L'Atelier 2019 - Festival de Cannes
Gabriel Tzafka: "So I just get very excited when I get a chance to talk about it. And luckily that kind of enthusiasm is usually contagious."
ODE TO JOY | 2nd Feature Film | Denmak
Kasper Hansen, a respected Renaissance man, has died. His ex- masseuse Thai wife, his retired academic Danish ex-wife, and his three adult children (a priest, a conservative politician, and an artist come together for the reading of the will, after not having spoken for years. To their shared shock, they find out that Kasper Hansen has not paid his church taxes for years and is therefore not entitled to a church funeral.
Hi Gabriel, it's great to talk to you, how's everything going?
Thank you for the invitation! It’s has been a quite busy period but I am more than glad about it.
What does it mean to be at L'Atelier 2019 with Ode To Joy?
L’ Atelier is the best place to land Ode To Joy at this moment. I couldn’t wish for anything better. And for this, I am thankful and grateful to Georges Goldenstern. He is a truly artistic soul who really cares about filmmakers and their projects. There are so many things happening around in the industry, such a massive production of visual content that it makes you wonder about your own position and contribution. L’Atelier remains a hub which supports film projects from all over the world, a place where we gather to share an undoubted passion; Cinema
How important is this opportunity for filmmakers to be part of something like L’Atelier?
L’Atelier selection is a composition of well-known directors and more young and upcoming ones. This means that it creates a lot of attention from the film industry towards the selected projects. The fact that the selection has only 15 titles it makes it already special. On top of its part of the official program in Cinefondation. This is an extremely important opportunity for us. The meetings are one to one and arranged before our arrival. These are perfect conditions for all of us. There is always stress when you expose a film which is in development, but I can tell you that this time I feel much more relaxed and excited.
Your short film The Right One will be in The Factory - Director's Fortnight how exciting is it for you to be part of such a great selection of films this year?
I can only be grateful and very very happy! The Factory in Director’s Fortnight is a fantastic experience, The Right One is a film which has already a special spot in my heart. And for this, I am thankful to Dominique Welinski, Amra Baksic Camo and Armin Hadzic. They took care of the entire creative process. The selection of the films this year in Cannes is a gift for all of us. It will be extremely busy days as they are full of meetings and screenings I want to attend.
"During the research, writing, more research, pre-production, shooting, then promoting the film."
Are there any nerves ahead of pitching your film at Cannes?
When I was younger I used to feel uncomfortable with pitching and the entire mentality behind it. Later on, I realised that it was my approach which was lacking confidence. I worked on it and now I enjoy pitching. As I said there is always a little pain in your stomach which might also come from the coffees and the cigarettes, but now I am actually having a good time when I am presenting my films. Sometimes it's just a switch in your mind. Thinking for example that these people who have gathered in front of you are interested in hearing about what are you working on. Enjoying their company and sharing is a key factor to a pitch for me.
What do you hope to take away from your time at Cannes this year?
I’m looking forward to the meetings in L’Atelier. When going through the list of the arranged meetings, and I saw the names of people who have been doing great films. We are looking for financing partners and I hope that some of them will become part of our journey. Watching films in Cannes in their world premiere is also a unique experience. Some of these films are made by good friends, and I’m looking forward to watching them, seeing old friends and of course making new ones. I
Can you tell me a little bit about Ode To Joy, how did this film come about?
I have been working on Ode To Joy for many years. I got the idea from an article in a Danish newspaper describing the awkward situation of many families at the moment they would realise that they could not join a church funeral as the deceased member was not paying taxes to the Danish church. I thought immediately that this fact is a powerful start to a black comedy. Meanwhile, I kept doing short films and my first feature. I developed further the story, and I wrote the first draft of the script in the Sam Spiegel Jerusalem Film Lab. It has been a long and very creative process.
What was the inspiration behind this story?
Europe inspired me a lot in doing this film. Some people who read the script call it an allegory to nowadays Europe. Maybe? Maybe!
How different is this film, in terms of your approach, the story compared to your debut feature?
It’s very different. I like to change my approach from film to film. My aim is to work with different kind of narratives and develop further my expressive tools. Ode To Joy reminds more of my short film Euroman in terms of humour and dialogues while my debut film, Thorn was a more abstract story, more esoteric. In Ode To Joy, I want to expand what I have learned until now and build a strong story with dark Scandinavian humour.
As a writer/director what are some of the main challenges you face when you are making a new film?
Every film is different so the challenges differ as well. Also, the challenges in short films are completely different from the ones in feature films. To me, it's very important to create a universe and use the narrative tools in order to make it believable so the audience will be able to feel the story and embrace the characters. A good script is the first step but it’s not enough. Directing in a way which will transform the words and the ideas to meaningful images is, to me, the most important challenge during the shooting.
Has there always been a passion for filmmaking?
I discovered my passion for filmmaking when I was 17 years old. Back then I wanted to be a writer. During the summer, a friend invited me to watch a film in his apartment in Athens. We watched the Mirror by Andrei Tarkovsky. An entirely new universe was revealed. I could not believe that such a thing exists in cinema. It didn’t take me long to decide what I want to do in my life. A couple of months later I was studying film in the Film Department of the Faculty of Arts at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. I was 18 years old.
Is there any advice you've been given that's stuck with you?
“You can move on by saying “yes” and you can move on by saying “no” as well.
Do you have any advice you would offer a fellow filmmaker?
Trust your inner instinct and be determined. It’s the only “true” thing we have and it’s not visible.
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from Ode To Joy when they see it?
Ode To Joy will be a film with a basic linear story but built on many levels, like a dish which reveals it's different layers of taste while you keep on chewing. I try to make films that have an aftertaste. I want people to be able to watch them, carry them back home and digest them slowly in their minds and in their hearts.