Category Archives: Festivals

Withered Flowers

Jahanbakhsh Nouraei is a renowned Iranian film critic and lawyer. He has written vastly on movies for many years. This is an English translation of his review of Radiography of a Family by is Firouzeh Khosrovani.

Two kinds of people use x-rays films: physicians, to diagnose distortions of the body —especially broken bones— and trouble- shooting locksmiths, to open closed doors. 

(They insert the x-rays film through the narrow opening that the naked eye may not see). 

Radiograph of a Family is Firouzeh Khosrovani's feature documentary that has both skills. It shows both that which is broken, and the opening of a door to the sad garden of memories. The break and the opening of the door are both symbols of a world wider than the family home and its four walls. 

The film goes from the particular to the universal and becomes the story of numerous other families. But the small and real world of the husband and wife of this family is drawn so softly and justly that similarities, and the visible and hidden looks at the tumultuous world outside the wall, fall into place naturally and without exaggeration. 

The woman and man's beliefs, attachments, and values slowly end up in opposition to one another. The beliefs of each one is not fake, but genuine. They emerge from within and inevitably drag the family into a war that, despite attachments, has no result other than the reversal of the man and woman's positions and their emotional separation. Both are flowers whose petals are scattered by opposing winds, in a marriage that began with love. 

The father has Western beliefs and behaviors. He is happy and filled with vigor. He has studied in Switzerland and become a physician there. The mother is religious, God-fearing, and worried about falling into sinful behavior. In between the two, their daughter is a neutral narrator who opens the faded notebook of days, and tells of the events and struggles, alongside mother's and father's voices.  

The father does not resist the course of events; as he loses everything that he loves, he slowly withdraws into himself and, with melancholy, prepares to leave a world that is no longer his. 

From the narrator's viewpoint, father and mother's union began with a visual attraction. The very first sentence we hear from her at the beginning of the film is "Mother married father's photograph." Father has taken one look at his future wife and mother has seen a photo of her future husband, they like each other and get married. But the photo portrait of the groom that takes the place of his warm body and breath at the wedding ceremony, bodes a cold future.

In this film, photographs are the instruments and links of a tense union between two different cultures and beliefs; the cracks in this union, brought about by a slow domestic rebellion, meanwhile find their wider reflection out on the streets that are brimming with revolt and social change. Home and outside the home are two parallel worlds that reflect each other like intertwined mirrors. The photos, aided by the spoken text and the simple, meaningful dialogues, communicate like the beads of a rosary, become memorable, advance the story, converse with the music, fall silent and finally collapse and surrender to being burned and torn to pieces. The broken-hearted father dies quietly in his sleep and the mother stays behind to move about in her wheeled walker, to seek refuge in her usual, old sacred ideal, and to have her life continue in this way. 

The walker as a real object acts as a cane for a weak human being; yet at the same time represents the paralysis of a rebellious soul, and speaks of the fate of a woman of traditional beliefs who was forced to go skiing in Swiss mountains, an act that damaged her body and soul — the damage that stays with her to the end, and is irreparable. This X-rays image aligns with father's profession, radiologist; and the real distortions of a wife's spinal column link symbolically to an intellectual and social current to which the mother takes part, finding broader meaning.

After her skiing accident mother said repeatedly that it was as though her back were split in two. Thus, she seeks peace of mind and the cure to a split identity in the therapeutic space of the Revolution. The ideals are expected to help her heal the spinal column of her oppressed soul, release her from the wounds of a foreign culture, and with God's help, to allow the withered flower to blossom again in the passion and zeal of revolutionary romanticism. 

The anti-tradition culture did not suppress her in Switzerland only. In the time that she was made to live in that country, where their daughter was conceived, the signs of Western culture began to influence and infiltrate her home land at great speed also. The land of her ancestors now looked like Geneva. 

Still, Fortune favors the mother, and her rebellious desire, after returning to Iran, finds a suitable outlet in the enthusiastic slogans of Dr. Ali Shariati, flag-bearer of anti-government religion. This revolt becomes more audacious daily, and a spring that had been pressured into coiling begins to expand. 

