Andrew Serban’s gripping and well timed quick Urania Leilus screens on the Fall 2022 New Jersey Movie Competition on Friday, September 30. Right here is my interview with him:
Nigrin: Your very well timed quick movie Urania Leilus is a warning seen by way of the eyes of a younger journalist about what would possibly occur when a democracy succumbs to far-right extremists and descends into fascism. Inform us what motivated you to make this movie.*
Serban: I used to be motivated by what I noticed taking place on this nation in the course of the Trump years — particularly Trump’s so-called “zero tolerance” coverage of separating undocumented immigrant kids from their mother and father on the southern border, which was clearly fascistic and disturbingly harking back to what the Nazis did to Jewish households in the course of the Holocaust. There are well-documented accounts of youngsters being locked up in overcrowded and unhygienic detention facilities with out satisfactory meals or medical care. In some circumstances, that they had no water, in order that they couldn’t take a bathe, brush their tooth or wash their garments. Infants dirty themselves as a result of they didn’t have diapers. Women menstruated by way of their garments, as they weren’t given sufficient sanitary pads. Many kids didn’t have a mattress to sleep on (and have been typically compelled to sleep on mylar sheets positioned on a tough ground). Some have been so depressed they lower themselves or dedicated different acts of self-harm. And there have been additionally allegations of kid abuse. After visiting one detention middle in Clint, Texas, Senator Chuck Schumer described situations as “inhumane” and “terrible.” Though the coverage ultimately ended and makes an attempt have been made to reunite the kids with their mother and father, a few of the households nonetheless haven’t been reunited. Evidently, many of those households have been traumatized by each the separation and the horrendous situations beneath which they have been detained. And the kids now run the chance of creating extreme psychological problems later in life.
I used to be additionally motivated by the assault on freedom of speech in the course of the Trump period — particularly the best to inform the reality. It was a time of so-called “various info.” And Trump made it clear from the get-go that he was at battle with the media — he typically referred to journalists as “enemies of the folks” — and that he would tolerate no criticism or dissent. Take the case of journalist Megyn Kelly. I’m no fan of Fox Information, however Kelly was legitimately doing her job when she queried Trump about his misogynistic views in the course of the first presidential debate in 2015. However Trump retaliated by railing in opposition to her on Twitter, and in response Kelly obtained an onslaught of dying threats and obscene cellphone calls. On the time she mentioned, “I’ve been beneath armed guard for 16 months and my kids have been beneath armed guard and it’s not an acceptable value to pay for hard-hitting journalism.” Clearly, this state of affairs is certain to have a chilling impact on journalists and their willingness to do their jobs and inform the reality — if that fact seems to be at odds with the official narrative promulgated by these in energy. It’s no accident that Trump’s angle is disturbingly much like that of Hitler, Stalin, and Putin and many others. (Stalin additionally used the time period “enemies of the folks”). In Putin’s Russia, few journalists would dare to criticize their pricey chief in the event that they wished to remain wholesome. But it surely’s a shock for one thing like this to occur within the US, a rustic that supposedly prides itself on freedom of speech. Sadly, Trump’s assault by no means utterly ran out of steam after he misplaced the 2020 election (and lied about it), as his supporters at the moment are focusing on not solely journalists, however lecturers, lawmakers, election employees, librarians and even voters. So I believed it was essential to inform this specific story: the story of a journalist who finds the braveness to do the best factor and inform the reality — regardless of how inconvenient to these in energy and regardless of the intimidation and dying threats in opposition to her — as a result of these are the varieties of individuals our democracy could must survive.
Nigrin: Kate Garfield who performs the younger journalist is terrific. Inform us how she got here to be in your movie.
Serban: Kate is a superb younger actress with a rare instinctive capacity to lose herself in a personality and within the second. I’d labored along with her beforehand on a brief referred to as Let Mercy Come, so I already knew she was a gifted performer. However I nonetheless wished to verify she was proper for the position of Urania the journalist, as her earlier position had been fairly totally different. So I listed the position with Actor’s Entry and Backstage and obtained over 500 submissions. However after auditioning dozens of actresses in individual (this was simply earlier than covid) and taking a look at lots of of actor’s reels and headshots, I lastly realized Kate was excellent for the position, as she has an amazing emotional vary that’s extraordinarily uncommon in a younger actor or actress. This was apparent to me when she auditioned the scene through which Urania regularly divulges her story about what she’d witnessed on the detention middle; it wasn’t simply performing — she was actually feeling what the character was feeling, and that’s what makes her performances so actual — and so highly effective.
