of contained violence. What I am interested in is the slap that misses the face by one centimetre and what happens within this centimetre. Since I demand a lot to my models, I try to engage myself (and my own body) in the process as much as them. This is not only a question of ethics, it is also deeply rooted in my practice as a way of working ; and it became more and more important to me in the past few years. For this special edition of WomenCinemakers we have selected The Last Gesture, an extremely interesting film that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article. What has at once captured our attention of your insightful inquiry into the link between image and performance is the way you have provided the visual results of your analysis with coherent combination between autonomous aesthetics and visual consistency. While walking our readers through the genesis of The Last Gesture, would you tell what did draw you to focus on the notion of fear? It may sound naive but this project originated from a dream I had two years ago about three adolescent brothers carrying out a series of rituals in a forest after one of them got hurt and stopped speaking. From this, I wrote a somehow biblical tale which is narrated at the beginning of the film : ÂŤ The hand that wounds will be the hand that cures, and each
work: while walking us through your process, would you like to tell our readers something about the evolution of your style? In particular, do you think that there is a central idea that connect all your works?
My work often represents ambiguous relationships, where brutality and tenderness oscilate or merge. I try to highlight gestures and emotions which are not clear, just like the couple of my film Declivity, whose caresses slide towards brutality before coming back to embraces in a single slow, almost hypnotic, movement. I try to think of the way people express themselves intimately, outside of socially peestablished codes, and this, to me, is done through the body. Such gestures may sometimes seem disturbing or frightening, just like the scene when the two older brothers (Alexis Liger and RĂŠmy Bourakba) undress Jean (Joseph Martin) and throw his clothes in the fire, and yet there is a great softness in the way they grab him. There is a constant fragile balance in the interactions of these three young men. I think, in this context, fear comes from their quiet determination and the fact we do not have all the codes to fully grasp their rituals. As they progress in their quest, their drives exacerbate and tension increases. The ambience of The Last Gesture provides the viewers with an immersive experience and brings the interaction between Man and Nature to a new level of significance, evoking an atmosphere that reminds us of the idea of non-lieu elaborated by French anthropologis Marc AugĂŠ. How would you describe the role of the landscape in your work? And in particular, how did you select the location for The Last Gesture?
gesture will be repeated until the seventh day, the day of the trial. The brothers will go to the big scree. The youngest will have to turn each stone of the mountain over, before the eventide. Then, the last gesture will be executed by the light Âť. The brothers seem determined to accomplish one gesture per day : discovering a cave, cutting their hair, playing a mysteious sadomasochistic game (the alphabet game), climbing on a scree, lighting a stake, and so on. This film was my final year project at University of the Arts London, I presented it as part of Central Saint Martins degree show as a monumental two channels video installation projected onto a wooden structure.
I guess you are right about the idea of non-lieu in the sense this place could be anywhere, and these boys could be anyone. This is not where these brothers belong to, but the place they have chosen to wander in, drawn by this forest as a place to cure their dysfunctional relationship while language has failed them. The forest is the place they are supposed to meet, but it is also the place where they repeatedly fail at gathering. In The Last Gesture, I film a return to Nature, but which has nothing to do with New Age movements which tend to consider nature as a place of harmony. It is quite the opposite, as an anti myth of the Noble Savage, where Nature leads to violence, fear, and power games, as well as some clumsy tenderness. Thus, as the brothers abandon language Nature becomes the theatre of consented violence, vicious games, and prelinguistic rituals. To me, the landscape represents the possibility of the end of an age for these three brothers. I knew this location very well before the shooting, as I used to come here often as a child. It was the ruins of an old farm in south of France until my father renovated it with some friends in the 1970â€™s. It is a very isolated place without running water nor heating (besides wood fires). When you arrive there, the road gets more and more narrow until it eventually stops. From the early stage of writing the scenario, I had in mind these screes, the cliffs, the forest, the cave. We were a team of five people (the three actors, my assistant Anne Vimeux, and me) as it was important to me to maintain a certain intimacy within the group, and to establish some relationships between them which would be reflected later on in the film. The feeling of isolation was crucial, not solely in the scenario : I also needed to shoot the film in the same conditions of isolation as the situation the characters chose. There is a very fine line between fiction and the conditions of the shooting, and I like to play with these boundaries. Therefore, when I drove my actors to this place during winter, they did not know exactly where we were going, nor what we were going to do. They barely knew anything about the project except that they were going to play three brothers struggling with communication who left the city to wander in a forest.
