JOURNAL

Hana Geissendorfer/ YOU HAVE TO THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX
2011-06-07

Hermann

fiction, Germany, 2010, 26min.

Hermann is 67 years old and lonely. He does have Gloria – but she is only a budgie. He distracts himself from his solitude with his love for ornithology and rigidly structured days, yet he is still full of desire. Then he meets Jörg. With Jörg, Hermann’s hopes are raised that he may no longer have to be lonesome. However things are not as easy as they first seem, especially with Gloria standing in his way.

Hana Geissendorfer

Born in London, 1984, Hana was raised in Greece and England, then graduated 2006 with a BSc 1st class degree in Economics from Bristol University. After this she undertook an MFA in Film Directing 2006 – 2008 at the International Film School of Paris (EICAR). 


Hana, where did the idea for Hermann come from?

I never had a brainwave, like kaboom – I’ve got it. The idea for the film came a little at a time. I wanted to write something about loneliness and slowly found my way to Hermann and Gloria. It took a lot of drafts to get the script to the stage that I shot it in and it started out as a very different story actually!

The psychoanalisists often describe the sublimation as the only real successful defense mechanism. The passion with which Herman is studying the world of the birds and his love for Gloria - is it a form of defense?

Yes - I think Hermann is unwilling to confront his solitude and in order to avoid this he focuses on his birds and Gloria. It is often a lot easier to distract yourself from problems rather than to deal with them and Hermann does just that. I’m not sure whether it is really a successful form of defense in the long run, but it seems to work for Hermann!

What is the message you want to bring to the audience with the film?

I think everyone sees things differently and I hope the film speaks to people in different ways.

Is this your first short? Were there any unexpected moments and troubles?

Hermann is actually my 3rd short film, but there were still many unexpected problems. Like when it started raining torrentially while we were shooting at the lake. We just had to sit tight and wait till it was over, but we got impatient and you can still see light rain falling on the lake if you look closely…We also lost one of our locations on the day of the shoot which caused a bit of a panic, but my very able production manager sorted that out in no time! I think unexpected problems always arise whilst making a film, but that’s part of the whole process. It keeps you on your toes and often leads to really good things as you have to think outside the box.

And what have you unexpectedly learned about yourself making Hermann?

Not to take your anger out on budgies. Or anyone or anything else for that matter!

Where do you see your career in five years?

I’m not sure – 5 years is a long time away! Although time seems to be speeding up which is scary, so it’ll probably be 2016 before I know it! I am currently trying to get another short film off the ground in the UK and am developing a feature script with the Torino Script and Pitch Workshops - so hopefully those projects will go from script to screen at some point in the next 5 years.

Why did you decide to participate in the festival IN THE PALACE?

My last short film Marion was screened at the festival last year, and although I was unable to attend the festival I have heard a lot of great things about it. So I decided to try my luck with Hermann this year and am very happy that it has been selected for the program.

/ Valentina Bozhichkova

Andy Mullins/ WE WANTED TO IMMERSE THE AUDIENCE IN THE CHARACTERS' WORLD
2011-06-07

Minnie Loves Junior

fiction, 2010, 13:30 min.  

A little boy who loves the ocean. A little girl who loves the boy. Minnie lives in a seaside fishing village. Junior lives there too. Little does he realise Minnie's unrequited love will soon save his life.

Andy Mullins & Matt Mullins

are brothers in their mid 30s who live in Melbourne, Australia. Together with their producing partners, Tom Birch and Doug Maskiell, they have been making features films and short films since forming the company, Sand Hill Road Pictures, in 2001.


Andy, where did the idea for Minnie loves Junior come from? Is it based on a true story?

The story for Minnie Loves Junior is a fictitious story, but based off many of the interactions we have had with children from indigenous communities throughout Australia. Time and again we see the pattern repeated - little boy in danger, little girl saves him! In particular we wanted to tell this story through the eyes of the children themselves, which is why we have no full-height or close up shots of adults throughout the film. The ocean play a third character in the film, and we wanted to let that role be played without interruption. Essentially the film is a love story - and we have been amazed how well it has travelled around the world.

