An interview with Eva von Schweinitz (by A. G. Magaldí | @agmagaldi)
2012, a new digital projection system called DCP takes over the screens in the world wide market of movie exhibition. Major studios declared that they will stop circulating film prints, releasing new and many archival movies only digitally. Kodak announced bankruptcy and film labs have stopped processing film partially or entirely. The death of film is being pronounced more loudly and firmly than ever.
She has been inside the mind of criminals, she has lived some amazing love stories and even became a little girl again. It is hard to find people so passionate about their work. The story of 'Cinema Paradiso' (one of the masterpieces of cinema) is real. The story of Eva von Schweinitz is the story of a German teenager who fell in love with a movie theatre and learned the job of a projectionist.
She has lived hard changes in the film industry. Her nostalgia and the rise of new digital formats led her to create a short emotional documentary (A Film is a Film is a Film) about celluloid film and the last people still repairing the old theatre projectors. Have you ever used a 16mm camera? How does it feel to use a 16mm camera? Eva gets excited: "The moment you start recording is great. The camera starts making sounds like brrrr click click , brrrr click click. The feeling of knowing that you are recording; in that moment it is obvious. There is a certain energy... Yep! Film is going through the camera".
- You have spent years working as a projectionist on a theatre. How many movies have you watched in your life?
Oh my god! I wouldn’t be able to tell you. Many. There are times when I don't watch a movie because I know that I want to see it later in the actual theatre and I don’t want to know what the story is about. In the projectionist booth, you are watching a movie from a distance, from a small window, in a little room and the sound isn't great. There are also moments when I am showing three films at the same time and I have to move from one part of the booth to another and when I come back something else is happening in the story. Sometimes it is easy to guess what happened in between, but other times it is crucial information, so I begin to fill in the gaps myself, which is fun. Sometimes I run over to catch a particular scene I like, and I end up seeing the same part many times.
- Your documentary begins by telling what is a projectionist and we can see an old man dismantling an old projector. How has the profession evolved over the years? There is still work for projectionists?
I've spent more than ten years working as projectionist. I learned the job when I was nineteen. I got curious because another projectionist had told me about it. I wanted to make the magic happen behind the scenes and I started working in a small art house theatre in my city. Later, I was lucky to find a job as a projectionist when I moved to New York. And we still use film prints; but many times I just have to press a button on a computer. I got upset about the digitization, because many movie theatres were forced to upgrade and replace film projection, or otherwise they would not be able to show new movies. It felt like there was no choice.
- At the end, the stories are what matters. Formats can change, but people will continue to consume movies...
What I wanted to explore in my documentary was: is the creativity a different one when you are working with celluloid film? Does the process of thinking and working change? And if so, how? To find out, I began making experiments with celluloid film and even bought a 16mm camera. But unfortunately my documentary is mostly shot on a digital camera and the 16mm footage I created for it was transferred to digital, because I wouldn't have been able to afford it otherwise. I would like to shoot more on film, but I end up using my digital camera a lot. And that's the direction my job is going, too. Part of my documentary talks about nostalgia for my job. Touching all the materials and saying things like 'wait, is this going to go away?' Film is very expensive to produce and if there is not a certain demand, film labs are not going to be able to continue with the production.
- There are many things in the entertainment industry that have become cult objects. It is not a similar case but I still buy vinyl records and in recent years they have experienced a resurgence.
There is a revival. Three years after starting my film I have the strong feeling that celluloid film is not going to die after all. But it will become even more expensive. I shot something on film last month and the place in New York where I used to go for processing was closed! We are talking about New York. I had to ship it outside of the city and pay for shipping costs. This is going to discourage more and more people to shoot on film. Thanks to filmmakers like Christopher Nolan, the demand for film will hopefully continue to be high enough, so the last labs can stay open. Meanwhile, poor experimental filmmakers are creating ways for themselves, too. Just the other day I got an email with the subject line: ‘Preparing yourself for the Film Apocalpyse: An introduction to Working in an Artist-Run Film Lab’. So I am hopeful.
- Your film makes a defense of film print but, nevertheless, it has been filmed with a digital camera. A curious contrast...
A journalist wrote an article about my documentary making a case for the fact that my film would have never existed without the rise of digital formats. I thought that was a really nice way to think about it, because it is true. It was only out of my resistance to this new thing that I got inspired to make a film about it, wanting to document something that is disappearing. And the irony is truly that I wouldn't have been able to make it without digital equipment.
- There is a shot in which you use an old 16mm camera making it clear that you do not know if you will use something like this again. Compared with digital cameras, what are the feelings?
I just filmed a short experimental piece, so it's fresh in my memory. If you work with digital cameras you can look at a display and watch and rearrange things in the moment, but not with old cameras. You are doing something really different. I have to crank my Bolex camera and I can only film for 30 seconds at a time. If I'm doing something handheld, the camera can be very heavy. And sometimes even annoying. But then, there's the excitement when you see the footage that has come out of this old camera. For me it is special. Really special. Although I had to wait six days to find out this last time.
Now you can just go out with a mobile phone and make a film; and it is also wonderful. So it is not about one or the other. It is more like I want to hold on to something that might go away and at least get a chance to explore it myself.
- To end, for a person who has seen so many movies, if you have to choose, what is the movie that you like more in recent years?
Well, this is kind of random but the first one that comes to my mind is 'Sworn Virgin'. I saw it at Tribeca Film Festival this year and I loved it. It is about a woman who decides to live as a man because there are many things she cannot do in the society she lives in, a small Northern Albanian village. It is a very interesting story, beautifully shot. Through my job at Film Forum, I definitely fell in love with old classics like '12 Angry Men', and 'Sorcerer' that are so brilliant in their own ways. I'm also a big fan of Leos Carax's work. And as the "celluloid advocate" I should probably mention the very bizarre, but visually compelling 'The Forbidden Room' by Guy Maddin whose beautiful aesthetics are inspired by old films from the silent era. There is a mind-boggling lobotomy scene with great music, it was one of those that I'd run over for to watch again and again.
You see, it's hard to choose one film.
An interview with Layke Anderson (by Ricardo Rodrigues)
Layke Anderson show us his most recent work, a story that evokes the ghosts of a classic tale, where a pair of adversaries are brought back together in the wake of a disaster. A experiential re-imagining of J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan, 'Happy Thoughts' was nominated for the International Competition, which makes Layke Anderson a double time nominee on the festival.
'Dylan’s Room' was Anderson's debut as a writer and director, and has screened at over thirty international film festivals, including the Oscar-qualifying Raindance Film Festival and Palm Springs International ShortsFest. The film made the BAFTA long-list in 2012, and was later nominated for Best British Short at the Moët British Independent Film Awards in 2013.
