Sundance 2021 Interview: Frank Barrera Cinematographer of ‘Together Together’

Interview by Anna Harrison

SYNOPSIS: When young loner Anna is hired as the gestational surrogate for Matt, a single man in his 40s who wants a child, the two strangers come to realize this unexpected relationship will quickly challenge their perceptions of connection, boundaries and the particulars of love.

Frank Barrera’s Website: https://www.frankbarrera.com/

Together Together played during the Sundance 2021 Film Festival.

You can read Maria’s review of Together Together and you can follow more of Anna’s work on Letterboxd and her website.

Sundance 2021 Interview: Jonathan Snipes Composer/Sound Designer of ‘A Glitch in the Matrix’

Interview by Anna Harrison

Jonathan Snipes’ Website: http://jonat8han.com/

A Glitch in the Matrix takes audiences on a journey through science and philosophy to examine the theory that humans live in a simulation and the world as people know it is not real. It is a documentary style animated horror and composer Jonathan Snipes emulated the theme of the film into the score. Jonathan was inspired by 90s electronic beats and used those throughout the music. Beyond being the composer on this film, Jonathan also held the role of sound designer, sound supervisor, and re-recording mixer. Jonathan is also a longtime collaborator of Hamilton and Blindspotting star Daveed Diggs, through their freestyle rap group Clipping, and produced other Daveed tracks including Rappin Ced in the credits and album of Pixar’s Soul and Disney’s Puppy for Hannukah song. Alongside his work in film, he also works extensively as a theater sound designer, especially in Los Angeles’ Geffen theater. He also teaches a course on sound design in UCLA’s theater department.

A Glitch in the Matrix Trailer

A Glitch in the Matrix played as an official selection of the Sundance 2021 Film Festival. It has been released on VOD by Magnolia Pictures and is also available through Virtual Screenings.

You can read Anna’s review of A Glitch in the Matrix or you can follow more of Anna’s work on Letterboxd and her website.

Sundance 2021 Interview and Review: You Wouldn’t Understand

Written by Anna Harrison

85/100

SYNOPSIS: In ‘You Wouldn’t Understand’, one man’s elegant picnic is shattered when a stranger approaches, leaving nothing but churning questions. Is it ever okay to interrupt someone at peace with a picnic? What motives lay beneath a seemingly mundane ask? What does decadence look like when locked in a time loop of horseradish and death? Ultimately, we’re reminded never to believe in the promise of a perfect day. the comfort of a blue sky, or the serenity of a beautiful setting. Because when a slow wave of Hitchcock smashes against the rocks of Monty Python, the result is a film and a world that you wouldn’t understand. But you should certainly try.

REVIEW: Time travel, time loops, destiny, free will. These are all very serious topics that typically get explored in very serious and often lengthy forms of media. You Wouldn’t Understand takes these topics, adds a dash of absurdism, and crunches them into a film that lasts less than ten minutes. The end result is a wonderfully bizarre short that packs a lot of fun into that time frame.

You Wouldn’t Understand immediately sets its tone as it opens on a man (Anthony Arkin) in a pretentious gray-toned outfit chuckling to himself as he eats at his picnic for one—complete with horseradish sauce (delicious, I guess?). He’s having a jolly good time guffawing at his book and looking out over the fields until another man (Jacob A. Ware) shows up. The second man seemingly murders someone who looks an awful lot like himself before jogging up to the first man, and jovially asking for the horseradish sauce, as one does. Things quickly snowball into a time travel conspiracy from there. As one does.

Director (and co-writer with Ware) Trish Harnetiaux manages to keep the film suspenseful while never losing the absurdly comedic tone, pulling off a tricky balancing act with deftness. Arkin and Ware give delightful performances, Arkin playing the ignorant straight man to Ware’s slightly unhinged time traveler(s) with a penchant for exaggeration. The script is clever and zany, the music is wonderful, and the nine minutes fly by in the best way possible. You Wouldn’t Understand does leave us with more questions than answers, but over-explaining would sap the life out of it—and, honestly, when you’re having this much fun watching a movie, who cares?

VIDEO INTERVIEW WITH WRITER/DIRECTOR Trish Harnetiaux

You Wouldn’t Understand is currently playing the Sundance 2021 Film Festival.