In your performative processes of shooting, you consider the image as the starting point of an interaction: how would you consider the relationship between analysis and spontaneity within your work? In particular, do you like spontaneity or do you prefer to meticolously schedule every details of your works? how much importance does play improvisation in your process? There is a constant back and forth movement between analysis and sponteneity. I write a lot prior to the shooting, but not necessarily as a proper scenario. I accumulate writings as the essential matter I need to be able to grasp what is tied withing the film, its characters and their relationships, its core. Once this preparatory work is done, I can begin setting up some kind of equations : I have the intuition that, by bringing a person to a certain state and place (both physically and emotionally), something will be able to arise, perhaps an accident. I guess you could say I am constantly planning accidents. The casting is very important as I chose people who have something inherent which could trigger an alchemy during the shooting, but I also rethink the characters by observing the actors and including little bits of them in their roles. Thus, characters are always halfway between fiction and reality. Therefore, enabling space for events, or accidents, to occur is very important. That is why I work without a script -to me the script is more something I write afterwards to help organising my ideas to prepare for the editing. That being said, these events wonâ€™t happen by simply leaving the actors wandering on set. Direction is crucial in order to make such equations succeed. I give actors simple directions, without overexplaining everything and especially the psychology behind the characters and their actions, and I let them improvise. This is something they need to physically experience. Thereby, I have to push and support them and be constantly present. This is also why it is so important to me to film everything myself, as it gives me an intimate relation to actors, an access to their inner experience. I think it is crucial they feel I am having this experience with them, in opposition to asking them to act something and check if it is well framed. I climbed on the screes with them holding my camera, I
You are deeply interested in what happens between individuals during the shooting: many artists express the ideas that they explore through representations of the body and by using their own bodies in their creative process. German visual artist Gerhard Richter once remarked that "it is always only a matter of seeing: the physical act is unavoidable": how would you consider the relation between the abstract nature of the ideas you explore and the physical act related to the production of your artworks? To me it is all interlinked from the beginning. As I said earlier, I do not ask my models to act an emotion nor to represent an idea, but I try to put them in the position to institute a situation halfway between my idea and their own grasp of the event. Sometimes it can be done by using a very simple process. For instance, I like filming at the end of the day, because of the crepuscular light but also as it gives a feeling of emergency and feverishness to the crew, leading each gesture, each interaction with and between the actors, to a whole new intensity. No gesture is repeated twice then, as if we were reaching a collective consciousness of the core of the film at this very moment. It is very important to me that my artworks do not represent my ideas but embody them. I try to conceive them as a global and challenging project and which carries the traces of its production. In the photographic series Stigma, for example, I set up some pending situations in which subjects were alone and seemed to oscillate
asked them to fight with me in order to feel what was working and what did not feel right in their movements during the fighting scene, I rehearshed the alphabet game on my own hand prior to the shooting (I still have the scar), and so on. In this constant balance between analysis and spontaneity, details are very important. For instance, the first scene I shot with all the actors was the alphabet game. I wanted to start the shooting with the most disturbing scene in order to create a bonding between the whole crew (some of them did not know each other prior to the shooting). So I explained the game to my actors and I let them do it. Without this constant attention, tension, and cohesion of the crew, nothing will ever happen.
