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Sundance Film Festival 2019
Interview
World Premiere

May el-Toukhy
Writer/Director 
Queen of Hearts

A woman jeopardises both her career and her family when she seduces her teenage stepson and is forced to make an irreversible decision with fatal consequences. QUEEN OF HEARTS explores the making of a tragic family secret step by step, as the consequences of hubris, lust and lies conspire to create an unimaginable dilemma.

Hi May thanks for talking to TNC, you all set for the festival?

Yes

 

Do you have any nerves ahead of your Sundance screening?

Yes, the butterflies in my stomach went crazy when the lights in the movie theatre dimmed and the first image of the film emerged on the screen.  

 

How does it feel to be having your World Premiere of Queen of Hearts at the festival?

 

It is a great privilege to be screened at Sundance. I love the idea of the film reaching a bigger and broader audience that way.

 

Queen of Hearts is in the Sundance World Cinema Dramatic Competition does it add any extra pressure for you?

I think the pressure was in making the actual film and trying to "get it right". Being in competition at Sundance is a beautiful blessing in comparison.   

 

Tell me a little bit about Queen of Hearts, how did the film come about?

I wanted to do a film about the making of a family secret. I wanted to explore what the needed components are, in order for a family secret to flourish. At the same time, I was very interested in telling a tale about power, and the responsibilities that come with being in a powerful position.    

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"I have always gravitated towards films, music and literature. It has been my go to, ever since I was a little girl."

What was the biggest challenge you faced bringing Queen of Hearts to life?

The biggest challenge was by far choosing to tell the story from the perspective of the seducer - the woman who is seducing her stepson. By doing so you are forced to move to a very intricate place as a storyteller. She is a quite complex character and may be hard to understand at times, but still, I wanted her to be and to stay true. Balancing that has been the biggest challenge, but also the most rewarding and interesting part in the making of this film.    

 

With your background in theatre, how has this helped you in with your filmmaking?

Sure. My theatre background always helps me digging deep in the text and the characters and working in theatre also taught me how to structure and conduct rehearsals.    

 

Does this give you a better connection with your actors?

I find it very helpful, yes, but then again I have never tried anything else other than working this way when I do feature films, so it is the most organic way for me to work.  

 

Have you always been interested in filmmaking?

Yes. I have always gravitated towards films, music and literature. It has been my go to, ever since I was a little girl. Finding comfort in stories that reflect the human condition.  

 

As a filmmaker how important is the collaborative process for you?

It depends on the project, the process, and the workflow of the specific production. There is a time to be open for input in the process, but there is also a time, for me at least, where I need to become more introverted in order to maintain contact with my intuition and vision. I love the collaborative process - and it brings me great joy to work with my team and other filmmakers and film workers.

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How has your approach to your films changed since your debut short film?

No. I love films. Always have. Always will.

 

Do you have any advice or tips for a fellow filmmaker?

Be real and be on time.

 

What are you currently working on?

I’m developing a TV show that is set in Scandinavia for the Nordic market - its an adaptation of an amazing Linn Ullmann book: The Cold Song. And also I and my writing partner Maren Louise Käehne are shaping new ideas for our next two feature films - both with the potential of being produced in Denmark or abroad.  

 

And finally, what do you hope people will take away from this film?

I hope they will ask themselves the question: what would I have done in a comparable situation?