It does so within the family, it accelerates, the power equation collapses, and mother forces father — whom she often calls "monsieur" -- into sad retreat. The rearrangement of furniture according to mother's tastes causes father's decorations to fade, the balance of power is disturbed. Mother's progress is guaranteed just like the relentless victories of the trenches in battle scenes. The colors at home tend towards grey; a feeling of mourning and the absence of passion, delicacy, affection scatter over the home.  The re-arrangement of furniture causes destruction and renovation to intermingle, and recalls the verses of the poet M. Azad that: "From these rains – I know – this house will be ruined. Ruined." 

The climax of events occurs when the mother says good-bye to her unpleasant and "sinful" past in the effort to solidify her new position, and she tears up the photographs that, for her, represent giving in to sin and to foreign influences.  

Mother's act creates the impression that one of the aims and advantages of toppling values during revolutionary zeal is to deny the past and burn its signs, both in matrimonial life and in society. Here, the narrator's role becomes slowly more prominent and she does not remain silent faced with the ruin of the home and the removal of the past.  The narrator enters the scene and we witness her small hands connecting the fragmented pieces of the family's heritage and memories; if she cannot find a missing piece, she paints it in herself with the help of her imagination and her longings.  White and red and green, accompanied by engaging majestic music, take the place of the cold and empty area, and the space takes on a hopeful tone. It is as though the past of a family and a country whose to be recognized again wins over to be forgotten and thrown away. 

The form and narrative of the film do the same, by juxtaposing retrieved photos and faded old films, giving the past new life, making us look at it differently and ask where we stand. 

At the end of the film, which is a new beginning, the viewpoint changes and the camera looks from above, as though through the invisible eye of history, at the girl who lies in a white dress among an ocean of torn up photographs and is busy reconstructing and breathing new life into them. This delicate and effective scene can become a positive sign for a new generation, to bring one's home back to life; a home that, with all its joys and fleeting happy moments, in the end had nothing but bitterness and despair neither for itself nor for its wandering inhabitants. 

“radiograph of a family” wins IDFA’s Award for Best Feature-Length Documentary 2020 and best usage of archives

What I love most about working with a great film is that it enables me to learn things as well as to become passionately involved with it – I can’t sleep at night, for behind the film there are people. It’s not a question of marketing; in the case of documentaries, things are more complex. It’s not a question of sales, either: It’s about making the community aware of the film – of its relevance to people’s lives and perceptions of the world. It’s about making people watch a film, appreciate it, feel passion, compassion; about making them get up and call their mother after the screening, about change for an evening, perhaps for a lifetime.

That’s what art is all about, isn’t it? To give comfort, strength, life, inspiration? To educate, as well. And it’s also about getting important news through stories, and responding emotionally to it, as the narrative resonates with your own experience. News, in this context, is everything that the film was intended and made to convey; but more than that, it’s a complex weave of multilayered narrative strands.

To return to the subject of the people behind the film: It’s the filmmakers’ interaction and chemistry that informs every sequence, every word. And my job, first of all, is to identify and then communicate all these elements by designing and implementing a strategy that conveys the film’s DNA to the media and the public. Such a complex project must be codified; every detail counts. You need to be able to see things from other people’s perspectives.

Firouzeh wrote to me about the two IDFA awards (IDFA Award for Best Feature-Length Documentary 2020 and best usage of archives) she received for her latest film, Radiograph of a Family:

‘As Truffaut said: “For you this is nothing more than a film. But for me it is all my life.”
I experienced the greatest invincibility, patience, and failure in the years of making this film. But it was not without pleasure. This film made me. And it continues to do so.’

When I received this, it brought a tear to my eye. 

I’d like to thank Firouzeh, her mother, Tayi, Bård (Bård Kjøge Rønning), and Fabien (Fabien Greenberg) (https://antipodefilms.com), for this journey across this new, online-only environment. My heartiest congratulations for their success and the two prestigious IDFA awards. I loved every minute of our warm, close-knit collaboration.

