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“The important thing is not to lie”

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Miro Remo • Director

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- KARLOVY VARY 2017: We met up with award-winning Slovakian documentarian Miro Remo to talk about his latest oeuvre, This Is Not Me, and the dilemmas he faces while working on a documentary

Miro Remo  • Director

We met up with award-winning Slovakian documentarian Miro Remo to talk about the dilemmas he faces while working on a documentary, his working methods and his latest oeuvre, This Is Not Me [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Miro Remo
film profile
]
, a portrayal of famous Slovak singer Richard Müller and an exposé on showbusiness, currently screening in the Documentary Competition at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival

(The article continues below - Commercial information)

Cineuropa: You have been labelled as a “controversial” documentarian, even though you do not tackle political topics.
Miro Remo:
 If you follow your childhood ideals, you will find yourself immersed in some kind of conflict in adulthood. This “controversial” label is nothing but a feeble bandage for the scars left after you have grown up on role models. It is surprising how much greed there is and how much fear there is of losing one’s status. Richard Müller described it to a T when he said, “Culture is about people able to secure money.” I cannot accept this. The world is not fair, but films can still adopt an attitude.

How do you choose your topics, especially when your projects Pohoda and Coolture were not even authorised by some of the people who appeared in them?
I pick themes that inspire or irritate me strongly. I work in the field of culture as a director, so that’s why the topic is close to me. Richard Müller was my role model while I was going through puberty. All three films, PohodaCoolture and This Is Not Me, share one feature – they were born of passion; however, they were found to be problematic by the people appearing in them, even though the audience did not share that view. This reinforced my existing authorial perspective.

Did you have a clear vision of This Is Not Me’s concept, or did it evolve somehow?
We had various visions; we were open. My long-time colleague Juraj Šlauka and I wanted to work together with Richard, a trained scriptwriter, on the screenplay. The script was intended to be inventive, and our aim was to work with Richard’s personal archive; we wanted to reconstruct and to mystify everything, and be more experimental. However, Richard made the decision for us. He did not have enough strength, because of his psychological illness. It was fascinating to observe how he used his remaining energy as he concentrated on his new album. This struggle proved to be dramatic enough in the end. At first, we were sceptical, although eventually we (Richard’s friend Marek Kučera and I) were glad to have the opportunity to witness it with a camera. The cinematic shock treatment is highly effective in this case. 

Were you expecting to demythicise the protagonist, or showbusiness in general?
We were not expecting to do that, but we at least wanted to be just as intimate as Richard’s lyrics, which we knew and grew up on. We entered uncharted territory and documented it thanks to Richard. He let us get very close to him, and this was thanks to Marek Kučera, to a great extent. Their friendship proved to be crucial in building trust. 

Were there any dilemmas that you faced?
Not while shooting, although there was a thing or two during the digitisation of Richard’s personal archive. The 25 hours of material provided the best possible clue to his personality, to understanding his behaviour. He offered us the material without having ever seen it. It was much more intimate than a television archive could be. We faced scores of editing dilemmas – the editing of the film took the same amount of time as shooting it. 

Why is Müller’s story important for you?
It’s a memento for those who will come after him. I do not think my perspective is more important than anybody else’s; I am just fortunate enough to work with intelligent people, to be doing what I like, and I was lucky that I was in the right place at the right time. The important thing is not to lie.

Were you thinking about how the film could pique interest beyond the Czech and Slovak borders?
I think about almost everything in relation to a film. The story is universal; however, This Is Not Me is more of an insider’s film than Arsy-Versy, which travelled a lot. Crucially, this is the story of a shining star, and people all over the world love to dream. I would be happy to see the film travelling outside our borders.

What was the ratio of used versus cut material?
I would say one minute of used material to 200 minutes of cut footage. We had to narrow it down from 300 hours. Regarding the final cut, I approached it after careful analysis, when I was sure that there wouldn’t be any misinterpretation or conscious manipulation. We were extra-careful in the editing room, since it’s an observational film that is indirectly also critical of showbusiness.

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