|"Here and Away" filmmaker Meena Nanji talks the freedom of filmmaking, Kafka and the joys of shooting on location.
What is the most rewarding aspect of being an independent filmmaker?
Being able to make work without the pressure of having to conform to anyone else’s idea of what the film should be. It’s all up to you – and that freedom is magical.
Which filmmakers inspired you to get behind the lens?
I think the first time I thought I could actually make a film was after seeing the work of The Black Audio Film Collective and Isaac Julien, who were making films – documentaries and fiction – in a whole new way and with a filmic grammar and focus that really resonated with me. After that I saw Chris Marker’s work and that was very influential as well.
Could you list three films that all independent film supporters should take the time to see?
“The Mirror” or any/all of work by Tarkovsky, “The Turin Horse” by Béla Tarr, “Blissfully Yours” or any feature by Apichatpong Weerasethakul.
What do you hope the audience comes away with after seeing your film?
I’d like audiences to notice the value of what happens when one slows down the pace of life, or at least stops multi-tasking and focuses on just one thing that is present, and immerses oneself fully in that, whatever it may be. I’d love audiences to notice sounds and light in their environment – and to actively listen.
What about Kafka’s “Children on a Country Road” inspired you to make “Here and Away”?
The story is so beautifully and evocatively written – it is only two-and-a-half pages long, but so rich. I also loved the simplicity of the story, the non-drama of it: that it was just describing a day in the life of a boy, without there having to be a “dramatic” event or “arc” – it was just life unfolding, and yet there is so much in the unfolding. And I loved the quizzical ending, which can be interpreted in a myriad of ways. I found a combination of depth and whimsy, which inspired me at the time.
Did you find it particularly difficult to capture the many moods of the film without relying heavily on dialogue?
I think capturing the moods without dialogue was the easiest part actually. For me it was about listening – to the text as written by Kafka, and then to the environment of the village where we shot the piece – and being with the kids. I don’t think I made an effort to create mood at all when shooting; we shot in a pretty organic and spontaneous way. In the editing, I think the moods presented themselves: they were actually captured by the cinematography. Then we augmented with the music.
What was the most enjoyable aspect of shooting “Here and Away?”
Shooting in this village was really fun – a lot of funny things happened “on location,” such as cows and the resident sadhu constantly walking in on shots uninvited, or people who were supposed to be in a scene leaving midway through because they had way more important things to do, like feeding the buffalo, etc. It put everything into perspective!