Barcelona Short Film Festival 2020
22 - 25 October
Her Type opens with my mother loading a selfie of me into FaceApp—a smartphone application that generates realistic transformations of photographic portraits. She adds a “male” filter to the picture. With the “male” filter, my selfie resembles a portrait of my Russian father, now deceased, when he was my age.
Hi Masha thank you for talking to TNC, how are you holding up during these very strange times?
Making and showing work has been a lifeline in this time of isolation. Participating in film festivals, writing about art, and informally sharing work with friends and fellow experimental film nerds has been so essential for my mental health. I also teach art at a small collage. Despite the difficulty of teaching at this moment, working with students, supporting them in their process, helping them develop ideas has been incredibly affirming and grounding. It’s a good reminder to me that art can hold us in times of chaos and uncertainty.
I’m also fortunate to live in a rural area in South Carolina with access to mountains and forests. Between having a job I love, having access to the outdoors, and being able to connect to an arts community I’ve been quite privileged. I do worry about my people in New York City.
Has this time offered you any new creative inspiration?
I’ve been spending a lot of time outside, hiking and camping. A new experimental eco-critical film is in the works.
Her Type has already had a great festival run already, what do you think it is about your film that has connected with festival audiences so much? What does it mean to be part of Barcelona Short Film Festival's amazing lineup of short films with Her Type?
It’s been humbling to show this piece in a variety of venues, alongside incredible artists and filmmakers. Screening at the Barcelona Short Film Festival is an honour. I’m a fan of the festival and look forward to the conversations that will emerge between films. I wish I could attend in person.
It’s always hard to know what will resonate with the audiences and what will fall flat. With “Her Type” I was fascinated by how the camera (or the filter within the camera; I’d argue that filters are an extension of the camera) tilts the outcome, skewing the script of human interaction. With smart phones we have a camera on us at all times. “Her Type” taps into this experience.
Can you tell me a little bit about Her Type, what was the inspiration behind your documentary?
I’m a huge melodrama and reenactment nerd. One favourite is Douglas Sirk’s brilliant “Imitation of Life” (a remake of John M. Stahl’s 1934 classic). It explores the shifting power dynamics between a mother and a daughter, orchestrated by the camera. Ming Wong and Rochelle Mozman Solano (among others) have beautiful remakes of this film, which I cannot recommend enough.
"The function of the camera to re-frame and re-script is a continuous source of inspiration."
“Her Type” came about spontaneously from a real-life interaction—my mother discovered this new app that can create realistic transformations of photographic portraits, changing gender and age of the person in the picture. She loaded my picture into the camera and added a “male” filter. With the “male” filter, my selfie resembled a portrait of my Russian father, now deceased, when he was my age. My mother had an incredibly strong unscripted response, which gave me the idea to re-create this moment with her.
As we were shooting, it became clear that the image allowed my mother to express her desire for me (via the image of me as my father). At the same time my camera framed my mother’s image, fetishising it. The function of the camera to re-frame and re-script is a continuous source of inspiration.
Did you have any apprehensions about making such a personal film?
This work needed to be personal. It needed to be shot from a perspective accessible only to a family member in order to offer an intimate warping of a family narrative.
I like to think about “Her Type” in relation to this cliché that as one ages, they become their parent—usually women “become” their mother, men their father. In “Her Type” the filter at once accelerates the process of ageing, turning me into my parent, and flips the script—I’m becoming my father rather than my mother. By suggesting taboo (my mom finds a picture of me attractive) the film challenges and plays with the cliché and by extension the way we might perceive gender, beauty, and sexual desire.
What was the experience like for you working with your mother on this film?
My mother is an actress so working with her is incredible. She’s very quick and receptive to directions, and a real collaborator. I always learn a ton from her. Since we immigrated to the U.S. she doesn’t get to act as much as she did in Russia so collaborations like these become opportunities for her to practice her craft. It’s a lot of fun for both of us.
"Working experimentally, I have a lot of physical and time freedom. "
Where did this passion for filmmaking come from?
I’m drawn to the camera’s ability to actively participate, re-animate, frame or reframe our experiences. I’ve long experimented with the hand-held camera as an extension of the filmmaker’s body, an entry point, a barrier between the filmmaker’s body and the space. “Her Type” comes out of these interests.
What was the most valuable lesson you have taken away from making Her Type?
“Her Type” is under 5 minutes but it took nearly two years to complete. It’s been a lesson in giving the work as much time as it needs. My process is closer to studio artist’s work rather than a filmmaker’s collaborative approach on the set. Working experimentally, I have a lot of physical and time freedom. There are no deadlines or time constraints. I’ve learned to embrace that rather than feeling that it’s a weakness.
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from Her Type?
Women directors and ageing immigrant women actors are underrepresented groups in the film industry or in the art world. “Her Type” makes women’s craft—in front of and behind the camera—visible and viable. I hope this comes through and I hope people enjoy the film.