Rabah is forced to take over custody of his son Cédrick. The boy has been mute since losing his mother. Despite the financial strain caused by his immigrant status and undeterred by his fraught relationship with his son, Rabah will manage to rebuild Cédrick’s trust so they can be a family again.
Hi Jorge, congratulations on having Kinship selected for FirstGlance FF 2020, what does it mean for you to have your film part of the festival?
FirstGlance is one of the longest running indie film festivals out there, and to be among such amazing selections is a great honour for me.
Do nerves ever set in ahead of a festival screening?
The feeling of screening a film at a film festival is hard to describe. Kinship is a very personal film. Every time I have a screening, all I can hear is my heart beating so loud that I can barely hear anything else around me.
How important are festivals like FirstGlance for independent filmmakers?
Participating in festivals like FirstGlance is a fantastic opportunity to share the film with a broader audience and offers the potential to connect with new people in the industry, creating possibilities for future projects.
What can you tell me about Kinship, how did this film come about?
Kinship marks my official career change between photography and filmmaking. The film's inspiration came from an intense feeling of anxiety about letting go of my "past life" and excitement for possibilities of expression that I could achieve through filmmaking. I arrived in Canada from Brazil 17 years ago, and to be an immigrant is a very challenging process that you feel stuck in between these two worlds that can never coexist. I have a son, Nathaniel, who is 14 years old now, but was about ten at the time I started writing Kinship, the same age that Cedrick is in the film. As the writing process evolved, the more I learned about myself, my son, and surprisingly about my father. When I was ten, my mother passed away, and I realized that I had never had the opportunity to see life from my father's point of view. Basically, in the beginning, I thought I was writing about myself and my son but soon realized that the story was more about my father and me.
"People are always going to doubt you...you just have to keep going..."
What was the most challenging aspect of making Kinship?
Because I was changing careers, I didn't have a lot of previous work to show as support to get the money for Kinship. It took me seven attempts to get the grants to produce the film. I feel that in this business, telling a story has to have a purpose that is bigger than yourself. That can really help you deal with the refusals and setbacks, and not give up.
Kinship was nominated for a Canadian Screen Award 2020, what has it meant to you to get this type of recognition for your film?
I mean. I cried. I know that had I not been in Canada, I would never have become a filmmaker. In Brazil, filmmaking is still a career reserved only for rich people. To be black, immigrant, and write a film in my third language (french) is almost too hard to believe. I always tell people that if I had told anyone that these were my dreams, people would have probably laughed. But I'm a positive delusional, and if I can make it up in my mind, I believe it is possible to be accomplished in real life.
How much does your photography background help to inform the visual style of your films?
Oh, so much! I don't know if it happens to a lot of people, but I can visualize a whole sequence or rather the entire film before I put it on paper. It's a lot of fun, but it can also be a challenge as I try to put on paper some poetic imagery I'd imagined, but also respecting some screenwriting rules.
Can you tell me a little bit about Mile End, how did this book come about?
When I arrived in Montreal, in 2003, I felt uprooted and in need of making new connections. So I started asking people to take their portraits. It was more of an excuse to have some human interaction and to learn their stories. Then, during an interview for a local magazine, the editor looked at the photos and said that I could probably make a book. From that point, I started to approach people with that purpose, and later I realized that all the people I approached had a special connection with this neighborhood in Montreal, called Mile End. In total, it took me ten years to put this project together.
Where did your passion for filmmaking come from?
As a young man, I spent a lot of time on my own. I believe that to cope with this loneliness, I started to tell myself stories, and these became tools of survival. I was always in visual arts, but I never thought I would ever be able to write until I met my acting teacher, Jacqueline McClintock. Jacquie had studied Meisner at the Neighbourhood Playhouse in NY, and her teaching methods opened my heart, allowing myself to express feelings that I never thought possible before this experience. During her classes, I learned that vulnerability was a sign of strength rather than weakness, as society had taught me to believe. After creating a few improv scenes for her class, more than ten years ago, I started putting words onto a page, and it marked my first attempts at becoming a filmmaker. And then, a snowball effect introduced me to the work of amazing European filmmakers like the Dardennes brothers and Ken Loach and many others, who’ve become influential to my work.
Has your style and the approach to your films changed much since you started out?
I consider myself a beginner, so my approach to filmmaking is constantly evolving. I know that the subjects I want to continue to bring to viewers are related to social justice and giving voice to the most aggrieved individuals of our society. I believe that the form will continue to evolve as I develop my signature as a filmmaker.
What has been the best piece of advice you would share with a fellow filmmaker?
My grandfather once told me, "Believe in yourself, even when everybody thinks you're crazy...I know where you're going..." Maybe it doesn’t translate perfectly well to English, but I think you get the picture. People are always going to doubt you... you just have to keep going, and trust that what you have to say is important, and needs to be heard.
And finally, what do you want people to take away from Kinship?
I believe that with Kinship I wanted to tell a story where characters exist rather through their human experiences and not only through their religion, skin colour, or language. It was my personal attempt to humanize individuals from diverse cultural communities that we inevitably only see because of their visible differences.