Interview - I'm Not From Here directors Maite Alberdi and Giedre Zickyte

Cineuropa caught up with the directors of I'm Not From Here, the EFA nominee, to find out more about the film, language barriers and what brought a director from Lithuania and a director from Chile together.

Cineuropa: How does Maite Alberdi, a Chilean film director, documentarian, and writer, meet Giedre Zickyte, a relevant Lithuanian cinema director and documentarian?

Giedre Zickyte and Maite Alberdi: Our journey started when International documentary film festival CPH:DOX invited us to make a film together, since the festival has a special program called CPH:DOX LAB where they match filmmakers from all over the world. It was like a blind date, a meeting between Lithuania and Chile, as well as the first time co-directing experience. We never met before and we had to find a common idea for our movie. Quite an experiment of Danish festival to match two different words – post-Eastern European socialism camp and post-Pinochet Chile. Both with post-totaliatrian trauma, both with vibrant cultural spheres. We were both interested in working memory from an alternative viewpoint, that which you remember when all is forgotten. Through research we knew that in the first stages of Alzheimers, early childhood is remembered. We imagined what would happen to an immigrant with Alzheimer based in theory.

Cineuropa: What were the main driving forces behind I'm Not From Here? The fragility and also the temperament of the protagonist arouse much tenderness and empathy while watching the movie. How was Josebe’s interaction with you?

GZ and MA: It was a very different and challenging experience for both of us as we couldn’t establish a close relationship with our main character like we were used to before in our previous movies. Everyday we had to introduce ourselves to protagonist Josebe, and she didn’t remember that we met and were filming yesterday. At a certain point we decided to put on nursery clothing so we could become part of her environment. This was much easier for her. Also, we had to be very attentive to her mood changes and feel if our presence started disturbing her. We couldn’t control her – where to go, where to sit, even what clothes to wear - like one day she decided to put a very different jacket that was contrasting with the ones we were filming before, but she refused to change it. However we could control where to put camera, as Josebe with other elderlly people had the same daily routine, the same rituals and we could prepare for that

Cineuropa: Giedre Zickyte, was this documentary any different from the ones you have worked with before? In which sense? Did Master and Tatyana wake up your desire to investigate the past?

GZ: Yes, it was a completely different documentary, enriching me with new experience. First of all, I was used to spending a lot of time with my protagonists and establishing a relationship before I start shooting. Here, we had a totally different situation – our protagonist Josebe didn’t recognise us. Everyday we were like new people for her. I was able to get to know her by observing her instead of creating intimate mutual relations as it was in my other movies. Second, I had to shoot a film in another language about a woman who feels she lives in another country. I was also the only one from abroad in that particular space, as was Josebe, our protagonist. I felt how perception of situations we were filming was revealing in a totally new light due to the unknown language.

Cineuropa: Maite Alberdi, did Tea Time, a documentary about Chilean septuagenarians who keep their bond strong by meeting for tea and cake once a month, influence this documentary in anyway?

MA:Tea Time was completely the opposite of I'm Not From Here even if it is dealing with people of the same age. Tea Time had women who are enjoying life until the last days and enjoying new opportunities that life gives them. Now we can speak about the third and fourth age, we have longer life and more opportunities when we are old. If you do not have a mental disease or a phisycal disease I think this is a stage to enjoyy. But if you have a diseases I think a big problem is that now the society has got used to the Retirement homes, which may or may not be the best solution

17 October 2016, by Cineuropa Shorts