SHE LEARNS TO LUNGE; (2009); Katya Yakubov; TRT: 8.30
How many shapes do the terrors of the mind take? Several transformations lead to an awakening between a modern house and a dark forest.
What as your creative process with this film?
Over several months, there was a slow accumulation of seemingly-disparate, time-based images, playing on loop in my head: the road, the slow pan of a living room, the repulsive flashes of a naked body. Eventually, writing the poem that would be heard as the voice-over and backbone of the film, I understood that these images were all part of a coherent whole, or perhaps, that all these images were birthed of a similar emotional nexus, and needed to be put in dialogue with each other, with the poem as the glue to hold them together. Once I began shooting and piecing the scenes together, there was a very clear and strong sense of narrative progression in the film. I almost think of the film as narrative now, rather than experimental or abstract.
What was your inspiration?
The fermentation of an emotional state sometimes leads to a feeling that a single idea can be distilled in the hidden weight of ordinary images. For me, seeing the final, missing scene was the culminating spark that allowed me to start actively making the film. This last image to make itself known was the image of the older woman. That evening, it became very clear to me what the film was about, and how to go about making it.
Where was it shot?
Because I was living in Peru as an ex-pat during the time I saw the image for the last, missing scene, I began to actively make the film there. About half of the film was shot and edited in Peru, and the other half back in New York. The scenes I captured in Peru were very informed by the environment there, and the film is better and richer for it. The foreignness and the Peruvian actress quietly add to and develop the idea behind the whole film, which is that of coming to terms with the uncanny image of seeing yourself from multiple vantage points, without making Peru the focus of the film. The film is really about anyone and anywhere, and the details that enrich it are only a refracted image of many possibilities.
Maybe you could comment on your spoken text: who are the “midget children.”
The ‘midget children’ is another reference of duality of innocence and evil, of something familiar and part of you (your child) and something uncanny and sinister (a distancing that comes from seeing the Other in the familiar; a midget—something with a negative connotation, something foreign).
What does it mean to “lunge” vs. another gesture or action?
There is something animal-like and bestial in the connotation of the word ‘lunge’ versus any other synonymous act. It implies, but doesn’t spell out, that it is an act of aggression yet impulse, of carnality yet self-preservation, of a kind beauty of ability, yet with a duality of strength resulting from terror.
How did you meet the actresses in your film & show are they.
I was already actively shooting the film in Peru, and looking for a tribal woman I could work with for one of the scenes, when sheer luck made encounter a temporary market set up in Lima, wherein several tribes from the Peruvian jungle had come to the capital to sell their crafts and handiwork. I had been familiar with Shipibo tradition very briefly, after traveling for a few days into this particular area of the jungle (San Francisco—a Shipibo town along the Ucayali River, which is a tributary of the Amazon). Seeing the market and the rare encounter with Shipibo culture prompted me to ask one of the women, who I thought would be perfect for the short role, to work with me. Unfortunately she canceled last minute, but her friend came, bringing her cousin and daughter with her, and it all worked out in the end. The scene with Graciela Valles Valera is incredibly short, yet a funny experience to shoot, as Graciela barely spoke a word of Spanish (the Shipibo speak their own tribal language), and so with my broken, high-school Spanish, I gave directions to her niece, who would then translate the instructions into Shipibo for her aunt.
There is only one other ‘actress’ aside myself in the film, and that is the old woman, who was played by my grandmother.
With this kind of material, I am not so interested in working with real actors, as I feel that the look and existing character of a person fit for that role already penetrates to the weight and meaning behind the images. My grandmother’s presence was exactly the quality that this particular scene needed. The whole scene took only a few minutes to shoot. I used myself as the younger girl character simply because it is easier to work with an actor that is already wherever you are, and who already is inside the idea you have for the film. So it was a matter of convenience, to know exactly what you need the expression on your face to be, without any verbal instruction.
Is there anything else you’d like to add:
The film also features a field recording of an healing-ayahuasca session preformed by a Shipbo shaman, Justina Serrano. The singing that Justina does with her son, Eligio Perez, is incredibly beautiful and haunting for me to listen to, and it was my absolute pleasure to see how well it fit as the main component to the soundtrack of this film.