- 'Happy Thoughts' was inspired by the writings of J. M. Barrie of Peter Pan. Why did you decided to do a modern re-interpretation of this story?
I think it’s a relevant story, even more now than when you are a child growing up. There’s so much on the subtext of the story, and just now you can understand that, specifically the love triangle that is a very dark story as well. I haven’t seen that explored before in film, I’ve heard people discussing it but that was it. Actually there’s a wonderful moment in 'Hook' by Steven Spielberg, which we see Maggie Smith - who’s playing the old version of Wendy - and we can detect the sadness that she has, and there’s so much going on that scene that I thought it was an interesting theme. You probably need a whole feature film to explore this story, but why not start with the relationship between this two women (Wendy and Tinkerbell)? Because you never really see them speak, ever. They are so opposite because they don’t have any reason to speak, the only one being Peter’s death, making this two opposites together. That was the main interest.
- And what was the main challenges when adapting such a known novel?
The main challenges… Maybe trying to do something so complicated in such a short amount of time because it’s difficult to tell this story in just fourteen minutes in a way that makes people think about it again.
- The action is given to us through a voiceover of all the three characters. Thanks to this voiceover you give more dimension to all of them and the viewer is impelled to their emotions, virtues and flaws. Was it difficult to create such universe and characters?
Yes, very difficult. Mostly with Peter and Tinkerbell, because I think Wendy is the most human character, she’s also the closest in the book to the reader. For example Peter is the opposite, he’s always a mystery, you can never tell what he’s thinking as a viewer because he always speaks on riddles. Peter has a lot of dark places to explore and some of that was Henry - the actor - and some of it was just things I’ve been hearing about this character. Tinkerbell, well, she’s all about rage, a woman’s rage and the way she tries to be calm on the surface when in fact all her voice overs are so aggressive, immature and tempestuous. This two are, for sure, the darkest characters on the film. As for Wendy, she’s much more romantic, she opens the film with a narration and she finishes it, and in the short-film her voice is a little immature, and actually she’s a child growing up and the woman in front of her - Tinkerbell - is a child as well, but underneath she’s unravelling completely.
- During all the action we can feel the tension building up. There’s also a sense of claustrophobia from all the dialogues combined with the soundtrack, almost like a mirror to the destructive relationship between the protagonists. Was this intentional?
Completely intentional yes, I wanted to make the atmosphere feel like it’s chocking the viewer. I mean most of the action takes place inside of this one room, which I wanted to design like a cell: it’s bright blue and depressing. And the rest of the action is kind of very tight on the actors, for example in the pub we don’t even understand that it is a pub. So at the end it’s all about the thoughts and everything’s very uncomfortable. Creating that uncomfortable and having the music in that low frequency bring you in and in. Maybe a lot of people have a problem when watching it, but that’s the point, it is supposed to be difficult. Neverland is small, it’s the island that coursed you off.
- In your last work ('Dylan’s Room', that was also nominated for the international competition of IN THE PALACE International Short Film Festival), we can see a lot of detail plans. Also here in 'Happy Thoughts' you continue to use them a lot and in terms of narrative it can tell the viewer a lot about the characters. Do you agree? Why do you use it so often?
I think it’s a very interesting narrative device, because it’s something you can see and you think about it later, your subconscious can help you fill the gap in a story. For a director it’s difficult to fit so much narrative in a short film, that’s why I like to have a few details that can tell a whole story. And people can even have different interpretations. On 'Happy Thoughts' the details were references to the book and they were there purely for the people to think about the references to the book.
- Also, we already know about your future project called Shopping that is already in pos-production. Can you tell us a little bit more about it?
It’s set at christmas and the story is about two strangers that meet in a sex shop. But the setting around that is about London and the way this new businesses are taking over the city, sort of destroying independent businesses and things like sex clubs and shops. We will have the same actor as the one in 'Dylan’s Room', he’s a bit grown up now, and it’s a fiction.
Macarena Astorga: "It is hard to say but there is still discrimination in the industry like in the nineties"
(By A. G. Magaldí | Photo: Macarena Astorga)
Eleven frantic minutes in which the Spanish director Macarena Astorga unveils a moving history, a fiction with fantastical touches that reminds us what are our priorities in life. 'Transit', an overwhelming short film.
Macarena combines her film career with her job as a teacher and she explains why directors jump into the world of short films, why film festivals are important and how to live in an industry where women are still discriminated.
"Short films have very low visibility. In Spain nobody watches shorts in cinemas. The industry works thanks to the brave people who make festivals to give visibility to the short films"
- Formerly in Spain short films were projected before feature films in the theatres. Could that be a solution? You can see great short films that have nothing to envy to huge productions.
When I started making 'Transit', the only thing I had clear was that the film had to have a cinema quality in eleven minutes. People demand short films, in festivals the audience pays to watch short film sessions, to see seven different stories instead of just one. But the problem is that the distribution is not very clear.
In Spain the level of short films is very high and the cost of shooting a short film is declining: directors can easily rent DSLR or digital cinema cameras. So they can devote resources to cinematography, which improves the visual impact. Moreover, there is no money for feature films. It is getting really complicated to apply for state funds and loans. So, many recognized filmmakers are now doing short films.
- Feature films can go into cinemas. Short films have no way out but the festival circuit...
Exactly. But it is very complicated to find a distributor who wants to distribute your film in cinemas unless you are an established filmmaker. Many good films have been left without access to the cinemas. One of the most renowned Spanish directors, Gracia Querejeta, has been preselected for the Goya Awards for a short film. But I have to say that I work as post-production video teacher and every morning I tell my students to go out and conquer the world, to be good professionals. You only have success if you persevere.
- Who has priority in your life? The teacher or the filmmaker?
The teacher goes before for reasons of logic and I love to instil my passion to my students. But my heart tells me I should do cinema.
- You started making documentaries to end embracing fiction. In terms of planning, what differentiates a documentary from a fiction?
Many filmmakers begin their careers making fiction. Fiction was the goal for me but I started making documentaries because I considered them easier and more open than fiction. Fiction also requires you to be more demanding and experienced.
- One of the things that stands out about 'Transit' is that it is based on a single actor. Daniel Grao is a renowned actor in Spain...
I knew that I needed a familiar name that would help promoting the movie and solving problems. The entire burden falls on him. I contacted Daniel via Twitter but I was sure he was going to say no, because this was my first fiction. He gave me an address to send him my script and three days later he asked when were we going to shoot. I think I made mistakes in other aspects but here I took the right decision.
- What mistakes?
Many mistakes are made shooting. Especially administrative and bureaucratic issues. In my new short film, I will do some things wrong, but not the same ones. I have to say it was a very tough shoot. The special effects were a headache because I knew that if they were crappy the short film was finished.
Apart from that, it is much difficult to produce a short film with five locations. We dislodged the two main thoroughfares of the town, the central square and the main street.
