Daria Belova and Valeri Aluskina on „Mwanamke Makueni“/ interview

Daria Belova: Born in Saint Petersburg, Russia in 1982, she studied literature at the city’s university and then worked as an investigative journalist. In 2010, she moved to Germany and took up a film directing degree at the German Film and Television Academy Berlin. Her short film Come and Play won the Discovery Award in the 2013 Semaine de la Critique at Cannes. Since March 2022, she has been working as a human rights defender of people suffering from political persecution.

Valeri Aluskina: Born in Khabarovsk, Russia in 1992. She embarked on a degree in design but broke off her studies at the age of 18 to move to St. Petersburg and work on arthouse film productions. She studied directing at the St. Petersburg School of New Cinema where she later also taught. In 2021, she started to study and practice as a gestalt therapist. Since March 2022, she has been living in Tbilisi in Georgia.

What was your starting point for “Mwanamke Makueni”?

We were on a workshop that Kenyan organization Gpay Africa organized for filmmakers from Kenya and European countries in order to share experiences and shoot together. As we were moving from one village in Kenya to another, we realized that the best we could do is just to observe and to  integrate a beautiful and problematic reality that we saw around us into the film. So the starting point was a quarry, a real place, that a local person showed us in one village and where men do extreme hard work, each day from morning till sunset extracting huge stones from the rock with the help of pretty simple hammers and physical power. Some workers told us they’ve spent there more then 15 years doing this work. The scene was shocking, beautiful and brutal at the same time. Next day we brought a non-professional actor there, Peter, who was a guard in our workshop, and the journey started without knowing yet where it would lead us. Next days we continued to move through the country, seeing other places, people and scenes and integrating them into the film.  

Do you have a favorite moment in the film? Which one and why this one?

Valeri Aluskina: My favorite moment is when Peter (our hero) stands among the giant moths. It’s as if he can hear his wife at that moment, and the invisible bond between them grows stronger.

Daria Belova: I think the final scene. At this moment everything in the film comes together and connects, all the hints get resolution and we finally understand what it was about. I have a feeling, narration jumps to another level at this moment. 

What do you like about the short form?

Daria Belova: What i like about a short form, is the possibility to experiment. The possibility to shoot as you breathe or as you feel appropriate at that particular moment. You can make a short film with your own money, wherever and whenever you want, if you have a team of like-minded people who are willing to do a common thing together for a couple of weeks. There’s a lot of freedom and creative irresponsibility in doing short films. And less words. Short films for me are like visual poems that work with images and as few dialogs as possible. 

Valeri Aluskina: What I like about the short form is that the film crew can be much smaller, and therefore the production can be much more mobile.

And from a dramaturgical point of view, short form for me is a short story or a poem. We don’t have to reveal the characters in order to create a feeling, a feeling that captures me as an author and subsequently the viewer.

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