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Radmila Djurica

Radmila Djurica is your guide to the festival scenes: Sarajevo, Cannes and many more

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English Film on Kino Otok Isola

If we are talking about British film shown on Kino Otok Isola, then we are talking about minor English films definitely worth mentioning. That would be Archipelago by Joana Hogg and Two Years at Sea by young film director Ben Rivers. But first thing first!

Joanna Hogg is a woman, a friend of great late British film director Derek Jarman and a filmmaker coming from the middle higher class in England, which is very obvious in her films. This is the second one. So this is how her second film sounds like. It is a film (Archipelago) that is dealing with restricted and repressed emotions usual for a higher and middle higher class in England. It is about a group of English people on Holliday, it is about a family and family ties. Sort of film that quietly gets on, travelling to many film festivals outside of UK and basically talk about English. And what is brilliant about the film is this fantastic portrayal of people who are consistently childish, neurotic, with lot of repressed emotions, people who are posh class-consciousness characters that come out so naturally that at the end you do not have the feeling of watching skilfully tailored drama. The photography in film of moody, static, almost chamber alike, claustrophobic interiors and fantastic nature landscapes demonstrates very characteristic signature of the author Joanna Hogg. I think this is rare and that she is not like other British film directors. Hogg is someone of genuine inspiration on a very high level.

But Ben Rivers at Two Years at Sea demonstrated the original idea of shooting black and white film: a personal, mysterious and quiet film proving that film is art on that basic level of meaning. Jake is a loner, he lives alone in the woods: the film has documentary elements: it is an impressionistic portrait of a man and just that. Using old 16mm cameras, artist Ben Rivers, winner of a Tiger Award at Rotterdam, creates work from stories of real people, often those who have disconnected from the world. This is a great idea for the film to be shown in galleries as part of installation arts, which was the main idea of Rivers. Rivers presents this outpost and romantic idea about the secluded life and romantic existence of a man often popularized in hippie period in 70s.

Interview with Joanna Hogg:

1) Tell us a bit about yourself where did you study film directing and all?

I was attracted to film long before I became involved in it. In the early 80's, when I was living in London and working as a photographer, I sat through endless late night double bills and dreamed of making my own films. In the end I felt constrained by still photography and wanted to tell stories. The photographers I admired like Duane Michels and Guy Bourdin were telling stories in their images but I wanted to take this further and so I started making Super 8 films. It was during this time that I met Derek Jarman. His enthusiasm encouraged me to make my own short films which in turn led me to the National Film School. After three years of studying I began making music videos and then eventually started directing television drama, where I stayed for more than ten years. All this happened before I found the courage to make my own feature films.

2) About Archipelago?

The title relates to the family as a group of islands, linked together beneath the surface. What often links a family together goes unspoken and unacknowledged. Families are a way of protecting individuals from what they need to hear and often they have techniques for avoiding the real issues. The Leighton family in Archipelago are such a family. Their most dangerous trait is summed up by the missing picture on the wall. Ignoring or denying ones shadow is far worse than confronting and embracing it. If you push something disturbing out of sight, it only reappears to haunt in other ways.

3) I find your dialoque in film very accurate almost without
dramatization, was that an accurate perception, how did you write
screenplay for this film?

I like to keep the work open and allow each part of the process to be creative. I’m not just executing a plan I made earlier. The writing I do is not conventional screenwriting. I have endless notebooks on the go and rather than translate these into a neat screenplay, which would kill my ideas, they get poured straight into the film as it is being made. This is via a document that reads more like a piece of prose or fiction, illustrated by photographs I have taken. Francis Bacon said 'I want a very ordered image but I want it to come about by chance'. This sums up what I was trying to achieve.

4) It seems that you express tension for drama to become from
incidental situations. Tell us your secret?

I'm fascinated by the border between awkwardness, embarrassment and where this turns into something darker. A kind of blurred line between the comic and the horrendous - but depicted in an ordinary, everyday context which is closer to home and therefore more terrifying.

5) Your camera is pointed at a part of English society that isn't
usually represented in British cinema - the upper middle class. What
draws you to that?

Class doesn't interest me as a theme in itself. What I'm more interested in is human behaviour. I am continually observing people from all walks of life - to a point where I have to stop myself staring too much.

6) After previous film Unrelated you didn't want to go into the studio
and you have been asking for funding from alternative sources in order
to stay creative and have freedom. Tell us a bit about the funding
system in UK and about the way to keep creative freedom?

Absolutely. I always think a question about money and budgets is a question about freedom. I regard my film making freedom with the utmost importance. I don't have much experience of the funding system in the UK. I would like to! It's not easy raising money in this current climate and my producer has to be creative. I don't demand a lot of money because my films are quite simple to make - usually involving a single location which allows me to shoot in story order. This for me is the greatest luxury and it isn't expensive.

7)Your film is very particular due to a minimalist approach. Why this
approach? Did someone inspired you?

My approach to film making came about partly as a reaction to the television drama I'd been making. There was little room for my own instincts within that type of television. So this more expressive side of myself had been waiting patiently in the wings. When I finally created this opportunity for myself - to write and direct my own films - my attitude and style tended towards simplicity because my television work always felt overworked, over explained, and rather elaborate, because this was usually what the TV executives wanted.
Robert Bresson said 'One does not create by adding, but by taking away'.

8)What does the achievement brings by now?

Is it easier or harder to
shoot another film?
I came to filmmaking late - in my mid forties - and I have a lot of catching up to do. Each film is a challenge but it's the same for the first as it is now for the third. It's true I am aware there's a certain idea, in the UK anyway, of the kind of cinema I make - and I have to fight this perception and continue to experiment and take risks and not fall into a safe trap of my own making.

9) About your new film?

My new film is still being formed. Writing for me is a free flowing process and ideas continue to develop when I'm shooting. So whatever I say will change. However I am shooting in London, my home town, for the first time. I am attempting to create my own London cocktail which is a process of distillation and reduction.
I have also recently set up a film club called A Nos Amours with another film maker Adam Roberts. We show films which are rarely seen or generally under appreciated. After my experience at this years Kino Otok Isola Cinema I'm inspired to show important Slovenian films like Funeral Feast by Matjaž Klopčič and Bread and Milk by Jan Cvitkovič.

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