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TIFF Women Directors: Meet Elizabeth Lazebnik – ‘Liompa’

TIFF Women Directors: Meet Elizabeth Lazebnik - 'Liompa'

Elizabeth Lazebnik is quickly becoming a recognized name in the Canadian film industry. Her shorts have previously played at TIFF, the Montreal World Film Festival and received awards from WWSFF, HotDocs and Female Eye Film. 

In Liompa, her protagonist, a man on his deathbed, wonders, “Almost everything disappeared. How did it happen?”

The 16-minute short Liompa will play at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 8. 

WaH: Please give us your description of the film playing. 

EL: My film Liompa is based on a short story by Yuri Olesha. Olesha is considered one of the greatest novelists of the 20th century. I see Liompa as a comparison between the three ages of men — a child, a teenager and an old man — and the [changing] relationship of men to things and words at each of these three ages.

WaH: What drew you to this story?

EL: I read the story 7 years ago. It is only 3 pages long, but despite its brevity, I was struck by its depth. The story questions the relationship between life and death, and I feel that this is the eternal question that we all face at some point.

WaH: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?

EL: The biggest challenge was to find an actor who could embody the role of the main role of Ponomarev, because the character exudes the most emotion in the film, yet he never leaves his bed. It is a very challenging part, and yet the caliber of actor needed is not something easily accessible for a short film. I was so fortunate that one of Russia’s greatest actors, Aleksey Serebryakov, agreed to be in the film.

WaH: What do you want people to think about when they are leaving the theatre?

EL: I would like them to take stock of the things we perceive to be important in our lives and question whether what we regard as our priorities are real or illusory.

WaH: What advice do you have for other female directors?

EL: The sacrifices that you have to make as a female director are incredibly difficult, even in 2014.  Find a project that you are truly passionate about, and don’t give up despite the obstacles.

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

EL: Sometimes people call my films “whimsical.” I ask them what do they mean by that, and they continue with another mysterious phrase: “Well, it’s interesting….”

WaH: How did you get your film funded? 

EL: I was lucky enough to get private funding. My producer Anna Kharkhourin and I approached a lady that Anna knew and told her about the short story and that we have Mr. Serebryakov interested in being part of the film. She agreed to help us financially. We are extremely grateful to her.

WaH: Name your favorite women directed film and why.

EL: Some of the female directors I respect are Agnes Varda and Kathryn Bigelow, but any woman who directs films has my admiration and respect because there are still so few women directors.

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