is a Finnish film director whose works has been screened at several prominent festivals, including Tiff, and have received awards at Pusan International Film Festival and Chicago International Film Festival. Her previous feature films include “The Good Son
” and “The Last Cowboy
Standing.” Bergroth has also helmed several shorts like “Kunnanjohtaja
” and “Heavy Metal
” will premiere at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival on September 10.
W&H: Describe the film for us in your own words.
” is a drama about two sisters finding each other again after many years. The older one is an irresponsible but magnetic show dancer, the younger one is a shy small-town girl. The film turns into a road movie and even a crime story, but the main focus is in the complex bond between the sisters.
W&H: What drew you to this story?
Zb: A few years ago there were some scandals in Finland involving show dancers and public figures. The way these women were treated in the press and social media caught my attention; they were immediately ridiculed and looked down upon. The hate they were subjected to was shocking.
At the same time, there was something fascinating and somehow powerful in their shameless attention-seeking. This all gelled into the character of Angela.
W&H: What do you want people to think about when they are leaving the theater?
Zb: Most of all, I want them to feel they have connected with the characters. Hopefully they’ve been immersed in a world and in characters who at the outset might seem outlandish and foreign, but by the end seem quite understandable.
The drama of how to handle a lovable but impossible family member has become more important than the exotic world surrounding it, and hopefully the central questions about responsibility and loyalty will linger in the mind of the spectator.
W&H: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?
Zb: How to make a film about exotic dancers without succumbing to a male gaze — the culturally standard ways of looking at a female body — but at the same time without desexualizing the women and taking away their power. I hope we succeeded.
W&H: How did you get your film funded? Share some insights into how you got the film made.
Zb: It was funded the normal Finnish way, meaning that the financing came from the national film fund and a public TV channel. It was a long process, all in all six or seven years, and the script went through different phases. But when we finally got the green light, everything went quite smoothly. The schedule was tight, but I had a great crew and really dedicated actors, and even the weather gave us some real gifts, such as a dramaturgically perfect snow storm near the end of the film.
W&H: What does it mean for you to have your film play at the Toronto International Film Festival?
Zb: It’s a wonderful recognition, of course. I was in Toronto with my last film, “The Good Son
,” and the fact that we got such a good start for the film gave it a very good festival career. I hope we’ll do even better this time with “Miami
” and I’m especially excited to have the main actors Krista Kosonen
and Sonja Kuittinen
W&H: What’s the best and worst advice you’ve received?
Zb: The best: With my first feature, in the editing room I was worried about images fitting properly together. My editor, who was really experienced, told me that they will fit if we just put them next to each other. The point was that one should focus on the essential and not create problems, not try to follow some preconceptions which have nothing to do with the task at hand.
The worst: Walk fast and talk quickly and unclear, so that everybody around you will be alert and on the edge.
W&H: What advice do you have for other female directors?
Zb: The same as I would to a male colleague: love your eccentricities and “weaknesses.” They are what make you who you are and are a source of power. There’s no need to try to blend in.
W&H: Name your favorite woman-directed film and why.
Zb: There are so many: the works of Lynne Ramsay
, Andrea Arnold
, Lucrecia Martel
, Sofia Coppola
… They all have their individual, courageous voices. Just thinking of that gives one confidence in a moment of doubt.
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.
Zb: I can only speak of Finland, where we’ve had the same discussions. The situation in Finland and the Nordic countries in general is surely better than in most other places, though there is still some way to go.
There was just a debate about the fact that the screenwriting grants are already divided quite equally in Finland, but when it comes to the scripts actually getting into production, there is still a clear difference between male and female directors. But I am optimistic that this problem will slowly fade away with the next generation: We have so many recognized female directors, including Selma Vilhunen
, who was in Toronto last year with her film “Little Wing.”
I expect that the commissioning editors will be more alert to the existing imbalances in the future. We have a community of female filmmakers in Finland who keep in touch and support each other, and we keep these things in discussion.
Tiff 2017 Women Directors: Meet Zaida Bergroth
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