Sasha K. Gordon Q&A. From Odessa to New York City
In 2010, a video surfaced online of a girl throwing puppies into a river in Bosnia. It sparked rage online with people protesting that the girl should face legal consequences, jail time, or even death for her actions. This went as far as director Michael Bay offering $50,000 in exchange for her capture. The girl in the video was 12 years old. The story is the subject of Ben’s first feature film Find this Dumb Bitch and Throw her in the River.
We wanted to sit down with Ben before the festival circuit to discuss the film, his collaboration with one of the best cinematographers in Europe, and his progression from shorts to features.
Joining Mitchell Brhelle & Jessica Isabel, Andrew Rosentsveig rounds out the cast as Dillon Leibowitz. Joining director Robert Misovic and composer Andjelika Javorina, award-winning cinematographer Trish E. Young has secured the role of Director of photography, while Alejandro Garcia assumes the positions of sound design and post sound. Joining them are Kara Hinds at Second assistant camera, Spencer Seibert as the sound recordist, Chris Jai Centeno in wardrobe, and Hrant Yeriskinyan and Alisa Severina as assistant directors.
INTERVIEWS | FILMMAKER SERIES
By Robert Misovic APR-25- 2017
Award-Winning Director Talks About Making Controversial Films, Transitioning from Shorts to Features, and His Latest Project.
A week ago, I saw the trailer for Dutch filmmaker Ben Brand’s latest film Find this Dumb Little Bitch and Throw her into a River. About an hour later, I’d re-watched the trailer twenty-two times. I remarked that I couldn’t remember ever watching a trailer on loop like this. My girlfriend was quick to remind me that I had done just that about nine months ago. The film? Barry Jenkins' Moonlight.
Did you at all reach out to the girl from the original video tape? There was a whole heap of controversy around this which if I remember correctly resulted in zero consequences for the girl as some old woman claimed she saved all the puppies etc. How much of the story is actually real?
Well, we did a lot of research, but the trail ended nowhere relevant. We only took the video and the hunt for the girl as the base for the story and combined it with memories of our own youth and growing up. Answering the question: why we would have done it (uploading such a video) when we were that age.
The film is headed for its Festival circuit. Apart from submissions, what's next for you now?
Indeed, hopefully the film will have a good festival life and right now I'm picking up my commercial career from where I left it two years ago when I decided to go full force on my feature film. Besides that I'm working on a short, and I would like to develop a TV series. And with every step, I hope the projects will get bigger and better.
"This is exactly why I make films. To take something controversial and totally not understandable and try to look at it from a more human perspective." - Ben Brand
For the last 5 years, Brand has been quietly garnering worldwide critical acclaim. Short films like Day by Day, Life is Beautiful and 97% have screened at dozens of festivals internationally, and the latter became the Dutch entry into the Live Action Short Film category at the 86th annual Academy awards.
Allurement Project Update
Cast & Crew Shaping Together 12 Days Before Production
Meet Sasha K. Gordon, the star of David Bezmozgis' film Natasha, and one of the more talked about actresses of 2017 due to her stellar work in the film. As Natasha heads for a theatrical release in New York on April 28th, we caught up with Sasha and talked about her character, the film, her upcoming off-broadway play Terezin, and her interesting journey from Odessa, Ukraine to New York City.
Robert is a screenwriter and writer for Pensare Films Media. He loves cinema in all its glory. Follow Robert Misovic on Facebook for more Film Reviews and Film Festival-related goodies
Life is Beautiful, and 97% were both marvelous shorts which I think everyone who is trying to make a short film should check out. How did these films prepare you for what you'd eventually have to deal with on feature film?
Thanks! I think making shorts helps you to further understand the language of film - what you need and don't need to tell a story. In essence there is no difference (at least for me) between a short and a feature film in terms of story. This feature isn't the end of shorts. I'm hoping to shoot a short film again next year.
As a young director, I found myself inspired by guys like Truffaut, Kubrick, Polanski, Christian Mungiu, and Srdan Golubovic. Something about their backstory or style always spoke to me. Are there any filmmakers you've particularly admired growing up?
Well, while growing up I saw a lot of big American films like Jurassic Park, Terminator and Indiana Jones. So they were my initial drive to start and make movies. But then, when you get older you see more and more films. I still remember the day that i first saw Requiem for a Dream by Darren Arronofski. I was blown away!
From there on my interests started to change. Every month I would have a different favourite director. From Michel Gondry, Sam Mendes, Anders Thomas Jensen to Jacques Audiard, Thomas Vinterberg, Woody Allen, David Fincher, Michael Haneke, Ruben Ostlund and so on. Right now i'm a big fan of Xavier Dolan and his masterpiece Mommy.
Do you feel this groupthink mob mentality we see on the internet has serious consequences? Your film's protagonists are the girl from the video and the boy who filmed it. Are you at all afraid this film may be misconstrued as being overly sympathetic to them?
Haha yes and no. But that is what film is all about. I prefer people get angry about it instead of not giving a shit about it. The fun thing with this film was that people who had seen the trailer judged and hated the characters they saw. They only saw the outside, just like with the original video on which the film is based. But then, when they see the film, they change and tell me they had total sympathy and understanding for the characters. So I felt this was very special.
Ben Brand: ‘I’d rather people get angry. It’s better than not giving a shit’
The story of your new film Find this Dumb Little Bitch and Throw her into a River is based on a real scandal about the Bosnian puppy throwing girl which had the internet very upset. I admire you so much for tackling this issue, because I always felt that it needed to be re-examined. What made you want to make a film about this subject?
Thanks! This is exactly the reason why I make films— to take something controversial and totally not understandable and try to look at it from a more human perspective. Asking myself the question why I would have done such a thing. And this story especially was so BIG and tough and says so much about society today that the idea of making a film about it didn't let me go.
Your Cinematographer, Paul Ozgur, recently shot The Wound, a highly polarizing film that was screened at the Berlinale and Sundance, Prince in 2015, and Major Lazer's music video for Light it Up. How important was it for you to connect with a talented DOP, and was there something in particular about Paul's work that made him a perfect fit for a story like this?
Very important. Paul is a great person and a great D.O.P. He only thinks from the perspective of the story and characters. But what attracted me the most to him was his way of working. Because we worked mostly with non-actors we wanted to give them room to move, to improvise, to be free. Paul is a D.O P that works magic by using only natural light.
So no lights, no markers, no nothing. And if you ask me it looks way better than most very expensively lit films. I think his big example is the famous Dutch Hoyte van Hoytema. Sometimes I make a joke about this because Paul has the same hair and looks as him. I call him Paulus van Paulusma. But I think he could definitely go that far if he continues this way.