Juja Dobrachkous • Director of Bebia, à mon seul désir
"I personally believe that to create real art, you need to make a superhuman effort"
by Teresa Vena
- We talked to the Georgian director, whose feature debut was shown at the International Film Festival Rotterdam in the Tiger Competition
London-based writer and director Juja Dobrachkous presented her feature debut, Bebia, à mon seul désir [+see also:
interview: Juja Dobrachkous
film profile], in the Tiger Competition section of the International Film Festival Rotterdam. Her black-and-white family drama was shot in Georgia and is based on old tradition which says that when a person dies in a different place than the one where they will be buried, the youngest member of the family needs to pull a thread between the two places. This is the only way to link the body and soul of the deceased.
Cineuropa: Why was it important to shoot the film in black and white?
Juja Dobrachkous: It was clear from the beginning that I wanted the film to have a documentary style and at the same time to be a parable. It tells about the past and about memories. The black and white stands for that and also emphasises the legendary character of it. The story should moreover have something timeless, since it's not important when exactly it is happening. Georgia is a very colourful country and I had the feeling that this abundant painting would have been too much, it would have been distracting from the story itself. I wanted something more graphic than a painting, which would, in my opinion, sharpen the story.
Does the tradition you talk about in the film really exist? How did you get in touch with it?
I didn't grow up in Georgia and only happened to get to know the country in the last few years. But I fell in love with it and in some way, it reminds me of my own childhood. Once, on a flight between Tbilisi and London, I met a Georgian guy who told me about this tradition. An old tradition that even in Georgia is little known. I was fascinated at once and did some further research. I found out that it is common in a certain rural region of Georgia.
Is your protagonist named after Ariadne, the figure from Greek mythology?
Yes, exactly. But the main protagonist isn’t the only one named after this story, most of the other characters are too. The guy accompanying her, for example, is named after Theseus, Ariadne’s partner in the mythology and a figure who travels a lot and has different fathers. Dato is, in the film, the one who tells Ariadna about the tradition and is also similar to the name of the person with the same role, Daedalus.
What do traditions in general mean to you?
I think that they enrich life. We all have rituals, whose meanings we don't always know, but still follow. Whether we want to or not, they are still there and have an impact on our lives.
Did you always know that you wanted to mix different time periods, or did this idea come to you in the process of making the film?
Yes, I wanted to have these two levels, the past and present, from the beginning as two levels that are interwoven. I don't like flashbacks and didn't want to depict the scenes from the past in that way.
Was it difficult to find the main actor for the role of Ariadna?
For the young Ariadna, it was quite hard. Despite doing a normal casting, we used a hidden camera that filmed the girls in a room while they thought they were not being observed. It was important that the young Ariadna would be one with bright skin and hair, to emphasize the conflict between her and her grandmother, who always says that the child must belong to another family because of how different she looks.
For the older Ariadna, it was very quick. I attended the Fashion Week show in Tbilisi and discovered the actor there immediately. This was the first film role of Anastasia Davidson.
The villagers are also non-actors, right? How did you find them?
I wanted to have a cast with mostly non-actors. Only a few professional actors were included in the ensemble. I chose the actors depending on their faces. It was important that all of them would match. I think that people in Georgia are very authentic in general. Some of them have a bit of a theatrical side and I knew that “normal” people would just fit perfectly.
What inspired you to create the character of Bebia?
I was inspired by my own grandmother. She also was 100% convinced that I didn't belong to the family, because I looked different with my red hair. She was sure that someone mixed me up with another child.
I was interested in this strange kind of love. It can result in a huge conflict. You think you have been treated unfairly by someone you love your whole life, and finally you are asked to do them a big favour.
What were the biggest challenges you had to overcome while making the film?
Because it was my first film and I didn't study directing, everything was difficult for me. But I liked it, since I personally believe that to create real art, you need to make a superhuman effort. You need to struggle, push your limits.
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