Nigrin: Predrag Dubravcic’s beautiful cinematography is superb. Inform us how he got here to work with you.
Serban: Pred is a particularly proficient DP who is aware of how you can mild a scene with a minimal quantity lighting. He additionally has the power to angle a shot in such a manner that it has most emotional affect. And on prime of that, he actually enjoys intensive prior dialogue/preparation, to guarantee that he and the director are on the identical web page. I’d recognized about Pred for some time, as I’d come throughout his web site a number of years in the past, and I used to be completely blown away by what I noticed there (the web site featured complete movies he’d labored on). I seen that he’d executed quite a lot of handheld work, which I favored, and I might inform that he had an distinctive instinctive capacity to inform a dramatic story by way of photographs; he simply appeared to know precisely what to do — how you can mild and how you can shoot scene after scene. So I made a decision I positively wished to collaborate with him, and we exchanged a bunch of emails, however for no matter purpose there have been at all times scheduling conflicts, and it wasn’t till years later that we have been lastly in a position to work collectively — on Urania Leilus.
Nigrin: Are there any memorable tales when you made this movie or some other data about your movie you want to relay to us?
Promote with New Jersey Stage for $50-$100 per thirty days, click on right here for information
Serban: The one factor that actually sticks in my thoughts is once we went out to a small city in New Jersey to shoot the outside detention middle scene at an deserted buying middle. My assistant producer had tried to name the proprietor of this place to get permission to shoot there, however was by no means in a position to get in contact with anybody. On the time, I believed the situation was so fascinating that it will be value stealing the pictures. So we went on the market at evening, with the entire forged & crew. The gate was open and I by no means seen any “no trespassing” signal or something like that, so I believed it will be no huge deal; we’d simply shoot the scene as shortly as potential after which get out of there. Though we noticed a number of building employees engaged on the inside of the constructing, they didn’t appear involved about our presence, so we thought all the pieces was cool and we began establishing the cameras and blocking the scene. However about half an hour later, an enormous SUV got here out of nowhere and stopped proper in entrance of us and the driving force requested what we have been doing there. (It turned out one of many employees had referred to as the proprietor and the proprietor had despatched this man). Anyway, it grew to become very clear to him that we didn’t have permission to be there and that we’d have to go away. My assistant producer requested if we might shoot “just a bit bit,” however the man mentioned if didn’t get out of there instantly he would name the cops, so we left and drove again to NYC (it was about an hour and a half every manner). We’d determined to take a look at a location in Brooklyn that considered one of my actors knew about. However once we received there, I spotted instantly it wasn’t going to work, because it simply didn’t have any character. In the meantime time was flying and my actors have been getting antsy and cranky — and I knew if we didn’t discover one thing quickly, we would not have time to shoot the scene. Lastly the identical actor who had prompt the situation in Brooklyn prompt one other location a number of blocks away (additionally in Brooklyn), alongside slightly recognized canal. When my DP Pred and I checked out this third location, I spotted instantly that it was excellent — even higher than the unique location in New Jersey! It had a lot character to it. So we determined to shoot it there and completed with just some minutes to spare.
Urania Leilus screens on the Fall 2022 New Jersey Movie Competition on Friday, September 30 as a part of the Shorts Program. It’s going to play On-line for twenty-four Hours and In-Particular person at 7PM in Voorhees Corridor #105/Rutgers College, 71 Hamilton Avenue, New Brunswick, New Jersey.
To purchase tickets go right here:
For Basic Data on the Movie Competition go right here: https://watch.eventive.org/newjerseyfilmfestivalfall2022
Albert Gabriel Nigrin is an award-winning experimental media artist whose work has been screened on all 5 continents. He’s additionally a Cinema Research Lecturer at Rutgers College, and the Govt Director/Curator of the Rutgers Movie Co-op/New Jersey Media Arts Heart, Inc.
Promote with New Jersey Stage for $50-$100 per thirty days, click on right here for information