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Germania / Svizzera

Heidi Specogna • Regista di The Lady With the Arrows

“Per Claudia Andujar l'attivismo era inseparabile dall'arte”

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- Il nuovo documentario della regista svizzera di origine tedesca segue il lavoro di una fotografa che si è unita alla lotta per l'indipendenza delle popolazioni indigene del Brasile

Heidi Specogna • Regista di The Lady With the Arrows

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The Lady With the Arrows [+leggi anche:
intervista: Heidi Specogna
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, the new documentary by German-based Swiss director Heidi Specogna, has just been released in cinemas in Germany, courtesy of W-film Filmproduction & Distribution, and will come out in Switzerland on 20 June via Filmcoopi. The Lady With the Arrows follows the impressive work of photographer Claudia Andujar, who, in the 1970s, joined the fight for the independence of Brazil's indigenous peoples. We spoke to the director about her approach to her protagonists and the responsibility of a filmmaker.

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Cineuropa: How did you come across Claudia Andujar, and what interested you about her?
Heidi Specogna:
What brought me to Claudia were her photographs. I was very impressed by them. From the beginning, I was interested in what kind of a person you have to be to generate such photographs. How was she able to endure what she photographed herself? She didn't just document; she was also committed. For her, activism was inseparable from art.

Was this confrontation also a way to reflect your own work, to think about how you, yourself, process what you see?
That was certainly something that connected Claudia and me. What also connects us is that my relationship with my protagonists is never over once the film is finished. I still have close and very regular contact with practically all of the protagonists. Each film is a long and intensive piece of work, and the protagonists have changed a lot in my life, just as I have in their lives. I always wanted to do much more than simply document something. We want to change things.

You yourself had contact with contemporary representatives of indigenous peoples. What was that like?
I particularly wanted to find Raimunda, one of the first people whom Claudia photographed. I wanted to know what it was like for her back then. We searched for her for a relatively long time. We only had the name “Raimunda”. After six months, we found out where she lived and were able to start the process. We weren't allowed to just go to the indigenous people; we needed a series of authorisations, starting with the Brazilian state, then the community, the indigenous tribe and finally, of course, Raimunda herself. During the work, we always tried to look through Claudia's eyes. We asked ourselves whether she looked, back then, the way we do today. That was very exciting. We thought about how we wanted to portray the characters, what settings we should use, what lighting… These were all questions that Claudia also asked herself.

Which elements were ultimately decisive for you when deciding on how to present the story?
There are other questions today. Is it okay to show indigenous women with bare upper bodies? Can you show them in their traditional clothes? That was what we were wondering. Then we asked ourselves whether people should be shown isolated or whether they should be embedded in an environment. What was certain was that we didn't want to show village life in the background, but rather to follow Claudia's decision and focus on Raimunda. We wanted to create the same timelessness as Claudia does in her portraits. It is important to engage with a person and try to see eye to eye as best as you can. With the film, we wanted to show how what this means has changed over the generations. While Raimunda didn't yet know what a camera was or what Claudia was actually doing, the relationship between us and the indigenous activists of today, which we show at the end of the film, is completely different. They are professional women who are well versed in the cinematic means, and they know who they are addressing and what happens to the photos and videos.

Claudia's photographs take up a lot of space in the film. Was this your intention from the beginning?
Her photographs were, of course, an important element in the film because they always depict a piece of Claudia's biography. But the long montage sequences were actually created during the editing of the film. Editor Kaya Inan succeeds in using the photos to recreate a feeling of Claudia's personal experience that made her take these photographs in the first place. It was always about making Claudia's gaze tangible. The soundtrack also had to facilitate this. We wanted the photographs to be a sensory experience, which is why we made unusually long montages. For me, these montages were a decisive moment that gave me the feeling of being able to empathise with the photographic work and the life of the photographer.

At the end, the young indigenous women whom you include in the film say that they want to tell their own stories from their own perspective. How do you deal with this as an outsider?
When I heard that sentence, I knew that the passing of the baton had actually worked. Claudia's generation has set something in motion that has now reached this generation of grandchildren. If this succeeds, our work is done. At this moment, we can say with a clear conscience that we have passed on what we could and empowered the new generation. They have a responsibility, but also the freedom, to use the resources for themselves.

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