You can also read Anna’s capsule review of White Eye or you can follow more of Anna’s work on Letterboxd and her website

Interview: Tomer Shushan Talks About Writing and Directing Short Film ‘White Eye’

Tomer Shushan’s White Eye has screened at over 70 film festivals, including 23 Oscar-qualifying. This Live-Action short has won numerous accolades including the Oscar-qualifying Best Narrative Short Award at SXSW Film Festival. White Eye was nominated for a 2020 Ophir Award.

Interview by Anna Harrison

Could you explain the timeline of this movie to me? When did you first get the idea, and how long did it take to get from the idea to filming to distribution?

It’s actually a very interesting story. About two years ago, I was on my way to meet my writing mentor, we were working on some short script that I wrote and was supposed to finalized it so we can send it in the night to the Makor film foundation so I can get funds. So then the story of White Eye really happened to me, I was finding myself getting late to my mentor because I was trying to get my stolen bike back after seeing it in the middle of the way. The experience was very hard and when it was all over I couldn’t think about anything else but this guy that I may just ruined his life. It took me 40 minutes to write the script and Makor film foundation supported me and finance to production that happened later that year. I guess it all happened in two years. And the most important thing is that in the real story nothing bad happened to Yunas. 

One of the most striking things about this film is that it’s filmed in one long take. Was that always the plan? Did you have to find a location that worked for the take or did the idea come after you scouted the location?

That’s a great question, the Idea to make it one shot was because this story is about a person who experiences a stressful and intense moment. Instead of acting from a rational place he gives in to an egoistic rage. Everything happens to him in a short time without a moment to stop, reconsider, breath. I wanted the same effect for the audience to really feel the main character’s situation. But between every take in a film, the viewer has a tiny little break to catch breath. I wanted the camera to connect the viewer and the main character in a never-ending, motion like tension that doesn’t give you a break. 

And about the location, I was plan to do it in a restaurant like it was in the real story and all was planned and the location for that has been chosen

But then I went to visit my friend who works in this meat factory and I saw this fridge, I felt like it’s supposed to be there. Could be a great metaphor for how society treats and threatens immigrants and refugees. To compare them to pieces of meat was something that I felt can reflect the feeling I had and wanted to give the audience. 

So doing it in one shot and around the scene in the meat fridge was my opening plan for the film. 

On a similar note, how much rehearsal did you need to prepare for the shoot? How many takes were there once on set?

We knew that everyone on the set, not just actors, every crew member on the set should have some choreography how they move when the camera starts to record.

It took us about 4 months to understand the rhythm and the movement of every person on the set because we filmed it on 360. 

And we shot the film one night and had 7 full takes. 

Were there any major script changes from conception to end? 

The script hasn’t been changed except to change the location from restaurant to a meat factory as I said. I wrote the script less than an hour after it happened and I didn’t touch it until the end. It felt like a dream that it’s so clear to you that only if you write it down the moment you’re waking up you are able to experience it in a way again.  

Would you mind talking about the ending, with Omer’s realization of what he’s done and his destruction of the bike?

I guess I wanted to emphasize how people and life are much more important than objects. I felt that after the harm was done, no one would get the bikes. Omer felt that his actions may have ruined someone else’s life and he doesn’t deserve it anymore. 

What takeaways do you want the audience to walk away with after seeing the film?

We constantly meet immigrants with different social status in our everyday life but people do not always act in a way that can keep up with their actual ethical beliefs. Often this behavior stays unnoticed and life just goes on. White Eye shows the audience these social differences and reminds everyone of their privilege. 

What’s your favorite memory from the making of this film?

Making White Eye was full of amazing and also very hard moments. 

We planned it so hard and had money to make it only in one night. 

We started at 4:30pm when it got dark and until midnight we couldn’t complete one full take from the beginning to the end. People around got frustrated. But I knew that my main job is to make them believe. So we took a break and It’s just filled me with new positive energy. I think everyone felt it and I felt how I changed the atmosphere and the morale of the team in a short moment. After the break we started again and completed a full take. Everyone celebrated and we saw it was possible. From midnight till 4am we made 7 full takes and it felt amazing to see how everything you were working on the last year was getting life. 

It is a really dreamy unique moment that you see how all this suffering is worth it for this short moment that was captured with camera and became immortality.  

