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Why This Filmmaker Isn’t Afraid to Challenge Béla Tarr

Why This Filmmaker Isn't Afraid to Challenge Béla Tarr

The German filmmaker Youdid Kahveci has an eye and passion for poetic stories with a surreal touch. She also had the guts to argue with esteemed Hungarian filmmaker Béla Tarr.

Two of her shorts premiered at international film festivals: “Rough Grounds” in Locarno in 2012 and “Poema del dia” at Hot Docs in Toronto in 2015. Indiewire recently interviewed Kahveci at the Locarno Film Festival, where she was participating in the 2015 Filmmakers Academy at the recently wrapped Locarno Film Festival. 

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How did you get into filmmaking?

I started kind of late. I’ve been at the Deutsche Film- und Fernsehakademie (dffb) since 2007. I wasn’t the kid who had a 8mm camera and would make movies with my kindergarten friends. After leaving school at a very young age, I started working as a gardener, later as a bar tender. Around 2005, I had a relationship with a guy who owned a camera – just because he was very interested in technical stuff. He always had the newest shit. I took his camera, because he wouldn’t use it, and made a homemade documentary. I then did my graduation certificate with a double major in Art and English. My art teacher somehow saw that I had a flair for films and pushed me, so I applied for the dffb. 

Where do you get your inspiration from? 

I just try to figure out what’s really, really touching me in the present moment. And I try to be very truthful about that with myself. This is where I start from to find new ideas – but you have to search for them. Maybe first you try to be more this political filmmaker and in the end you’d say: “You know what, the refugee situation in Europe is touching me.” But then you have to dig deeper and admit to yourself that just the way your neighbor was treating you is touching you – something much more trivial. Then you can start writing and continue from there. Maybe then some refugee will come and visit the neighbor. At some point, I’m getting a bit surrealistic and I write how I would see the world or dream it to be. 

In the short “Hochzeitsvorbereitungen auf dem Lande” (2014) you play the main character yourself. Was this an artistic decision or a financial decision?

This was an artistic decision and a rather provocative one. The movie is about doubts. My doubts. “Hochzeitsvorbereitungen auf dem Lande” is a fragment of a novel by Franz Kafka, a very unknown and incomplete piece. I started this adaptation and told my professor, Béla Tarr, that I had changed the protagonist from male to female. He was like: “I can’t imagine that. Kafka’s protagonists are always male characters.” Because he said so, I was like: “Ok, now more than ever!”

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The next day we met again and he asked me, whether I already knew who was going to play the protagonist. I was a bit annoyed at this question, because he was putting pressure on me, as we hadn’t much time. I was joking a bit and replied: “Me.” At this he said: “This, I can imagine.” So it happened thanks to the discussion with Béla Tarr. 

How do you direct actors? In “Poema del dia” (2015) it seems there weren’t many specific instructions.

In fact, there wasn’t even a script for this movie, but just a page with some rough guidelines. It’s more like a documentary – except that I’m not patient enough to just watch what’s going on. I have to influence  reality. Otherwise I get bored and I can’t accept reality as it is. I gave nothing but keywords to the old lady and the boy. For example: “Talk about your dreams from last night.” Then I just let them talk. They were real amateurs and you can’t work with them the same way as with professional actors. I gave them as much freedom as possible. 

You don’t have a website or a Facebook page. Why not?

I think I don’t need it as a filmmaker. I’m not a company! I don’t believe that projects will open up by someone watching my trailer on the internet and then calling me saying he’s giving me one million euros. I believe in life, it’s happening somewhere else. Also, I don’t believe in meeting someone at the Locarno film festival during a gathering. I believe in meeting someone in Locarno in a totally different context – like at the supermarket. Maybe I’m just not good at selling myself. I don’t have a business card either. If someone is interested, I just send them a Vimeo link. It’s straightforward. The movie can talk for itself. 

This article is part of a series written by members of the 2015 Locarno Critics Academy, organized by Indiewire, the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Locarno Film Festival.

READ MORE: The 2015 Indiewire Locarno Bible: Every Review, Interview and News Item Posted During the Festival

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