 

Firouzeh, Bård (Bård Kjøge Rønning), and Fabien (Fabien Greenberg) in Oslo.
Backstage pictures from Abbas Kowsari
Backstage pictures from Abbas Kowsari

Interview with Firouzeh Khosrovani (“Radiograph of a family”)

There are films destined to become classics, here to stay, to be watched again and again and reveal ever new facets – films to inspire. Last night I woke up in the middle of the night and jotted in my notebook: ‘collective memory through archives.’ I felt I must remember it, that and: ‘documentation of memories,’ a phrase Firouzeh Khosrovani used over the phone earlier, she in Tehran, I in Athens.

An effective title ushers you right into the film: Radiograph of a Family. Factually as well as symbolically, the story of the director’s family and the history of her country unfold before your eyes, and you want to see and hear it all, touch it even; smell the scent of rosewater; yet at certain moments it feels like having sand in my mouth.

The film’s opening phrase – the phrase that inspired her to make this film – immediately grasps the viewer’s attention: ‘My mother married my father’s photograph.’ Weird though it sounds, it’s true.

There are architectural elements in this film; not only because it is set in an empty house – their home in Teheran – but also because it is richly stratified, with materials that highlight textures, interactions, and trajectories in space. ‘The film builds a puzzle with precious family archives that blend with powerful images of collective moments of great significance.’*

It all began, the director Firouzeh Khosrovani notes, with the photo archive and her memories, out of which she started to weave the story she was most familiar with, as well as to fill the gaps:

‘Looking at our family albums as a child made me develop imaginary stories about my parents’ relationship. The pictures in our family albums became the primary archives in the film. Other formal and informal archival footage provided opportunities to expand the story of our family photos. At times, the archive more accurately conveyed what I had originally imagined or remembered about a story. So, sometimes the images created the story, and sometimes we looked for images to advance our story.
I also used out-of-focus Super 8, their elusive texture resembling the hazy texture of our deep-rooted memories.’

One can only admire the way this film speaks about the history of Iran, posing questions, avoiding bitterness and dogma, casting a critical yet lucid glance into a fascinating world, telling a riveting story before our eyes.

The revolution occurs at the exact middle of the film.
‘I had appealing ideas but no real plot. I knew that a well-constructed plot often moves along a cause-and-effect chain. The film structure is created through my lived experience and vivid childhood memories.’

Unless you know precisely what you want to say right from the start, you run the risk of becoming lost in the different strands of the material. I witnessed the making of this film like someone weaving a carpet, an arabesque of yarn and dye.

‘I had too many interwoven themes. It was easy to get lost in the multiple threads of ideas and forget to think of a compact narrative structure. The fusion of my own fantasies and reality made me excited to share it with others through this film. I sought to lay out in a structured order a chain of connected ideas; tore up photos; produced X-rays of distorted backbones – scans of our home – a narrative space divided into two poles and telling the story of how Islamic laws penetrated our life and our memories of it. Many other peripheral ideas gradually came to my mind.’

‘I did everything I planned to do. Step by step. Working with a great art director, Morteza Ahmadvand, who contributed significantly to its development during the long production journey.’

An act of re-examination and reconciliation, this is a therapeutic film to watch over and over again to discover new aspects of world history and its impact on the stories of three individuals, of a family. Firouzeh doesn’t like the word ‘identity. I respectfully didn’t ask her why; I guess the term may seem to her one-sided, not enough to qualify as self-determination – an identity is never one identity.

This applies to the film, too. In addition to the archives, it is the sound, music, voices, whispers that evoke an environment. Firouzeh Khosrovani explains ‘We considered many different options for speech. Because of the tendency towards realism, it was not possible for the narrator (me) to tell the story before I was born. I tried to find a distinctive conversational tone. Sometimes with whispers. Sometimes loudly.’

I loved the conversational tone of the film. The dialogues truly bring the couple’s conversations to life.

The music also serves a narrative function in Radiograph of a Family, evoking, for instance, her father’s presence even in a scene with her mother alone.
The soundtrack consists of ‘recreation of sounds heard at home. Classical pieces recorded in my childhood memories have been selected and replayed by the composer. Also, a creative re-playing of the melodies of Revolutionary and war anthems that exist in the collective memory of Iranians took their place in the film.’

It took Firouzeh Khosrovani almost five years to finish her film. And it is really beautiful the way she treated her parents, how she values their places in her life and within society; how she respects her mother's political and life choices, despite all the differences that she might have with her.