You can also read Anna’s capsule review of White Eye or you can follow more of Anna’s work on Letterboxd and her website

Interview: Pier-Philippe Chevigny Writer/Director/Editor Talks About His Short Film ‘Rebel’

Director Pier-Phillippe Chevigny’s Rebel was inspired by true events. When thousands of illegal immigrants flooded into Canada from the US in 2017,  Quebec’s right-wing groups went on the attack. This live-action short film has been selected for numerous world-class festivals including TIFF, Busan, Regard, Namur, and Vladivostok. It has won numerous awards including the Audience Award at DC Shorts, Best Short Film Award at the Tirana International Film Festival, and the Golden Spike Award for Best Short Film at the Social World Film Festival.

Interview by Anna Harrison

Could you explain the timeline of this movie to me? When did you first get the idea, and how long did it take to get from the idea to filming to distribution?

I started toying with the idea in early 2017 when Quebec was just starting to see a significant rise in right-wing extremism. By August 2017, Quebec was hit with a migrant surge: thousands of refugees started fleeing the US after the Temporary Protected Status was suspended, most of whom came to Quebec by “illegally” crossing the border by foot. I wrote the script to REBEL while those events were unfolding and we applied for funding in the fall of that year. The film was greenlit and shot in the fall of 2018, it was completed in late Spring of 2019, and had its premiere at TIFF in September 2019. So about two years and a half from the first research effort to the world premiere. 

Were there any major script changes from conception to end?

In the original script, the refugees were envisioned as coming from Haiti, as at the time of writing, an overwhelming majority of people crossing the border into Quebec came from that country. When we auditioned actors for the role, since there is not a large community of Haitian actors in Montreal, we opened up the call to people from anywhere. We did group auditions and these two Persian actors, Amir Nakhjavani and Baharan Bani Ahmadi, came together for theirs and were absolutely spectacular. So we rewrote the roles to accommodate them. Other than that, the script is pretty close to the final film.

The film explicitly mentions Trump in its opening. What effects has he had in Canada, in your opinion? Did his rise influence the creation of the film?

Definitely. The main inspiration for REBEL is the 2017 migrant surge, which was directly caused by the Trump administration’s decision to suspend the TPS. REBEL wants to challenge the perception that Canada is devoid of racism, but it also aims to depict the very serious international consequences of American policies. The American Alt-Right movement in general also had a very strong influence on the rise of right-wing extremism in Quebec. Ever since the migrant crisis in 2017, we started seeing these very organized right-wing militia groups in Quebec, similar to the Proud Boys and other such groups in the States, getting a lot of mainstream media attention and becoming more and more active: that was a completely new phenomenon to us, the likes of which we had never seen before. Alexandre Bissonnette, the terrorist from the Quebec City Mosque shootings in 2017 was also a very enthusiastic Trump supporter. So yes, of course… “When America sneezes, Canada catches a cold”.

What made you decide to show the events depicted in the film through the eyes of a child? How did you approach these issues with Édouard-B. Larocque?

In the summer of 2017, there was a big right-wing rally in Quebec City organized by right-wing militia group La Meute. The very next day, one of how national newspapers had for its front page the picture of a very young boy who was waving a flag with La Meute’s logo on it. I thought to myself: that kid has no idea what the politics are being the whole movement, he’s obviously just following his parents. And I thought it’d be interesting to tell a story of right-wing extremism through the eyes of a child who doesn’t understand what it’s really about. Who doesn’t see it as “bad” or “evil”, because he is being raised inside the movement and never gets to question it. And have that kid witness something that triggers his understanding of the movement. Then put the audience in the very same headspace as him, and have them experience that “moment of realization” simultaneously. That’s what REBEL is about, which is why at first, the camera movements and framing are somewhat confusing. There’s no establishing shots, you don’t know where you are, the militia groups are hidden in the background, out-of-focus: just like the character, you’re oblivious to what’s really going on. And then, when the boy starts understanding the situation, it becomes much more edited, you get to look all around you and, finally, you also catch on to what’s really going on in those woods.

Édouard was very young when we auditioned it, he was barely six years old. Of course, he didn’t understand what the politics behind the film were either, but he did connect emotionally with the migrant family’s perspective. Deep down, the film is about empathy, and he understood that. He was surprisingly mature for his age and directing him in those scenes was actually quite easy. I also worked with an excellent acting coach, Ariane Castellanos, whose presence was invaluable.

Oftentimes, it’s easy to paint extreme right-wingers like those in the film as evil, but even though these characters do despicable things, they are empathetic in many ways: love for their children, friendship with each other, etc. Was it difficult to humanize them?

