Toronto International Film Festival 2020
Short Cuts
Sophy Romvari

Still Processing

World Premiere

sophy.me

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A box of stunning family photos unseen for decades awakens lost memories as they are viewed for the first time on camera.

Hi Sophy thank you for talking to TNC, how are you held up during these very strange times? 

First of all, thank you so much for offering a platform to filmmakers, especially short filmmakers! It's very cool to see. 

Regarding these strange times, I accidentally fell in love shortly before the pandemic began and ended up spending lockdown with my partner Mike Thorn, so I've been *very* lucky to not spend this time alone but rather with someone very supportive and hilarious. I've been doing a great deal of reassessing my priorities during the time, which has been both challenging yet rewarding. 

Has this time offered you any new creative inspiration?

Creatively, Mike and I actually made a short experimental film about our time in lock-down called Some Kind of Connection which was a wonderful way to pass the time in the early days. Another project fell in my lap through a commission via New York distribution company Kino Lorber. I was asked to create a short documentary about my grandfather, József Romvári, who was a Production Designer in Hungary. He worked on a number of projects with director István Szabó -- the first Hungarian director to win an Academy award. This was a film I made essentially out of nothing which was a fantastic challenge. It was also personally very satisfying as I've always longed for more of a connection with my grandfather since we hardly met while he was alive. Outside of my filmmaking, I developed, launched and funded a new online platform for short filmmakers called Exquisite Shorts

Your short film Still Processing is part of TIFF Short Cuts, how does it feel to have your film a part of such an amazing lineup of short films?


I feel incredibly grateful. Anyone who knows anything about the film festival circuit knows how difficult it is to secure a platform for your work, especially this year. I'm making a point of watching all 36 short films programmed this year. It's not often that the amount of short films almost matches that of the features selected at a film festival, which is uniquely the case this year. That aspect has created a greater opportunity for short filmmakers to stand out. 

In 2018 your film Norman Norman had its world premiere at TIFF, what was this experience like for you?

Getting the news that Norman Norman would have its world premiere at TIFF was an absolute shock! My tiny film about my tiny old dog would be playing one of the biggest film festivals in the world? I was floored. It gave me such a huge boost of confidence that the programmers, Jason and Lisa, saw what I was trying to do with my work even if it didn't feel as big and shiny as some of the other films. I was really moved that they saw the heart in my work and decided to platform it. Plus, getting to bring my 17 year old dog to the cineplex and red carpet before he passed away was a real dream come true.

"I don't often see vulnerability being highlighted as a strength, or maybe even at all, and I wanted to take the opportunity to do so with this film."

With this being your thesis film has this added any additional pressure on you ahead of your screening at TIFF?

I spent many years thinking about and working on Still Processing, so the anticipation to share the work with a public audience was much greater than I've experienced with any other of my films. Having spent such a significant amount of time thinking about the theory and intention behind my film has made it much easier to talk about the work, though. I do feel quite a bit of pressure, having put so much of myself in this piece, it is a very vulnerable experience for me to share it with a larger audience. 

Can you tell me a little bit about Still Processing, what was the inspiration behind this film? 

It was partly an effort to uncover the possibilities of cinema as therapy, while also being a personal documentary about my first-hand experience with familial grief and trauma. I lost two of my older brothers, David and Jonathan, over the last ten years. I made this film as a way to begin to face that reality, and also to memorialize the innocence and beauty that was left behind in my father's photography of us as children. The concept is very simple: my parents gave me a box of photographs and videos of myself and my brothers as children, all of which I had never seen before shooting this film. I wanted to film my reaction to seeing these images and videos for the first time, to document the true process of processing. It was an exercise in vulnerability as well as an act of love toward my family. I wanted to show that we still have something to be grateful for, and that together we can remember. I also made the film because I believe in using art as a means of processing trauma, and I would like to teach cinema therapy to others down the road. 

What was the most challenging aspect of bringing Still Processing to life?

There was a long period of negotiation with my parents in order to make the film. I wanted their total blessings in order to move ahead, since the film was largely something that I saw as a gift to them, but it also required a huge amount of trust on their end. It was very challenging separating our different experiences of grief and how we each as individuals wanted to handle that. In the end I think the film has brought us all closer together and I'm happy to say my parents adore it. 

What would you say has been the most valuable lesson you've taken away from making Still Processing?

I would say it would be to trust my instincts. I've been making films by following and honing my instincts for the last 5 or so years and I've felt them grow stronger and stronger as I continue with my filmmaking. When working on a project that involves depictions of your personal experience, it can be really challenging to be objective, so there were moments where I did have to go beyond my instincts and ask my collaborators for feedback. The editing process took about a year because I needed time after the intensity of shooting the project. In the end, I made the exact film I wanted to make, and for that I am very proud.

Where did your passion for filmmaking come from?

I've always been interested in the arts, broadly speaking, but it wasn't until I was about 20 years old that I found the right one. I love the German term, "Gesamtkunstwerk" which means a work of art that makes use of all or many art forms or strives to do so -- which I believe filmmaking to be. It has endless potential, especially as a relatively new art form. I also love watching films so very much. 

You graduated from York University Masters of Fine Arts course, do you have any advice you could offer students about to begin university?

I decided to pursue my masters in order to make Still Processing because I knew I was going to need plenty of time and support. I was very lucky to be paired with an incredible advisory team, Brenda Longfellow and Phil Hoffman, who I admire as filmmakers in their own respects, but also mentors who guided me with compassion and patience. So in that sense, I had a very specific need in going to university to make this film, and I was lucky to have those needs met. So my advice would be, if you decide to make a film during your degree, that it be something that is flexible to the format of that environment and something that you don't mind taking your time on. Let it actually be a learning experience, not just a way through a degree. 

And finally, what do you hope people will take away from Still Processing?

I want people to see and feel that vulnerability is okay and a necessary part of the process of working through trauma. I made the film as a way to really look at what I had been through and to share that experience with others. I wanted to depict my specific experience, but also leave room so others could impart their own. I don't often see vulnerability being highlighted as a strength, or maybe even at all, and I wanted to take the opportunity to do so with this film. At its core, I wanted to allow others who have also been through complex or traumatic familial grief to feel less alone in that extremely isolating experience.

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