‘[My mother] was touched profoundly [when she watched the film]. She entirely acknowledged the imaginary dialogues with my father before I was born. She appreciated the conversational tone of the film, the narrative arc, the visual aspect, music – everything. She congratulated me and hugged me.’

This sounds like closure, but it’s not – we all have our own paths to travel.

‘I experienced the greatest invincibility, patience, and failure in the years of making this film. But it was not without pleasure. This film made me. And it continues to do so.’

Firouzeh Khosrovani's Radiograph of a Family has been named the best feature-length documentary at the 2020 International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) the film won also the IDFA Competition for Creative Use of Archive 2020

radiographofafamily.com

  • The excerpts are from the interview Firouzeh Khosrovani gave me on November 2020.

Good Morning Mr fotis Premiere at the 22nd Thessaloniki Documentary Festival

Good Morning Mr Fotis

Documentary, 70ʹ, Greece, 2020


Written, Directed, and Produced by Dimitra Kouzi 

In the heart of Athens, in a once desirable residential district. In the 1990s, many Greeks moved out to the suburbs; successive waves of immigrants from the Balkans and former Soviet Union moved in. Since 2009, in Greece’s economic crisis, the area declined, with poverty and gloom spreading and crime rates soaring.
Today, the neighbourhood is home to a diverse array of migrants and refugees from Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, some tourists, and a few old residents.

Fotis Psycharis has been teaching at a regular state school in this neighbourhood for 30 years now. Aged 6–12, most of the school’s pupils are migrant and refugee children, largely unfamiliar with the Greek language and culture. The lack of a common linguistic and cultural background has prompted Fotis to develop other teaching methods and modes of communication. Theatre, a synthesis of many arts, is an essential part of his toolbox.

Watch the trailer.

About The Film

The documentary film Good Morning Mr Fotis goes into the classroom to follow the everyday reality of a 6th Grade at a public elementary school in the heart of Athens. Reflecting the diversity of the area where it is located, near Omonoia Square, this class consists of 17 pupils from 7 different countries, with varying degrees of familiarity with the Greek language and the European culture.

The teacher aims for inclusion, not mere integration. Enlisting creativity in many forms, not exclusively based on the linguistic code, Fotis has for 30 years been developing his own, innovative teaching approach by combining different arts and techniques; he teaches children – irrespective of background – a way of thinking and acting, applying an experiential teaching method that engages the heart, mind, body and senses. Children are given space to explore and discover while developing their personalities – in a film that humorously captures the importance of a teacher who proposes and delivers solutions.

This is a beautiful film, which with great delicacy and skill shows the power of understated goodness to engender hope and effect transformation in both individuals and communities.  You will be rooting for these children and their inspirational teacher to succeed.  His deployment of theatre and philosophy in the classroom to develop understanding and empathy makes a compelling case for the importance of the Humanities in our schools.

Professor Angie Hobbs FRSA

Professor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy

University of Sheffield

Director’s Note

In this universe, parallel to our own yet so different, just a few kilometres away from where I live, with my own habits, I felt inside me the need to go back to school, at that school.

A school, a hope. Children who are children against all odds. And in this colourful classroom, with its wooden theatre stage, there is space for the joy of learning to flourish – an innate joy, shared by all humans, a path to education, rather than degrees and marks. Words are not what counts here; what counts is actions. And, in the bittersweet comfort of art, the power to transform. Education through the joy of creativity; spontaneous inclusion, rather than integration.

A creative treatment of an infinitely harsh reality just a breath away from Omonia Square and its astounding diversity of faces, ethnicities, and cultures concentrated within a few blocks in a city like Athens, where international inhabitants where few and far between only a few years ago.

Meeting Fotis, an authentic, creative, educated person, introduced me to a luminous side of life – how to be what you do, what you say, without any disconnect; when your job is your life, your work something important to leave behind. A pioneer, yet also a man out of time, as if coming from a few generations back, from another Greece, a country more approachable, slower-moving, wiser, poorer in material terms yet richer, mature, familiar yet distant. I’ve always loved to explore and discover, to travel, meet people, listen to their stories and relay them. I’m grateful for having taken this journey in space and time, for capturing this moment on film. All around us, those incredible children, each in their own way – windows and journeys to new worlds. And that other child, within, once again found a space of its own, the joy of learning and creating.

