Céline Carridroit, Aline Suter, Julietta Korbel and Maja Gehrig are all filmmakers hailing from different parts of Switzerland, but one other thing they have in common besides that is that their short films have been selected for the “Swiss Competition” program at this year’s Winterthur International Film Festival.
Tara Karajica caught up with them at the festival and discussed their relationship with filmmaking and the short form, their respective works, women in film and their next projects.
How did you get into filmmaking and what inspires you to make films?
Céline Carridroit: I have always been particularly attracted to documentary cinema because it is for me a way of understanding the world and sharing the poetry that exists in people and in life. I want to make films because I want to live and share incredible encounters I have made in my everyday life. It connects worlds and ideas that make us see society differently – cinema allows that.
Aline Suter: I always knew I was interested in all kinds of artistic expressions. I haven’t really chosen filmmaking, but all the paths I took brought me into this direction. I’m interested in pretty much everything. Through filmmaking, I can keep on discovering new worlds and new people, and share these discoveries and encounters through an artistic way. Somehow, it allows me to live several lives.
Julietta Korbel: It was quite a logical decision in my head. I was brought up around the fine arts and started early on to make sculptures as well as paintings, performances, etc. I created my own universe as an only child, being very happy by myself, as if I didn’t need anything else. I felt independent in my art. It was unconditional love. And so, then, I went on to study Fine Arts, to make sculptures, to be physical and then document those pieces in video installations. One day, this conceptual world wasn’t enough anymore. I thought that I wanted to learn the practical, I guess, down to earth art of filmmaking. Writing scripts, organizing, producing etc. And it turned out that I loved this world, as if I was constantly trying to find the balance between the grounded practice of filmmaking and the intellectual, floating world of creation. To conclude, filmmaking brings all the elements together that I need in order to feel alive. Being constantly challenged and surprised. For me, it is the ultimate way out of this passive work spaces world – screens, non physical, non communicational, non human, lonely, etc.
Maja Gehrig: It took me quite a long time to understand that I want to make animated films. First, I tried to study industrial design and changed after half a year to media arts just to jump on everything that dealt with animation, even 3D computer animation, which is the only technique I have never used in any of my artistic films. Still, I wanted to get deeper into the world of animation and so I did an internship at Eesti Joonisfilm, an animation studio in Tallinn, Estonia. In this cold winter, it got crystal clear that I wanted to continue with animation. So I started studying animation at the HSLU in Lucerne. I find inspiration in all kind of things and situations. Sometimes, it is a spelling error like in Average Happiness. Sometimes, it is a childhood memory. But the animation technique always follows the idea and depending on what is important to the idea, I work with puppets, drawings or vectors.
Can you talk about your respective short films?
J.K.: My grandfather was a Hungarian, Czechoslovakian immigrant. He arrived in Switzerland in 1968. He was a painter. His name was Pavel. I grew up in his painting studio in Montreux, overlooking the Chavalon factory. Pavel was for me a poetic introvert. His intimacy was expressed in his works of art. He died five years ago and I inherited his studio, in which I now live, being the only person in my family to reside in Switzerland. Between my grandfather’s paintings, I see this factory as an abandoned island in the middle of the mountains. This was the starting point of the film. Still Working was a conversation about my desire to confront those dead machines, as if they were bodies and the nature retook its power in this industrial environment. There was a lot of research work in meeting Chavalon’s workers and learning about its history. Still Working is a personal meditation on what it means to let go of a utopic place that dreams of an industrial flourishing future and opening up to the imminent, the unknown time to come. That is what the guardian, Pavel, is going through in this film.
M.G.: Average Happiness is what I would call an experimental comedy. I had the original idea in 2011, when I was writing a proposal and had to describe an “organigram.” Instead, I wrote “Onaniegramm.” This was like a gift to me because I was fascinated with statistical diagrams for quite a while and wanted to make an animated film with them, but I could not think of a topic or form. The spelling error gave me the impulse to create a short piece about erotic and statistical diagrams. It was very difficult for me to find a dramaturgy based on abstract forms rather than characters with a psychology. My aim was to still evoke compassion with these diagrams that are escaping their limited form. At least, to create a flow that sucks you in and makes you look differently at the diagrams and statistics after having seen the film. The topic of the film is basically that we are relying on, even “believing” in statistics and diagrams without being able to read them – at least this counts for most of the population.
C.C.: Les oiseaux du paradis was a great encounter with the protagonist of this film, Anne. She trusted us and gave us her personals archives. I am really happy to see that a film can be a part of a process that leads to more and more trust in this strange relationship that could end up being the one between the directors and the person that is filmed. It is a very “simple” film. We made it quickly with Aline [Suter] and we really followed our instinct when directing this short film.
