British filmmaker Kim Longinotto has spent the majority of her career using film to examine various forms of community activism, specifically in relation to women’s issues across the world. Her latest documentary, “Dreamcatcher,” will be debuting at Sundance. “It’s such a huge privilege to meet people like Brenda and the amazing girls and women she encounters in this film,” she said.
What it’s about: It follows the life of Brenda Myers-Powell who works in Chicago jail mentoring prostitutes. She also runs a weekly “Girl Talk” at the local school which mentors a group of at-risk girls.
What it’s really about: Brenda uncovers the secrets and lies passed down from generations in her community. The film shows girls and young women having the courage to change their lives by finally challenging a culture of silence and denial.
Biggest challenge: Films are journeys and there are always obstacles to face. They seem horribly tough and impossible at times. But the thing is, you’re a part of a team. By far my favorite bit is the editing. You have everything you need, so all the heart-wrenching pressure is off. I enjoy watching Ollie work and the film taking shape. Some editors don’t like you being in the room all the time so I’m very lucky to work with him. I also learn a lot about how to make my camerawork easier to edit, so that he won’t have any problems and the scenes can flow freely.
Any films inspire you? Oh yes. There are films that are huge landmarks for me. “The Lives of Others” (Floran von Donnersmarck) was a revelation. It shows a man’s life being transformed by his understanding of others. It’s exactly what I’m hoping for. I’ve seen that film many times. “Le Silence des Palais” (Moufida Tlatli) was life-changing also. I was startled and exhilarated by “Fucking Åmal” (Lukas Moodysson), “The Kid with a Bike” (Dardenne brothers). Then the TV series I adore: “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Breaking Bad” (Hooray!), “The Wire,” “Louis CK,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “The Bridge,” the first few episodes of “Girls” and of course “Borgen.” I’m currently gripped by “The Legacy” (Maya Lisoe). Actually I could go on and on. By the way, I saw “Boyhood” last week and LOVED it to death – especially the ending. Many of us will relate to those last gorgeous words in the canyon. I had that same fleeting feeling a couple of times on holiday last week.
Cameras used: The Sony PDW 800. I really value this camera. No problems with it at all. I asked a friendly technician, Lee Elphick, to set the menu for me as I’m really bad with all that stuff. It’s really good in low light and the other images are fab too. People often say that smaller cameras give you more access. I think that’s rubbish. It’s our job to make the camera just an extension of what we’re doing.
Did you crowdfund? No, Teddy Leifer was able to raise the money. But we did do The Good Pitch in Chicago. I wasn’t very successful at all as I was truly terrible at pitching. I was also bad at pitching at the BBC as they asked me if it would be a good film and how it would be different from other films on the same subject. I foolishly admitted, “I don’t know.”
Hopes for Sundance audience take-away: I really want people to feel that it opens a window into their own experience; to see things differently in their own lives. I know it changed me and made me able to re-visit feelings hidden in my past. I hope they’ll be inspired by Brenda’s story and also relate to the other people in the film. It’s a film about change and we all need to find the courage to move forward in our lives and learn from our mistakes.
What’s next? I hate this question — it panics me. I always worry, straight after making a film, that it will be my last. I have to desperately want to do something to have the courage to embark on a new one. I’m addicted to the terror and passion of making a film.
Indiewire invited Sundance Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they’re doing next. We’ll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2015 festival. For profiles go HERE.
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