 

Credits

Written, Directed, and Produced by Dimitra Kouzi

Camera/Sound: Konstantinos Georgoussis

Editing: Nelly Ollivault

Original music composed by Michael Kapoulas

Sound Lab: Kvaribo Sound 

Sound Design/Editing: Vallia Tserou 

Sound Mixing: Kostas Varybopiotis 

Image Lab: 235

Colour Correction/DCP mastering: Sakis Bouzanis 

Poster/Credits/Website Design: Daria Zazirei

Translation/Subtitle Editor: Dimitris Saltabassis

Production Assistant: Rosie Diamantaki

Still Photography: Katerina Tzigotzidou, Mania Benissi

Location Sound Recordist: Aris Athanassopoulos

Special Effects: Yannis Ageladopoulos

Drone: Tassos Fytros 

Trailer: Penelope Kouvara

Legal Advisor: Aris Kontoangelos

Original music published by Illogical Music/Acuatrop LLC

Drawing: Sahel Mirzai (5th Grade, Elementary School 54)

World Sales

Visible Film, Thierry Detaille T +32 477617170 E thierry.detaille@visiblefilm.com

Press Enquiries

Dimitra Kouzi, Director/Producer
info@kouziproductions.com

With the kind support of 
The J.F. Costopoulos Foundation 

The film was selected by the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival to participate in Docs in Progress 2019
Docs in Progress 2019 Award – Thessaloniki Documentary Festival – Greek Film Centre 

©Kouzi Productions 2020

Contact

Kouzi Productions
33, Praxitelous St.
105 60 Athens
T +30 2107219909
info@kouziproductions.com
kouziproductions.com

My first Film win​s its first award! the Greek Film Center Award at Docs in Progress 2019!


It was a fantastic Thessaloniki Festival for me this year. My first ever film as director was selected at Docs in Progress and earned an award from the Greek Film Center! It was selected among ten great projects. During the festival, we had a preparation session with Anna Glogowski (former C.E. at France Television, now doc consultant and festival programmer) and a group rehearsal. The presentation was back to back at Pavlos Zannas Theatre, where we had three minutes to present our film and another eight minutes to show the audience scenes. There was no "show" and no questions from the public. Just straightforward presentations and meetings. That meant that the people who asked to see me were really the people who had chosen and were interested in the project. The film is in postproduction and I am looking for pre-sales, distribution, and partners. I can't begin to describe how proud and happy I am. Thank you all at Agora TDF team (head Yanna Sarri) and thank you to the Greek Film Center for the support and trust in my work!

SCHOOL 54 (working title) by Dimitra Kouzi – Greece (Kouzi Productions). A teacher for 27 years at a public elementary school in central Athens, Fotis Psycharis has developed his own approach. He uses drama to build teams, overcoming the linguistic and cultural barriers of his mostly refugee and immigrant pupils. Following Fotis in class, teaching and developing a play that he has written for the graduation ceremony, this humorous, positive film is a rare opportunity to witness from within a school microcosm in a declining city centre. A teacher and his class at a small public school on the outskirts of Europe provide inspiration for the education of future Europeans. The film is in postproduction, slated for release in summer 2019. Duration approx. 60 min. There will also be a TV version.

Read about Docs in Progress awards:

https://www.filmfestival.gr/en/professionals-b2b/media-press/26899-21st-thessaloniki-documentary-festival-the-awards

Photo: Fani Trypsaki (ΦΑΝΗ ΤΡΥΨΑΝΗ) Motionteam

What more can a documentary be?

As the future fast approaches, Dimitra Kouzi, raises questions about how evolving technologies are impacting the way we produce and present information
published in Modern Times Review (the European Documentary Magazine) autumn issue 2018.


KinderDocs 2020/21 new programme!