- A famous Spanish actor, many locations...
There was a lot at stake. We made a short film which is not cheap and the budget comes out of my pocket. An investment that has paid off. The Audience Award at Malaga Film Festival opened many doors for me. Selections and awards have helped give me another step in my career. Right now I am focused on my new movie, closest to my personal style.
- What is the kind of cinema Macarena likes to do?
I am preparing a black comedy. A genre that I love.
- You say you like black comedy, but it is completely opposite to 'Transit', a drama.
I like short films that have something to tell me. There are stories that aspire to fit to the short film format. I like the short films that tell a full story, even if they have an open ending.
- Let's talk about your first work in the industry. 'Women who say Action', a series of interviews with Spanish women directors. There is a discrimination in the industry?
I interviewed famous women directors in the mid-nineties, almost all of them agreed on the difficulty of being a woman and director in the industry. It is hard to say but there is still discrimination in the industry in 2015 like in the nineties, we have not made much progress on that. It is also hard to believe that there are festivals in the world that allow only films made by women, it bothers me.
Do you know that even when you go to apply for state aid you get more points if you are a woman director, or there is a woman screenwriter or a woman producer? This should not be like this.
An interview with Julia Poplawska (by Ana Abreu)
Imagine yourself in a high mountain, during the winter. You’re not in a spiritual retreat, you’re working. You barely can shake, you’re faraway from everything and, sometimes, you even have to help saving lives. Tough thing, right? That’s what happen with the workers of a meteorological station in the highest mountain of Poland, the Mount Kasprowy Wierch.
Want to live a little bit of this? Then don’t miss ‘The Place’, a short documentary by Julia Poplawska. She’s a very interesting journalist, writer and filmmaker. Absorbed by themes related to the weather (something “we are very dependent on”), Julia will mix with your feelings, not necessarily using words, but by awaking your senses, you’ll almost be able to smell the snow.
- Why did you decide to make a documentary about those workers in this place, the highest one in Poland? I heard in an interview that you were skiing, but what have awaked that curiosity in you?
I've always been interested in science and I was looking for a symbol of my interest. Above all, I’m very interested in the process of perception, how do we observe the world, so one day when I was skiing in the most popular ski area in Poland I realized that I don’t know anything about a meteorological station on the top of the mountain which is very popular. So, I knocked on the door, I went there and asked, "Can I just find how it is here?". And, at the beginning, workers were not very nice for me because there is a lot of tourists who wants to know what the weather will be tomorrow, so they thought that I was a tourist. But when I explained them I’m a filmmaker, they said: "OK". And then I visited this place many, many times, and I decided that to use the symbol of the meteorological station, which is just on the top of the rock, steady rock, will be great example to present it as a symbol of our situation here on planet earth where we are here and we observe a world which is changing all the time. The weather is a symbol of this process.
- Where did this fascination with the weather come from?
Well, I think that we are very dependent on the weather. That the weather is everything that is surrounding us. It influences our behavior, our culture, the way that we are, our biological behavior, everything. So, in general it fascinates me.
- And what’s the most important message that you try to passed with this documentary?
The most important message is that we, as observers on the planet earth, we are not able to examine, to know outer space and the universe with the primitive tools we have. We have just primitive tools to examine the world and actually it’s not possible to find out what it’s in general about.
- During the short cut, words are really rare, was it a purpose? I mean, this work seemed full of loneliness, do you want to show that to the public?
Yes, exactly. I’m much more interested to present films with sound and vision. We do not need a lot of words in films, in my opinion. So, I wanted to create this atmosphere of this called lonely place, so the audience can feel it and they can freeze in the cinema. I wanted to play with other senses.
- What are the worse things that these workers passed through? Did you see some dangerous situations during the film shooting?
It’s far away from everything [the meteorological station] and, when we were there filming with my film crew, we were witnessing that they were a few lost tourists who knocked on the door of the meteorological station and we found out that those workers also save lives sometimes. It’s incredible! I’ve never seen such scenes, where someone is just shaking and asking for help. Because, frankly those people are not so wise, they do not realize how to behave in the mountains in the winter. So I think what they struggle with is that they often save lives. We helped like three people while we were there, for two weeks.
- And now, talking about IN THE PALACE Sofia International Short Film Festival, what do you think about events like this?
In general, festivals are all about people, it’s good to meet people and create with them. All festivals are about people, meeting people.
- And what about the future, what’s your plans? Your main focus will always be the documentaries or have you ever think about doing something more related to fiction?
Actually I’m not into fiction movies, because I think that you need much more skills to do this and you have to learn how to do this. I didn’t learn how to make feature films, I learn how to make documentaries and I love to work with just few people, just five, six people. And when you do a feature you have to have like an army of people and I’m not feeling comfortable with this and I’m not going to do it for now. But, I’m thinking about doing long documentary, all the time I’ve been doing shorts, but now, I’m dreaming about making a long documentary, also connected maybe with some observatory subject, maybe.
An interview with Faisal A. Qureshi (by Mila Moshelova)
Screenwriting, editing, directing, producing – filmmaking is no secret for Faisal A. Qureshi. With his work featured at a number of international festivals, a lecturer at the Northern Film School in Leeds and a filmmaker and associate producer of the BAFTA winner 'Four Lions', Faisal is also something like a veteran at IN THE PALACE Sofia International Film Festival (and probably the funniest and friendliest person in the filmmaking industry you can ever meet). He talks to IN THE PALACE about career, (no)profit, talent, disappointment, funding, sacrifices and ... good catering.
- How many times have you been here at 'IN THE PALACE'?
Honestly, I cannot count. The first time I was here was at the fourth edition of the festival. I was sent by the British Council. I have been here a few times since then.
- What are your expectations and comments about the student's part of IN THE PALACE?
I think there is a lot of talent there that deserves to be supported. There are some great visions there that are pushed through with enthusiasm by people that are trying out in filmmaking, people are still trying to find their voice and where cinematographers, editors, sound designers, sound recorders and any other craft are developing their experience and their own specific areas. It is good.
- Truth or myth education in filmmaking is a must for success? Is the correlation between education and professional realisation of young filmmakers strong or one can get there on a different route?
I think that would depend on the country. And also on how new talent is recruited in those specific regions. Yes, filmmakers can come into the profession via education but then you also need people who have only had industry experience; who didn't go through a formal education route and instead went in through apprenticeship, or they had family already working in the industry. There seem to be different routes in how to progress in the film industry and TV industry. It really would depend on each country and what the circumstances are.
- Where does art stand in the spheres of education and social life?
I think with education the arts have a major part to play. Art stimulates imagination, it invites one to think in a new way about a subject and also kind of like show an appreciation for culture that may be neglected in other areas. And it can broaden a person's mind when it comes to certain issues. Having an education about the arts or being shown an awareness of the arts can help you be a more grounded person when it comes to people's understanding of the world.
