AN INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS FILIPPONE ABOUT ‚HOW TO BREATHE IN KERN COUNTY‘

Let us introduce you to the American director Chris Filippone, who participated in this year’s Berlinale Shorts competition.

Born in Philadelphia, USA in 1987, he studied film and media arts as well as political science at Temple University and documentary film and video at Stanford. His films explore the intersection of labour, marginalised voices and contested spaces.

Director Headshot 1
Chris Filippone

Sudamos – en luz – sombra – todo el día. We sweat – in the light – in the shade – all day long. California: Light and shadow. Living conditions in Kern County are determined by agriculture and oil production. Oil distillation towers stand in long rows spanning kilometres; a view of the workers’ conditions and their working day. And suddenly it comes, the night! Una canción de un mundo sin trabajo. Por un momento: respiramos. A song from a world without work. And for a moment: we can breathe. And then it’s back all over again, the next day. A triad, a film like a haiku.

(1) Workers in Grape Field
How to Breathe in Kern County by Chris Filippone

What is your ambition in the film?

I feel in some ways that it is my duty to offer an experience in my filmmaking over more traditional methods of story. With How to Breathe in Kern County, I’m trying to capture some semblance of subjectivity for a group of workers and street racers in Bakersfield, California. I’m also working to build a portrait of catharsis in the space in which they live, looking at the cycle of life there. My ambition is to offer this experience for the viewer, so that they may, even for a glimpse, enter into some semblance of the experience of those on-screen.

What do you like about the short form?

I feel that the short form can serve as a kind of gesture or breath in terms of the affect it can have. One does not need to really use more conventional methods to sustain a longer story, so short films can really be more authentically what they are than say a feature. This is both exciting and limiting though, as shorts can be highly experimental, yet they also don’t document change over longer periods of time. But like I mentioned, short films can be really innovative and open up a new language for viewers to understand, sense, and feel the subject matter on-screen.

What are your future plans?

Right now, I am working on a short film directed by my Associate Producer Erin Kökdil about Central American mothers who each year drive a bus through Mexico searching for their missing children who migrated north towards the U.S. We will edit that film after Berlin and then we both hope to start developing our first features through the summer. It’s an exciting time and are sure to feel rejuvenated after attending Berlin!

24 films from 17 countries have competed for the Golden and Silver Bear, the Audi Short Film Award, endowed with 20,000 euros, and a nomination as “Berlin Short Film Candidate for the European Film Awards 2019”.

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