Welcome to the fifth edition of KinderDocs – the documentary festival of award-winning films made for children and teenagers,as well as their friends, teachers, and parents, running all year long in Greece and Cyprus.  Discover the magic of documentaries, explore new ways
of communication, get inspired by stories we all care about, have fun. Each film is a story on teenage life – friendship, family, education, social media, creativity, art, music, dance, psychology, migration, environment – an opportunity to enter the colourful world of kids and teenagers, a platform for constructive dialogue and after-screening events, building tomorrow’s thinking viewers today. Founded in 2016, KinderDocs premieres for the fifth season, in collaboration with the Benaki Museum (Athens) and the MOMus Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art (Thessaloniki), supported by the biggest documentary festivals in Europe – IDFA (The Netherlands) and DOCX! (Germany). Since November 2018, KinderDocs Greece collaborates with Festival dei Popoli in Florence, Italy (est. 1959).

For Schools
KinderDocs documentaries are a great educational tool and source of inspiration for modern educators looking for ideas for their lesson plans and ways to train students in media literacy. In specially designed events for schools, each screening is supplemented by lm-inspired discussions and activities, featuring select guest speakers. All lms have age recommendations (elementary-school children aged 10+ up to lykeion students – see individual lms); they can be integrated into classwork to inform and encourage dialogue as a means to improve bonding in class. Supplementary teaching material a hole method developed by our team for the whole program and each and every film, the KinderDocs Toolkit, helps to prepare students before the screening and provides guidance in the classroom during the follow-up exploration of the KinderDocs experience. Starting February 2018, a special preschool children programme (ages 4–7) was launched at MOMus (Thessaloniki); also, KinderDocs Art Lab, a workshop for children aged 9–12
Check out all the online programme www.kinderdocs.com

Make the most out of your premiere at idfa

Audience development builds awareness for a film in competition with both industry and viewers, and increases your chances to win a prize. Audience development can also take your career as a producer or director to the next level by developing your personal networking scope with decision-makers and press to know your latest film and support your next one.

Audience development means bringing people and cultures closer; it engages people and communities in experiencing, enjoying, and valuing arts and culture. The idea is to expand visibility and awareness, to diversify the audience, and to deepen the relationship with existing audiences. 
The specialist involved in an audience development campaign – audience developer, communication strategist, outreach/impact producer – designs a strategy using tools including the press, social media, graphic design, posters, flyers, ambassadors, an expanded network, personally engages in matchmaking during the festival and guides you through the festival's opportunities.

The goal of outreach is to make an impact for a film or a festival. There is no recipe, no standard procedure – the fascinating thing about it is it's tailor-made for you and your film! It's all about networking, experience, and timing.

If you want to talk about your film premiering at IDFA and its possibilities, contact dimitra@kouziproductions.com.

Dimitra Kouzi has designed and implemented audience development for:

La Chana, IDFA audience award 2016

Nowhere to Hide, best feature length documentary IDFA 2016

21 X New York, European Film Academy 2016 Nominated Best Documentary

Communion, European Film Academy 2017 Selected Best Documentary

How to Reach a Young Audience

Kinderdocs second edition (2017–18) is here!

KinderDocs is a documentary festival of award-winning films made for or addressed to children and teenagers, as well as their teachers, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and their friends!  KinderDocs provides a platform for discovering the magic of documentaries and exploring new ways of cross-generation communication, inspired by stories we all care about, and for having fun. Each film is a story on teenage life, friendship, family, relationships, education, creativity, art, music, dance, psychology, migration, environment.

Each film is an opportunity for constructive dialogue and after-screening events, building tomorrow’s thinking viewers today. Pioneering new locations for docs and young audiences, KinderDocs is held in the two largest contemporary art museums in Greece,  in collaboration with the museums' education departments: the Benaki Museum (Athens) and the Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art (Thessaloniki). The documentary film is a contemporary art form, which speaks to the hearts and minds of young people of all ages!

KinderDocs programme for schools takes place on weekdays at 10:00. Educators click here for more information. Screenings for the whole family and friends take place on weekends at 12:00. More info here.

The festival is a regular meeting opportunity, held once a month both in Athens and Thessaloniki starting in October 2017 through to April 2018.  Produced by Kouzi Productions, it is supported by the biggest documentary festival in Europe – idfa (The Netherlands) and the oldest documentary festival for kids doxs! (Germany).

Check out KinderDocs 2017–18 programme.

