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Association du Cinéma Indépendant pour sa Diffusion

Ainara Vera
10 May, 2022

Hayat, an expert sailor in the Arctic, navigates far from humans and her family's past in France. But when her little sister Leila gives birth to a baby girl Inaya, their worlds are turned upside down; we witness their journey, guided by the polar star, to overcome the family’s fate.


Hello Ainara, it’s great to get to talk with you, how have you been keeping after everything that’s been happening?


The horrible events that are taking place in Europe has made me revisit my creative decisions, is it vital to film what I am filming? Is it relevant enough? How my films echoes with today’s situation?


Have you been able to remain positive and creative at least?


I believe in the power of sharing beauty: that is my form of resistance.


Congratulations on having Polaris at L’ACID, what does it mean to you to be able to have your World Premiere at Cannes?


Hayat and Leila, the main characters of my film, were born in France, but they have never felt they belong there as their biological family came from Algeria. As foster kids they also felt that the social institutions didn’t do a great job protecting them. They always felt like they were the last ones in society. To bring their story to one of the most, if not the most, prestigious scenarios in France is a poetic victory.


How vital are platforms like L'ACID in championing and supporting independent filmmakers?


I trust filmmakers choosing films. Many films that I love and respect they do not achieve to be in the commercial circuit. We need platforms like L’Acid!


Can you tell me how Polaris came about, what inspired this film?


I met Hayat, the main character of Polaris, five years ago in Greenland while working as first assistant director and second camera on “Aquarela” - a film by Victor Kossakovsky. While sailing on Hayat’s ship, the whole film crew, including myself, were impressed and sometimes scared by her charisma. Then one day she told me that she hadn't washed her face for two weeks because a whale had sprayed over it. That’s when I knew that something tender was hiding behind Hayat’s tough facade. A few months later we made a life-threatening sailing trip from Portugal to Greenland with ten-meter waves. On that trip, in deep pain, she shared with me that her sister was in jail, and that she still hadn’t visited her. While we were saying goodbye, I knew we would meet again and that together, we would visit her sister.


A year passed, and I received a call from Hayat:


- “Ainara, I want you to make a film about a strong woman”, she told me. “I want to make a film about you”, I replied.


What happened from Hayat's call and to me filming Leila giving birth to Inaya, is a mystery.


These experiences and the relationship that I have built with Hayat and Leila over the time are what makes Polaris possible. The filmmaking process of Polaris was a conversation between Hayat, Leila, and myself. We created a sisterhood that transcended the film and hopefully is reflected in the screen.


What was the biggest challenge you faced bringing Polaris to the screen?


It was a challenging project in so many levels. But I would say that It was very difficult to finance because it is a creative documentary that does not fit in any specific subject and did not have a classic structure or storyline. I was very interested in the abstract aspects and pure cinematic elements of the project but those are precisely the ones that scares the most to financiers because it is difficult to envision them until the film is finished. Luckily my producers made a great job!


How flexibility do you allow yourself with with your films once you start shooting?


I allow myself to discover the film while filming. I revisit my own ideas and prejudges constantly while filming. I am convince that life is much bigger than what I can imagine and the only way to capture some kind of truth is to be open to the unknown!


Polaris is your second feature, how different was your approach to this film compared to your debut feature film?


(Note: We consider Polaris my first feature film as the previous one was a mid-length.) In my previous film I filmed much more material, it was a trial - error way of shooting. In Polaris when I pressed the record bottom it was because I knew it will be in the final film!


Where did you passion for filmmaking come from?


When I was a child, I invented the argument of a film, and I recreated it over and over again with my best friend. We called it “The Film”. It is strange because I grew up in a village, and I barely went to the cinema or had cinema culture until my twenties.


You have an MA in Creative Documentary Filmmaking at Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, what is it about the documentary format that interests you so much as a filmmaker?


I am wondered by the world. With documentary filmmaking you can explore it as a scientist does.


Having worked with Victor Kossakovsky on three of his last films, what has this experience been like for you?


Working with him has been my real cinema education. He is an incredibly generous person and shares with his crew all his knowledge. He is brave and radical in Art: he does not go to compromise. It has been a gift!

"I was very interested in the abstract aspects and pure cinematic elements of the project but those are precisely the ones that scares the most to financiers because it is difficult to envision them until the film is finished."

What does your work say about you?


If you see how a filmmaker frames, you can tell what it is in his soul.


What’s the best tip or piece of advice you would offer someone wanting to explore documentary filmmaking?


As an exercise, film to yourself before you film others; then you will know what are the limits you should not cross.


And finally, what would you like audiences to take away from Polaris?


It will fulfil me as a person if they will go home after watching Polaris and they will love each other a bit more and better.

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