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“What are our principles worth when reality brings a cruel denial to our beliefs?”

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Izer Aliu • Director

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- Cineuropa met up with Norwegian director Izer Aliu, whose first feature film, Hunting Flies, was released in Norway after its world premiere at Toronto

Izer Aliu  • Director

Hunting Flies [+see also:
trailer
interview: Izer Aliu
film profile
]
by Izer Aliu, a film produced by Storyline Pictures and distributed by Europa Film in Norway on 21 April, was featured at several film festivals, such as Toronto, Göteborg and Tromsø, among others. This is the first feature film by the Norwegian director of Albanian origin, whose short film The Good Life – Over There won the Best Film Award at the Grimstad Festival in 2014 – a small town in southern Norway where Henrik Ibsen, then an apprentice pharmacist, spent part of his youth. Aliu introduces us to an altogether different style of learning in Hunting Flies, with Ghani, an idealistic teacher, and his pupils. Wishing to establish peace in his classroom, Ghani takes on the courageous role of negotiator and instructor in order to overcome severe tensions. These tensions reflect the incessant village quarrels, which the local children are witnesses to and in which they are also active participants. The school teacher will become the game master – of a particularly serious game.

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Cineuropa: You have also been a teacher, I believe.
Izer Aliu:
I’m used to children. In particular, I introduced young people to the techniques of film through workshops in the region of Lillehammer, where I studied at the Norwegian Film School. It was all part of Filmbussen, the cinema bus, which travels from school to school to offer creative activities. Previously I had studied International Relations and Philosophy.

And after that?
At the end of my studies, I was eager to create, to make a film, and I embarked upon a summer activity that became a long-term project. It was in April 2013 that it all began, and at first everything went relatively quickly. The shoot itself lasted 24 days during the summer holidays of 2013, in a rural area near Skopje in Macedonia, with a small team of five people, including Nils Eilif Bremdal as director of photography.

How was the filming?
The work was intense on certain days, and on others the atmosphere was more relaxed, despite the torrid heat. Since there was no leader to call us all to order, we were able to adapt to the circumstances and enjoy a sense of relative freedom.

You are also the screenwriter of the film.
I worked with nothing but an 11-page synopsis, which was more like a comprehensive plan for me, a sort of reminder. The complete story was created day by day in the course of writing. I really wanted to work without the traditional storyline, without the solid script where everything is decided on in advance – which is so reassuring for potential investors. This artistic choice did not make it any easier to obtain the funding, but I wanted to stick with my idea. The film’s budget was therefore very small.

Are all of your actors professionals?
Burhan Amiti
, who plays Ghani, is the only professional actor. The others are friends and relatives. I needed ten children. Eleven turned up at the casting; no problems there. On the other hand, I struggled to find women due to cultural difficulties. I did run into some reticence and scepticism, I must admit. But my wife agreed to be part of my film.

Your film is largely a chamber piece in a classroom. Is it a comedy-drama? A satirical fable?
It is above all a political film. The similarities with the world we live in aren’t coincidental. Hunting Flies allows me to evoke the birth, the flourishing and the fall of a dictator, within a school setting. The loss of principles is what lies at the heart of my film. What, then, are our principles worth when things in life impose themselves mercilessly, when reality brings a cruel denial to our profound beliefs? It’s hard to remain true to ourselves when the system forces us to change. I also wanted to emphasise the inheritance left to us by our parents; not only behaviour and habits, but also beliefs. I believe we are too inclined to sacrifice logic in favour of respect for tradition.

Do you have any current projects?
I’m working on my next film, 12 Dares, which was inspired by the 12 labours of Hercules. It’s a Swedish-Norwegian co-production. I have international ambitions for my films because I’m convinced that cinema is a universal language. It’s good to have local roots, a regional presence, provided that you also have a global vision, so that everyone can feel involved and be better able to understand what it is to be human.

(Translated from French by Hannah Thompson)

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