CANNES SHORT FILM CORNER: 'ÉPIPHANIE'
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
After my last short film, ‘The Hands of Abel’, which in the end turned to be extremely dark for me, I needed to tell a story focused on what some human beings could do in order to help others. That is, focusing on the feeling that may trigger an abstract need for devoting one’s life to be the source of a net constructive outcome for the world as a whole, although it merely was due to the fact of being needed once in order to save a single person.
Many visual and dramatic metaphors able to convey this meaning kept coming to my mind through the years, until the moment in which, some time ago, I knew about that controversial case in France in which an adolescent Rom girl was to be deported with her entire family after having been arrested by the police while being at a school excursion. That incident moved me, it was a true inspiration for me, and helped me to make all the pieces fit into what finally came to be 'Épiphanie'.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
Another essential element in order to build this story that also encountered a privileged place among those structuring it is the selected musical composition, the 'Eja mater' movement, from Vilvadi’s 'Stabat Mater' RV 621, that so beautifully sings to the reflection of such essential elements as those whose presence in its lyrics can be shared with this tale.
As a filmmaker, I would like to say that you should watch this film because it could unveil a new way to approach your surrounding world, be it due to the fact of being exposed through it to a sensitivity which may differ greatly from your own, or even because it eventually matched so well with your own.
That is precisely why I like so much the films I like most… because they keep my mind relentlessly working and my heart beating, reminding me how alive I can be, and fundamentally so because of the truth and diversity of discourse they bring to me.
Being able to offer this chance to others telling stories is precisely the reason why I decided once to radically change the course of my life in order to devote it to filmmaking. Apart from all this, I must say that you should watch this film because of its great performances, its deep artistic value and its outstanding technical quality, all of which will make you want to gaze across all of its shots from beginning to end.
The originality of its narrative approach, which streamlines from the raw strictly realistic depiction of the initial episodes into the full abstraction and symbolism shaping the end of the story, in which a completely new space for the mixture between reality and dreams is built with the help of the music by Antonio Vivaldi, is another one of its most attractive features.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
I have tried my best in order to make this film focus on universal themes… and that’s because I want to establish the deepest communication possible with a wide audience, not just making films for my own selfish sake and pleasure. Because, maybe, what I might struggle to tell time and again could be important, but I am definitely not.
Nevertheless, a filmmaker, not more than an artist like all those great or humble ones from all our previous ages, is nothing but a window through which all that is universal is unveiled to others disguised as a personal view of something, as an intimate experience of something, and so turned to be directly comprehensible through our emotions, our universal instinctive language. Precisely because of that, many personal themes, metaphors and images have been introduced all over the film, and I hope that inadvertently so for the audience. It must be that way.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development and production?
I can assure you the production of 'Épiphanie' was extremely hard: many different, difficult and distant locations, a difficult casting process, a very demanding VFX postproduction, a very long shooting and not a cent of public funding - which, on its own, in Spain, may very likely force a film to be aborted.
But when you have limited resources and a very complex project to be shot, in which you firmly believe, the script and film are something that evolve at the same time at which you try to streamline all your efforts through the narrow window that reality shows as the only one available to you.
And that is not bad, it’s just the way it has to be. In that sense, one could find many things in common with filming a documentary, I guess. At the end, you shape the script and film in order to make those limitations improve your work somehow, never to make it worse. And that’s a magic I love... it always turns out to happen. At least, that is my experience so far. Maybe that is precisely so because I somehow have always worked surrounded by such limitations, because of the very nature of my films, and I have found no other option but evolving and adapting to them.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
As I have mentioned above, this film is still a world premiere; in fact, its theatrical version is currently still being finished. Thus, there have been no public screenings so far, and we are awaiting the day of the first one in order to find out how the audience receives it. What I could tell you about is the way some of those helping us in the different stages of the research and development stages that led to the script reacted when they watched some preliminary cuts of some separated parts of the film.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
'Épiphanie' takes place in three different European countries: France, Romania and Spain. Due to production restrictions which I will not describe, it had to be entirely filmed in Spain, with bilingual actors, etc... My fear was that we had neglected by mistake some of that kind of slight details that make a film not believable when watched by a native audience: the way the actors talk, the way they look, how the locations are… I guess that is something any member of a national audience has experienced when watching some kind of Hollywood blockbusters set in its own country but filmed elsewhere… And I could not allow that to happen in this film.
When I received the feedback referred to above, I was proud to know that our depiction of the life of a Rom family in France and in Romania, entirely filmed in Spain in the way described, was convincing for those knowing better than anyone the reality of these people: the French members of Intermèdes Robinson and some of the Roma living in France themselves.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on this website, www.wearemovingstories.com?
Being on this website is for us a very good opportunity for announcing the existence of this work to so many groups of people we may have never reached, and all this thanks to the Internet and to social media interaction.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
Everyone would be welcome on board in order to make this film’s message heard. One of the most important aspects in the short term is its release at film festivals. We are working hard on it, but there is no need to say that the more of them that selected it, the better it would be. And, for this purpose, any help will be deeply acknowledged by us, since we are a small independent production company from Spain. In the medium term, the transmission of its message should be achieved by its distribution to all available platforms, which we would like to be as wide as possible.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
I would like it to be received by a worldwide audience. One of the things I love about filmmaking is that, regardless of how different your cultural heritage and that of those watching your film are, if you have done a good work you will reach out to them. And when that happens, every effort, no matter how hard it was, is viewed as having been worth it.
Of course, this film could make a crucial debate arise in Europe because of the controversial situation in many of its countries of the Rom people, or because of how unbelievably widespread the sexual exploitation of women is in some of them. But, in the end, the only impact I honestly expect is that caused to some of the individuals watching this film and feeling something changing, or gaining strength, deep inside of them; and the greatest reward would not be that they hopefully were many, but that what they felt was true.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
There is a text I like very much. It belongs to the preamble of the United States Declaration of Independence, and somehow served as a model followed by many other relevant texts intended to be the very foundations for many of our modern societies, some of them being built at that time: the Declaration of Rights of the Man and the Citizen, in France, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, by the UN, or the Spanish Constitution, just to name a few.
It reads as follows: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The question would be… Are we totally sure that these self-evident truths still are the foundations holding the societies of the many different democratic countries in which we live today?
Would you like to add anything else?
I would like to thank Carmela Baranowska very much for having shared with us her interest in a film which hasn’t even been released yet. It is very encouraging to know that, being everything still to happen in its life, some of its qualities, by themselves, are found to be attractive enough as to gain an attention like hers.
What are the key creatives developing or working on now?
The director of photography, Julio Llorente, has been for several months now working in Mexico, fundamentally on commercials and documentaries. I know that filming some feature projects await for him, which couldn’t make me happier. The lead actress, Julia Fournier, is now in the USA searching for new challenging acting opportunities. I, Víctor Bárcena, its writer, director and producer, am currently working in the preliminary stage of a feature film script freely inspired in the story depicted by 'Épiphanie' which I would like to become my first feature film. It would be thus crucial for that purpose to gain the attention of some production companies and sales agents already working in the development of feature film projects, so that an international co-production could be effectively launched in the medium term.
Excerpt from Cannes Short Film Corner: 'Épiphanie', by Carmela Baranowska