Eliane Esther Bots holds a Master’s Degree in Film from the Netherlands Film Academy in Amsterdam. Her films have screened at IDFA, Berlinale, Cinéma du Réel, New York Film Festival, International Short Film Festival Oberhausen, Go Short and Kassel Dokfest. She works as a “Moving Image” lecturer at the University of the Arts in Utrecht.
Tara Karajica talks to Eliane Esther Bots about her short film, “In Flow of Words,” that was nominated for Best Short Film at this year’s European Film Awards, as well as her thoughts on the short form, women in film today and what she is up to next.
How did you get into filmmaking and what inspires you?
Eliane Esther Bots: I studied Visual Arts, but I always felt, when I started painting, that I wanted to get close to life. So, I tried to get closer and closer, and, at some point, I started animating my paintings. And, that’s when I realized I should actually start making films because I could get closer to the life around me. And, I think that’s at least one reason for moving to moving images – so that I could capture the life that surrounds me. What inspires me is really the encounters with people. For example, my film, In Flow of Words, started with an encounter with one of the interpreters and that’s why I became interested in the subject and in the narrative position of interpreters.
Can you talk about your short film, In Flow of Words?
E.E.B.: I met Alma, one of the interpreters, at a film festival in The Hague, wherever I live, and she was behind the camera and I thought: “Oh, that’s a fellow filmmaker, that’s nice! I will approach her.” And then, she explained to me what she had been doing previously, and that is being an interpreter for quite some time. When she shared some of her experiences with me, I was very, very impressed with what she told me and there was not much that I could find about the position of the interpreters at the ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia). And that’s when I felt: “Hey, I want to do something with this! I probably want to make a film.” That’s when I met more interpreters and ended up with Alma, Pops and Besmir to make this film. First, I had long, long interviews and conversations with them and then, I tried to find other ways of telling their experiences. I didn’t film the ICTY itself. I tried to find other locations and other means of telling their experiences. So, I kind of distanced it from the reality of their experiences. I feel that interpretation is really a process. There are constantly words coming in and, at the same time, words are coming out. And, I remember Alma saying it’s mental athletics and Pops told me that it’s very stressful because you’re constantly in this flow of things coming in and things going out. So, I felt that “In Flow of Words” kind of captures this idea that it’s a constant movement, a flow actually. The working title was “The Channel,” which I also really like because I feel that the interpreters function as channels through which all these things go. But I made a performance with interpreters, which was called The Channel and therefore I decided that the film needed a different title and we came up with “In Flow of Words.”
How do you see the short form today?
E.E.B.: I’ve been making short films for quite some time now and I’ve only been making short films and I love the short film form. It’s, I think, very different from the long form; you have to reduce and reduce and reduce to make sure that a complete narrative or that a complete story fits into these fifteen to thirty minutes. I’m in love with the short film form. I really like it because it’s strict. I have to be critical when I look at my material. And, I hope it gets the same attention as the long form because I think it’s something else. It’s something different. It’s not comparable. It’s an art form in and of itself.
What is your opinion on women in film today?
E.E.B.: A lot of things are changing. Festivals are trying to incorporate at least 50% of women-directed films in their selections. And, that’s a very good thing. Things should change because it can be much more diverse. I have a small daughter right now, and I already feel that it is a bit challenging to combine everything and to be able to have those days of shooting. It really requires a kind of double identity in a way and I am still trying to find a way to combine motherhood and filmmaking and how they can positively influence one another. In general, with motherhood, it’s interesting to see what stories surrounding motherhood are out there and what stories are not being told. And, I guess, it’s important that there are women in film because otherwise, a lot of stories would not be shared and would not get the attention they deserve.
Who is your favorite female filmmaker and what is your favorite film by a female filmmaker?
E.E.B.: There are quite a lot! There’s a Dutch filmmaker, Maasja Ooms, who made a beautiful film called Jason. I really like the diversity in the film industry and the multiplicity of voices, so I wouldn’t dare to name only one work, to be honest!
What are your next projects?
E.E.B.: Well, I’m actually working on a film about a family in Warsaw, a Chechen family who are friends of mine. I shot the material quite some years ago and I felt that now was a really good moment to edit the film because it’s a bit hard to film right now. And then, I will give my myself the coming year to develop four different projects and see which will be the first one, so it could develop in very different directions.
Photo credits: Courtesy of the European Film Academy.