A.S.: I agree with Céline. This film is about an encounter; it’s a story about trust. First, we wanted to tell Anne’s story only with found footage since she didn’t want to appear in the film. Then, she shared her personal archives with us and allowed us to use them in the film. The film was built on her own photos and films, but we included some of the found footage we first wanted to use, which gives the film a special touch, I think.
How do you see the short form today?
M.G.: I don’t know if the reception of this form has changed much. Of course, there are a lot more possibilities online, but if you consider shorts that are produced for the cinema, there are still the same difficulties. It’s even more seldom that short films are programmed outside of festivals. But I think that festivals nowadays are playing a more important role also for a non-filmmaking public because the consumption of commercial films has shifted from cinemas to online streaming platforms. That means that in cinemas, you are looking for exceptionally curated situations which are given at festivals.
C.C.: As a director, I can just say that some films I make must be short and others must be long. I find this form interesting – it can be the opportunity to make something fast and simple.
J.K.: I love the short form. It is the form of an essay, the form of intense and concentrated ideas. It allows one to go into plenty of different universes in a very short amount of time. It allows for experimentation, for radical actions and reactions. And I think it will become even more popular in the future, as more and more information becomes condensed and consumed fast. I also think that the idea of a form of film with restricted or defined time will change. I think that series or films in general will become more flexible. For example, one episode will take one hour and the next one 35 minutes. Or, that there will be more medium length formats as well. I think that with all the new ways of consuming film or visuals formats, it frees itself from this time-defined set up into something more tangible and individual. Either way, I hope that we will be able to take time for silence in film, for those moments of breaths in a scene that make it magical.
How do you see the short form today?
A.S.: With Internet, everything is changing; the classical formats –26′, 52′, etc. – are changing too and will be obsolete. Maybe, this will give the short form a new visibility. The content should define the length and not the other way around.
What is your opinion on the situation of women in film today?
A.S.: Fortunately, things are changing. I hope “women in film” will not have to be a topic anymore in the future!
J.K.: I don’t know if I could apply it to film only; it is more a life situation in general, no? Women are still widely undervalued and suppressed in their rights of equality. In some professional areas, it is more obvious and in others it lingers underneath the surface. I am proud to be female and to have the luxury and liberty to write and direct a film. I don’t try to position myself when being involved in a film. I focus on the outcome only. I try to become genderless in those moments and just push the project forward, because the film is the only thing that matters to me at that moment of production.
C.C.: As in many environments, there are a lot more well-known people that are male rather than female. But there are also more and more young female students in film schools. I think we have to encourage as much as possible all the young people who want to make films and I hope there will naturally be more female directors.
M.G.: There are still a lot of male prize winners… In animation, in Switzerland at least, the film funding is fifty-fifty.
Who is your favorite female filmmaker and what is your favorite film by a female filmmaker?
C.C.: There are a lot of female filmmakers I love and that inspire me like for instance Claire Denis, Claire Simon, Chantal Ackerman, Agnès Varda, Margerite Duras, Naomi Kawase… Perhaps something that inspires me the most at this moment is a part of the filmed diary of Naomi Kawase in Super 8, Kya Ka Ra Ba A.
M.G.: I don’t have any favorite female filmmaker or films, but I liked a lot When the day Breaks by Wendy Thilby and Amanda Forbis, Min Börda by Niki Lindroth, Tram by Michaela Pavlatova, My Mom is an Airplane by Yulia Aronova, Daughter by Daria Kashcheeva and Nachtstück by Anne Breymann.
A.S.: Regarding female filmmakers, I have the same inspirations as Céline. I could add Céline Sciamma. I’m not fond of everything she has done, but I think she’s an important figure today. My favorite film – too hard to answer!
J.K.: There are too many and each second I change my mind. I have enormous respect for all change-making directors starting with Agnès Varda, Vera Chytilová, Maya Deren, Claire Denis, Susanne Bier, Chantal Akerman, Sally Potter, Lynne Ramsey, Céline Sciamma, Jane Campion and many more. But I am especially interested in the new minds and so, I love to discover short films that inspire the desires to continue dreaming.
What are your next projects?
J.K.: I am in the process of writing/developing a treatment for the next short film. It is still very, very loose and fragile. And I am currently gathering work experience as an assistant on set as well as in a production company in Switzerland.
C.C.: We have a new project together with Aline, but it is too early to talk about it. It could be something that will talk about our relationship with science.
M.G.: There will be an interactive version of Average Happiness – a game or an app!
A.S.: Céline has already answered regarding our common project. I will also work in film workshops with teenagers.
This interview was conducted at the 2019 Winterthur International Short Film Festival.