Interview: Pere Portabella - Mudanza (Removal)

03 March 2010

What were the starting points and initial ideas behind Mudanza? The García-Lorca Foundation. It organises every year a temporary exhibition where about twenty international artists are invited to the García-Lorca family house in Granada, “la Huerta de San Vicente”. I replied to the invitation from Hans Ulrich Obrist, the responsible of the exhibition, with a proposal: to completely empty the house of furniture and objects, in order to leave only the living space and the silence. It is about a quiet eviction, taking the furniture out with a meticulous calm, a tale of guided rhythm until the total emptiness. For this sequence of the removal I used the steadycam, closer to the human eye due to its instability in the steady shots and in the movements that require stability, which in an almost imperceptible way influences the spectator’s view. For the sequence of the empty apartment the travelling was essential. Change of rhythm and point of view. The place is what is “moving”. It is a movement or journey what is offered to the spectator, overshadowing the scenery. The space becomes the place for the spectator to go along his experience and demands. In films, the significant absences acquire always a strong presence from the outside. The emptiness of the house is occupied by the poet without fetishistic interferences, without spotlights or expressionists effects, capturing the sun light from the outside with big mirror-screens. As simple as this. Could you maybe share an important/funny/moving/surprising anecdote related to the making-of the film? The museum-house of the García-Lorcas in Granada, in “la Huerta de San Vicente”, is part of the Spanish national heritage. Its conservation and maintenance is carried out by the Andalusian Government, Granada´s city council and county council. So as you can easily imagine there’s an impregnable bureaucratic wall that makes impossible to take even one piece of furniture out of the house. By chance the responsible of the conservation of the museum-house came back just in the right moment, after a month of absence leave due to a strong depression. He was happy to meet me and after a pleasant and euphoric first contact, he asked me about how things were going on. I explained him about the refusal from the official institutions to move the furniture and that therefore there was no chance to make it. He asked me for some time to think about it. After ten minutes he came back with the solution: he would give the order to evacuate the furniture from the house using the argument that some repair, painting and wiring works needed to be done. This is how it was possible to shot Mudanza. Thanks to an anarchist and revolutionary to whom I will always be deeply grateful. What do you do when not making films? When I´m not shooting I´m thinking about another project for which I always need time. I´m also the president of a foundation (Fundación Alternativas), that tries to bring solutions to the big economic, environmental, social and cultural changes that we are experiencing on an international level. What would you like to say to your audience before seeing Mudanza? To enjoy it, and my best wishes for 2010. What at you currently working on? Several projects for three museums in Madrid, Brussels and Berlin… And my next film.

Other blog posts on IFFR 2010


Daily Tiger 2010

08 March 2010

Read all the newspapers of the 39th edition here.


Interview: Manon de Boer - Dissonant

What was the starting point for your film? The film came from different thoughts and desires. Firstly, I've wanted to do something with Cynthia Loemij for a very long time. She's been a dancer with Rosas for eighteen years and I've always been really impressed with the speed and precision of her movement. Secondly, my last film, Two Times 4'33", was based on John Cage's famous 'silent work'. It’s centred around what silence means in the cinema and how the viewer experiences this in his or her body. The second part of Two Times 4'33" is completely silent, whilst the camera slowly moves from the pianist to the audience sitting outside. After thinking more about what sound and silence mean for images and how sound makes a spacial experience for image, I wanted to do something with the absence of images and the presence of a body through the medium of sound. Thirdly, there was also the use of 16mm film. The limitations of the length of a 16mm film roll (three or ten minutes) defined how the piece was filmed and therefore directly or indirectly influenced how time is experienced in the finished film; I find this endlessly fascinating. In this work the length of each shot was decided on in the context of a 16mm film roll of three minutes. These three things together form the origin of the idea for Dissonant. Do you have any anecdotes about the making of the film? The biggest problem was with the microphone, which I wanted to have on Cynthia's body to get a good recording of her breathing and other bodily sounds. What I didn't anticipate was that the microphone would come into contact with her clothes as she was moving and cause bad interference. The beautiful dress that Cynthia was wearing had to go because it made too much contact with the microphone. Myself, Cynthia and the sound-woman emptied our wardrobes and brought in all our shirts, dresses and skirts to try out and eventually discovered a very simple top and skirt that worked best for the sound. But it was a shame about the beautiful dress. Is there anything you want to tell your audience before they see your film? Go and see it, and above all listen to it. What other projects are you working on? I'm busy making a montage about the percussionist Robyn Schulkowsky. It's the third portrait in a triptych, in which the 1970's plays an important role. The other two films in the trilogy are Sylvia Kristel-Paris and Resonating Surfaces.