To be honest, that was mostly the result of my research. When I started getting interested in Quebec’s right-wing militia groups, I found out that its members weren’t exactly the neo-nazi skinheads I expected: they were actually normal people, with families and decent jobs. They were family guys and soccer moms, they brought their kids along to demonstrations…  And that’s what made it so frightening: there is nothing surprising about seeing skinheads march against immigration, but when everyday normal people start joining such radical movements, that’s a clear signal to me that something is wrong. I wanted REBEL to show that precisely, with seemingly decent parents doing despicable things such as taking their kids along to a migrant hunt like it’s some kind of family-friendly outing. As absurd and disconnected with reality as these characters seemed when I wrote the script as an anticipation piece three years ago, recent events show that we’re unfortunately not that far off…

What takeaways do you want the audience to walk away with after seeing the film?

I, for one, certainly wanted to raise awareness on the rise of right-wing extremism, which people really didn’t take that seriously when I made the film. But I also wanted to show a glimmer of hope. The ending is meant as a way to say that, while we may not be able to fix those issues right now, I have faith in the next generation’s ability to overcome our problems. 

What’s your favorite snack on set?

I’m usually so focused I forget to eat. Coffee!

Rebel Full Short Film

Rebel is currently available for free on Vimeo

You can also read Anna’s capsule review of Rebel or you can follow more of Anna’s work on Letterboxd and her website

Interview: Sophia Banks Talks About Directing Short Film ‘Proxy’

Sophia Banks’s short film Proxy focuses on a woman who gets more than she bargained for in her life of work. Proxy has screened at multiple the Oscar-qualifying film festivals including HollyShorts Film Festival, Lone Star Film Festival, Louisville International Festival of Film, and Los Angeles Lift-Off Film Festival.  

Interview by Anna Harrison

Could you explain the timeline of this movie to me? When did you first get the idea, and how long did it take to get from the idea to filming to distribution?

Last year, some good friends of mine, Dominick Joseph Luna and Emma Booth and I were chatting and realized that they were coming to LA where I was living at the time. We always had wanted to do a project together but never found the right time or place to do it. Dominick had some great concepts he pulled from research and one of them was based off of the idea of boutique services they’re offering in Japan right now: “people for hire” that could stand in for someone to fulfill a role. I loved the idea and we developed the story. Once they arrived in LA we decided to just go for it. We put together the team in a few short weeks and shot it over the last day of February and the first day of March, just before the lockdown hit. We were really fortunate to have gotten it done just before because we were able to complete the editing and the rest of post production remotely, which worked really well.

Were there any major script changes from conception to end?

Funny enough, there weren’t too many changes that we made. We really stuck with the original vision, which was to showcase Victoria (Booth) as this woman who is struggling with her own disconnect and internal turmoil as she is being beaten down emotionally and physically through these increasingly terrifying scenarios. 

Performance is a big theme throughout your film, especially with regards to gender, sex, and the intersection of those. Would you mind talking a bit more about that and how you discuss those ideas in your film?

I think that I always like to touch on those because underlying these stories I like to tell is the underlying idea of “freedom”. In Proxy, Victoria faces the entrapment of a job that she feels obligated to do, put in situations thrown at her that she may or may not agree with — but she has to do it, it is her job after all. The journey she goes through is eye opening in that I hope others might take away from it a little semblance of what our hero experiences: the heroes own self realization and expression of that truth. 

What were the biggest challenges in creating a slightly futuristic world that still needed to feel familiar? Did you ever consider making it “harder” sci-fi?

It is interesting because for my first short film Unregistered, I really heavily designed and created an entirely futuristic world. We have over 300 special effects in that short film that I put a lot of thought into it. It was unmistakable that it was in fact set in a future Dystopian society. 

For Proxy, we wanted it to be more grounded — almost impossible to know whether this was 10 years or 50 years into the future. I think it adds to that ominous factor. 

What takeaways do you want the audience to walk away with after seeing the film?

I partly see Proxy as a cautionary tale: the more connected we are the further we grow apart in reality. That is what social media is to me. I also see it as a message of rebellion of what society has seen as the “new norm”. We are so afraid to go against the grain, we are comfortable with a routine. Sometimes we need to take a step back and perhaps come to terms with the fact that the “norm” may not be the best for us. 

What are your top three sci-fi films from the last decade or so?

Hard question! I would have to lean into the “or so” since I am a huge fan of the classic Sci-Fi such as Blade Runner, (2001: A) Space Odyssey and The Thing as well as Alien. I like the darker side of sci-fi for sure.

