Future Frames 2017 Interview: Liene Linde (Director of Seven Awkward Sex Scenes. Part One)

Latvian director Liene Linde has already carved a path on the festival circuit with individual and creative shorts including Fake Me a Happy New Year (2013) and Earth Is the Loneliest Planet (2015). Her latest film, Seven Awkward Sex Scenes. Part One. is a bold and uncompromising affair that takes in ideas of sexuality and creativity. You can read a full review of the film HERE.

Cineuropa Shorts caught up with the graduate of the Latvian Academy of Culture as she prepared to screen her film at Karlovy Vary, as part of EFP’s Future Frames.

Cineuropa Shorts: What was the inspiration behind Seven Awkward Sex Scenes?
Liene Linde: I knew I wanted to do something personal, dive into some topic that would be daring for me. One day it dawned on me that I hadn’t seen anything really worthwhile in Latvian cinema that tackles sexuality, so I wrote a screenplay containing seven awkward sex scenes from my own life. However, just telling a plain story about that seemed too bleak, so the idea of double narrative through film-within-film method was born. Due to the short production time, the amount of sex scenes was cut down to only three, hence the “Part One” bit in the title. It was also clear to me from the beginning that I wanted to do a comedy.

CS: It’s a very self-reflexive film – you appear as yourself trying to convince a bunch of unappreciative execs about your film for example. Why did you take this approach?
LL: Originally, I wanted to play myself in the sex scenes too, but after producing a short teaser for this idea (HERE: remnants of it can still be seen in the movie) I realised that would be too difficult a task for me. However, playing a nervous and confused filmmaker wasn’t difficult at all – all I did was project my own insecurities about this project and just roll with it. The part I play in the film is completely autobiographical in that sense.

CS: This approach could be seen as – as we say in English – ‘biting the hand that feeds you humour’. Did you ever have any concerns that your approach would offend some people or did you just not care
LL: I didn’t even occur to me that it could offend someone. I believe film industry people have a very good sense of humour. Also, the “unappreciative execs” only partially represent the prejudiced and bitter industry professionals that sometimes can be controversial in film funding decisions; partially they also represent the voices in my head constantly doubting the meaning of every creative decision I take.

CS: It’s very frank on the subject of sexuality, especially female sexuality. I am wondering if Signe Baumane – another Latvian filmmaker who was unafraid to tackle female sexuality – was an influence.
LL: Signe Baumane has indeed been a huge influence for me, however, not because of her short animation series Teat Beat of Sex, but because of her animated feature Rocks in My Pockets.  The way she was able not to hide and talk about her personal history and demons left a huge impact on me. I realized that is something I want to pursue too – trying to be as truthful about myself as possible. In this case I tried to be truthful that I have had awkward sexual moments in my life and that I feel insecure and awkward as a filmmaker too.

CS: How difficult was it to cast the film, given that some of the cast would have to expose themselves (some quite literally) quite a lot on screen.
LL: Strangely, but I felt no difficulties when casting the film. Partially the film has so much “mature” content (male and female onscreen nudity, oral sex performed on woman) is because the actors where very enthusiastic about the project and offered even more than we asked; we just kept the camera rolling. They really trusted my lead and trusted that the film wouldn’t be tacky or abuse their reputation in any way. I am very grateful for this trust.

CS: It’s posited as ‘Part One’. Is this a sly joke or will there be Part Two to look forward to?
LL: When the film was done and only contained three sex scenes instead of seven, I decided not to ditch the original title, so I added “Part One” to avoid the title being completely misleading. In a way it is a promise I have given to the audience – that there will be a “Part Two”, and I can be held accountable for that. It is also a sly reference to Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac that also was a two part film. I am currently working on the screenplay for the second part, this time it would be a feature. Is there an interested co-producer out there by any chance?

CS: What does being part of Future Frames mean to you? What do you hope to get out of Karlovy Vary?
LL: I see it as a great compliment for my work, being selected for Future Frames. It is also an acknowledgement that my approach is not provincial. I personally don’t identify with the supposed trademark of “Eastern European cinema” – depressive social realism dramas about poor, abused people; I think it is a bad cliché and often just lazy screenwriting. We in Eastern Europe also have a lot of fun. We have sex, we do drugs, we love comedies.
I can add that the film’s budget was around 1000 EUR. Everyone involved worked basically for free. Considering that, it is especially mind-blowing for me, to find the film in the program of Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.

CS: What are you working on next?
LL: Right now I am co-directing a documentary feature about the mental transformations that pregnant women experience; I think it is also pretty much an uncharted territory in cinema. I am also writing screenplay for the sequel to Seven Awkward Sex Scenes. Part One that would remake and expand my short film’s theme. Besides that, I am working as an assistant teacher in our national film school of Latvian Academy of Culture and considering PhD studies in film theory. Seven Awkward Sex Scenes. Part One reenacted episodes of my twenty-something life with little responsibilities, lots of partying. Now that the film is out, it's suddenly all very grown-up.

10 July 2017, by Laurence Boyce