Synopsis: A mother comes to grips with a precocious young daughter and the violent circumstances of her birth.
Congratulations on being the first filmmaker to represent Russia in the MANHATTAN SHORT FILM FESTIVAL. How does that feel?
Thank you. This mobile form of the festival has turned out to be the most efficient in establishing contact with anaudience. That’s why I’m so proud that our film is being featured in so many wonderful cities around the globe. It is a bit unnerving. I think the first astronauts who set foot on the Moon had similar feelings. Anyway, having walked aboard the festival I feel like driving in “a movie van” and it makes me feel in the seventh heaven.
Where did the idea for the film come from?
It comes from a short story by Olga Grenetz. She is an amazing writer. One scene in particular, where the mother and daughter stand on the shore, really stuck with me. I kept seeing it in my head, until I finally put it on film.
Oksana Akinshina is a well-known actress in Russia. How did you get her to agree do the part?
Well-known actresses are a dime a dozen. But Oksana is more than just an actress; she is a unique human being. She is… how shall I put it… at home among strangers and a stranger at home. In fact, I was excited simply to be able to stand next to her. How did I get her to agree? Well, naturally, there was a bit of scheming involved. What that involved though, will be my secret. But it was the screenplay that did most of the convincing. Oksana said, “You don’t have to explain anything to me. I get it. This is my story.” During our first meeting, she basically acted out the entire thing in one minute, right there at the table. My Director of Photography and I were really emotionally affected by it. Then she drank a glass of wine, smiled, and ran off to some meeting or other.
When you're working with such a wonderful actress with such a screen presence, do you worry that she might overwhelm the story?
The screenplay was written specifically for Oksana. I can’t picture anyone else embodying the role so perfectly. When you work with an actress of this caliber, you feel like you’re driving a Formula 1 racing car or piloting a space rocket. I am absolutely overjoyed to have Oksana starring in our movie.
The mother/daughter relationship is very believable. Did you feel that would work from the very beginning or was it difficult to create?
We tried really hard to get it right, of course, but we couldn’t imagine how well it would work. From the very first moment of their first day of filming together, Oksana and Katya Semirenko (who plays her daughter) established a relationship that fits the screenplay perfectly. Katya is very outgoing and sociable; the entire film crew fell in love with her. Meanwhile, Oksana, who was exhausted from filming and flying back and forth, deliberately distanced herself from Katya, and even got irritated. She kept hissing, “I hate girls, they are so annoying!” I think Katya sensed this at one point, she walked up to Oksana, took her by the hand and said: “My mom told me, ‘Whatever you do, just don’t behave like a diva!’” Oksana burst out laughing and seemed to soften. From that point on, there was a definite warmth between them, and you can see it on screen.
The thugs at the beginning are depicted in such a way as to remind you of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The crime, therefore, seems more than just a random event. Comment?
Yes, exactly! Excellent question. I’m really glad you noticed that, because we not examining a crime, but a test, the negotiation of a trial. You can pretend that everything is fine; that you have a great career and so on. But these horsemen can appear before you or your loved ones at any moment… anywhere, even on your own iPhone, disguised as a random text message or in the movie theater, wielding a machine gun. They wander around the world. But that’s exactly why we are put on this planet: so we can meet the challenges that face us.
What advice do you have to someone who is about to make their first short film?
If I can offer any advice, which is usually a bad idea, it would be this: I think it’s important to always remember that the movie in your head could very easily not work out the way you planned it. That’s reality. Let’s be honest. It can happen to the best of us. You can work it out down to the last detail, but ‘unfortunate accidents’ often happen when you run out of time, when you miss something, when you allow things to take their course. But if you are truly touched by the story, there is a better chance that all the pieces of the puzzle will fall into place and your film will work out perfectly!
Click here to download these stills at 300dpi.
Click here to return to the Finalists page.