You can also read Anna’s capsule review of Proxy or you can follow more of Anna’s work on Letterboxd and her website

Interview: Anthony Nti and Chingiz Karibekov Talk About Writing, Producing, and Directing Short Film ‘Da Yie’

Co-written by the talented emerging duo Anthony Nti and Chingiz Karibekov, Da Yie has garnered four Oscar-qualifying Grand Prizes Leuven Short Film Festival, Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival, Indy Short International Film Festival, Melbourne International Film Festival amongst its 25 awards and 140 high profile film festivals selections.

Interview by Anna Harrison

Chingiz Karibekov

Could you explain the timeline of this movie to me? When did you first get the idea, and how long did it take to get from the idea to filming to distribution?

Working with Anthony, we always ping-pong ideas with each other. We would make each other laugh telling stories of our childhoods. Anthony once told me a story of how he dodged a slap from his aunty, who wanted to punish him for coming home late. Afterwards, he had to wait a while for her to calm down. We laughed and imagined that situation. What happened before this and what could’ve happened afterwards. It became the foundation of a story about peer pressure and loss of childhood innocence. It took us a while to find the money to get it made, and we were really ambitious. We didn’t want to compromise. At the end, it took us more or less three years from production to final product. 

Were there any major script changes from conception to end? How many major drafts did you have?

There was only one major draft of the screenplay. We spent most of the writing process discussing the story. Because we were in charge of the production ourselves, we had the liberty to change the dialogue and structure the way we saw fit. In fact, we finished the final screenplay two weeks before shooting and kept it mostly to ourselves. Only the DOP, Goua, me and Anthony had access. We simply summarized or told the screenplay to everybody else. The actors were told what to say with the outline of the scene in mind. 

As both co-writer and producer, how much input do you have on set during filming?

The set was a very collaborative place. I was also the assistant-director and production designer. That being said, I trusted Anthony and the DOP to really fill in the magic during the shoot. We had a very clear idea of what the film should be. Besides, Anthony is the best director in the world, in my opinion. He could direct a chicken into an Academy Award winning performance. Case in point, Da Yie. 

Were there any things that you wished to do as a writer, but couldn’t feasibly do from a producing standpoint?

As a writer-producer, you are challenging yourself in both directions. You want to realize what you wrote, but at the same time, write something that is feasible in terms of production. But in all honesty, I never worried about what wasn’t possible. Instead, I wanted to focus on how to tell the story. We had an idea of how to keep the audience engaged, we understood the structure of our story and tried to keep the compromises to a minimum.

Are there differences between writing children and adults? Is one more challenging than the other?

Stories about children are inescapably linked to the reality of the adult world. If there are children, there are adults as well. One affects the other. We wanted to tell a story where the world of the children spills out into the world of the adults. A seemingly dangerous place. There was no difficulty in writing either, the difficulty was in finding a way to connect both in a way that kept you engaged.  

What is it like to write in a non-native language?

Anthony and I have written a short film before where the main characters only spoke Bulgarian and neither of us speaks that language. So, in fact, Da Yie was easier to write, since this time at least one of us understood Twi. But in terms of writing, we always seek for something universal in every scene. Emotion is always translatable. We tried to stay true to the characters. Understand them. As long as you can empathize with being a kid, you can write any kid in the world. 

What takeaways do you want the audience to walk away with after seeing the film?

The story is about understanding what peer pressure could lead to. Both for Matilda and Prince, as well as the Bogah. In almost every scene, there’s a character who is being pressured into something, whether it’s to play football, to wrestle at the beach or maybe something even more sinister. This could seem fun, childlike and magical, but it could also be dangerous. 

What’s the best way to overcome writer’s block?

Having conversations helps. Doing research. Menial tasks. Revisiting an old favorite film or book. There’s so many things that can inspire you. Everyday things. 

Anthony Nti

Could you explain the timeline of this movie to me? When did you first get the idea, and how long did it take to get from the idea to filming to distribution?