The cinematography in your film is wonderful. Can you tell us about it?

Ian Jones ACS is our cinematographer for underwater and above water. As director of photography he experimented widely with both Kodak and Fuji film stock. In the end we chose the Fuji stock as it gave us a real vintage, grainy look once pushed a stop and distressed a little further in the lab. In terms of our film-making choices, the film was shot using an Arriflex 16SR3 camera. We used Super 16 because we wanted to achieve a vintage, “grainy” look to the film. We were often challenged with our lighting set ups and we ended up using reflector boards for all but one scene in the film, and the integrity of that choice is seen in the very natural highlights that our gaffer was able to add to the camera. Fitting the whole shoot into a five day schedule, including underwater, was a major challenge. We ended up shooting the bulk of our work in the afternoon and tricking sunset for sunrise. Post production was a dream for us. Jane Usher, our editor, had a very strong feel for the film, even at script stage. She probably would have preferred we shoot wider, but once we got into cutting the film she understood our framing decisions made on-set. We wanted to immerse the audience in the characters’ world – immediately – and not really let them out of it.

What message do you want the world audience to take away from your film?

Just laughs - and a memory of how wonderful first love can be.

Do you remember your first love, Andy?

I do! My first love was a girl a name Emma. I was eight years old and we never even spoke - not once - but we had an enduring two year "romance". We never kissed or even held hands, but everyone at school knew I was hers, and she was mine. Emma found out one day that my parents were moving to a far away place, and I'd be going too. She cried for hours, so did I. But then I found out that after I had left the school, my best friend was going out with her within days. Talk about shattered! But at least I had experienced the full spectrum of love.

What is your collaboration process like when you work together with your brother? Which of your own perceived visions would you argue for?

Working with Matt, my brother, is very easy. We are very close in age and we have a very similar "filter" through which we view the world. That being said, we have some extraordinary arguments over story, camera and post production, but it's set within a great depth of love, respect and admiration for one another's work. Being brothers we are allowed to push deeper into places that a non-sibling partnership might feel uncomfortable, however we only challenge one another when the idea at stake can be improved or bettered via having the conversation. Most of the time we communicate via sign language and body language, without a need for many words - and that has worked perfectly so far!

Tell us about your next project.

Our next project is a feature film, named Watermelon, about the love of two souls over three different lifetimes. The film takes place in New York, India and Italy.

What are you most excited about in your life right now – today?

My two daughters, my wife, making films and being interviewed about all these truly beautiful things.

/ Valentina Bozhichkova

Rafał Skalski/ MY METHOD IS SIMPLE - TRY TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH YOUR HEROES
2011-06-07

The Lovers

documentary /TV film, Poland, 2009, 51min.

A captivating documentary about love, friendship and sexuality of the disabled from Rafał Skalski. Disability remains a taboo in Poland. Many avoid interactions with the disabled as they are uncertain how to behave in their company. In reality, however, the differently-abled share the same dreams, desires, needs and aspiration as everybody else. Characters portrayed in this documentary are people who despite their limitations celebrate life at its best. Instead of avoiding daily problems, they find courage to challenge them. Characters don’t consider themselves different or inferior. They openly invite the audience to explore the intimate world of their male-female relationships.

Rafał Skalski

A film director and a script writer. He was born in 1985 in Warsaw. Currently he is finishing studies at the Film Directing Department of the Lodz Film School. Before film school he was directing short independent movies.


Rafał, why did you decide to make this documentary?

In the beginning of 2009 I've got a propose from executive producer - EUROMEDIA to make a documentary for HBO about sex&love of disabled people. They had watched my previous documentary - 52 Percent, they had really liked it and that's why they wanted me. I decided to make this after one day of development. I thought that it could be interesting to make film about different stages of love, and not about disabilities. I tried to have a disabilities of my heroes as a background - not as a main topic.  

The stories that we follow in the film are very intimate and cherished. How did you meet their characters?

We had 3 months development, during which we were looking for heroes in all Poland. We made so called documentary "casting". We met about 30 couples, and from them we selected 5 couples.  