between ecstasy and dejection. We can see traces of an event -a strange (maybe sexual) game between the model and me- we do not know everything about. Only the expression on the models faces and some marks of superficial wounds on their bodies remain. As I used exhaustion as a way to create true images, the wait and the tiredness of the subject caused by this game were crucial. These are at the same time the cause and the result of these images. The soundtrack of The Last Gesture provides the film with such uncanny atmosphere: according to media theorist Marshall McLuhan there is a 'sense bias' that affects Western societies favoring visual logic, a shift that occurred with the advent of the alphabet as the eye became more essential than ear. How do you see the relationship between sound and moving images? I guess it is a complex relationship. The use of music in mainstream cinema is often problematic to me as sound seems to be mostly used to dictate or reinforce the viewer’s perception, as if images alone were not well thought enough. The Last Gesture starts with a black screen and the sound of the brothers fighting. I did it because I thought the best way to introduce the viewer to these brothers who do not speak was through their bodies, and therefore through the sound of their bodies banging together. Sound really should not be overlooked as it is just like another actor. Actually, I started writing for this film from Jean’s perspective, imagining a boy who brutally became deaf. I endeavoured to make the sensation of the ear that once heard and do not hear anymore almost palpable to the viewer, imagining the inner melody of this boy. The deafness of this character somehow disappeared from the final work but I developed the whole project around this. Thus, I had Frederikke Hoffmeier’s industrial music in mind from the very early stage of this project and I wrote the film for and while listening to her music. I have been following her work for a while now (whether it be under her name, as Puce Mary, or collaborations), and somehow, the bleakness and coldness of her music echoed perfectly my characters and the desolate landscape they sank into. Indeed, the soundtrack is very physical, perhaps like a feeling of claustrophobia, something
Your film is rich with symbolic elements, as references to parts of the human body: how much important is it for you to trigger the viewer's perceptual parameters in order to urge them to elaborate personal meanings and associations? That is right. There are always some recurring patterns in my work, things I am obsessed with such as hands, hair, but also rituals or games of consented violence. The haircut scene, for example, could be seen as an initiation rite. To me (and obviously it is solely my own perception of this event), when Jean cuts his brotherâ€™s hair, he is preparing him for the alphabet game, he needs to be ready. Most importantly, I try to never explain anything to the viewer and to remove anything superfluous. I only set up and present situations and gestures while they are taking place. That is why, most of the time, the characters of my films do not even have a name : I am not interested in their identity as something socially constructed, I try to reach their inwardness. Of course, it is illusory to believe I can reach their whole inner character, but I do my best to scavenge parts of it ; and this is something I do with all my models and all my characters. Sometimes it may be a bit unsettling but, to me, it is truly a matter of respect for the audienceâ€™s intelligence and its own perception. You are also the co-founder and editor of None Of The Above, an artist led publication based in London reflecting on the contemporary condition of photography: would you share some information about this project with our readers? None Of The Above is a project I started with an international group of artists, mostly friends I met at university. There was a constant reflection on the 21st century photography in our respective practices and we wanted to create a platform to showcase these new ideas. We initially conceived it as an independent printed artist publication. Our first two issues, came as unbound curated collections of our original artworks in an enveloppe, which also included texts and critical writings alongside
uncanny and latent which slowly grows and becomes brutal (especially in the beginning of the scene of the fight, in the scree).
editorials from guest contributors Mika Elo and Johnny Golding. This rhizomatic collective project then grew into various other things such as exhibitions and screenings. We are currently preparing a new issue and a screening of our films curated by the independant curator Herbert Shellenberger and which will tour across Europe. One of the hallmarks of your work is the ability to create direct involvement with the viewers, so before leaving this conversation we would like to pose a question about the nature of the relationship of your art with your audience. Do you consider the issue of audience reception as being a crucial component of your decision-making process, in terms of what type of language is used in a particular context? Absolutely, as I said earlier regarding the viewer’s perception of the symbolic elements of my work, the audience is crucial from the first stage of production of the work. This is why I was very happy when The Last Gesture premiered at FID Marseille 2016 –Marseille’s International Film Festival– as part of an exhibition (and not as a screening). The exhibition, Ventriloquies : Art in Cinema, Cinema in Art, was built around the idea of ventriloquy, or as the curators Jean-Pierre Rehm and Nicolas Feodoroff put it : « One thing speaks through an other, one moves through an other. The invasion of one voice by another, of a body by another, of a genre, etc. ». I think it is quite precious and rare that major film festivals such as FID consider various ways of presenting films, enabling thus different kinds of experiences and relations to the films for the audience. Regarding my practice, in the same way as I consider the image as an action, exhibiting is also an action. There is necessarily some continuity between the shooting and the exhibition. The experience (of the shooting) indeed is still lasting but the way of shooting has passed. Therefore, we can think of the audience as another kind of model. I address this model through the work, and hence while making the work and while installing it. Shooting-model and exhibition-model are then models of a communal experience (even though this experience is fragmented through time and space). This
Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, CĂŠlia. Finally, would you like to tell our readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? I would like to keep making works that locate between contemporary art and cinema, trying to push these boundaries. My last short film And the River walked with us, which I co-directed with Anne Vimeux, just got released in England via Channel 4 as part of the Random Acts series (it will be exhibited at Institute of Contemporary Arts London in March 2018). It is a pilgrimade we two did by the River Thames, walking from its source to its mouth and filming ourselves on this journey, the isolation of living in autarky, the gestures of our everyday routine as well as some rituals. We are currently working on a long cut of this project. Also, I am now editing a new film, Blue Shadows of Sabino, which I shot with the contemporary dancer and choreographer Aline Derderian and her dance company Consensus. Together, we went to the desert, in Arizona. She improvised a choreography for a motel room, then performed it in the desert, after which she improvised a new choreography for the desert, and finally performed it in a second motel room. She executed thus one performance per day for four days during which I filmed her dancing in the oppressive heat. This film is the beginning of a collaboration initiated by Motel, a dance piece she will present next year in London.