Chingiz and I had the idea to tell this story as far back as 2015. At the time, it felt a bit too ambitious, we wanted to do it in Ghana and we wanted to do it right. We also had no idea whether we’d find the money to shoot it the way we wanted to. At some point, around 2017, we just decided to buy the plane tickets, knowing there was no way of getting around it. We took it upon ourselves to find the necessary resources by the time we were supposed to leave. We did a lot of commercial work, set money aside, bit by bit, so when the time came, miraculously, we were able to gather enough money to shoot. In Ghana, we only had a month to do everything and luckily we were able to finish on time and on budget. However, when we came back home, we were completely broke. Which meant that for a long time, we had to really hustle for the edit, while doing other projects at the same time. We tried to find time in between, and perfect the tone and the structure of the story. In 2020, we had our international premiere in Clermont Ferrand. After that, everything kind of fell into place. Although, the pandemic derailed a lot of our plans as well. Making this film was an exercise in patience. 

Were there any major script changes from conception to end?

The most significant rewrite was changing the gender of one of the main characters. You see, Matilda’s role was initially written for a boy. However, when we actually met Matilda during the casting process, we immediately fell in love with her. We knew she was the perfect fit. Otherwise, the script stayed the same, because she fit the role so well. She could act, she was a real presence and was great at football. We had the idea that her character would sometimes rap during the film and Matilda being so talented, actually wrote her own lyrics. It’s her own words in the story. She continued to impress us during the shoot. But otherwise we were lucky to be able to shoot what we wrote. 

The child actors in this film were so natural and open; what was it like working with them? How did it differ from working with adults?

My previous short film, Kwaku, which had its premiere at Clermont Ferrand in 2014, was also filmed in Ghana, where I used local kids for the main roles. I have learned a lot from the experience and wanted to continue this process. To add a little mixture, I wanted a professional actor to join the cast, Goua Grovogui (The Resurrection of a Bastard). This proved a good mix of authenticity and professionalism. 

Just before the shoot, we spent some time getting to know Prince and Matilda. This further influenced and informed us in the writing process. Together with Goua, we did some workshops and acting sessions and we even did a preliminary shoot. Just to get the kids accustomed to playing to the camera. However, the kids were so smart, they didn’t require any hand-holding. We only had to do minimal rehearsals during the shoot. They understood the story, they understood blocking and the nature of cinema acting. 

Prince often carries a video camera around with him. How old were you when you started to become interested in film?

My first time being interested in filmmaking was in Ghana. Every Sunday after church we would go watch TV at my uncle’s house in Madina, the city where most of Da Yie takes place. One day we saw the movie Fresh from Yakin Boaz. A powerful movie that tackles themes such as the loss of childhood innocence, which served as an inspiration for Da Yie. In the film one of the bad guys got shot and died. The next Sunday we saw a new movie in which this same actor appeared. This caused a huge amount of confusion in my head. I later asked my uncle how this was possible. He explained how movies were not real, but staged. After that I had always been interested in how films were made, but I only started making films when I started film school as a teenager.  

How does co-writing the script affect your directing? Does it give you more freedom?

I’ve always co-written with Chingiz, so I am very used to going through the writing process before directing. When it came to Da Yie, it had its positive effects as the story was semi-autobiographical. I was with the characters from the beginning, I understood them and the story very well. I never looked at the script, while shooting because I knew the story by heart. Also, writing the story gave us a much greater understanding of what is needed in all aspects of the production, which is handy as we were the producers too. 

Could you explain why you showed the group of schoolchildren singing over the credits?

We wanted to end the film with the feeling that it could have happened to anybody. To achieve that we wanted to bring the audience to a place where kids are safe. School being the most interesting place for us. I remember in primary school, before school started we had to assemble and do the national pledge. It felt like the right way to end it. Seeing Prince and Matilda among them. 

It was also a way to tonally get back to a more childlike environment, after the tense climax to the story. But it helped to emphasize the message of the film. What happened to Prince and Matilda could’ve happened to any kid. 

What takeaways do you want the audience to walk away with after seeing the film?

I want the audience to be aware of how the innocence of children can come in danger when confronted with the adult world. But it was also important for me as a filmmaker to create a cinematic experience despite the heavy thematics. It’s not a film to point fingers or to scare. It’s also important to not see things as black and white, but to be open to different perspectives too. 

What’s a film you wish more people would see?

Touki Bouki by Djibril Diop, It’s an amazing piece of cinema by an inspired filmmaker. It’s a classic story of love and moved me deeply. I feel like more people need to witness the talent and power of African cinema. I didn’t grow up with it myself, discovering it only later in life and it’s a shame, because there is so much beauty in it.