It's impressive how close they have let the camera to their private live. How did you manage to do this?

My method is simple - try to make friends with your heroes. And always be honest. I and my cinematographer just tried to be ourselves during shooting, that's all. I talked also with my characters a lot, before shooting, without camera.  

Tell me about your hardest shooting day.

For me every day in somebody's home is hard. You know - it's really strange. Because you have to make a border for your character - and clearly set up for your character when you are "in work", and when you are "normal" so they can talk with you. Also, we had really hard days, when we were shooting 4th couple - these with love crisis. Sometimes it was to intimate for us.

Lately it's believed that the love theme in the cinema has turned itself into a cliche and this is why the directors are trying to "scandalize" the audience with a different perspective of the theme. In your film the perspective is different, but the focus stays on the deeply intimate relations between the people. Was it difficult?

I never was interested to scandalize or to destroy some taboo. For me the most interesting documentaries are films about normal, ordinary man who found himself in an unusual, strange, difficult situation. And Lovers tells story about ordinary people who found themselves in so called "disability situation" - which is really hard.      

How did your love relationship with the cinema begin?

When I was 8 years old, I dreamed to be a paleontologist. Then I saw Spielberg's Jurrasic Park - and I understood, that as a film director it is possible not only to dig up the bones, but to make dinosaurs alive again! That's why when I was 12 I shot my first movie. That's how it all began.      

What are you currently working on?

Now I'm developing a new documentary, which I'll shoot in Thailand - in August we'll be searching for a character. Then, in autumn we will be looking for international broadcasters. I'm working also on my feature-fiction debut - neo-noir science-fiction.. 

/ Valentina Bozhichkova

Petra Costa/ LOVE AFFAIRS BETWEEN ELDERLY COUPLES ARE VERY RARELY PORTRAYED IN SHORT FILMS
2011-06-07

Undertow Eyes 

documentary, Brazil, 2009, 20 min.

Vera and Gabriel have been married for sixty years. In Undertow Eyes they reflect on their own story: the first flirtations, the birth of their children, life and aging. In the act of remembering, images from their family history and from the present intermingle, creating an affectionate and oneiric tone. Through the couple’s recollections and stories, the film presents a personal and existential tale about love and death.

Petra Costa

is a Brazilian filmmaker and actress. Petra directed and produced the short film Undertow Eyes, a poetic depiction of aging and love, as seen through the perspective of her elderly Brazilian grandparents. In 2009, Undertow Eyes was the official selection of over a dozen international festivals and took top prizes at nine.


Petra, your film follows the story of a couple, whose relationship has begun in a very different "era". Why do you think this story needs to be told?

For two reasons. First, as my friend and scholar Sophia Beal pointed out in a paper about the short film, love affairs between elderly couples are very rarely portrayed in films. "The intimacy of the elderly" as she says, is a "frequently forgotten, denied, even taboo topic." As the media exposes the glories of anti-aging technology, the film tries to show the beauty that resides in the textures of these bodies’ experiences. Second, relationships like Vera and Gabriel’s are at risk of extinction. As the sociologist Zygmunt Bauman says, we are in the age liquid of love, of disposable ephemeral relationships. At one point during the film process, I was interviewing my grandmother and she said that between 1955 and 1965 the relationship was very hard because my grandfather was always working, and at that moment I thought, what are 10 years in the course of 70 years of a relationship? This year, it will be 70 years since they started dating. I would also like to add that the president of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, who as you know is of Bulgarian origin, was born and raised in Belo Horizonte, my grandparents’ city. So in a sense the film portrays the social context of Dilma's upbringing, as her grandparents were of a similar class as mine. And my mother - my grandparents’ first daughter - was born three years after Dilma, studied at the same schools and also joined Marxist guerrilla groups that fought against the military dictatorship. My next film tells that story.

The couple - Vera and Gabriel let the audience very deeply into their most intimate personal life and they look so natural. Was it easy because they are your grandparents or on the contrary - was it more difficult because they are your relatives?

