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SxSW 2016 Interview: PAPAGAJKA director Emma Rozanski

by Jason Whyte

"PAPAGAJKA is a Magic-Realist Thriller shot in Sarajevo. A mysterious woman comes to town and barges into the reclusive world of a man whose main occupation is shutting out the world and doing very little in general. Over time she colonizes his space and even moves into his dreams. Eventually even his existence hangs in the balance. This all takes place against the backdrop of the unique building he inhabits which is a unforgettable architectural feature of Sarajevo, itself like a colonising organism metastasizing in the capital of Bosnia." Director and writer Emma Rozanski on PAPAGAJKA which screens at the 2016 edition of the South By Southwest Film Festival.

I am thrilled to hear that PAPAGAJKA is showing at SxSW and this is your first time here! Are you planning to attend your screenings?

Absolutely! We have a real posse attending in fact. I will be attending along with composer and sound designer Guy Fixsen, Cinematographer Malte Rosenfeld and lead actress Susanna Cappellaro.

I look forward to meeting all of you. So tell me about your start in the business and your previous work.

I studied drama in my native Australia but soon turned to directing and made a series of short films, music videos, dance and fashion films. I relocated to London, UK and have been gradually working my way up to making this feature. Finding like-minded collaborators has been key and also doing my masters at Bela Tarr's film factory school in Bosnia. I already have my sights set on making my next feature, a black comedy called ALGEBRA.

So how did PAPAGAJKA come together from your perspective?

It started with my obsession with the security boxes you see everywhere in Sarajevo. I made a short film PANGAEA there in 2013 that started to explore the various meanings I attach to them. Added to that was my obsession with the building featured in the film. Then the characters appeared in my mind and then they started to do things. Guy Fixsen wrote a score and sound design ideas to an early draft and we did an Indiegogo campaign together while simultaneously gathering our cast and crew together. Susanna Cappellaro, the female lead was an acquaintance from the excellent Berlin Talent campus and Adnan Omerovic, the male lead, is an established theatre actor in Bosnia. The location was a oddly colourful post-communist building that had always fascinated me just a few hundred yards from where I was living. Locals either loved or hated it and for me it dripped with enigma and symbols of this very unique country and my personal perspective on my time there. Those were the ingredients.

So while you were making the film, what kept you going? How much coffee?

Good old Brit "Builders Tea" and plenty of pasta. Not in the same mug.

Hopefully not! So was your biggest challenge with making this movie, and the moment that was the most rewarding to you, where you knew you had something special?

The biggest challenge was making something ambitious and unique on a infinitesimally tiny budget in somewhat off-the-wall country like Bosnia! The challenge of filmmaking is mostly a question of managing many hundreds of smaller challenges while keeping your focus and momentum. So it's hard to pinpoint any one thing. The most rewarding moment, when I knew I had something that really excited me, may have been when the story started unfolding in my mind, while riding on the back of a motorbike in southern Italy in the summer of 2014.

I am about to get technical, but I would love to know about the the visual design of PAPAGAJKA; what camera did you use to shoot, your relationship to the director of photography and how the movie was photographed.

We shot on a RED epic Dragon at 5k. The DP was Malte Rosenfeld who was someone Guy Fixsen has previously worked with. In a very intense shoot he was a rock of calm and good humour. The cinematographic style was worked out over many weeks leading up to the shoot using mood boards I created and many hours of location recce. The architectural lines of the locations were a key element we wanted to capture and draw the magic out of. There were several arcs to the shooting style that tracked story elements in terms of lens, filter and grip choices. Malte has an amazing eye for framing and I put a lot into the production design.

What are you looking forward to the most about showing your movie here in Austin?

After all the time spent making it, it will be great to see genuine film fans first impressions. I think of Austin as a real spring of creativity and it will be great to feel part of that.

After the film screens at SxSW, where is the film going to show next?

Not sure as yet, there are various festivals asking to considering it now.

If you could show your movie in any theatre outside of Austin, where would you screen it and why?

The Grand Theatre Lumiere in Cannes because I have seen some of the most electrifying screenings there; there's always something amazing about seeing a film when the filmmakers are there with you and this 4000 seater epitomizes that hair-on-the-back-of-the-neck feeling.

What would you say to someone who was talking or texting through a movie?

You are a selfish and ignorant waste of skin.

Be sure to follow the progress of PAPAGAJKA by visiting or on Twitter at @aParticularFilm!

We hope you enjoyed this SxSW filmmaker interview in our interview series for our site. To see the entire series click on the Live Report sidebar on your right. We will have interviews posted all throughout the festival so be sure to visit us often for more coverage!

This is one of the many films screening at the 2016 SXSW in Austin, Texas taking place March 11-19. For more information on this film screening times, point your browser to or use the SxSW GO App for Android and iOS.

Jason Whyte,
Twitter: @jasonwhyte / Facebook: jasonwhyte / Instagram: jason.whyte

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originally posted: 03/06/16 08:11:50
last updated: 03/06/16 08:21:32
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