Da Yie Trailer

You can buy Da Yie on Vimeo

You can also read Anna’s capsule review of Da Yie or you can follow more of Anna’s work on Letterboxd and her website

Interview: Rami Kodeih Talks About His Short Film ‘Alina’

Below you’ll find the first of an upcoming series by Drink in the Movies’ own Anna Harrison in which she performs interviews with the filmmakers behind select Oscar Qualifying Short Films. Alina won the Oscar-qualifying Award at Bengaluru International Short Film Festival. Remember to keep an eye out in the coming weeks for her correlating interviews and capsule reviews!

Audiences can view Alina at the follow film festivals: Hollywood Women’s Film Festival, Queen Palm International Film Festival, Asti International Film Festival, Borrego Springs Film Festival, Ridgewood Guild International Film Festival, and Boca Raton Jewish Film Festival.

Interview by Anna Harrison

Could you explain the timeline of this movie to me? When did you first get the idea, and how long did it take to get from the idea to filming to distribution?

Nora, our screenwriter, first told me about the idea around February 2016. Her passion for this story was infectious, and we started doing research together on the subject and exchanging ideas. It took us time to find the right partners and to put together the resources to film. We ultimately premiered ALINA in late 2019 in England and are very thankful to have shared the film with over 180 festivals so far. It’s been mostly a virtual experience due to COVID, but the film programmers and audiences have truly been wonderful and encouraging across the board during this challenging time for everyone.

Were there any major script changes from conception to end?

Nothing major, but we did end up cutting a scene before filming to better accommodate the shooting schedule and constraints, which ended up being better for the overall tension-building of the story.

I’m from Atlanta, so I couldn’t help but noticing the “Atlanta Theatre Club presents” at the beginning of the film. How did they contribute?

Atlanta has a very special place in our hearts. Joshua Owen and Rachelle Owen, our great friends and EPs on this project — along with Rebeca Robles, who plays Nelly in the short — all co-founded Atlanta Theatre Club, which highlights stories about women and under-represented communities. They were the first people to hop onboard the project with us as Executive Producers to help us launch production, and we’re so grateful for them.

The music in the film was incredible. What was the process to create that with Zoë Keating?

I just fell in love with Zoe’s existing music and how she’s a solo musician with her cello creating pieces of music that are genius in my opinion. At first when I started editing the film, I thought of her music as the perfect temp music and later in the process after finishing the edit, it felt like her music was composed for this short. We reached out to Zoe’s team and are truly honored to have her music in our film.

The editing was also quite remarkable: frantic cuts at the beginning and while the SS officer loaded his gun at Alina’s mother’s house, but then long takes to slowly build the tension. What was the editing process like? How much did you have planned while shooting?

Thank you! I loved editing this film. The great advantage to lack of budget and resources for me is that it always leads to meticulous prep! Just like the script needs to be written beforehand, I always like to design the film before shooting with the edit in mind — but always remain open to the magical unexpected moments that come up on set.  

What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of wearing so many hats (director, editor, producer) for this film?

It’s something that develops out of necessity; where I come from, almost everything is done on low budget. So bit by bit you start to develop abilities to keep your ambition and dream alive even if you’re limited to a specific scale or type of story that you can tell. 

Storytelling is a form of art and expression where the storyteller is determined to express something to the world and will find a way to express it, despite any obstacles that may come their way. At least, that’s how I see it. I think wearing several hats forced me to at least understand other areas of filmmaking, such as producing and editing. This made me personally less intimidated by lack of resources and made me expand my ideas of what could be possible.

What are you most proud of from the film?

I’m proud that this film is speaking to the dangers of our current climate as much as it is highlighting these unsung heroes of the past. The women in this story didn’t have much at their disposal but they managed to commit extraordinary acts of bravery during the Holocaust. Smuggling children to safety was something the Nazis would immediately execute a person for. Despite all the risks and personal stakes involved, this network of women collectively saved over 2500 children. ALINA speaks to that power of love and hope, even in the darkest moments of history. We’re very thankful to be able to share this story in times like these.

What takeaways do you want the audience to walk away with after seeing the film?

We hope it sparks conversation on how, while set in the past, this story truly speaks to our current moment — especially the way in which acts of love can be a powerful form of resistance against hate and fascism.

What’s the best way to unwind after a hectic day on set?

Food, hands-down! After the most hectic days of filming, Nora and I would eat our favorite food at Carousel, an amazing Armenian restaurant in LA. There’s nothing like a comfort film during a shoot.

You can also read Anna’s capsule review of Alina or you can follow more of Anna’s work on Letterboxd and her website