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Daniel Joseph Borgman • Director

Loving Pia is an adaptation of a person's life”


- BERLIN 2017: New Zealand-born filmmaker Daniel Joseph Borgman tells Cineuropa about his second feature, Loving Pia, which world-premiered in the Berlinale's Forum section

Daniel Joseph Borgman  • Director

New Zealand-born, Copenhagen-based filmmaker Daniel Joseph Borgman tells Cineuropa about how he worked on his second feature, Loving Pia [+see also:
film review
interview: Daniel Joseph Borgman
film profile
, which world-premiered in the Berlinale's Forum section, and about his approach to filmmaking.

Cineuropa: How did you meet Pia, and why did you decide to make a film with her, based on her own life?
Daniel Joseph Borgman:
I met Pia as a result of a casting process, where my producer, Katja Adomeit, and I travelled around Denmark looking for what we were calling “adult dependent relationships”, a relationship where one adult was responsible for another adult. Both Katja and I wanted to find someone to “grow” a story out of, and we liked Pia and her mother, Guittou, straight away, and they seemed to like us, so we just thought we’d give it a go and see what happens.

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How did the story develop? How much of it is a result of Pia's thoughts and feelings and how she expressed them to you?
The story developed over time. We spent more than two years going back and forth to see Pia and her mother. The idea for a love story, and the themes about death and belonging, came from Pia. The scenes came from us.

I think with this way of working, you gather a lot of different material and try it out, and the story can take a lot of different directions before it finds itself. I think in the end, the story does find itself, and it’s a combination of a lot of different elements: documentary, chance discoveries, some very precise details… But it’s time that enables the material to become a film. 

Please tell me something about the visual style. It looks like it was shot on 16 mm, and the colours are washed out; what were you trying to achieve with this?
Yes, we shot it on Super 16 mm. There was something about Pia’s age and the age of film, the slowness in the house and the slowness of shooting on film, and the organic process and the organic quality of film. The visual style developed out of the process of filmmaking over time. I shot the movie myself, and we didn’t use any lighting. That was a certain aesthetic choice, a movement away from the contrived, but also a response to the way we were working.

The interior of the house was pretty dark, but nice and soft, and so was the goose pen, and so is a lot of the exterior light in that part of Denmark, so the washed-out feeling belongs very much to the environment. Everything was pretty intuitive. I was really inspired by anthropologic films and a lot of older, slow movies, and I’ve always wanted to shoot on film, so those desires were also a factor. Most of all, with the movie, we wanted things to be a response to what we encountered, rather than having a premeditated approach.

Your first feature, The Weight of Elephants [+see also:
film review
film profile
, was a literary adaptation. Where do you start from when you are developing an idea for a film? How do you get to a particular form?
I feel like I’m quite a “new” filmmaker, and I think the genesis of Loving Pia was a response to making the first feature. I’ve become really interested in chance and response, and frameworks for working, and I’ve really been moving away from convention – or at least trying to. I’ve been attempting to figure out how to make a daily practice out of film work, thinking of it more like art, more like a part of living, and as a result, I became inspired by filmmakers who were working like that and operating in a space somewhere between cinema and art, like Ben Rivers and Roberto MinerviniPedro Costa was a really big inspiration.

So I think I didn’t really set out to do anything specific; I just followed my nose and was heading away from where I had been previously. It’s interesting that you mention adaptations, though, because we like to think of Loving Pia as an adaptation of a person’s life, rather than a hybrid film or a documentary. The next film will probably be more formal as a response to Loving Pia, but it will take time to really figure out if that’s the case.

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