- What should a short film be to be considered a good one? What is its responsibility to the audience?
I don't think there is a magic formula for how to make a good short film. Well, apart from having good catering for the crew! (Laughs). But when it comes to what should a good short film be – when Stanley Kubrick was asked 'What should a good feature film be?', he said 'It shouldn't bore you' – at the very least, it shouldn't be boring. And I think this is true of these films here – they shouldn't be boring. They should engage the audience in a way that keeps the audience interested in it. And filmmakers are developing their own voices to make sure they keep the audience engaged in that way. Because that is the worst thing – if you are just seeing bored people.
- How should short films be consumed?
It is actually easier to see short films now that it was fifteen years ago because even over the past ten years we have had such changes when it came to audiences' appreciation of short films. Because before we had various video screening sites like AtomFilms, Inmovie.co.uk and a few others which have disappeared now. They specialised in targeting and getting short film formats; programming short films online and trying to target audiences with them but now the two bits that predominate the landscape online Vimeo and YouTube. You will find short film content from professional filmmakers to those people who are just starting out on there.
- Talking about YouTube: do you think short films can survive these different mediums of screening?
Short films don't really make money. There is no real financial incentive to make them. It always frustrated me when I was first starting out, when you would go to public funding bodies for short film funding and they would go: 'Well, we are only funding commercial short films, so how are you going to make this commercial?' And I will just be like: 'Guys, the most successful short film I ever saw when I was growing up was Michael Jackson's Thriller'. That’s the most commercial I can think of. I don't remember going to cinemas and watching just a programme of short films unless it was part of a festival. So those people who are working in short films, they are using it because they want to tell a story or they want to experiment with form or they are trying to find their voice. And so, when people are funding short films, whether it is an organization or whether it is self-finance, it basically you are funding a belief in the filmmaker's talent with the hope that the filmmaker, once they got to a certain level, they are going to be able to do a longer story whether it is for television or feature film.
- It is almost as a stage in their career?
Yes. Very much so. But then again, you are also finding feature filmmakers going back to doing shorts because they have a story that they want to tell. Like Jane Campion who did a short film that ended up in Cannes one year – The Piano (1993) - and had a really prestigious career. Then you had Terry George who did Hotel Rwanda (2004), the co-writing partner for Jim Sheridan; he did a short film that won an Oscar in 2012. So, anyone expecting to make money from a short film, one short film, is going to be more than disappointed. Profit is not the key. It is more like a patronage - it’s a belief in talent.
- So within the context of what we have discussed so far, it brings us to a discussion of the role of festivals, again the demand from an audience, festivals as a platform for screening movies and their main function?
Festivals are important because they are the places where you can see stuff, where the public can see films that wouldn't usually be available in the commercial cinema circuit through the theatrical or TV circuit. Festivals are uniquely placed to offer the public an alternative so in the UK, for example, every week every cinema or most cinemas will be showing the same films. Friday night will be, let's say Studio blockbuster or the next mid-to-high budget film that would come in. And it doesn't matter whether you'd go to a cinema that is two miles away from you home or 40 miles away – chances are the programme is going to be the same. So with festivals what you are going for is different – it is giving sort of an alternative. So, instead of say experiencing another American film or another blockbuster or another romantic comedy and so on, you experience something different. Like 'Hey, this is a filmmaker from say Guatemala, telling a story that is interesting to them and might be interesting to you. Here is an opportunity to check it out'. Or: 'Here is a filmmaker from Afghanistan and this is their way – this is a story that might be unique to their point of view or their culture – check it out.' And that is why festivals are important because they give a venue for those alternative voices. And whether they'll be short or features, the public can have the opportunity to sample it and see whether it is to their taste or not.
- These opportunities exist but then sometimes the public may not be engaged enough into making the most of those festivals. How do you make that link between the public and the festival, how do you build that trust in the public that will keep it attending?
Good programming. Good events. I have very limited experience when it comes to working at festivals but programming, events, workshops. Trying to engage an audience without alienating them by being elitist. And when I speak about being elitist I am talking specifically about – in any cultural academic discipline the risk of developing certain vocabulary very unique to that discipline and that can alienate those people who are outside that discipline who may just have a general interest in it. So, what festivals would have to tackle is what makes financial sense – to judge what would bring a crowd in. Again, there is no science. It is about researching an awareness of audiences in that area and saying right, if I put this program together, if I say I have these films here and I have these workshops going on, and all these opportunities will this get the public to come in and watch? And actually be able to be part of it, to actually support it. When I first started out, there was a film festival in Leeds, where I went to university – Leeds International Film Festival. They were a very prestigious festival and they were really dearing with their programming. One year they showed Osterns, which is the Russian equivalent of the Western genre. Another year they were showing a retrospective of works that had been banned on British cinema and these sort of tactics would bring the crowd in. It wouldn't just be cinefile or academics but also ordinary people with a general interest who wanted to see a bit more than what is usually showing in a multiplex.
- What about IN THE PALACE? You have attended many festivals and also have seen this festival develop and grow. Would you like to share your impressions of IN THE PALACE?
When I first came to this festival, it was still young. I remember saying to somebody that there are a lot of people who are passionate about it, who are volunteering and doing their best. They really love film here at IN THE PALACE! If anything happens, just let it slip because at the end of the day it is best to lean back and enjoy the chaos. You have to sit back and enjoy the ride because it is a great ride. That has always been my experience. It is always a great to come here and to work with people here; meet filmmakers and try to point them in a direction that is more profitable to them when it comes to their work and where they want to go and if they are serious about making a livelihood with this. Because that is a problem with film at the moment, with the creative industry. It is that it is generally seen that if you work in the cultural sector, if you work in film and TV, that is not a career - that is a lifestyle choice. And in actual fact, it is a career. You do have to make a living from it. You do have to put bread on the table. And if young filmmakers are made aware of that very early on then they could probably make more informed decisions about which route to take, what is the best career plan for them, if they still want to pursue this.
- So the importance of this festival is to sort of give an idea in terms future career plans - apart from networking and exposing their work to public
I say this in film schools and I say this here, this is – if you are serious about this and the kind of films you want to make, there are certain sacrifices you may need to make whether it is professionally or personally and that at the end of the day it is an unfair business. A lot of people have gotten where they are through various methods, some of them require lots of hard work and some of them they were born into the right family or they just had the right connection and what you really have to consider is: am I prepared to make the sacrifices but also Is this something I really want to do for a significant number of years before I just go 'Right, that's it. Time to go back and study Accounting.'