  It was definitely easier because they’re my grandparents. Because of our intimacy, they felt comfortable showing the details of their relationship. I am sure that if I were not their granddaughter, they would not have let me film them holding hands in bed, taking a shower, and kissing, or let me record their intimate thoughts on death and love.

The choice of colour is quite interesting. Can you tell me more about the cinematography and more about the shooting process as a whole? Did you decide on the film structure during the edit?

At first I filmed several traditional interviews with Vera and Gabriel. I had 30 hours of footage with the regular color palette of HD cameras. Then, the editor, Ava Rocha and I started editing this material and constructing the script of the film more or less as it is now. Halfway through the editing process I decided to take a Super 8 camera, and Eryk Rocha and I filmed them doing things - swimming, kissing, dancing. When this material arrived I had the first cinematic ecstasy of my life. What I saw seemed to be their dreams revealed in footage. We decided that the palette of the Super 8 had to pervade the entire film. It composed perfectly with the poetic script we where constructing. Another interesting thing that happened was that at the moment I was filming my grandfather in the swimming pool with the Super 8 camera he said, "I know that sound, someone filmed our marriage with a camera just like that." At that point we had no archival image whatsoever. So I started looking all over my grandparents’ house for this lost film and I found about 10 rolls of 16mm film that my grandmother had filmed with a Bolex camera throughout the 1950s that had been completely forgotten in their cellar. It was like being offered a ticket through time, to see my grandparents getting married, my mother learning how to ride a bike.

In the film you use quotes from Machado de Assis. How did he inspire you?

I did not have a strong relationship to Machado de Assis's work. Some people say there is a divide between those who prefer Machado de Assis and those who prefer Guimarães Rosa. Machado de Assis and Guimarães Rosa are two of the most-celebrated Brazilian fiction writers. Many even compare the former to Tolstoy and the latter to Dostoyevsky. I always preferred Guimarães Rosa. But whenever I asked my grandfather how he fell in love with my grandmother he said it was because of her "Undertow Eyes". Undertow (ressaca) has a double meaning in Portuguese. The most known meaning is hangover. So I was puzzled about how hangover eyes would be attractive. Until the day my grandfather and I decided to read together the passage of Dom Casmurro that inspired the saying, where Dom Casmurro describes the eyes of Capitu as having the attraction of a wave in a day of strong undertow which draws you in. I thought it was so beautiful that at the moment I heard it I decided it would be the passage that opened the film.

You show the life of two people who are 80 years old. How do you imagine your life when you are 80?

I only have one certainty: I will not be celebrating 60 years of marriage. Otherwise I hope to still be creating films and to be near people I love.

We know that you are an actress. What do you like more – to be in front of the camera or behind it?

I like both. In the feature film that I am currently directing, I am on both sides of the camera. This has been extremely challenging. When you act you have to stop directing, and it is one of the hardest things to turn that engine off once it starts rolling. The relationship with the director of photography is essential for that to happen. The film has a certain romantic sense to it.

Would you like to feel the romantic sense of the PALACE?

From what I’ve heard, Balchik seems to be a stunningly beautiful city and I am excited to get to know it. I also look forward to getting to know a bit of Bulgaria.

/ Valentina Bozhichkova

Candice Reisser/ THE FACT THAT BASIC HUMAN GOODNESS EVEN EXISTS IS KIND OF A MIRACLE
2011-06-02

Protect The Nation

(fiction, South Africa, 2010, 16 min)

When faced with the unexpected kindness of a stranger, a young boy begins to question himself. Does he have the courage to do what's right?

Candice Reisser is a New York City native and honors graduate of both the drama and filmmaking programs at New York University. Protect the Nation is her first (short) film as writer and director.


Where did the idea for Protect The Nation come from?

Protect came about because I had adapted a novel for my production company, which they liked and then offered to give me some money to shoot a short film. As long as I stayed true to the basic spirit of the longer project, I could do whatever I wanted with the piece. Even a short film is a huge investment of time and money. So I wanted to at least use this project to discuss something I felt deeply about. I am a native New Yorker, and when I was growing up, it was right around the time of the Korean grocery boycotts and the Rodney King riots in L.A. The xenophobic attacks of 2008 in South Africa were very saddening for me. It is also a hugely controversial subject there, and the attacks are still going on today.