Dimitra Kouzi
KinderDocs Artistic Director & Producer

Interview La Chana, IDFA’s Audience Award 2016

La Chana is the portrait of the self-taught Gypsy dancer, Antonia Santiago Amado, an amazing flamenco dancer and with it the personal story of a now elderly woman. Excellent editing with archival dance scenes and highlights of her career (here with Peter Sellers in The Bobo). Full of humour and passion, a great scene where she talks about Dali, how he attended her performances bringing along his “cat”, his leopard, which was upset by her tap-dancing and roared!

47

Lucija Stotevic the director and producer of the film originally comes from Croatia, but moved to Austria when she was 6. While studying architecture in Edinburgh, she discovered she loved film more, so she moved to the Czech Republic to study film for one very intensive year. After that, she moved to Barcelona, Spain, and started to work for production companies and independently doing video journalism for newspapers like The Guardian. La Chana was the reason why she set up her own production company. She produced and directed this feature-length documentary against all the financial obstacles for a newcomer. The film has participated in a series of workshops, such as EsoDoc and Rough Cut Boutique. Four years later, La Chana was premiering at Idfa Panorama and was also nominated for the best female-directed film. While this interview was taking place in her co-working space in Barcelona, her seven-month-old daughter was one floor above, playing in the baby facility provided by this co-working space.

Is it common in Spain to have a baby facility if you are a working woman? No, it’s a completely new thing; we are pioneers and trying it out. I was like, “This is perfect” because, she is depending on me, but I need to work. My poor baby is seven months old and has been to five countries in seven months.

So, you were pregnant while doing the film? During the editing process, my belly was just growing. So, I was thinking, if she doesn't have a sense of rhythm, I will be surprised. She is getting so much flamenco, she’d better have a good sense of rhythm.

_mg_9526Do you think your background in architecture influences this way of reacting and thinking? This structure you have, is it coming from there? There are overlaps between film and architecture. For example, in the working process, in both film and architecture, you work on different aspects and still always have an overall picture the whole time, too. It’s also a echnical and creative mix, and I think there are a lot of crossovers, which is actually why I got into film. I did my final project on editing theory in film and architecture and was looking at how these two things can influence each other in the creative process, in the way you think about montage and architecture and construction, and the way you think about montage and constructing through sequences in storytelling. There is similarity. During that period, I became much more interested in film than architecture, so my boyfriend at the time told me, ‘You seem so much more into the film aspect, why don't you just go to film school?’ and I thought that actually was not such a bad idea.

_mg_0760How did you meet La Chana?
I met her through my teacher, Beatriz del Pozo. La Chana is her ‘maestro’. Beatriz always talks about La Chana, about her rhythms, about her beats, about how she had fallen into the shadows and she shouldn't have because she is an amazing, wonderful artist and does things nobody else had done. She put some videos on for me when I was at her house, of La Chana dancing and I was just dumbstruck. I think the one that really struck me was the one where La Chana was dancing in The Bobo [the Peter Sellers film], where she is nineteen years old and looks like she is forty – the passion and the pain and the suffering – she was like a sorceress!
Beatriz suggested that we meet so we went to her home, and she prepared an amazing paella for us. She was very open with me from the beginning in terms of what happened to her, she just told me everything. There was so much story here, and this character was amazing. She could carry a film as an individual character – nothing else was necessary. I proposed we start working together, and the first thing she told me was, ‘OK, come to the party on Saturday. I am having my whole family here, but only you can come, you can’t bring any men with you, no camera guys, and if my family ask you, tell them that you are a student of mine.’ She was very careful, and what worried her the most was her own environment, and how they were going to react if they knew she was doing this film. But then, little by little, she became much more open about this.

It does come across in the film that she has this worry about how others will think of things and that she was always between these two things, what do others think and what is my own soul telling me. Exactly, very much so. It has always been a struggle for her, this combination of ‘this is me, this is what I want, what I am feeling and this is what I am supposed to be doing.