An Interview with Alberto Iordanov (by Mila Moshelova)
Alberto Iordanov is a young Bulgarian documentarist, editor and recordist. He graduated with MA in 'Film-directing' from the Edinburgh College of Art, Scotland. Many renowned film festivals have seen his shorts ‘Into Deep Space’ and ‘Central Station Sofia’. He tells IN THE PALACE about ‘Bandit and The Ram’ (awarded Best Bulgarian Film at the Student’s Edition, about the potential power of documentary cinema and the motivation of filmmakers when they are backed with funding. In fact not one, but Alberto has two documentaries in competition at the festival.
- What brings you to IN THE PALACE?
I am here with my graduation film ‘Bandit and the Ram’. The film is a documentary, 25 minutes long about a person who is the last one living in an abandoned remote village right in the heart of the stunning Balkan mountains.
- It appears to depict the non-idyllic reality of lonely village life. It made me wonder what is it to be alone. Is this what it is about?
It is about Doycho – the main character of an elderly man who has lived there all his life - searching for Love and Gold and not finding any of those. Many Bulgarian villages have been depopulated in the past twenty-twenty five years yet there are still some people like Doycho whose only life is in the empty villages. I find this concept fascinating.
- You already have a few successful shorts behind you. What you are working on at the moment?
I am very excited as I just finished my first commissioned film which was with proper funding. I pitched an idea which was to be funded so it was a different kind of pressure: every time before we used to amend things after breaks and vacations but this time it worked well: we stayed there and we focused completely. I think usually we change things in the movie as we go because we get a little bit bored and we cannot think about it for such a long period of time. But this is a very exciting film and I have great hopes for it because we have a production company behind it. I hope to make a feature if this one does well as it is just ten minutes and people feel that they would like to see more, judging by the reaction. And if it is successful hopefully I will have a better chance to get funding for a longer film.
- It seems your biggest passion are documentaries. What function do they, and art in general, have in education and public life?
I think it is hard to talk about different places separately so I can talk education generally, rather than how it is here or there, but I think documentaries are an amazing window to the world and I think young people in schools should be exposed to them. This way they can learn about documentary cinema from early age which is important as it is not easy to find information about it. I think it is good for young people to watch documentary cinema. Even making documentaries can be seen as a therapeutic process: it can both prevent and treat problematic issues.
An Interview with Detsky & Marianne Graffam (by A. G. Magaldí | @agmagaldi)
A businessman is stuck in a traffic island in the middle of a lost road where one blood-thirsty traffic light wants to end with his life. German director Detsky Graffam combines horror, drama and comedy, to show us that we should respect the rules of our society, but also give importance to our needs: "You need to be clever. You have to try to follow the rules but also to be independent".
The journey of this '90 Degrees North' began after winning the Best Pitching Award at IN THE PALACE International Short Film Festival two years ago. An adventure leading the director and his wife (and producer) to a successful crowdfunding campaign. Detsky and Marianne tell us what the award meant for them and why they think film studies aren’t relevant to succeed.
- What did it mean for you to win the pitching award?
I think our pitching was better than the script.
- It's like an exam. You have only one opportunity and if you have a bad day...
The performance is important. You cannot only rely on having a good day. We practiced a lot during the days before the pitching and not everything comes down to stand in front of a jury. The award was really important for us. It was a recognition of our script, of the work behind it. It was not about money. It was a message to the industry, saying that someone here has a good idea. Producers got in touch with us because of the prize and it helped us a lot in finding funding.
- To finance your short film you also carried out a crowdfunding campaign.
It is a refreshing way to get money for your project and it is also a way to promote the movie. You can see people getting interested in it. You can show the project before it is done. For example, much traffic is generated online, especially on our Facebook page. People talk about the project and support it.
- A young English director who was selected in our student's edition defined the crowdfunding "A polite way to take money from your friends and family". Is there any truth in this claim?
(Both laugh. Marianne takes the floor) Yes! But you have to go beyond that and generate interest not only from friends. There are people who truly seeks projects and if they find something interesting they are willing to support them. They know that their name will be part of the project and that they will get other rewards in return. And for the people performing the campaign, not everything is based on receiving money. You also have to keep all the promises. In our case we had to prepare DVDs, painted stills...
- People financing a killer traffic island. When did you started to develop the idea? And how did you come up with this?
(Detsky) Have you ever been in Germany? Even when without cars on the streets people are still waiting for the green light. Rules are rules. I started asking myself if I really control my life. Also, we described a blood-thirsty traffic light, but they are the one supposed to keep you safe.
(Marianne) The island lies in the middle of the road. You cannot cross, you cannot get to your destination. You need to think about your priorities.
- So the movie is trying to teach us that we need to learn how to survive in this world...
(Marianne) The sentence ‘Rules are rules’ is not truly correct. You have to be smarter than the rules in order to get what you want. In our movie if you skip the rules you die, but you need to try other solutions to get what you want.
- For example, taking about the cinema industry, it is very complicated to succeed, to live. What are the ingredients for a successful fiction?
The script is the most important part. In our case we decided to create a strange world that follows the rules. I think that we just love watching movies and seeing the absurd side of life.
- What is your background? What did you study? Some people think that education in filmmaking is a must to excel in the industry.
I've never been to film school, I learnt everything by myself. I come from theatre. My mom is a theatre director and my father is an actor. Film schools can help but they are not essential. It is true that you know many people in film schools and you start to create things quickly. I have met many producers who really like filmmakers that have not gone through film schools exactly because they believe that they have a different way of seeing things. Doing things differently.
(Marianne) I think everything depends on the school where you studied and the kind of person you are. For some people film schools are an important training, you make contacts. Both ways are completely justified.
- Back to your movie. Sometimes you have to think hard on how to do things. What was the most difficult part? Was it difficult to make the traffic light look real?
(Detsky) We contacted a company that makes traffic lights thinking that they would believe that we were crazy, trying to recreate a human-eater traffic light. But it was easier than expected and they loved the story, so they lend us a fully working traffic light.
Looking for the location was much more difficult. We spent a year and a half looking for and abandoned road to put our traffic light. And finally a girl told us about a huge old Russian airfield. And it was perfect. We couldn’t believe it when we discover it. We also wanted the movie to register a whole year, so this place was perfect because we could adapt it to our own needs.
- Also, the main character changes a lot during the movie...
Makeup did everything. Our makeup artist was amazing recreating the look of a person after being lost for a whole year.
Merja Hannikainen: "My film goes beyond my ability to comprehend someone else's experience of a conflict"
(Photo: Merja Hannikainen)
I think it was April when a new conflict broke out that was much worse than before. And while we were there the war started in the city. Then it was just all about getting away as soon as possible. That was April or May. On the 14th of June we arrived in Sweden as refugees
Can you imagine having to flee your own country because of the war? A story that never ends. Finnish director Merja Hannikainen immerses us into in the consequences of war, telling the story of Enna, a refugee girl who has no memories of her childhood prior to emigrating to Sweden because of the Balkans war. Her family is responsible to remind her the horrors of the conflict
A short film, awarded with the prize for Best Documentary at IN THE PALACE Student's Edition, in which the freelance photographer and video artist shows that there is another way of telling things.