Xenophobia – a word most people had never heard of until 2008 when South Africa experienced a violent outbreak of xenophobic behavior. In Protect The Nation we review those dramatic moments through the eyes of 8-years-old boy. What message do you want the audience to take away from the film?

The fact that basic human goodness even exists is kind of a miracle. It’s an open rebellion against the cruelty, competition and mindless self-interest of the world. Of course it is naive. At any moment your might be hurt or taken advantage of. But somehow life without kindness is empty. People need connection and meaning in their lives. So we have to nurture the goodness in people whenever we see it. The measure of a flourishing society is not only in economic success. We need to create dialogue, equality, and emotional health. This is by no means easy. It takes work.

Thabo Mbatha has done commendable job in the film. How did you choose him to play this role?

I love Thabo Mbatha! Finding him was a miracle! I actually found him by accident while we were interviewing possible casting directors for thefilm. I saw a clip of him auditioning for a commercial and wrote down his name immediately. He is such a special mix of toughness and vulnerability. He is so smart – he was even correcting other actors on their lines! Imagine shooting your first real acting role, and there’s pouring rain, a frantic rush all the time and hundreds of township folks watching you! It’s always a little bit scary working with child actors, but he was so brave!

What did you learn from making your first short film?

My first shoot was in many ways a nightmare. I had a child actor in every scene of the movie, but because of labor laws he could only work six hours a day in front of the camera. That sounds like a lot of time, but because our budget was limited, we could only afford a few days with our locations and crew. So there was enormous time pressure, and that was only the beginning ofour problems! There was furiously pouring rain throughout our entire production, which mostly takes place outside. There were also all of the challenges you would expect from a guerilla shoot in a very crowded township. So the biggest thing I learned was the importance of time management, and how the most stupid of difficulties can bring your entire shoot to a halt – a drunk person who refuses to get out of your shot, shoes that go missing, etc. еtc. So my advice is – if you are shooting on a low budget, be realistic about what you can achieve. Simpler is probably better.

You graduated from NYU. Why did you decide to go to this University and what is the most important thing you learned there?

That is a question that is difficult to answer briefly! I never aspired to be a film director growing up. My family always had money problems so I never even dreamed this might be possible. I applied to NYU as a drama major. It was a very good school, and they offered me a little scholarship, which was encouraging. Actually it was a huge mistake! I hate performing and attracting attention to myself. Then around my sophomore year my boyfriend announced that he was going to apply for a double major in filmmaking, and I decided I would do it as well. For the film portion of my time at NYU I focused on writing and producing. I was very lucky because I was accepted into my two top choices for an internship. The first was at Scott Rudin’s production company. For those who may not know him, Scott Rudin is the top film producer on the planet - “No Country for Old Men,” “The Social Network,” etc. The other internship was in the literary development department at Paramount Pictures. I also had the crazy coincidence of being offered the chance to spend just a couple of days assisting the famous producer Lynda Obst while I was at Paramount. All of these experiences were very exciting for me. They gave me a glimpse into the system and gave me some pretty powerful role models.

What are you working on now?

My company will soon begin trying to get the longer feature project that I wrote financed. It is a somewhat epic story about war and hunger in Africa, so it definitely won’t be easy. In the meantime I have a rough idea for a story that I think would take place in Texas. I am going there next week. At this point I will just travel around, meet people and get a feeling for the place.

Why did you decide to participate in IN THE PALACE Short Film Festival?

I first heard about IN THE PALACE ISFF because there was a short film that I admired that had participated. I looked it up on the internet and it sounded great, so I entered. 

/ Valentina Bozhichkova

Antonio Piazza& Fabio Grassadonia/ CONFLICT IS ESSENTIAL IN OUR CREATIVE PROCESS
2011-06-02

Rita

(fiction, Italy, 2008, 19 мin)

Rita is ten years old and blind since birth. She lives in a seaside neighbourhood of Palermo. Rita is stubborn, curious and feels thwarted by a dictatorial mother. The claustrophobic world of her home is breached by a mysterious presence...

