Deckel Berenson’s “Anna” film is competing for the Palme d’Or short competition at the 72nd Cannes Film Festival. The film tells about a lonely middle-aged woman who lives in a small town in eastern Ukraine. She works in a meat processing plant, lives in a cramped apartment, and dreams about happy future. Once this woman goes to a party where foreigners meet Ukrainian women. Events that happens at this party broke hopes of the main hero.
British director Dekel Berenson told Cut Insight in an exclusive interview, how he chose actress for the leading role in this film, where shooting took place and how ageism is moving away from wide screens.
Where did you shoot the movie?
It was shot in Kiev, in a small village outside of Boryspil, and in a city in East Ukraine, but we are not allowed to say where.
Svetlana Barandich played the main role in the film. Why did you decide to give the main role to her?
She was just perfect for the role, I knew it as soon as we met. The script called for someone in her age and looks, I just had an idea in my head and she matched it perfectly. I was looking for someone who you will like and feel empathy for as soon you looked at them. Svetlana is a very sweet person, with heart of gold, and it shows on her face. That’s exactly what I wanted.
Usually, if a film about Ukraine gets to a prestigious film festival, then this is a heavy social drama, the plot of which revolves around trouble, poverty and war. Your film adds to this depressive image of Ukraine also a message that our country is a popular trend in sex tourism. Once, popular American presenter said: “Ukraine resembles an old grandmother, from which only bad news always comes.” Do you agree with this opinion?
Ukraine is known for many different things, many of them positive. There are seven World Heritage Sites in Ukraine, it is the geographic center of Europe. Lviv and Odessa are world known for many different reasons, Odessa was a very important intellectual center for much of the 19th and 20th century.
I would love to make a film about positive aspects of Ukraine, but the truth is that people are not interested in positive happy films. Happy people are not interesting, there is no drama in that. Of course, we could make a film about solidarity and people overcoming hardships, or some other positive story. But for such a story you have to start from a tragedy and slowly turn it around. In a short film there is not enough time to create a story with so many turns, unless it’s a fast paced film. My films are slow, and there wouldn’t be enough time in 15 minutes, which is the maximum length that Cannes allows.
In the popular cinema, filmed in well-off countries in this decade, has emerged a trend on stories about middle-aged people who are experiencing romantic stories, succeed in their careers and live a full life, like young people. Your film “Anna” comes into conflict with this trend.
Many middle-aged people don’t find success in later life, it is very tragic, and making films about that can put some light on their situation and remind people to be kind to their elder family members and to anyone who is older than them. We all need to remember that we will become old one day too… and that is true only if we are lucky enough to become old! About Anna – the film tells the story of one episode in Anna’s life. Maybe the next day she meets a nice local man and starts a positive chapter II? I don’t know, I didn’t write that chapter yet. I agree that today middle-aged people learn to enjoy their lives more than in previous generations, and that’s a very good thing of course.
How much was the budget of the film?
45 thousand dollars.