First-time filmmakers from around the world come to Planet IFFR to vie for the Impact Cinema Bright Future Award, a prize that supports up-and-coming film talent. We spoke to four of them from Brazil, the USA, Belgium and China about inspiration, sleep deficit and politics.
Brazilian Caroline Leone shot the loving road movie Pela janela, in which Rosália, who is in her 60s, rekindles her love of life whilst being driven from São Paulo to Buenos Aires by her brother: “The idea dates back to 2009. On the bus from Buenos Aires to São Paulo I met a woman like Rosália. We talked a lot during the three-day journey. Although we were from different generations we were linked by our fear of death. That became Pela janela: a woman who has to learn to deal with death – not just literally, but also metaphorically. I wanted to make a film in a poetic, pseudo-documentarian style. That was hard, but I learnt to trust my instincts even when things seemed impossible. I was so awake and alert that it took me six months to get back to normal afterwards.”
American Kevin Phillips recreated the 1990s for the ambitious thriller Super Dark Times, about two school friends who become enemies after a dramatic accident. “My scriptwriter dreamt about this idea some five or six years ago. We tested Super Dark Times’ universe with the short film Too Cool for School that was selected for Cannes. I was shaped by the 1990s and I wanted to show what the suburbs were like before Columbine, before everyone started being scared of disaffected white teens. We wanted to show how fragile masculinity is, how easily it can be moulded and become violent, how the underlying darkness was always there really. This has become all the more relevant in our contemporary political reality. We have elected a couple of power hungry white males who are scared stiff of seeing their type of masculinity die out. They harbour a nostalgia for bullshit. Our film is also nostalgic, but only because of the era: the rest is a fucking nightmare.”
Belgian Elias Grootaers’ documentary Inside the Distance portrays an intellectual Armenian boxing coach in Belgium: “Giorgi is a complex, melancholy man who intelligently converses about his rich past and love of boxing. The ideal lead for my documentary, the anchor for more abstract themes. I was touched by how he is in two minds, thinks from within the convolutions, questioning the present. Documentary is pre-eminently the art of the divide: the tension between imagination and reality, form and content, object and subject, image and sound, image and image. To me, Inside the Distance is perhaps a self-portrait. I spent long periods living abroad as a child. I recognise the migrant’s interstitial position and I have had a life-long fascination with boxing because it is so incredibly cinematic.”
Chinese filmmaker Rong Guang Rong made the emotional, experimental documentary Children Are Not Afraid of Death, Children Are Afraid of Ghosts about four young brothers and sisters who committed together in a mountain village. He did so despite being threatened and having his footage confiscated. “A few days after hearing about the suicides I travelled there. I could only stay there briefly as otherwise the hamlet’s inhabitants would get in trouble due to my presence. I basically didn’t sleep for five days. Partly because I worked through the night, but mainly also due to my fear of the authorities, indignation and powerlessness. I think the suicide of a child makes everyone feel lost, but what can you do? Making a film made me feel less useless. My own youth wasn’t a happy one either. Incorporating my memories into the film helped me understand their fear better. This taught me you can make a good film without actually filming the event.”