94th Academy Awards Nominee 2022
Best Live Action Short Film
ala kachuu / take and run
A young Kyrgyz woman is kidnapped and forced to marry. A drama about the desire for freedom in the clutches of a tradition.
Hi Maria thank you for talking to The New Current, how have you been holding up during these very strange times?
Thank you for having me! I’m very excited and grateful to experience this amazing journey with Ala Kachuu - Take and Run. I'm ecstatic!
Congratulations on your 2022 Oscar Nomination Best Live Action Short for Ala Kachuu - Take and Run, what does it mean to you to get this type of recognition for your film?
Being nominated is, of course, an incredible honour for me as a filmmaker but it is also a chance to raise awareness for this important topic on a global scale.
It was very important to me to bring attention to the fact that many women and girls are still not given the right and the freedom to make their own life choices.
Six years ago, I was alone with a seemingly impossible idea. Now we are a team of many people who have fought tirelessly for this film and whose efforts have even been rewarded with an Oscar nomination. It is unbelievable!
As this is your first Oscar Nomination will there be any nerves ahead of the ceremony in March?
To say I'm nervous would be an understatement! I'm terrified, yet excited and overwhelmed. This is an entirely new world for me!
Ala Kachuu - Take and Run has had an incredible festival run collecting multiple awards, what do you think it is about your film and the powerful story you have written that has connected with audiences so much?
It was important to me to take the audience on an emotional journey. The same emotional journey I went on during my research and the conversations with affected women. Many of their individual stories and fates are reflected in the film to give the audience a glimpse into their experiences and to make them feel connected to the characters.
The Live Action Short Film is perhaps one of the most significant categories at the Academy Awards because they shine a much needed light on Short Films. Audience only get to enjoy short fils during a film festival run what more can be done to make Short Films more accessible to wider audiences?
Short films are often overlooked which is unfortunate, because it is not an easy task to capture the essence of a story and create fully formed characters in a limited amount of time. I believe the format deserves more respect. For example, European networks usually show shorts late at night when most people are asleep. Streaming platforms rarely purchase short films and generally speaking, the media tends to provide less coverage for shorter content than for features. There are many different ways to dedicate more space, respect and attention to this medium.
"As an editor, you are the last link in a long chain and have to reconcile anything that didn’t go as planned or was missed on set."
What was the inspiration behind Ala Kachuu - Take and Run and what was the message you wanted to convey with this short film?
I was shocked to find out that bride kidnapping not only still exists today but that thousands of women fall victim to it every year, unbeknownst to the rest of the world. I wanted to give these women a platform to have their voices heard. Women and girls in many parts of the world are still being denied the right to education and live in fear because their lives and future are determined by others.
What was the most challenging scene for you to film?
The scene in which the main character is being kidnapped turned out to be a challenge. We didn’t have a permit and the actress had to scream and try to fight off her attackers. I was worried we might alarm the police but luckily, everything went smoothly.
When working on a short film like Ala Kachuu - Take and Run how important is it for you to be flexible with your screenplay, do you prefer to keep to the text how you wrote it?
This film was only made possible because we came together as a team. Our crew consisted of people from different cultural backgrounds and countries. To make it even more challenging, I didn't understand the language of the final version and had to have the script translated to Kyrgyz. I very much appreciated and embraced the knowledgeable corrections of the translator who ensured the authenticity of the dialogue.
The local actors helped me tremendously to understand their culture and I would have never expected them to say the lines exactly as written. Of course, I needed them to follow the storyline but I spent a lot of time developing the characters together with them before we started filming. I wanted the cast to understand every little detail of their characters and the development they go through.
The circumstances around Ala Kachuu - Take and Run were extraordinary because of the language barrier but I usually like to create a flexible work environment for the actors. Authenticity is more important to me than to cling to what's written in the script. I'm comfortable with adjusting scenes that worked on paper or in my mind but start to change once I see them brought to life by the cast and crew.
What has been the most valuable lessons you have taken from making Ala Kachuu - Take and Run?
No matter how impossible and frightening something might seem, almost anything is possible if you truly believe in it. Especially, if you are surrounded by people who believe in you, who fight by your side and who encourage you every step of the way!
Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?
Yes, I cannot imagine any other path for myself! I simply love to create stories, scenarios and characters.
Since your debut short has your approach to the way you write/direct your films changed much and how much has your background as an editor helped you as a director?
My approach has changed significantly since Ala Kachuu - Take and Run. Making a film in a language that I neither speak nor understand has forced me out of my comfort zone and I had to find ways to adjust my processes accordingly. In retrospect, this has been the best experience I could have asked for as a filmmaker because I got to concentrate 100% on the actors' emotions, without being distracted by their words.
My experiences in editing have been very valuable as well. As an editor, you are the last link in a long chain and have to reconcile anything that didn’t go as planned or was missed on set. It helps to direct in a way that allows for scenes to be easily edited. When I’m setting up for a scene, I’m always mindful of the editing process.
Do you have any tips or advice for emerging filmmakers?
The best advice I can offer is to not get too hung up on the opinions and careers of others but to listen to your instincts. To carve your own path and to handle things with integrity is a strong foundation for good mental health and long-lasting passion for your work.
And finally, what do you want your audiences to take away from Ala Kachuu - Take and Run?
I hope to encourage young women to get to know and stand up for their rights. Oftentimes, girls put up with too much because they haven’t been empowered yet to discover their own strength and courage or because they simply don’t know where to turn for help.
There are still too many disparities in today’s world. People are being discriminated against because of their gender, colour of their skin, origin, religion and sexual orientation. Every one of us can contribute to positive change within our means. We should focus less on our differences and more on taking care of each other.