Rita is one of most successful Italian short films ever (presented so far in more than 60 international film festivals).

directors:

Antonio Piazza/

Antonio_PiazzaFabio and I have been working together for many years, as writers and development consultants for a couple of Italian film production companies. In 2009 we co-directed the short film Rita, our début as directors. And we're now preparing our first feature film, called "Salvo", which will be shot next summer in the same locations used for the short film in Sicily, where Fabio and I both come from.

Fabio_Grassadonia

               Fabio Grassadonia/

I met Antonio in 1997 in Turin where we were attending a post degree master in narrative techniques. He was a bored journalist, I was a bored teacher of literature. We moved to Roma in 1998 and since then we have worked for television and cinema. After ten years of experience we felt the need to assume more responsibility for our personal and intimate ideas, suggestions and for this reason we decided to become directors.


Three words to introduce each other?

 F / Antonio is gifted with great intuitions, he is a serious worker and honest man. The fourth word: Arrogant!

A / Fabio is extremely clever, generous, painfully perceptive.

Isn't it difficult to be directing a film in tandem?

А / For me it's the opposite. Doing it on my own would be more difficult and boring. I'm very lazy. Without Fabio I would be just sleeping instead of working.

F / Conflict is essential in our creative process. It took time and a lot of pain to learn how to manage it, but now we can use it in the most useful way. It is the main key to explore to the extreme the potential of an idea, of a theme, of a character, of a dramatic situation… Of course sometimes it is still hurting, but let us bleed!

Who is Rita?

A / Rita is a stubborn and curious little blind girl who wants to go to the sea… and realize this dream thanks to a new mysterious friend, or maybe just thanks to her imagination and courage.

and Marta Palermo?

F / She is the little actress playing Rita. Marta is an unique human being full of energy and joy of life. Marta and her family are now part of my life.

Fabio, what is the name of your best childhood friend? Did you have an imaginary friend?

 F / Davide. He tried to teach me to play football. I tried to make him study. He failed. I failed. But we are still friends. I never had an imaginary friend.

And what about you, Antonio? Did you have an imaginary friend?

A / I was a very lonely and silent child. And my imaginary friends were very scary… ghosts living in my parent's country house, where I spent all my summers as a child. My nights there were sleepless and in the company of insistent ghosts.

You both are from Sicily and you decided to shot Rita in Palermo neighbourhood Arenella. Tell me more about this place. What is your connection with it?

A / It's the most important place for us. Problematic and beautiful. When I think of a story, it's always in Sicily. When we decided to become directors, going back there was the most obvious and natural choice.

F / Arenella is a suburban neighbourhood, a narrow strip of and by the sea on the outskirts of the city. It is like a village where you really feel and see the sea. Palermo, although it is in front of the sea, is not really a "seaside" city, not like Naples, Genoa, Marseilles. Palermo has forgotten its ownsea, turned it's back on it. The sea is the horizon of endless possibilities, precluded in Palermo by this unnatural twist. The sea is a metaphor for freedom, it's risky, dangerous but necessary to stay alive. In our film, at the beginning Rita is a prisoner of a closed, claustrophobic, authoritarian world. Only the courage and the risk of her life can undergo the liberating experience of the sea. The experience that creates and defines her identity.

Rita is your début as directors. What did you do well, what went not so well?

A / Life is difficult. But our experience with this short film is an happy one. As first time directors we could have not asked for more. I'm especially glad of the choice of Marta Palermo for the role of Rita. Marta is a non professional actress of 10 years old blind since birth as the character she's playing. What went not so well? We happened to shoot in the only 3 days of bad weather of an endless sunny Sicilian summer… which was a bit difficult because we had the final scene by the sea. Still, we managed to get what we wanted, almost…

F / Complaining is useless. Do your best in the given condition!

If you, Antonio, were not a filmmaker, what would you be?

A / Maybe a journalist.

Why?

A / It's what I was doing before studying scriptwriting and filmmaking. I still thinks that there are many things to tell, I just prefer it to tell them in films now. It's far more interesting.

And what about you Fabio?

