Olga Lucovnicova

Olga Lucovnicova is a Moldovan filmmaker based in Belgium. She studied Cinematography at the Academy of Music, Theater and Fine Arts of Moldova, and Documentary Film Directing at DocNomads, an Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Program, delivered by a consortium of three prominent European universities across Portugal, Hungary and Belgium. As a filmmaker, she is particularly interested in stories that can generate social changes and create a platform for discussion. Her filming style combines observational cinema with poetic elements, where the key elements are human emotions and feelings.

Tara Karajica talks to Olga Lucovnicova about her short film, “My Uncle Tudor,” that won the Golden Bear for Best Short Film at the 2021 Berlinale as well as the European Film Award 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?

Olga Lucovnicova: I was studying Accountancy at University and, at one point, when I was sixteen years old, I wanted a better camera, but my father told me: “I can buy it to you, but you need to convince me that you really need it.” So, I started studying by myself online, reading forums about composing rules and light. And, I became a photographer this way. And, when I became a photographer and started doing some commercial shoots, I already knew that my future was related to multimedia. That’s why after finishing my Accountancy Degree, I went to the Academy of Music, Theater and Fine Arts of Moldova and studied Cinematography. This was in 2011. So, it’s already been ten years since I entered the world of cinema, and I cannot imagine my life outside it! First of all, reality inspires me. People inspire me. Since childhood, I have liked to observe people. Of course, there are lots of cinema creators who inspire me as well. One of my references for My Uncle Tudor was Aliona van der Horst’s Love is Potatoes. Also, as I’m now based in Belgium and I finished my Master’s degree there, I discovered Chantal Akerman’s cinema, which was very inspiring, and this list can be endless because I have also been studying Moldovan cinema for six years, so Moldovan cinema is also an inspiration and had a great impact on me and directors like Vlad Druk were very important in my development as a documentary film director.

Can you talk about your short film, My uncle Tudor?

O.L.: My Uncle Tudor was a very important film for me both for my professional and personal growth, but it was a very difficult decision to make this film. And, this film is my personal journey into my childhood past where I tried to confront my fears. I spent seven months working on the script and, during these seven months, I read a lot about child psychology and traumas and I knew exactly what kind of metaphors and what kind of cinematic language I wanted to use, and as I told you before, one of my references was Aliona van der Horst, who same as in my film, goes to the house of her grandparents in Russia, but in my case, it was in Moldova. I had a lot of help from my teachers and I learnt with this film that the film crew is not only the ecosystem of people who are present at the shooting location, but also all these people who talk to you before you even start shooting and, for me, those were my teachers and tutors from the Doc Nomads Erasmus Mundus Master program, but also, of course, my family and my parents. The shooting lasted just ten days. It was a very intense time when I had to be the director of photography, the sound engineer, the director and the protagonist of the film at the same time. It happened because of COVID and my crew from Belgium couldn’t come to Moldova to shoot because our flights were cancelled, so I had to go alone, but I’m very grateful for this chance to be alone in this situation because it helped me to feel my feelings deeper, but also to keep the intimacy with my family members, which was very crucial for my film.

How do you see the short form today?

O.L.: For me, the short form is a poem. Because of the limitations of the form, you need to choose accurately what kind of images to use and what to say in the film because you don’t have space. So, every shot should be really thought through and precisely used in the film. You have to use some images to reach the goal beyond the descriptive reality and this is a great opportunity for this type of cinematic language specifically. In my case, I tried to use a lot of metaphors and symbols instead of just telling some objective textual information or visual information; I tried to use associative montage, which will also have some relation to the childhood memories – not just mine but also of the viewers.

What is your opinion of women in film today?

O.L.: In 2009, when I started working as a photographer, everybody was looking at me like: “Wow! A woman photographer! It’s not normal!” because the Moldovan society was quite patriarchic ten years ago. Now, things are changing and I like this fact a lot. Also, when I got into the Academy of Arts, we were just four girls and twenty-five boys studying Cinematography, so you can imagine how disproportionate the field was, but now in Moldova, for instance, in Directing, there are eight girls and just four boys. So, I think it’s very good. Also in Europe, we are trying to keep the gender balance in film education. At Doc Nomads, we have always tried to have a 50-50 balance within the study program. I think both male and female voices are equally important in cinema and we can see how many new and unique stories women brought to cinema.

Who is your favorite female filmmaker and what is your favorite film by a female filmmaker?

O.L.: Chantal Akerman and Aliona van der Horst, who was my reference for this film and was in the jury at my graduation exam when I presented My Uncle Tudor. Now, she’s my tutor for my next feature project. That’s why at this stage of development, she is my main inspiration.

What are your next projects?

O.L.: With My Uncle Tudor, I learnt that by using my personal story, I can tell universal stories. But because it is so personal, I can really go deeper into the difficult psychological process within the story, so that’s why now I’m doing a very personal project again, this time about my grandmother who died of suicide two years before I was born and I have many letters left from her, which my father kept for me. And, for this film, I want to research how her memories were transmitted to me and I want to go deeper into the concepts of trauma and memory, but in a wider context. So, this film will be about the legacy of the Soviet Union and WWII on the reconstructive generations of my family, ending with me.



Photo credits: Courtesy of the European Film Academy.

Tara Karajica

Tara Karajica is a Belgrade-based film critic and journalist. Her writings have appeared in "Indiewire," "Screen International," "Variety," "Little White Lies" and "Film New Europe," among many other media outlets, including the European Film Academy’s online magazine, "Close-up" and Eurimages. She is a member of the European Film Academy, the Online Film Critics Society and the Alliance of Women Film Journalists as well as the recipient of the 2014 Best Critic Award at the Altcine Action! Film Festival. In September 2016, she founded "Yellow Bread," a magazine dedicated entirely to short films, ranked among the 25 Top Short Film Blogs and Websites on the Planet in 2017. In February 2018, she launched "Fade to Her," a magazine about successful women working in Film and TV and in 2019, she was a member of the Jury of the European Shooting Stars (European Film Promotion). She is currently a programmer for live action shorts at PÖFF Shorts, Head of the Short Film Program and Live Action Shorts programmer at SEEFest and Narrative Features Programmer at the Durban International Film Festival. Tara is a regular at film festivals as a film critic, moderator and/or jury member.

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