- 'Retracing' tells the story of a Bosnian immigrant who was forced to emigrate to Sweden because of the war. Why this story and this main character?
Enna, the protagonist of the story, has no memories of her childhood. She felt that she can’t remember anything about her early childhood in former Yugoslavia and her first year as a refugee in Sweden. The experience that led her to lose her memory was the first reason I use for making this film.
- Is there something in your own story that is reflected in this short film?
No, it is not reflecting anything personal in the sense that I have not been through anything similar. The film goes beyond my ability to comprehend someone else's experience of a conflict, whether that person experienced it as an adult or a child. And a lot of what my mind assumes about that experience can be wrong.
One thing that stands out about your documentary is that silence and tranquillity seem to be the soundtrack to a story that has the war as a backdrop...
I thought that the emotionally complex experiences of people require such space. It was made by playing with the sound design as well as with the long shots.
- One of the most present memories in Enna´s friend's and family's stories is her water phobia. Why is it such an important element in the film?
Maybe it was the mystery of this fear that made many people to recall it. How people recall such things also illustrates how they have paid attention to. Her family have observed and tried to ‘read’ a child, in the times of the pre-war childhood as well as later.
- Could you tell us something about your recent collaborative projects?
I made another project based on the Yugoslavian conflict. Which deals with stories from people who have once visited a specific waterfall in Herzegovina. Also, a working group that I belong to will realise next year a project titled ‘No play’ in Berlin, consisting of a kind of a training camp, an exhibition and a publication. The topic of the project are the recent nationalist and fascist political developments in Europe and the feminist strategies of resistance. I hope we will engage and work together with many theorists, artist and filmmakers during this process.
Today I address to you because the disappearances that have been ocurring in this town. As you know, it hasn't been just once; A couple days ago Olegario Granada, our grocery man, received the bad news that his son also disappeared mysteriously. About this, no one knows anything either.
A look into the dark history of Colombia. A deep and painful drama in a country where the army and the government collaborated on corruption and the disappearance of thousands of young people. Colombian director Mauricio Caro, awarded with a special mention in fiction at IN THE PALACE Student's Edition for his "promising potential", explains that his film is a claim of facts that should not be forgotten.
The young director, who is currently studiying Cinema and Television at Unitec school in Bogotá, tells what the award means for his career and his passion for trying new things in cinema.
- The story of Facundo provides a passage over the history of political corruption in Colombia that was forgotten for many people. Is this short film a tribute or a complain?
It is a complaint. The movie recalls the reprehensible things that Colombia's army did under the command of President and the Ministry of Justice. Although these events happened few years ago, nobody talks about it. This is why I wanted to show this story, to remember all the crimes and the impunity. A country without memory is doomed to repeat his history
- Other thing that stands out in your movie is that religion has a very important presence...
In Colombia, in certain regions of the country, most people no longer believe in politics because of the corruption that has occurred in the recent years. Not only from the government, also from the police. The reason why people put all their hopes in religion.
- Talking more about your movie, audiovisual techniques are not very conventional, Are you trying to transmit more with this kind of narrative?
I did not have several meters of film tape and I decided to do three or four different shots for each scene. So I had the possibility to repeat them if necessary. My decision was to have two vertical shots in opposite directions and one horizontal shot. All to describe what I wanted. Although, I didn't want to risk making a lot of shoots because I knew that the time was against me. I preferred to take my time with each frame that I previously planned.
- You have received a special mention in fiction at IN THE PALACE Student's Edition. first of all, congratulations! what does the award means to your career? Are festivals like this important for a person who begins in the world of cinema?
Someone considered I have potential in the world of cinema and this helped me a lot in a job interview. All the festivals where I have been have helped me a lot as a professional. For example, I met some personalities from the film industry that are helping me to improve my film career.
- What are your future plans? Any other awards? Do you think your next projects will also be a way to claim things that are wrong in society?
I have to say that I received some special mentions in film festivals in my country but IN THE PALACE Is my only international award for the moment. Although, I have been in prestigious festivals such as Cannes, Viña del Mar... About my future plans, I am preparing a feature film to be shot in three countries in two years. I do not follow the aesthetic of 'The Forgotten' because I like to try new things, not only on the technical side, also in the theoretical. I think every day is a new way to learn new things, this is why I am always trying to change the way I reflect my ideas.
(A. G. Magaldí | Photo: Aslak Danbolt)
A breathtaking story. Do you know the wingsuit BASE jumping? One of the most extreme and exciting sports in the world. One activity whose popularity is growing every day but, at the same time, an adventure in which almost sixty people have died in the past two years.
Norwegian director Aslak Danbolt is able to surprise the audience recording from the heights the last trip of a jumper before retiring to become a father. Last Base, a story that begins with a small documentary and ended up transformed into a fiction closer to reality where the young director, graduated in Film Studies at the Lillehammer University College, goes into the bowels of a mountain in winter. A short film awarded with a Special Mention in Fiction at IN THE PALACE Student's Competition.
- When you decide to explore the world of BASE jumping?
I made a documentary about BASE jumping because I found it really interesting. It's quite a sad story because one of the jumpers die practicing it and their friends wanted to throw his ashes from the top of a mountain. I could say that Last Base is based on a true story.
- You have ventured into the world of BASE jumping and the first scene of your short film shows one BASE jumper with wings in action. Have you ever tried this extreme sport?
The truth is that I have never tried it but I I find it fascinating. I always thought that if I had discovered this at eighteen... I was twenty eight and I thought my time had passed. But I have to say that in all this time I have met many jumpers and I've done a big research about the topic.
- Three significant things about your movie: the first scene with the jumper in action (¿GoPro?), the aerial shots where you can see all the mountain and the spectacular storm suffered by the main characters.
The first scene was shot with a GoPro. BASE jumpers usually record their achievements. They can take up to three cameras attached to their body, and that is what we try to recreate. GoPro Cameras are opening a whole new world for filmmakers. You can shoot a lot of stunts easily. And the quality is in HD!
Then, we use a helicopter to record aerial scenes. It was crazy, Ninety percent of the budget went into it. We did not have too much money and we had to face many difficulties.
- Like what?
The film was supposed to befall in autumn but when we were in the mountains it started snowing like mid winter. Really bad conditions. We couldn’t see anything. We went out of clothes, out of food... We could not carry all at once so we take the equipment and left the food and extra clothes. The plan was to go down and get it the next day but the bad conditions were totally unexpected. We could not get to our supplies. And for some days it was impossible for the helicopter to fly. Everything was recorded in only two days. We lost a lot of time and at the end we were forced to cut a page and a half of the screenplay. We could end up not getting a movie.
