”: TiffBarbara Albert
is a director and writer whose short films have been introduced at festivals around the world. Her first feature film “Nordrand
,” or “Northern Skirts,” premiered at Venice International Film Festival in 1999 and earned her international acclaim. In the same year Albert founded the production company coop99, together with Martin Gschlacht
, Jessica Hausner
, and Antonin Svoboda
. In 2016 she co-founded Berlin-based production company Cala Film, together with the producers of “Mademoiselle Paradis
,” Martina Haubrich
and Michael Kitzberger
” will premiere at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival on 8.
W&H: Describe the film for us in your own words.
BA: “Mademoiselle Paradis
” is the coming-of-age story of a 18-year-old blind pianist, composer, and contemporary of Mozart. When she gets back her eyesight due to treatments by the ambitious doctor Franz Anton Mesmer, she, at the same time, loses her virtuosity.
How does one deal with the huge family and societal pressure in this situation? And how does a woman have to be, look like, and act to be accepted as an adequate human being and artist?
W&H: What drew you to this story?
BA: I read the novel “Mesmerized” by Alissa Walser
and was immediately thrilled by the character of young, blind Maria Paradis. At the same time, the novel gives so many visual opportunities of telling this story. Both the story and the film deal with the act of seeing and being seen.
W&H: What do you want people to think about when they are leaving the theater?
BA: About their own opportunities and abilities, about who they see and who they don’t see — and about how and by whom history is written.
W&H: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?
BA: Finding the right pictures for a film that deals with pictures and sight. The movie’s cinematographer, Christine A. Maier
, and I asked ourselves this question many times — if and when we should give Resi a point of view, even though she is blind.
A huge challenge for Maria-Victoria Dragus
, the main actress, was the interpretation of a blind woman in the 18th century, and especially this ambivalent historic character.
W&H: How did you get your film funded? Share some insights into how you got the film made.
BA: The film was — also thanks to the power of endurance of my producers Michael Kitzberger
and Martina Haubrich
— financed by several Austrian and German public film funds and TV stations, as well as by the European Cinema Support Fund (Eurimages).
W&H: What does it mean for you to have your film play at the Toronto International Film Festival?
BA: I am very happy and pleased that the film will be seen by an international audience and industry. It’s important to me that this universal story is seen not only in the country of its origin, but by a broader audience.
W&H: What’s the best and worst advice you’ve received?
BA: To be honest, I don’t listen very much when I receive advice. So the best advice I likely don’t remember, and the worst I probably also ignore.
W&H: What advice do you have for other female directors?
BA: I don’t believe so much in advice. Every one of us has to find her way of working and living by herself. Nevertheless, I would give the advice to find or create a lobby, so that you don’t have to be alone all the time. This helps! And continue your work with partners you had good experiences with, although I did not always do this myself.
W&H: Name your favorite woman-directed film and why.
BA: Still “An Angel at My Table
” by Jane Campion
for its visual strength, pureness, emotional narration, and its narrative and visual details. For the great performance of the actresses, and for how Jane Campion
shows the female body.
W&H: There have been significant conversations over the last couple of years about increasing the amount of opportunities for women directors yet the numbers have not increased. Are you optimistic about the possibilities for change? Share any thoughts you might have on this topic.
BA: When I started with filmmaking in the early ’90s it was very common to talk about films made by “girls”— only once I was invited to panels/discussions on “girls make films” or “girl power.” At least now we talk about films by women and not “girls.”In the meantime
, there are activist groups like Fc Gloria and Pro Quote Regie and great platforms for female directors, as well as cinematographers, editors, production and costume designers, etc. This is something new and came up only in the last decade, which does make me optimistic. It is, however, a very slow process and just reflects the backlash of our history and times.
Tiff 2017 Women Directors: Meet Barbara Albert
— “Mademoiselle Paradis
” was originally published in Women and Hollywood on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.