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VENICE 2019 Out of Competition

Anastasia Mikova and Yann Arthus-Bertrand • Directors of Woman

“Sometimes, the interviewee would say everything and then collapse”

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- VENICE 2019: Cineuropa sat down with co-directors Anastasia Mikova and Yann Arthus-Bertrand to talk about Woman, a documentary in which women from across the world talk about their own lives

Anastasia Mikova and Yann Arthus-Bertrand • Directors of Woman

Yann Arthus-Bertrand is a French photographer, journalist, reporter and environmentalist. He is the president of the GoodPlanet Foundation, which he created in 2005. In 2015, he released the film Human [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
, which premiered at the United Nations and the Venice Film Festival. Anastasia Mikova is a Ukrainian-born film director and journalist. In 2009, she became editor-in-chief of the series of documentaries Earth from Above, which marked the beginning of her collaboration with Arthus-Bertrand. Then acting as first assistant director and co-author, she continued her collaboration with him on the documentary Human. Their new joint effort, Woman [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Anastasia Mikova and Yann A…
film profile
]
, screened Out of Competition at the Venice Film Festival.

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Cineuropa: How did you work and direct together?
Yann Arthus-Bertrand: I delegated to Anastasia, who is my co-director, and who did more work than me on the film. I found the money, I helped whenever and wherever I could, and I am a producer. But it needed a woman to do the interviews, find the themes and be responsible for much of the edit. I didn’t feel I had the right, as a man, to do more.

Anastasia, you did all of these interviews that are so candid and touching; what was hard for you and what was difficult? Was there anyone in particular that stood out?
Anastasia Mikova:
There were five journalists doing the interviews. I did many of them. What you have to imagine is that for our previous collaboration as directors together, Human, I did more than 1,000 interviews. And that’s a lot of people. So it’s tough to single out this person or that one.

How did you prepare for the interviews?
AM: For many months, we had fixers in the countries explaining why we were doing this and why they should tell their story. It wasn’t like we took women from the street and said, “Talk.” However, before you conduct an interview like that, I think you never know exactly how it will unfold and what will happen. So, for many women, little by little, it became a form of introspection, and sometimes they released things and shared things that they were not themselves expecting to share. Sometimes, when that happens, you don’t know if it was a good thing or a bad thing. Sometimes the interviewee would say everything and then collapse. You are in front of her as a journalist, and you feel a responsibility, thinking, “I've gone too far.” But what most of the women taught us is that while it’s difficult, it's their decision, and that should be respected. Even though it’s difficult, it’s necessary. I think this is one of the main messages of the film: it’s essential to listen. 

The edit is exquisite. How long did it take?
AM: A long time. It took more than ten months of editing. There are 2,000 stories, and each interview lasts two or three hours, so just to listen to all of this, it’s a lot of work that takes a lot of time. At the same time, it’s a gift that all of these women have given us. It’s also a big responsibility because these women are sharing these stories that they have never shared with anyone, and they tell you, “Ok, you have the responsibility for telling my story. What will you do with it?”

You shoot a lot of talking heads, so there is also the question of how you make it cinematic.
AM: That’s Yann. It’s his artistic vision. 

YAB: I don’t think of it as a cinematic vision; I think of it as an artistic vision. They’re not the same. In cinema, you can make a film that is not at all artistic, so it’s my artistic vision. As an artist, I like to break the rules. I didn’t go to film school.

AM: I don’t agree with that. I think Yann has an artistic vision, but it’s also a cinematic vision.

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