Tonia Mishiali • Director
"It's a film that is viewed through the prism of the complex and fascinating female nature"
by Vassilis Economou
- KARLOVY VARY 2018: We talked to director Tonia Mishiali about the importance of the story she tells in Pause, and the impact it could have on society in Cyprus and abroad
Cypriot director-scriptwriter-producer Tonia Mishiali already has an impressive and long-running festival track record thanks to her short films. Her debut feature, Pause [+see also:
interview: Tonia Mishiali
film profile], tells the story of a middle-aged housewife, Elpida, who is trapped in a turbulent and loveless marriage. The film participated in the East of the West competition at the 53rd Karlovy Vary International Festival. We talked to Mishiali about the importance of her story, and the impact it could have on society in Cyprus and abroad.
Cineuropa: Why did you choose Elpida’s story for your debut film?
Tonia Mishiali: I have always been sensitive to women's issues and equality, and I have been particularly interested in exploring decaying marital relationships. Therefore, dealing with this subject in my debut seemed right because it was also very personal. I was inspired by images that had been imprinted on my mind and events that I experienced growing up in Cyprus, a patriarchal society, watching the women in my family and the women around me living on the sidelines. Consequently, I wanted to make a film that is viewed through the prism of the complex and fascinating female nature. Pause is a film about the loss of one’s voice, the longing for love and unquenchable desires. Since women in cinema are traditionally misrepresented, I wanted the film to depict a female character that is very much real. Therefore, Elpida’s life is important to me.
Do you feel that Pause will have an effect on the audience in Cyprus? Will they also see fragments of their own lives?
I sure hope so. Pause is a cautionary tale about a woman at the end of her tether but without the courage to save herself. This is so true today. Thousands of women around the world still live in similar situations to Elpida’s, unable to find their own voice and fight for their rights. I therefore hope that the movie will speak to them, make them sink into Elpida’s “reality”, and experience her inner world and her deep emotional state. And by empathising with her and watching her journey, I hope they will gain the courage to rebel – unlike Elpida.
Do you think Pause will mainly affect predominantly patriarchal societies, or could it have a wider impact?
Before the film’s world premiere, I was not sure how it would be perceived and to what extent any group or society would be affected. I know that Pause is a film that not everyone is ready to accept. But I was confident that this was the story I wanted to tell, and it was a risk I had to take. Audiences are so used to watching films from a male perspective that I was expecting some kind of objection from both male and female viewers. Yet, after our screenings at Karlovy Vary, I was happy to see that the movie had a wide impact on both genders, and my main objective had been accomplished: Elpida managed to get under the audience’s skin.
How difficult was it to shoot and produce such a film in Cyprus? Did people generally accept and approve of it?
The film got funding from the Cyprus Ministry of Culture, the Greek Film Centre and the SEE Cinema Network without too much difficulty. However, the budget was really low, so I don’t know if we would have been funded with a higher amount had the film dealt with a different subject. Producing the film in Cyprus was not difficult in that sense. This new generation of people is not so traditional, plus the film crew comprised a significant number of female professionals.
How important is it to release a film like this in the midst of the discussions on the topic of gender equality in the audiovisual sector – and other areas? Do you think this affects the audience’s perspective of the film?
The important thing is that this female-centric story, told from a completely female-centric point of view, is out there now. And it deals with a theme that is rarely seen in film, as it addresses issues of patriarchy from a woman’s perspective (both in front of and behind the camera). Is it the right timing? That’s not for me to say. I told the story I needed to tell when it felt right for me.
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