by Jason Whyte
The Lost Colony - At VIFF 2008
“The Lost Colony is a film about the oldest monkey institute in the world, and its struggle for its existence. Destroyed by the Georgian-Abkhazian war, the old scientists desperately try to revive what was once the most advanced institute, where many experiment has taken place, but will they succeed?” Director Astrid Bussink on the film “The Lost Colony” which screens at this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival (September 25 – October 10).
Is this your first film in the VIFF? Do you have any other festival experience? If you’re a festival veteran, let us know your favourite and least-favourite parts of the festival experience. Do you plan to attend VIFF for the screenings?
Yes first time at VIFF, but I can’t make it over unfortunately.
Could you give me a little look into your background (your own personal biography, if you will), and what led you to the desire to want to make film?
I’ve been working as an independent filmmaker for a few years now, and am interested in the backgrounds of stories that seem ‘weird’ at first. My first film (“The Angelmakers”) was about a small Hungarian village where a long time ago a lot of men were murdered by their wives, the film shows this ‘weird tale’ still has an impact on the peoples’ life today. This is what interests me, how people make choices to survive, how to live on when life seems unliveable. Being able to create ‘a story’ of the things that fascinates you is the most amazing thing, I can’t think of anything I would like to do better.
Growing up, you were no doubt asked the eternal question “When I grow up I want to be a …” Finish this sentence, please!
I wanted to be all I could think of. An actress of course, an artist, a school teacher, you name it, I wanted to be it. Most importantly I just wanted to have my own apartment; this was my childhood dream for some reason.
While you were making the movie, were you thinking about the future release of the film, be it film festivals, paying customers, critical response, and so forth?
It would be a lie to say I didn’t think of the final work, and of course you hope that people will like it. But at the same time I gave up on the need to please everybody. It’s more important that the film becomes the best it can be, and you challenge yourself each film. So no, I haven’t spend any time thinking about paying customers, but I guess that’s a luxury as well, not having to do that.
How did this project come to fruition? If you could, please provide me with a rundown, start to finish, from your involvement.
Once I read the article in the paper about the monkey lab I wanted to see it. Found a great producer and made a research trip. Then we decided it was well worth trying to get some funding for realisation. Which we got, and we were able to shoot the film.
What was the biggest challenge in the production of the movie, be it principal photography or post-production?
Language, language, language. My Russian is near to non-existing, which made it so hard to connect with the people. Even with a great translator, it’s frustrating at times, and I promised myself never to do this again, but I already found a new story in some impossible language….
Please tell me about the technical side of the film; your relation to the film’s cinematographer, what the film was shot on and why it was decided to be photographed this way.
Jackó van‘t Hof shot the film on XD cam. We discussed the style of the film beforehand, and spoke about how to approach certain scenes. But once things are happening, Jackó knows exactly where to be and what to do to get the best shot. It was quite amazing to find out during editing how very few bad shots he made…
Talk a bit about the experiences (festival or non-festival) that you have had with this particular film. Have you had any interesting audience stories or questions that have arisen at screenings?
This film is quite capable of getting the most diverse responses from audiences, from people laughing a lot, to being very upset (we had some angry animal right activists) to getting very political about it. It’s a strange awareness that your film can be seen in so many different ways apparently, and people pick what they like or dislike. It makes it interesting to accompany your film to festivals though, since you never know how the Q&A will be this time.
How far do you think you would want to go in this industry? Do you see yourself working on larger stories for a larger budget under the studio system, or do you feel that you would like to continue down the independent film path?
I’m quite happy staying independent, wouldn’t want it any other way. As long as there is enough money to make it humanly possible to make the film I want to make, I’m happy.
If you weren’t in this profession, what other career do you think you would be interested in?
I might pick up on my career as an air hostess again. Actually, I don’t think so. I don’t know, there’s a million things that interest me; writing a book, organising a film festival, becoming a journalist in a war zone, presenting the weather, becoming the best photographer in the world.. But somehow making documentaries combines a bit of all that, so I hope to able to make some more…
Do you think that you have “made it” in this profession yet? If you don’t believe so, what do you think would happen for that moment to occur?
I don’t really think in those terms. I just want to make really beautiful interesting films, and get better with every film I make.
How important do you think the critical/media response is to film these days, be it a large production, independent film or festival title?
Of course it’s important; nobody wants to make a film that people don’t want to see, but the good news is that there are so many festivals these days, and other possibilities to show your work, like the internet, so it gets easier to find an audience and stay independent.
If your film could play in any movie theatre in the world, which one would you choose?
When my last movie had its cinema release and was also screened in my home town Cinema I was quite chuffed, apart from that I have never thought of a specific theatre I want to have my films screened.
What would you say to someone on the street to see your film instead of the latest blockbuster playing at the local megaplex?
Well, what CAN you say? Unfortunately people are not used to seeing documentaries much in cinemas, apart from some exceptions. It’s hard to beat a blockbuster, you can let people know your film is out there, and that it is of course a must-see masterpiece, and hope they don’t have plans on that rainy Sunday afternoon during a film fest.
No doubt there are a lot of aspiring filmmakers at film festivals who are out there curious about making a film of their own. Do you have any advice that you could provide for those looking to get a start?
Yes, just get started. Don’t fuss to much about ‘how it should be done’, just do it any way you like and get it out there. And maybe invest a little bit of your own money to get things started; things get a lot easier once you have something (preferably good) to show for.
And finally…what is your all time favourite motion picture, and why?
Impossible question of course. Too many films….
This is one of the many films screening at this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival. For more information on when this film is playing and to order tickets, point your browser to www.viff.org. – Jason Whyte, efilmcritic.com
link directly to this feature at http://www.efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=2554
originally posted: 09/25/08 16:43:53
last updated: 09/25/08 16:44:51