Toronto International Film Festival 2020
Short Cuts
Alex Anna

SCARS

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Her body is a canvas and her scars stand as testament to a part of her life. Blending documentary and animation, Alex Anna’s courageous, distinctive, and poetic reflection of her mental health struggle brings to light a new story of self-harm that is both impactful and intensely intimate. 

Hi Alex thank you for talking to TNC, how are you held up during these very strange times? 

It has been some challenging times but I feel very lucky that none of my loved ones has been affected by the pandemic, and I hope the world will become a safer place soon.

Has this time offered you any new creative inspiration?

The quarantine offered me time to read, watch films and series and go deeper in my introspection work. I have written a lot but mostly, since I have been in lockdown in a small space with three friends, I now cherish my time on my own and try to use it as a creative time as much as possible.

The resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement has also re-questioned me about my privileges as a white and rich person, and reinforced my will for a feminist and LGBTQ+ rights activism that’s more inclusive and intersectional.

Your short film Scars is part of TIFF Short Cuts, how does it feel to have your film a part of such an amazing lineup of short films?

I feel really grateful and couldn’t possibly be happier! It is a great honour and an amazing opportunity for the film to reach a public and carry its message. I’m also looking forward to watching all the other films, which I’m sure will be of the greatest quality.

This will be your Premiere screening for Scars, does this add any additional pressure on you and your team?

It does - it really is the first public “reveal” of this film, and I can not wait to discover what the reactions are going to be. The fact that it is all happening online, instead of the traditional theatre screening, makes a great difference in the way I feel about this event: there will be no applause, no direct conversations with the public after the screening (although there is a “Zoom” Q&A), no direct feedback…I hope that people will use social media resources to reach out to us and share their feelings about the film.

Can you tell me a little bit about Scars, what was the inspiration behind your documentary film? 

I have been wanting to do a film about self-harming for a long time, since it is a very personal subject for me. I’ve always felt like it’s a very taboo topic even though it actually affects a lot of people ; whether because they’ve experienced it themselves, or because someone they love has. There’s very little representation of it and it is too often filled with cliches that misrepresent the complexity of this internal fight.

For years I couldn’t find the proper way to express those complex levels of beauty and violence. I was focused on creating a fictional character, until I realised that the only character I needed to tell this story was myself. It was a whole idea to accept and process.

"It is a great honour and an amazing opportunity for the film to reach a public and carry its message."

What was the most challenging aspect of bringing Scars to life?

The main challenge for us was to avoid any sort of didactic tone - we really didn’t want to make a prevention film “against self-harming”, but rather make a film that tells how it can feel like for someone to struggle with self-harming, and to get through it. We had to find a way to represent an experience that’s very personal, and connect it to the universal - without ever saying “my experience is everyone’s experience”. 

What would you say has been the most valuable lesson you've taken away from making Scars?

That your best stories can be found within yourself.

Where did your passion for filmmaking come from?

I think it’s been a continuum of reading and writing a lot since I was a child, as well as going to the theatre and to the movies all the time, followed by a passion for editing that I developed around high school. At first it was for me such a great way to put together memories and music to create emotions. Then it naturally led to studying cinema, writing scripts, and working in the filmmaking industry.

"I hope Scars will help break the silence around self-harming.

What was the best piece of advice you were given ahead of making this film?

I think the best piece of advice I was given was during the making of it. A friend of mine who is also a great director told me - “It’s good but it could be even better. Push harder, go further.” and it’s something I’ve kept reminding myself during the whole process. Making a film can take a lot of time - for Scars, it took over two years - and sometimes you may feel like it’s “good enough”, but you have to ask yourself ; “is it, really?” You’ve only got one shot at making this as great as it can be. Make sure you reach your full potential.

And finally, what do you hope people will take away from Scars?

I hope Scars will help break the silence around self-harming. I hope people will understand the importance of talking about it, of not being ashamed of it - whether it’s happening now or has happened in the past. Mental health in general suffers a lot from the taboo surrounding it, when really our mind is possibly the most precious thing we have; we need to cherish it, take care of it and take care of each other.

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