Samir • Director
"Our experiences represent the common ground that better allows us to understand each other"
- BERLIN 2015: Samir, the director of the highly topical Iraqi Odyssey, tells us about his film and also gives us his take on the Berlinale
Samir, the director of the highly topical Iraqi Odyssey [+see also:
film profile], tells us about his film and at the same time gives us his take on the Berlinale. It is a paramount event for him, since this year his film will be presented in the Panorama section along with that of his significant other (Dora or the Sexual Neuroses of Our Parents [+see also:
interview: Stina Werenfels
film profile]), the Swiss director Stina Werenfels, a movie on which he was one of the producers. This is a true consecration for this “unusual” couple who, for the last 20 years, have mutually enriched one another.
Iraqi Odyssey and Dora or the Sexual Neuroses of Our Parents is being presented at Berlin with another Swiss film, Chrieg [+see also:
interview: Simon Jaquemet
film profile] by Simon Jaquemet (Guest of Perspektive Deutsche Kino), and two other co-productions: Sworn Virgin [+see also:
Q&A: Laura Bispuri
film profile] by Laura Bispuri, competing for the Golden Bear, and A German Youth [+see also:
film profile] by Jean-Gabriel Périot, also presented in the Panorama section.
Cineuropa: what does it mean for you, in terms of visibility, to present your feature films in the Panorama section for the Berlinale?
Samir: As a producer, I find the Berlinale to be a very interesting showcase for arthouse films. This festival is the second-most significant after Cannes for this type of production. While I was very happy to present the world premiere of Iraqi Odyssey at the Toronto Film Festival, my world sales representative advised me to also attend the Berlinale to really launch the film onto the international market. In order to prepare for Berlin, we decided to present the movie in other regions such as Latin America (Rio, Sao Paolo) and the Middle East (particularly Tunis and Abu Dhabi, where Iraqi Odyssey won the Netpac Award for Best Asian Film). This allowed us allowed to arrive at Berlin with a lot of visibility under our belts.
Speaking from a producer's point of view, Dora was much more difficult to "promote". Iraqi Odyssey is about a hot topic in the international scene, and it was not difficult to convince people how important it was to make a film like mine.
For a film like Dora, it was much more difficult to convince anyone why the subject was so strong and important. There was great competition as well; there were quite a lot of “small” films from new directors that come out every year. I was very happy that the movie was premiered at the Solothurn Film Festival. Solothurn was a great platform for Stina's film, which generated quite the buzz in the Swiss-German press.
How did your collaboration with Stina Werenfels develop? Was your role as a producer (within Dschoint Ventschr) seen differently, given that you are well acquainted with Stina's work and sensitivity?
As a producer I never want to impose my own vision. That would risk diminishing the trust between the producer and director. I personally feel that I am a true comrade for directors. Beyond discussing the importance of the theme and the dramaturgy, I can, if they wish, guide them on the formal, aesthetic level of the film. When I immerse myself in a project, I see myself more as an actor than a producer because I try to see things from the director’s point of view even if our styles are apples and oranges. I become a twin of sorts. It is very interesting to come into contact with a “world” that I don't belong to but still participate in. Perhaps what sets me apart from more "traditional" producers is that I always try to bring new solutions to problems, and that is thanks to my own experience as a director.
Do you share the theme of identity with Stina? You both have rich, international backgrounds and experiences...
Oddly enough, we share the same story in our cinema. I have a slightly different approach because I take on the theme of globalisation and identity changes; Stina, on the other hand, goes about the theme of difference, feeling foreign in the society where you live. At a personal level, we have had very similar experiences: she is Swiss but was raised in the United States, Greece and Spain. When she returned to Switzerland at 13, she felt like a foreigner. Our personal experiences represent the common ground that helps us better understand one another. It's funny, when I presented my film Iraqi Odyssey in Switzerland, I couldn’t believe how many close friends were surprised to see me "differently". I said to myself, is it that I’m so well integrated that even my close friends can’t see this other side of me? It's like wearing a mask.
(Translated from French)
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