The Van stops, the doors open, and Ben comes out alive. Another few fights and he will be able to leave Albania. He still hopes his father will leave with him.
Hi Erenik, it's great to talk to you again, how's everything going?
Hi, my pleasure talking with you. Everything is good, we are excited about being part of Cannes.
What does it mean to be at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival with The Van?
Being part of the Cannes Film Festival is a really big step not only for me but also for the people that collaborated into making the film. And their appreciations are a confirmation that the story we believed in is worth making.
This is the first time Albania is part of the official competition, so it makes even more exciting.
The Van is shortlisted for the Short Film Palme d’or, does this add any extra pressure on you?
No, not really. If it happens it would be amazing but for the moment I’m happy that the film will premiere in Cannes.
Will you get any nerves ahead of the festival or are you just taking it all in your stride?
I think the nerves will wake up on the last day, but right now I’m just enjoying it.
What goes through your mind when your screening at a festival?
My mind is on the viewers. Usually, I’m looking at the audience reactions, how they react at certain scenes and if it gives them the same effect it did on me. Sometimes you get to be surprised by how they react compared to what you were expecting.
"stick to your guns and remember why you want to tell the story in the first place."
Can you tell me a little bit about The Van, how did this film come about?
The Van took 3 years to get made and it wasn’t always easy. Thanks to European Short Pitch and Nisi Masa, I got selected to develop and pitch the project to producers. There I met the producers of Origine Films and together for years we tried to get the funds and make it. They were very supportive and collaborative all the way, believing in the project and never letting go no matter how many ‘No’ we received. We shot in January for 5 days and by February we had it finished. Here we are now!
What was the inspiration behind this film?
I had the idea of people fighting inside The Van for money, after watching a documentary about dog fighting that happened inside the trunks of cars. That really stuck with me. But it had to be more than that, that’s why in the film I tried to channel the inner struggle of young and old Albanian generations trying to immigrate, hoping to build a better future and what they are willing to do to achieve it.
What was the most challenging part of bringing The Van to life?
Like I said above, it wasn’t easy but the most challenging part was working in the freezing cold, but I was very lucky to have actors and crew willing to go the extra mile.
What was the most valuable lesson you've taken from making this film?
Having the support of the cast and crew that was built through our mutual trust, as it allowed me to express myself creatively and encourage them to dare and be free to try.
Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?
There are things in my life I’m not sure about but when it comes to filmmaking I never had a doubt. Since I was a kid I watched more films than I probably should and always wanted to tell stories. After so many years, I still find myself wanting to tell stories through images.
How much has your approach to your films changed since your debut film?
I think the approach changes from film to film as I believe it is the film that tells you the way should be told. Through the films, you gain more experience and start to know what sticks with you and what doesn’t. But what I want to approach is to make films in different genres and mix them to widen the range of emotions that can be expressed without being stuck in the same loop.
Is there any advice you've been given that's stuck with you?
Well, the best advice came from my parents when I decided to enter in film school, they said that there would be a lot of rejection and a lot of criticism and if you are not strong enough to handle it, don’t do it. So I was prepared, I think.
Do you have any advice you would offer a fellow filmmaker?
Run!!! I’m just joking. I’m too young to give advice, but one thing I would say is, stick to your guns and remember why you want to tell the story in the first place.
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from The Van?
The Van represents the love between a father and his son and how far they are willing to go for each other. I hope the emotions enclosed in the film manage to reach the viewer and stay with them long after the screening. That would be all I could wish for.