Interview: Lernert Engelberts - Hoe vertel ik het mijn ouders #1

What was the starting point for this film? In the series 'Hoe vertel ik het mijn ouders' ('How do I tell my parents'), we make use of the tension between artists and their parents. In their chosen surroundings - with friends, fellow artists, curators, gallery owners and journalists - artists are well prepared and comfortable in explaining their art. They have enjoyed the kind of artistic education that has made them into essayists of their own work; the language they have learned to speak is one of the art world and will not always help them connect with their father or mother. As a visual artist why have you, for example, spent three years systematically removing the birds from the Hitchcock film 'The Birds"? And is beer brewing really an artwork that should be in a gallery? Last year I walked through hallways of the Rietveld Academy as a visitor. The building, with its hundreds of work places, was transformed from a school into a gallery for an open-day weekend. My attention was drawn towards the work of a student in the Autonomous Art department. In the centre of her work space, the undergraduate artist had placed an object of human height, hidden by a white sheet. From the corner of the room a CD played a whispering text in a strange language. As I entered I chanced upon a conversation between the Bjork-like artist and an older man and woman, clearly her parents, who were of course very curious to see what their daughter had been working on for these two years. The father had his hands behind his back, fiddling with his car keys, while the girl talked about " in one way, art is becoming only distant images...., so therefore the idea of wrapping it up......., ehm..., can still satisfy the hunger of the consumer..., you understand". It cost her considerable effort to get her words out. Her mother nodded eagerly and added a "beautiful" and "interesting" now and again. She was a little red faced from her efforts at empathy. The girl was called away by a fellow student, and the parents were left alone in the room. The father sighed. The mother sighed in response. "She's been really busy with this piece for two years so why can't we see it?”, whispered the father. "I find it quite exciting, this idea, you know?". The mother tilted her head to look at it from another angle. "There could just as well be anything under this sheet. Not something that you worked on for two years. Nobody would know." "Please let her be", hissed the mother. "We don't have to understand it." We've been active as film makers, writers, graphic designers and visual artists for 10 years now and still we find ourselves on the same level as this girl on Open Day: we still don't find it easy to explain our work to our parents and why we do things like we do. Furthermore, when we all visit our parents our work is not discussed. Just like we don't talk about politics, as a discussion will end in an argument. Our mothers don't like that: "Let's keep things civilised, please." What was the plan when you began the series? In our series we invited nine artists into the studio to explain their work to their parents in front of the camera. The starting point for the casting was simple; the work of the artist must be hermetic and abstract in character. During the research there must be a tangible imbalance in the relationship between the artist and the parent. Instead of transporting a camera, lights and an artwork to a parental home somewhere in Brabant we decided to invite the artist and parents to the anonymity of a studio. In the studio we built a grey anonymous set that gave the subtle references to a kitchen table setting - which conformed to our idea of the ideal location for talking to your parents. As film makers, with such a restricted format ('explaining art to parents'), it seemed to us that it would be easy to make the wrong choices in a documentary setting such as the parental home. It would be all too easy to zoom in on the ugly porcelain clown on the window sill or the knitted lace Vermeer milk-maid. Or look at the depressing attempts at painting from the house-proud parent themselves! And we haven't even talked about the tasteless furniture and the wood panelling on the wall! These images would make it all too easy to convey that these parents will never understand what their son or daughter is doing. You won't believe the differences between them. Ha Ha! How we laughed at the parents and their bad taste. That was exactly why we had no desire to film things this way. We wanted the studio to be a kind of 0-0 setting, an anonymous area where the chief concern would be language. For this reason we also chose to give the artwork that the artist would talk about as little context as possible. A normal portrait of an artist could have been made quickly in the workshop, followed by a short camera movement to paint spatters on the floor as the artist makes a great effort to share his most lofty and soul-stirring aspirations. Put some arty music underneath and the portrayal of the artist is complete. We wanted the artist to bring their work to the studio (photo, installation, video, beer bottle, etc), but that only the back of the artwork would be shown to the camera. In this way the viewer will concentrate more on the language of the artist and will create their own image of the artist's work. Do you have any anecdotes about the making of the film? There is something about the set where the artist and parents sit that is not visible to the naked eye: the chair where the artist sits is a few centimetres shorter than that of the parent. We did this on purpose in order that visually the artist seems lower than the parent and to subconsciously bring out the relationship between parent and child.


Interview: Brigitte Stærmose - Out of Love

What was the starting point or the initial idea for this film? I am interested in the cross-pollination between fiction and documentary. I am a fiction director fascinated by reality. When I visited Kosovo for the first time in 2006 the hidden and unseen quality of the place drew me in. And then there were the faces of the children. I wanted an audience to be confronted by the reality and humanity of these children by focusing on what is not seen - their memory and stories of desire, loss and fear. Can you share an important/funny/moving/surprising anecdote of the making-of this film? I think that there are films that you make that leave you after they are done and then there are films that stay with you. This is a film that will stay with me for a very long time. At the same time making it has the quality of a very private and intimate experience. What do you do when not making films? I have been fortunate enough for a while to only make films. What would you like to say to your audience before seeing your film? Keep your eyes and ears open. What project(s) are you working on this year? I am preparing to shoot my first feature film this March. It is a multi-plot film that takes place in a hotel with a script by the Danish screenwriter Kim Fupz Aakeson and an international cast. I am also developing another feature which is a modern take on Strindberg's play Miss Julie. I have developed this script with the Danish dramatist Peter Asmussen (Breaking the Waves), who also wrote the monologues performed by the kids in Out of Love.