idea (which I developed in my research paper Photography as Action) is how I conceived the installation of Look at her hearing me. This series of videos repeats the same protocol of shooting: I recorded a person telling me a personal story (it could be anything), then I filmed a model, in one take, listening to the sound recording of this other personâ€™s memory for the first time ; after what I asked this model I just filmed to tell me in her turn something about her that I would record and so on and so forth. The videos are displayed on small monitors put on narrow tables and the sound is played through headphones. Thus, only one person at once can watch the videos. The tables do not completely raise the monitor to the eye level so the exhibition-model has to bow in order to watch the videos. This setup enables a one-to-one relation between the two models (the exhibition-model can intimately enter the video of the story of the shooting-model), but also between the exhibition-model and I (as I can manipulate his or her body at a distance away through the exhibit process, in a similar way I manipulated the shooting-modelâ€™s body).
Ro Caminal Lives and works in Barcelona, Spain
Moi, un Noir. Reloaded is a tribute to Jean Rouch, and provides an update / re-interpretation of Moi, un Noir, the film the French anthropologist made in 1957. While the original film was directed to satisfy eager curiosity of the western gaze for knowledge about otherness from the safe distance of a film, Reloaded tries to minimize cultural differences and avoid the exotic, particularly in reference to corporeality. The film seeks to work through two gazes simultaneously and not meet either of them. To the Western viewer, the pleasure of voyeuristic security is denied, showing lives that do not differ from their own, thus confronting them to consider whether as citizens they exercise that power position that legitimizes cultural difference as a producer of inequalities. Non-Western viewers are urged to consider colonization as a historical period that is not closed, which like the capitalism that generated it is undergoing continuous mutations, allowing it to change its surface while maintaining the dynamics of domination and exploitation imply in it. We invite them to consider that, while it is true that the West offers the possibility of economic improvement, there is a high emotional and psychological cost for it. Under these assumptions, the film plunges into the daily lives of the main characters, into their thoughts and reflections on their experiences as black, Muslim and immigrant subjects in contemporary Europe.
Ro Caminal An interview by Francis Quettier and Dora Tennant Hello Ro and welcome to this special edition of Women Cinemakers: before starting to elaborate about your artistic production would you like to tell us something about your background? You have a solid formal training and after having degreed from the University of Barcelona you nurtured your education with a post-graduate diploma in Social and Cultural Anthropology: how did these experiences influence your trajectory as a filmmaker? Having studied visual arts gave me a solid background, not only regarding the purely aesthetic questions but also in critical thinking. Because I did finish my studies just before the Bologna Plan was implemented in the Spanish University system, I could choose in-between a broad range of subjects at Uni. Let’s say I could do something like a tailor made degree. This allowed me to choose the subjects I was interested on,
rather than to follow a set program. So I went on picking as much units as I could related to philosophy and social studies. I had the great luck to attend the class of amazing teachers like María Ruído, an active filmmaker with an exceptional interesting work, who was always showing us independent cinema and films d’artiste. Since everyone used to say my work had an Anthropological approach, when I finished my Licenciatura I went on to study a MA in Cultural Anthropology. The Dean was in love with visual ethnography. He had set-up an internet tv channel in the Faculty. Even he wasn’t a teacher of mine, I was assisting him in the internet tv channel and we were sharing films and documentaries all the time and we still do nowadays. Studying the MA, made my research more disciplined and well structured, and it pushed me to further reading and realities. Knowing the two disciplines allows me to be undisciplined. I take what I need from them and leave the rest aside. Every project is a learning process on a certain issue, which follows the social sciences research methods to get data, but when I do get to a certain point I leave aside the objectivity and show the results in a subjective manner that takes what it needs from the visual art conventions
For this special edition of Women Cinemakers we have selected the Moi, un noir. Reloaded, an interesting film project that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article. What has at once captured our attention of your succecssful attempt to minimize cultural differences and avoid the exotic, particularly in reference to corporeality is the way you provided the visual results of your analysis with autonomous aesthetics: while walking our readers through the genesis of Moi, un noir. Reloaded, would you tell us what did address you to this theme? I was working in a night club, in the Raval neighbourhood of Barcelona, where lots of the usual customers where from Senegal. One of the guys always reminded me the main protagonist of Rouch’s movie. The seed of making the remake it started there. However, it wasn’t till few months later that I presented the project proposal to a competition for community based art projects in Tarragona, where I was selected. Then, I started to get serious about the project. Even all the criticism towards the original movie it, I am a great fan of Jean Rouch’s movies in general and I wanted my film to maintain the idea of the immigrant as incarnation of the otherness and as a symbol of the social
but escapes from it when I feel I need to. I suppose because my work is social based, my everyday life experience, ranging from conversation in public transport to doing my shopping at the corner store, does leave a sediment which can be also incorporated into my work.