How did you deal with all these layers of her character, all these directions the film could take?
There were many directions the film could have taken, as there were many elements to deal with: her art, the social circumstances, the abuse. But I think going into general topics would have been a mistake. So, it was very important that we just stick to the core, and let her lead it, and just look more how these different things influenced her, rather than what they are. And La Chana’s core is her dance, her art. That’s why there is a narrative told through the transformation of the way you perceive her dance in the film. When you watch the early part of the film and you discover who she was, you see her dancing and you think, ‘Wow, amazing dancer,’ but it’s only when you find out those different obstacles that she had, that her dances take on other meanings, other layers. You understand all that emotional charge then. That was very important to me, that we go to where her core is – her music, her rhythm, her dance – and to do that we should understand her pain and her suffering and her environment, and her tragedy, and stay close to that.

1-19

I could see the passion of La Chana but I could also feel your passion in doing this film. I am sure you had difficulties in many ways to make it. How did you balance these two roles – director and producer?
I think the way the documentary world is today, if I look at it from the producers’ perspective, most people would have just put this film into the drawer looking at it in terms of financing and what was possible to raise, unfortunately. That was one of my worries initially, because we started this film exactly when the crisis hit, so we had the problem that the arts were the first thing to get cut – production companies were closing left, right and centre. Everybody was telling me, ‘We love the film, we love the idea but we don't know if we are going to survive one more year, and it will be very difficult to get funding for your film.’ We had a lot of interest also at the international level, but this was complicated, because of the fact that it is character-driven, a human-interest story, but of a character who is not so well-known outside of Spain – I mean she is not so well known inside of Spain either, except to the older generation. Only Spanish is spoken, and it was very hard to find co-producers who could do anything. In the end, I established a production company in order to be able to produce it, and then we eventually started getting interest from a direct audience. We ended up raising a huge part, more than 50% of our budget, from individuals. Otherwise, it would have been impossible. It was funded by women mostly. Women wanted to watch this film.

4-17In a film like La Chana it is important that you are a woman. Do you think that the fact that you were a woman filmmaker made her trust you and open up to tell her story? Was it important that you were a woman?
I think so. She grew up in such a macho society that I think there are certain things that she would certainly not share with a man. It made it easier for her to relate to me and open up to me. Initially, one of the things I was worried about is that I am a foreigner and I think that played as an advantage for me because, especially in the beginning, she didn't feel threatened by me. She thought ‘the girl with the funny accent’, you know (laughing). That, in some way, helped her to relax.

You are not only stubborn, but very smart, too. I wanted to ask you a bit more about flamenco?
I am interested from an intellectual point of view but you can’t be shy and perform in flamenco. I absolutely adore it and I loved learning it, but I wouldn't describe myself as a flamenco dancer. In order to be really good, you need to be really raw and really let everything come out; show everything that you are. In flamenco for it to work you have to let all that fall, and I am too private of a person to do that.

In the film, you talk about the aging process, the loss of acceptance, but also the reinvention. You manage to do this very smoothly. I wanted to hear more about that coming from you, what are your thoughts about aging and reinvention?
What La Chana shows us in a very nice way is that you have to accept the passing of time and that you can do something with it; you don’t have to just sit there and do nothing anymore. She demonstrates it so beautifully, that you can’t let your passions die even if you are physically getting older. You have to find a way to change them into a format that you can still enjoy.

Through the film, you helped her do this also, to go back.
We kind of inspired her to go back on stage, which she loves; she loves the attention, she loves the audience, but she also loves being filmed. She is living with memories but quite isolated. Now, I think we won’t be able to stop her anymore (laughing) – she wants to go everywhere and is going to be the great diva again, and she will do anything.

_mg_0048What was her reaction when she saw the film?
She always said she prayed for us (the film team), but when I showed her the film in January she told me she stopped praying for me. Over a nine-month period.

Why?
She hated it; she had a really hard time with it, which was normal. I mean, I was expecting her to react, but she reacted very strongly. It might sound sadistic and horrible, but i thought, ‘OK, this is a good sign’. Because if she loved it from the beginning, it means we didn’t really go under the surface. It had to affect her; it wouldn't be normal if it didn’t affect her because it’s her life. There is a psychological process she never went through. It was extremely difficult, and she was very angry at me, but by the time we showed her a final version, after many months had passed, she had had time to process it and now stands behind it.

This is the films Trailer. The film won the audience award at IDFA 2016. Shoot in Barcelona, here is the video message to accept the award.