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LAFF Women Directors: Meet Rania Attieh (Recommended by Enrique)

LAFF Women Directors: Meet Rania Attieh (Recommended by Enrique)

Rania Attieh, among Filmmaker Magazine‘s “25 Faces of Independent Film” in 2011, is a Guggenheim and U.S. Rockefeller Fellow in film/ video. Attieh is from Tripoli, Lebanon. Together with Daniel Garcia, she has co-directed films that have screened at the Forum des Images, the Metropolitan Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, and many prestigious film festivals around the world. Ok, Enough, Goodbye (2011), their feature-film debut, garnered rave reviews and won awards in Abu Dhabi, San Francisco, Torino, Buenos Aires (BAFICI), Philadelphia, and Belfort. (Press materials)

Recommended by Enrique, a narrative feature shot in Del Rio, Texas, will have its world premiere at the LA Film Fest 2014 on June 13. 

Please give us your description of the film.

A neo-noir tale following two travelers who find themselves in the quiet, dusty, nowhere-border-town of Del Rio, Texas. One is an aging cowboy arriving for business, and the other is an aspiring actress there for a role in a low-budget horror film. When things don’t go as planned for either of the travelers, they are each left to wait out their time as the town and their dreams seem to merge into one.

What made you write this story?

Recommended by Enrique is a film that is, for me, part-real life, part-fantasy, part-autobiographical, part-dreamscape. My co-writer/co-director Daniel Garcia and I based half of the film on memories of a real event that happened to us in the town of Del Rio, Texas, where the film is set, while the other half was pulled from our infatuations with elements of classic noir films and the mysticisms of Mexican-American border-town life. Out of this melange of inspirations came the ideas for a film that we wanted to be as familiar as it is surprising, as relatable as it is unbelievable.

What was the biggest challenge in making the film?

The biggest challenge was to find all locations and cast — all local, non-professional actors (which constituted the entire cast except for Sarah Swinwood, who we found on YouTube) — in Del Rio in the span of one week prior to starting production. It was a stressful process, but the town really embraced us and helped make it happen.

What advice do you have for other female directors?

Perhaps my biggest advice to female directors would be to try very hard to abandon this exact distinction of “female director” — to not put oneself inside of any box. Be simply a filmmaker, who just happens to also be a woman. Ultimately, I feel everyone (not just women) should strive to make good work that is surprising, and that does not rely on using social, gender, or class conventions that have already been set in place by generations prior. I believe good work will eventually get noticed, regardless of who made it.

What’s the biggest misconception about you and your work?

Unfortunately, I am not sure I’ve made enough work yet to have created misconceptions about myself or my work. Perhaps, hopefully, we can circle back on this question in five years or so and see where we stand. One thing, however, that I could potentially see becoming a misconception regarding my work would have to do with the fact that I am Lebanese, or more specifically, Arab, and how this relates to or influences my work in general. Does she make “Arab” films? Why doesn’t she make more “Arab” films? These are questions I could potentially see being asked. Of course, it seems that for this, too, we will have to wait a few more years to find out.

Do you have any thoughts on what are the biggest challenges and/or opportunities for the future with the changing distribution mechanisms for films?

Personally, I think that learning to rely on less and to be able to make films cheaper and outside of the traditional system (whether studio or “independent”) is going to be the new model. One wherein a film can be made for $100,000 or less, but look like it cost a million dollars (or more). This is something that current cameras and technology already provide the potential for, and that in the years to come will continue to get easier and easier to do. Films have never been easier to make, and they will only continue to get easier (and hopefully cheaper). By learning to capitalize on this, future filmmakers will be able to make more films in less time, and, hopefully, make more money in the process. In a sense, the film world, especially in the “independent” scene, seems to be moving towards a certain “sustainability,” which is what I think we should all be striving to attain.

Name your favorite women directed film and why.

One of the most surprising and elegantly cinematic films I’ve seen in recent years has to be Attenberg (2010) by Athina Rachel Tsangari. For me, the power of the film is in its original storyline and its audacity to break rules and conventions in the telling of its narrative. It takes guts to take risks in fiction films. Few attempt it and fewer actually pull it off. La Cienaga (2001) by Lucrecia Martel, from Argentina, could be my other favorite.

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