Diciamo che -parlo per me- certe cose avrei potuto gestire in maniera
This were general aspects I wanted to review in my update. I didn’t want to make a movie to satisfy the European gaze but to confront it. I wanted to deny
excluded. Nevertheless, there were lots of aspects of the original film that from my perspective, need it to be reviewed consciously. When the movie come out in 1957, it was very innovative and had a great influence in the French filmmakers of the time, including Goddard. It seemed to have a fresh approach to what it was considered to be an ethnographic film back then. At a first glance you may even think Rouch gave voice to his “objects of study, allowing them to take the enunciation power. After a second look you notice, he conceptually frames, in very short speeches spread along the whole movie, the mind of the viewer, what he is about to see and how he has to look at it. When the protagonists speak, they do not take the enunciation power speaking subjectively, but simply to narrate what is happening on the screen to make it understandable to non African viewers. The voices as much as the images of the film reinforce the stereotypes western civilization has build upon Africans. The very same stereotypes which were used as a moral excuse to colonise the continent. Rouch protagonists, are lazy, childish and violent. Woman do not have a place in the film for the exception of Dorethée Lamour who is a prostitute. The film portrays this image of African woman and man that had served, and still does, western interest. One may think Rouch can be excused by his historical context, but many years before his movie, another French filmmaker, René Vautier, already had done his film Africa 50 openly and severally criticizing French colonisation of West Africa.
them any voyeuristic pleasure, not to satisfy their curiosity for the other profiting from the safety of the filmic distance. As the exotic works as a double blade; it does fascinate and it scares and it justifies domination, I wanted to avoid it as much as possible. One canâ€™t deny the are cultural differences, but to build a whole system of domination because these differences is another whole story. So I wanted to present the differences in a very normalized way, to avoid any corporality and to show as many everyday life situations as possible. Another important difference is that the people participating in Realoaded and their expectations, whatever they belonged to a political or a personal agenda, were included in the film an its process. Everyone participating in it had to be satisfied by the end with the movie. Escaping from traditional narrative form, Moi, un noir. Reloaded features a brilliant storytelling: how did you develop the script and the structure of the film? As much as I was tried to distance from Rouchâ€™s movie conceptually, on the contrary I decided to work following his methodology. I wanted it to be an ethnographic film and because it was good for me to work with non synchronic audio given my equipment and my Budget. So I spend over 6 moths living with the protagonists, sharing with them their everyday life, basically doing traditional field work while recording as much as I could. Due to technical needs back in the 50â€™s then, Rouch, after several moth living with the protagonists and recording images, went back to France and did a pre editing, which he later
When we arrived to the recording voice over phase, there was already a tied relationship between all of us. First due the lack of exotic images it made no sense to use a narrative audio. Second because one of my main concerns was to give them the power of enunciation, the voice over had to be subjective and show their position and their feelings regarding immigration issues, and colonialism, so to say about their everyday life. We did lot of open interview sessions. I Loved that they were not political activist with a discourse already prepared for the movie, because they ended talking openly about how they feel in unsophisticated manner, in a manner that comes from experience more than from an intellectual discourse, and that would touch more the viewers, Europeans or not. I ended up with hips of visual and audio material. That had to be reviewed to see what could be done departing from it. Taking into account both mine and their expectations I did a selection of images and audio and then work on the script from what was available. Moi, un noir. Reloaded has been shot in collaboration with members of the Senegalese community of Tarragona and Salou: it's no doubt that the most exciting things happen when creative minds from different fields of practice meet and
had shown to them and then, they recorded the voice over. Mostly this voice over is narrative, allowing westerns to understand what is happening in the images, that because is exotic is unknown.