F / If I were not a filmmaker, I would probably be a farmer. My paternal grandfather was a farmer. I loved him and my grandmother. When I wasa child I usually spent every summer and every period free from school with them in the inner land of Sicily. They worked hard every day. Every season with its own needs. Although I was a child they involved me in their life. I learnt a lot about many things. My most precious memories are from those years with them. As human being what is good in me come from them.

/ Valentina Bozhichkova

Regan Hall/ WITH 3 HOURS WE ATTEMPTED TO BREAK THE RULES
2011-06-01

3 Hours

(fiction, Jordan/UK, 2010, 14 min)

When militants indiscriminately murder his young brother, Akram is out for revenge. Brotherhood, tragedy, revenge. The true story of one day in Baghdad.

New Zealand-born British director Regan Hall has established his name with dynamic fashion films for clients such as Dolce and Gabanna, Revlon, Dazed and Confused, and Swarovski. 3 Hours is his first dramatic short film.


Where did the idea for 3 Hours come from?

I read an article in The Times newspaper in March 2007, telling of the murder of nine children by random gunmen in Baghdad. The story really affected me, so I kept the article in my ideas pile. About six months later I had managed to save enough money to make a short film, and this idea was at the top of the pile. Shooting an all-Iraqi war drama in the Middle East was going to be difficult, but I was so passionate about the story that I knew it would be worth the effort.

Have you ever been in Baghdad? Tell me more about the film location.

No, I haven't been to Iraq yet. We shot 3 Hours next door, in Jordan. I was in the early stages of developing the script when I was lucky enough to be introduced to some of the crew from Katherine Bigelow's 'The Hurt Locker'; Art Director David Bryan had just returned from Jordan and had great photos of the sets, and Co-Producer Donnall McCusker kindly offered to introduce us to the Royal Jordanian Film Commission.The RJFC were amazing, inviting us to film in their country and offering us a lot of help and support. Jordan has been host to many international productions; 'Incendies' and 'Fair Game' were both shooting at the same time as us.

How long did the pre-production and production of the film take?

It took us about nine months to get the script ready, which included getting cultural input and having our Arabic translations made. Then we had six months of planning and pre-production. I flew out to Jordan for the first time with absolutely nothing - no cast, no crew, no locations, no guns. In 10 days we had most of that sorted, and returned two months later to shoot. We shot the film in seven days, before returning to London for the long process of post-production.

Even 3 Hours is a fiction, it functions almost as a documentary and partly it is because of the fact that is is based on true events. The conflict between Sunnis and Shiites, their spiritual and political differences are very subtle and complex themes. How difficult is it to be working on thеsе themes?

Very very difficult - it is such a sensitive issue, especially for a Westerner. The reason the story grabbed me so much is that it is universal - Sunni/Shia, Catholic/Protestant, Tutsi/Huti… communities divided down sectarian lines based on prejudice and blame. I did a lot of research and learnt a lot about the region, and when my writer Sam and I were writing the script we purposefully tried to hold on to the universality of the story. I think the fact that we won Best International Short Film at the Northern Ireland Film Festival shows that it kept that resonance.

How difficult is to determine the boundaries between the narrative expropriation of the story and the exploration of the story and characters?

Short film is a difficult medium, especially when you are attempting to deal with a dramatic story with lots of characters. That's why the majority of short films have only a couple of characters and a simple story. We attempted to break those rules with 3 Hours, it's a kind of mini-feature, with a three act structure and lots of characters. I used a lot of shorthand, such as music montage, in order to tell the story. How would you describe your work as an director? I am known for my fashion and beauty films, which usually concentrate on beautiful images and beautiful people. My true passion lies in serious drama though, so 3 Hours is an important step for me towards the films I aim to make in the future.

What are you working on now?

I have just spent the last month working with fashion photographer Mario Testino on some high profile perfume commercials. Now I'm busy developing my slate of feature film projects.

Why did you decide to participate in IN THE PALACE Short Film Festival?

We found out about the festival via the website, and it looks like a very dynamic and interesting programme - we're very happy to be a part of it. 

/Valentina Bozhichkova