Maggie Peren • Director
A plea for inner liberty
Maggie Peren has just completed the shooting for her latest film The Colour of the Ocean, a project close to her heart, as she admits: “After I had seen We Feed The World [+see also:
film profile] in 2005, I couldn’t believe the way we were undermining the existence of people in the Third World with our subsidized foodstuffs, and the fact that those people are so desperate they flee across the Atlantic in boats to Europe.”
Peren is making a very European film in The Colour of the Ocean, for which she also wrote the screenplay. An African refugee boat is stranded in the middle of the Spanish holiday idyll Gran Canaria, shaking the encrusted moorings that many people call life – German holiday maker Nathalie questions her apparently secure existence, and a Spanish policeman escapes his self-chosen, inner imprisonment. Peren spirits her viewers off to this holiday paradise to reveal the existent rifts in an apparent idyll, not for the sake of beautiful images.
The 36-year-old director made The Colour of the Ocean with an international cast – in Spanish, French and German. Although it was not easy to generate German film support for a trilingual production that was also made abroad, Peren has not regretted her decision to direct it for one moment: “It was extremely important to me to tell this story in a subjective way – in other words, from three different perspectives. To do that, I had to adopt the African, the Spanish and the German viewpoint. It certainly benefited me a lot working together with different nationalities. After all, several European countries feel the effects of this issue. During shooting, the Spanish were very interested in the subject, and they asked a lot of questions. I am sure they will enjoy the film as well.”
The emerging refugee drama captures attention with its realistic portrayal, although Peren consciously avoided the one-to-one realism. “From the beginning it was important to me to reject the documentary perspective for this film and tell the story of the refugees’ problems in the sky of a parable. In other words, every character stands for a specific standpoint,” Peren explains. By adopting the viewpoints of her characters, the filmmaker immerses the audience in a microcosm of diverse standpoints and so makes it possible to experience the complex subject on and interpersonal level.
This is an approach that has proven effective for all her films and screenplays. In her directorial feature debut Special Escorts (2007), for example: here, we also find complete dedication to her leading characters, whose financial difficulties lead them to establish an escort service for ladies willing and able to pay.
Peren prefers to focus on the more subtle shades of her characters’ emotional spectrum. She allows the viewer to take a look at her protagonists’ imperfections, places them in totally absurd everyday situations, and shows characters who cannot change the way they are, but still make the best of things. In this way, she comes very close indeed to reality. Peren’s characters never experience comic or dramatic moments in a superficial way: they always result from the seriousness of their actions. And that is always somehow connected to liberation, as well. “That is the thread running through my creative work; my films and books are always about liberty,” she explains. “Special Escort is not just about men who offer their services on the internet and have fun in the process; it is also about the inner liberty which they are granted by what they do.
And the main character in also achieve news inner liberty and are able to give freedom to others as a result. “My characters always emerge from their limitations and arrive in a place with more scope,” Peren explains.
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