collaborate on a project: could you tell us something about this effective synergy? The input their expectations had on the film was extremely important. I didn’t want to please the western gaze and they wanted to negate this pleasure to the African one, as a tool to demystify Europe as “ El Dorado”, so we worked for two gazes simultaneously and try to not met any of them. Aida and Fatou have a very strong characters and subvert all the prejudices we have on African Muslim women. Aida is the one who had more clear ideas on racism. She is now a food engineer and at the stage we were shooting she wandered herself how being a black practising Muslim would affect her chances to get a job. Aida represents well this black Muslim feminism which westerns we don’t seem to get. The opposite characters the two girls have served well the film to break mono representations of the other. None of them did any acting before but they were great and very open about their feelings. Bouba has a big screen presence and he didn’t mind the camera at all, but when we got to the time to record the audio, his gentle nature stop him from making critical statements in front the camera, so this was going to be a problem because he is the main character and we couldn’t go along just with the girls voices. Because we were not using synchronic sound, we saw this as an opportunity to incorporate more voices from the community in the project. We asked other members if I could have casual interviews with them to be used as audio. Some were way to much ideological and were not speaking form they own experience, some due the lack of confidence with me were not tackling the important issues at all. Finally, Ibu
We have appreciated the filmâ€™s expressive color palette, stunning widescreen compositions: what were your aesthetic decisions when shooting? The movie was shot with a pretty basic video camera, and most of the time with camera on hand like Rouch did himself. We didnâ€™t use any artificial lightening. Most scenes were improvised so I had to follow what was happening with the camera without prior notice. I didnâ€™t had the chance to choose the framing in many shoots due space limitations. I just went along trying to do my best, because I was downloading the material on daily bases I had the chance to see which type of shoots I was more pleased with, so I was incorporating this info for the following day shooting. We have appreciated the way you have combined the footage into coherent unity: did you pursue such result instinctively or did you methodically structure the process? In particular, do you like spontaneity? Because they way we worked I could not plan the scenes in detail at all, but I tried to pursuit both variety and repetition. Variety of scenes of each of the protagonist on its own and of the ones were they appear together. I also wanted to give some protagonist to the city were the movie was shoot, to emphasize its roman past; build upon layers hibrydation and
Gouldaby came along, his discourse was clear enough and he was speaking form his own experience, so he ended being the voice of the male reflexions. Everyone input and expectations are present in the film. O top of all that, we had a really good time all the way trough.
immigration. It was important to shoot Bouba, the main protagonist, in all sort of plain domestic activities but also because he represents the illegal immigrant who has to work selling products on the streets he had to be shown exhaustively walking alone. Once all the shoots were taken, along with Rafa Ruíz, my video editor we choose which images we were going to us. Rafa is to credit for the rhythm of the movie, he is very good at that. Myself I focused on selecting the audios and deciding where to place then for them work well. It was clear from started what was the objective of the movie but the process was half way structured, half way improvised, because we had to work from the material we had and it was shoot as an ethnography not like a movie. We can recognize an effective sociopolitical criticism in the way Moi, un noir. Reloaded urges non-Western viewers to consider colonization as a historical period that is not closed, along with the everchanging dynamics of domination and exploitation imply in it. Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco once stated, "the artist’s role differs depending on which part of the world you’re in. It depends on the political system you’re living under". Not to mention that almost everything, ranging from Caravaggio's Inspiration of Saint Matthew to Joep van Lieshout's works, could be considered political, could in your opinion Moi, un noir. Reloaded be considered a political work? Moreover, what could be in your opinion the role of cinema in the contemporary age?
