© 2019 by The New Current. 

FILM
ÉCU Film Festival | 2019
Dekel Berenson

ASHMINA

European Dramatic Short

UK, Nepal

ashminafilm.com

In an impoverished country, rife with contradiction, a young girl is torn by her obligation to her family and the influence of foreign visitors.

Hi Dekel, it's great to talk to you again, how's everything going?

Great thank you, it's been a busy year.

Ashmina had it's premiere at the 62nd BFI London Film Festival, what was that experience like for you?

Mike Leigh was in the audience, so that was nice, and as a result of the screening I've been invited to direct a period piece about Mary Anning, so, all in all, it was worth the submission fee for sure.

How does it feel to have Ashmina part of this years ÉCU Film Festival?

It's nice to be invited to two years in a row!

Are there any nerves ahead of the screening?

A recent screening in Nepal didn't happen because their hard drive crashed, so yes there is always the fear of a technical problem.

Can you tell me a little bit about Ashmina, how did this film come about?

Ashmina tells the story of a 12 years old Nepali girl who packs paragliders for a living, for small change. I'm a paragliding pilot, and my experience in Nepal inspired the film. The first time I came down for a landing in Nepal, was also my first solo flight. Just as I was about to land these children started running towards me, I didn't know why, and I was also worried that I would hit them. Only after a few seconds, I realized why they were there - they wanted me to allow them to pack my paraglider, for small change. My next thought was - this would make a great film.

What was the most challenging part of bringing Ashmina to life?

Nepal is a beautiful country with beautiful people but also very much a developing country. Other than the camera department, most of our crew was made of theater actors who didn't really know how to make a film. We worked with mostly none actors, people who we met on location, backpackers... it was an adventure of a lifetime. So, the whole thing was challenging.

"When casting, don't be lazy, even if it means auditioning hundreds of people."

What was the most valuable lesson you've taken from making this film?

The whole team was basically me, and my producer, who came to Nepal from the UK. Other than that, we had only four foreign crew members, who arrived in Nepal just two days before the shoot. So for the entire period of pre-production, I was mostly busy with production issues rather than with directing. That, obviously, was a huge mistake.

Have you always been interested in filmmaking?

Yes, since I was a child.

What has the experience of your first two short films provided you as you head into making your debut feature film?

Everything that can go wrong will go wrong. So you need to be extremely prepared for every possible failure in advance. In my recent film (which I finished just two weeks ago) on the first day of shooting, we had scheduled to shoot from a balcony. The entire scene was about the view, from this balcony on the 20th floor. I woke up at 5 AM, looked outside, and it was so foggy that you couldn't see even five meters in front of you. I asked the AD "Where are we going?" and she answered, "to the balcony.". And I was like "No we're not. You can't see a damn thing!". So on the spot, we had to change the entire schedule for the next two days. We should have anticipated this in advance, but we didn't.

What has been the best piece of advice you've been given?

Not to drink dairy because it gives you prostate cancer. Yes, I know, it's not film related.

Now you can be reflective do you have any advice you would offer a fellow filmmaker?

It sounds obvious but when you do short films that don't pay well and don't attract big talents, you need to audition dozens of people and it's very easy to get lazy and just sign up people to get it over with.  Audition actors as if your whole life was dependent on them. With good actors, you do one take and move on. With not so good actors, you'll have to do 30 takes and still won't get what you want. When casting, don't be lazy, even if it means auditioning hundreds of people.
 

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

 

People should consider the impact of their travels on the societies which they visit. Giving a paraglider packing girl $2 to pack your paraglider makes your life easier, but keeps her away from school. Most people don't take the time to consider the consequences of their actions.