- A page and a half of the script for a short film it's a lot...
I spent some time working on the script and then I left quite unrecorded. At least I thought I had enough material to assemble my movie but when I got to the editing room all were new problems. I thought about the worst. Every time you make a new movie everything is heartbreaking. But I am really happy with the result. Last Base has been selected in forty festivals and the Special Mention at IN THE PALACE Student's Competition is great.
(Mila Moshelova | Photo: Alex Mironescu)
Vividly interested in contemporary social issues – children in state care, Alzheimer disease, the social stigma and LGBT rights, bullying - Romanian film-maker Alex Mironescu is close to problems people face all over the world. His work reflects the human cost of societal reactions to social phenomena. He talks to IN THE PALACE about prejudice, identity, human nature and the ethical issues that arise when one is passionate about putting a powerful message on film.
- Your film: Iulian. A True Story?
It is my very first full 'exercise': Iulian is my very first cool film which was intended to be a portrayal film and it turned out more like a documentary, from the first semester of my first year BA.
- Any future projects and plans?
Actually, I came here in Balchik with a pitch idea which I will present soon, and I am really looking for a Bulgarian co-producer. I already have a Romanian producer attached to the project. I really want to develop into my very first independent short film but it is hard because the script, and the project itself, require a big amount of money. So, it will take a little bit of time in finding the financing for the project. And because this year I am in post-production with my second documentary and my second fiction film, I do have a future film idea I am trying to develop going to script workshops all over the world right now.
- Would you like to maybe share more about it?
About Julian, it is clear – it is a film about society, about human nature, a film about identity and it is more like the lack of identity and how society sees it and does not help; about how society refuses to integrate a person who can probably be really helpful, become a good citizen. Iulian. A True Story is a film about prejudice.
If we are talking about the fiction films that I already directed, the first fiction film that I did True Romance – it is awaiting world premiere – because we have submitted it to some festivals and are waiting for some answers – it is an LGBT film about a teenager who had a girlfriend in a straight relationship and he just had his first gay experience. So, it is at a moment when he does not have any idea what is happening with him and where is life going for him. He is 16 years old and totally confused. My second fiction film is about bullying. It's shot on 15mm black and white. My second documentary is about death and it was shot in a retirement home in Romania. It is about Alzheimer disease, really powerful film but we still need time to finish it and we need time to finish the contract that we have. It is not easy to make a film like that and see people on the screen who no longer have a healthy mental state of mind. You need to convince the families in order to give the acceptance.
(Photo: Iulian A True Story)
- You talk here about identity: the lack of, the loss of or search of identity. What art play a role in education and social life, providing some sort of an infrastructure for those people to find their identity?
Definitely, I think art is the main cultural resource that makes a society go further and I think without culture you get stuck. We should always ask ourselves what is wrong with our society, our way of living, what we should improve. I think culture does that and in certain ways gives some answers, gives directions. The themes of my films, I have to admit, I am orientated to things which are really close to me, real things that I confront or friends and relatives of mine are confronted with. All my films have a really big personal involvement - either it is mine, or someone I know.
- And now – follows up quite nicely – what is the role of festivals in your opinion?
I think it fundamental for short films because it is not easy to distribute short films – they don't get shown in shopping malls for example, so the festival is actually the playground of the short films. In order to get your film seen or make your idea heard you really need to apply to festivals. And if you have a really good film, it is even more complicated, as you need to learn how to make strategy of film festivals. Definitely, more so for short films than feature films, I think the international film festivals like here 'In the Palace', where I attend for the first time and I think it is one of the best of its kind because I have seen so many good films that were everywhere in the world but the team, the people and the organisers were great also. In the Palace should be a land-mark on the festival map for a young rising director.
- What do you think you will take with you from the festival?
I will take away a great experience, knowing that there are people like me who are trying to make art or that they are film-makers who are trying to be better and better and I got to know them in a very nice, pleasant environment where we can talk, enjoy a beer. The exchange of information is definitely important in the field of film-making as you should share about other festivals, workshops and ideas. For example, the film I am doing in post-production if about bullying but yesterday I have seen a film about bullying by a director who is currently kind of huge in Cannes – I have seen many of my ideas which I wanted to use in the movie and I did not use and I was really happy it turned out like that. Traveling and participating in film festivals I think it is something every young director should and must do, if they want to turn this into a profession after graduating.
- Is it a myth that you need specific education to get into film-making?
I don't think it is a must to study film in order to make a film. What I do believe that film schools can teach you the craft of film-making and you can learn how to do something or how to use something but talent is something school does not give you. Talent, of course, is about subjectivity: when admitted into film school, a group of people judge you based on a portfolio which I disagree with. Talent goes further than the exam itself. Being in a film school does not make you more talented than a guy from the street who makes a movie and who can be brilliant but it is a plus because you have a safe environment where you can practice and train and people will not judge you that harshly. Going to film school, like any other school, will not guarantee you a job and you have to fight for it. In the film industry, unfortunately, you really have to fight even harder.
Patrick Buhr:" It is not possible to reach every audience, but you need to find a middle ground"
(A. G. Magaldí | Photo of Patrick Buhr receiving his award)
What it means to be a flaneur? How I become a flaneur? What I Forgot to Say, an experimental short film by German director Patrick Buhr, who won the award for Best Animated Film at In The Palace Student's Edition Festival. With a seemingly simple picture and a story that seems to become anarchic, Buhr takes us on a fascinating journey through his personality with the ability to surprise viewers.
Owner of an apparent modesty, the director admits that his work is not for everyone and he is sure that the awards are not made for him.
Thanks, I've been to several festivals with my film now and it's actually the first prize I won. I have to say that the movie is way more successful than I expected cause I thought it would be a weird small film that only a few freaks understand. Sometimes I am really surprised because even children like my movie.
- But it is not an animation for children...
It is not for children. Maybe they like the movie because of the cats, or because they find some cute animations. To me it's important to get animation out of the children's playground. I'm interested in more challenging animated films.
- So, your next project will also be experimental. Have you done anything normal yet?
For me, all the things I've done are normal things. But yes, my new movie is going to be more regular, still crazy, but at least with a regular structure, maybe closer to the things the audience is used to. My ideal is to reach both audiences, more artistically interested people who are bored by mainstream storytelling and also the people who expect a conventional story that relates to their experience.
- You have defined your last movie as a "weird small film that only a few geeks understand". It's possible to reach every audience at the same time? There are great commercial movies, so maybe there is a point where both audiences can converge.