On the other hand my artistic practice focus in exploring different ways and degrees to share the enunciation power with the collective I work with. There is a tension in the sharing/ retaining agency which interest me. I explore ways to dealt with it. To your second question, I don’t share that sort of vision of something having a unique role whatever we are talking about. Roles are diverse and fulfil diverse interests in given times and contexts. I love everyone to feel free to use cinema as they want when it is done in an honest way. For myself cinema is a way of sharing the knowledge the projects produce. It is a way to share my own experience and I try to make it accessible to people. We want to catch this occasion to ask you to express your view on the future of women in cinema. For more than half a century women have been discouraged from getting behind the camera, however in the last decades
Definitely I see the film as a political one. I feel comply to it. I wanted to work on immigration. How could I not be political? The same way you see all this Muslims coming out saying “not in my name” when the are terrorist attacks, I also felt I had to say it: Not in my name. The film was my way of doing so. We wrecked their countries, we robed anything of value they had, we ruined they agricultural system implementing monocultures to serve European markets. We treated them like no humans, we build Europe glory at their expenses and now what are we doing is not very different. Definitely I don’t support European migration policies and foreign agendas.
there are signs that something is changing. What's your view on the future of women in cinema? Woman behind the camera may not be as numerous as man, but numbers are increasing year after year. I would like to stress a point here. One of the main critiques western world has about African or other Muslims countries is the role of woman in their societies, but maybe is in this countries where we can find a higher number of woman filmmakers. That urges us to review once again our prejudices. Names like Raja Amari, Fanta Régina Nacro, Caroline Kamya, Djamila Sahraoui,Dyana Gaye Laïla Marrakchi, Leyla Bouzid, Ngozi Onwurah or Jehane Noujaim, are a good proof of it. I think women we can push the boundaries of the representation system further. We have been and we still are the primary source of otherness of the world even all the advances that have been made. The patriarchal gaze has contributed to naturalise domination of all kinds. Women we have experimented this on our own self, it is just natural woman filmmakers have the ability to subvert this way of seeing because it touches us. We are in a better position to work freely subverting the rules of the cinematic field, as anyone who could be considered “the other” is. Over the years your works have been extensively exhibited in several occasion and you also had four solos, including your solo Now & Then, at the Ardellewa Art gallery, Cairo. One of the hallmarks of Moi, un noir. Reloaded is the ability to create direct
Definitely so. Most artist produce for artist. This is something Bourdieu pointed extremely well. Because the need to be recognised as artist, we need to follow the rules of the art field. Generally speaking, we are not interested in arriving to more broad audiences, but to gain recognition and symbolic capital inside our field. This issue has been always crucial for me. Because my anthropological and social approach I had to ear lots of times things like; Why don’t you work for a newspaper?. Wouldn’t you better being a social worker?? I didn’t care at all. I just kept doing my work serious and honestly. I see art as a free space where you don’t have to apologize for anything, and being in the field but being a bit of an outsider it always has helped me to do what I wanted. Every field needs people in the periphery to reinforce the centre. I am interested in people, that’s what my work is about, whether they are old ladies form my village, football fans form Argentina or pre teens form Cairo. Is in the negotiation of giving and sharing the enunciation power that I mention before where the language tone of the work gets stablished.
involvement with the viewers, who are urged to evolve from a condition of mere spectatorship. So before leaving this conversation we would like to pose a question about the nature of the relationship of your art with your audience. Do you consider the issue of audience reception as being a crucial component of your decision-making process, in terms of what type of language is used in a particular context?
Setting the project conceptual frame and making aesthetics decisions is where I think my intellectual and artistic capacities abide, but I rather use a plan language to share the work with others. My work is based on the complicity with the people who participates. To respect this complicity is essential, so to respect their language is essential. I don’t know about tomorrow, but this has make sense till now to be like this. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Ro. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? One project somehow leads to the following. Recently I have been working in Unfolding Penelope. A fictionalised ethnography on the life of the Senegalese migrants’ wife’s, who like Penelope stay in their country waiting for their husbands’ comeback. In the work the protagonists subvert Penelope role taking the power of enunciation and being at the centre of the story, unfolding their agency and letting us know how their deal with the social pressure surrounding them, that like in the Odyssey, so to say in our culture, would like to keep them in the back. The work has come out under the form of a 22 minutes’ film, which I am very pleased of. Now I have an ambitious project based on cultural translation. I would like it to be a full length feature. Currently I am on the phase of setting the conceptual work frame of the project and examining its visual possibilities. Soon I should start looking for funds to proceed. If Anyone reading this interview would like to get involved with the project would be welcome.