One To Watch: Filmmaker Eva Lanska

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“I have been fascinated by movies since childhood, and always dreamt of being involved in creating them, but it took me years to become a director,” says London-based filmmaker Eva Lanska.

Lanska’s journey to becoming a director was unconventional but in many ways it makes perfect sense. She saw success in her former careers as a journalist and novelist (she’s published 5 novels) before moving on to becoming a director. While from the outside these jumps make little sense, as a creator Lanska was doing what she does best in all these roles: storytelling.

Lanska took her hand to directing after moving to Paris in 2001 to further her education and while she was a student caught the directing bug. After releasing a student film during that time called Dependent—which was a winner at the California Film awards—she released her debut short Ok, Mum in 2017. A story about a child in an abusive home, Ok, Mum garnered buzz on the independent film circuit, winning the Best Picture award at the Los Angeles Film Festival and was made an official selection for the Russian Pavilion and the Short Film Corner at the Cannes Film Festival.

“My first short was quite challenging. It took three weeks of preparation, scouting, casting, and equipment selection, as well as numerous other things that we had to fit into our four shooting days,” she says. “The experience was tough but rewarding, and that’s I became acquainted with the crucial process of installation.”

In her soon to be released film, Little French Fish (starring British actors Jonas Khan and Devora Wilde), she once again addresses difficult subject matter, this time through a Romeo and Juliet story about an Orthodox Jewish woman and a Muslim man. “It is about a clash between feelings and passion on the one hand, and tradition and social order on the other,” she says. “The question posed is how a person who finds himself in such a situation can resolve this internal conflict.”

The film takes the viewer on the journey of what it would be like to pursue this relationship when there are only two options available to the couple. The first being to stick to tradition, which would ensure survival for both parties, not just for themselves but for their community—a paradigm that has been in place for eternity. The second, and more risky option, is to follow one’s heart and love for the other person.

“The second option is to escape from established stereotypes with your lover. But where to run in the modern world?” she asks. “In this film, I tried to pose that question to the viewer, and it is the viewer who has to make a choice for the heroes and be responsible for their fate.”

Inspired by cinema greats like Antonioni, Buñuel, Truffault as well as the contemporary greats like Scorcese, both Francis Ford and Sofia Coppola, and Jarmusch, it makes sense Lanska wants to stay true to classical ways of filmmaking in the face of technological advancements, but hardly denies the benefits of he latter.

“As for the fate of the old-school formats, I would avoid excessive digital optimism. Many movies are still being shot on film, as digital methods still cannot convey the energy or aesthetics of film pictures,” she says. “But the transition to digital formats has freed us from certain restrictions. It seems that anyone with a smartphone can make a movie without incurring the cost of professional equipment. This is exciting in that it allows new talent to be discovered, like Sean Baker who made Mandarin using only three iPhones.”

Staying independent is crucial for the young filmmaker as independent filmmaking gives her opportunities for shift and change, making her creative process akin to a nurturing the growth of a living being. “I rewrote the endings of both of my films during shooting,” she says.

“I think a successful movie is one that stirs a range of strong emotions. Both positive and negative feelings leave the viewer with more questions than answers after watching a film, and not solely about the plot,” she says. “The film should act as the tip of an inquisitive iceberg, raising questions and sparking the desire to find answers.

Rebecca Suhrawardi
Style & Beauty

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