It's not possible to reach every audience, but I want to find a middle ground. You can never please everyone. When I try to imitate what other people want I fail, so now I'm focusing on what I would like to see and I'm sure that once I finished there will be a group of people who will also like it and that's the group of people I wanna communicate with. That's more important than maybe getting 10 million clicks on Youtube.
- Today, many films go out of conventional canons. Talking about animated films, at In The Palace Selection Student's there are some movies that feels like they exist in a place between animation and experimental cinema. There is a place for this kind of movies?
More and more people are interested these days in having different perspectives, outside of the usual stories. They want to perceive the world in a different way and this is somehow possible thanks to the internet.
- Also, the educational level of people has grown during the years. There are many more college graduates in the world, for example.
Yes. Definitely. There is a famous animator whose new short film has been uploaded to Vimeo on demand. People have to pay to see his film, however it is becoming a success. So this seems like a new direction to go.
- Festivals are important? Festivals and Internet do not seem compatible at the first stage...
Internet is just another option. Festivals are important to meet people who like to communicate with films. Also, to meet people who don't like your movie. In festivals you also see movies that you don't like but you learn a lot thinking about the mistakes.
Mariano Leguizamón:" A feature film is worth if it has ten or fifteen good minutes. You don't need more"
(A. G. Magaldí | Photo of Mariano Leguizamón)
Adultery? A simple visit to a friend? Nothing is what it seems, or is it? A simple story can be told on a different way. Shots that are repeated many times and increasingly take on different meanings. The fascinating game that the Argentinean director Mariano Leguizamón offers to the audience and that was noteworthy by the jury of In The Palace Student's Festival for telling a banal story of a domestic adulterer in an experimental way.
Mariano, who studies Film Direction in the University of Cinema in Buenos Aires, assured that "everything is possible in cinema" and although he is still having doubts about how to categorize his film, he is sure that in the future he will continue to change the classical forms of the seventh art.
- Four Domestic Episodes Under a Beautiful Stormy Day, the first surprising thing of your movie is the long title. How long have you been thinking about it?
It took shape gradually, like the script. First there were Four Domestic Episodes, then Under a Stormy Day and finally I thought Beautiful Day sounded more poetic.
- Different title, and also different movie...
I am not able to do normal things in cinema. It's something inside me. From my humble place, I like playing with simple stories to turn them into movies that are out of the canons of cinema. When I see my short film again, It is clear to me that despite mistakes I love the result.
- You're not telling just a single story, you're telling four different narrations that relate to each other. A really unconventional cinematic statement...
My idea was to put the same shot in different places of my short film and in accordance with what they had around to acquired different meanings. The script was more difficult than I imagined and it took me a long time to pull off what I was looking for and at the end, I spent a lot of time editing the film.
- And how is the audience responding to such a different way of telling things? Your movie feels like it exists in a place between fiction and experimental cinema.
When I'm doing a short film I'm doing art. But the movie has to be suitable for everyone. Not for a museum, not so extreme. Films that you can see in public. Somehow, my film is just a fiction. And I'm just looking to generate some feelings in the audience.
If you can have two or three good minutes in your short film is enough. The rest is filler.
- Also in a feature film?
A feature film is worth if it has ten or fifteen good minutes. I'm not saying the rest can be bad, just something that can be sustained. But ten or fifteen minutes is enough to create new sensations in the audience.
- So, thirty good minutes is a masterpiece?
(Mariano laughs). People generally can not stand much longer.
- A feature film in your future?
I am immersed in presenting my film to several festivals and then I want to do another short movie with a coworker. Acting runs in his blood. He is a relative of a famous actor in Argentina but he has never done anything.
- Festivals are important?
Events like IN THE PALACE are absolutely necessary. A place to meet other directors, to see movies you could not see in another context. And all the workshops and lectures are really important to improve your film career. Festivals are also the best way to make yourself known.
Zofia Pregowska" Sometimes you don't need an expensive equipment, you just need a good story"
(A. G. Magaldí | Photo of Krystyna & Zofia Pregowska: 'Facebook Invisible')
Once, on our engagement day, you gave me a dog you carved out of clay, to symbolize your fidelity, your feeling for me, your loyalty. Back them you used to bring me flowers, your words were full of graceful vows, and I would throw my arms around you, shaking all over with love strong and true. Once, you had promised me you would brim my every secret girlish dream. You lovingly looked into my face, it was one of those sunny days [...].
Krystyna is ninety years old and she can barely walk through her small apartment. She is almost blind and need to use a small electronic device whose voice tells you what time it is. At that instant, the elderly woman begins to recite a beautiful poem.
A multi-award winning documentary short film by the young Polish director Zofia Pregowska, awarded with a Special Mention in Documentary at In The Palace Student's Competition Festival for making an invisible character visible for the word to appreciate. Zofia is clear about why the audience likes her movie. “Sometimes you don't need an expensive camera, an expensive equipment. You just need a good story". The kind of cinema she likes.
- Why Krystyna?
(Zofia sighs) I didn't expect such a big question first. I met Krystyna by accident doing another project where I met a big group of blind people. I wasn't looking for a topic at that moment, we met accidentally and suddenly everything was unique.
- One of those things you just know...
Everybody was meeting her but nobody thought of making a film about it. Is not like I'm the first person to meet her. For example, she has been in some newspapers, but only as a part of a blind people foundation. But Krystyna's goal in life is making poetry. It's not about money, about recognition. Nobody cares about her arts but she just have to write poems. She is like me. Short film documentaries are not into money but I knew I had to shoot her.
- Is it all about the connection?
For example, if I had met her two years ago I might not have seen what I saw. It was the right moment. There is a funny thing, I was afraid of someone telling the story before me. That I would not be the first person. Even a lady from the radio was around her.
- Maybe, you need to look beyond the people, beyond the stories...
I was terrified, completely crazy, that people would not see what I saw. My boyfriend also told me during the editing of the movie that he was in love with Krystyna but he wasn't sure if the world was ready to meet her.
- But actually, your film is having quite success at festivals...
Is funny when people in movie events ask me something like, Oh, hey what's your film about? And I say it's about a ninety years old blind lady making poetry. They didn't know what to expect. It's not like Oh how wonderful. I believe the film gives you more than you can expect the first time you hear about it. In Poland, people love it. I never expected this.
- And what is Krystyna thinking about it? Her figure is touring the world.
Every time I can, I try to visit her. At the beginning she was asking me all the time why I wanted to film her. And I was like, hey, you know, maybe the documentary will be good and some festivals will show it. But I didn't thought about it, it was just a way to tell Krystyna I want to shoot her and not to think I'm crazy. And now, when I'm telling her the movie was shown in places like Cayman Islands she is like really surprise.
Half a year ago she told me: To be honest, at the beginning of the filming, when you were telling me about festivals I could not believe you. But I was trying to be nice.