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Filmmaker Interview with Anna Panova

Interview by Chris Olson

Filmmaker Interview with Anna Panova

Hi Anna, thanks for speaking with us. Where in the world do we find you right now?

I am currently based in New York.

In 2020, you completed a short documentary film called Point Symmetry. For our readers, what's the film about and how did it originate?

Point Symmetry film poster

The film "Point Symmetry" is an exploration of the stories of Ute Gfrerer and Lisa Rosowsky, two middle-aged women from Boston whose parents experienced contrasting realities during World War II. Ute's father was a German soldier and a member of the Nazi Youth, while Lisa's parents and grandparents, who were of Jewish descent, were tragically sent to Auschwitz. Miraculously, Lisa's father, Andre, survived the genocide, making him one of the few survivors from her family.

The inspiration for "Point Symmetry" stemmed from a friend named Julia, who introduced me to Ute and briefly shared her story. This introduction sparked a deep connection and a desire to bring their narratives to light. The film takes the form of a video portrait, delving into their past stories and focusing on the evening event they organize called "For our fathers."

"For our fathers" serves as a moving program, combining Holocaust-related songs with artwork, as a means of exploring grief and legacy. The songs featured in the program are poignant poems set to music composed by notable artists such as Kurt Weill, Norbert Glanzberg, and Hermann Leopoldi. These musical pieces serve as emotional expressions, conveying the experiences and emotions tied to the Holocaust.

The creation of "Point Symmetry" was driven by a desire to give voice to these remarkable stories, to honour the past, and to explore the power of music and art in navigating personal and collective traumas. By intertwining the experiences of Ute and Lisa and capturing the essence of the evening event they organize, the film creates a portrayal of grief, remembrance, and resilience.

The film is dealing with incredibly emotional themes. What's the reaction been like to it from audiences?

The film "Point Symmetry," with its profoundly emotional themes, has resonated strongly with audiences. The impact of World War II, which affected numerous families worldwide, has evoked a deep emotional response from viewers. Many people who have watched the film found themselves becoming emotional due to the recognition of the far-reaching consequences of the war on families across the globe.

The film's exploration of the contrasting experiences of Ute and Lisa, and their families' connection to World War II, has struck a chord with audiences. It has reminded viewers of the immense human toll and the enduring legacy of that period in history.

Where can people see Point Symmetry?

Currently, it’s only available by private screening link but I’m planning to release the film online.

Another documentary you made was Generation 328 which deals with the harsh punishment for smoking marijuana in Belarus. Why did you want to make this film?

Generation 328 film poster

As the executive producer and director of the documentary "Generation 328," my friend Nika Nikanava had a deep passion for shedding light on the harsh punishment for minor drug offences in Belarus. Tragically, Nika passed away in Alaska in 2019, leaving the project unfinished. In honour of her memory and her dedication to this important cause, myself, along with Piotr Markielau (her husband) and Anice Jee, took on the responsibility of post-producing the film and completing it.

We felt a strong sense of duty to carry forward Nika's vision and create a lasting legacy for her through this documentary. "Generation 328" was her most significant project, and we wanted to ensure that her voice would be heard and her message amplified.

The film aimed to raise awareness about the severe consequences faced by individuals in Belarus, highlighting the unjust treatment and the impact it has on their lives. By completing the film, we hoped to not only honour Nika's memory but also contribute to meaningful discussions, and advocate for change. It was our way of preserving her legacy and ensuring that her impactful storytelling would reach audiences and make a difference.

What were the challenges of making this and Point Symmetry?

For the documentary "Generation 328," one of the main challenges we faced was the absence of the director, Nika Nikanava, who unfortunately passed away. Nika's vision and creative guidance were invaluable, and her absence created a void that we had to navigate while completing the film. It was a difficult and emotional process to continue the project without her presence and insights.

As for "Point Symmetry," the challenge lay in delving into the deeply emotional and challenging memories associated with the experiences of the individuals involved. Addressing topics such as war, grief, and the Holocaust required careful sensitivity and respect. The process of revisiting and documenting such painful memories was emotionally demanding for everyone involved in the production.

Both films presented unique challenges in their own right.

Why do you make movies?

I make movies because it serves as an outlet for expressing my thoughts and exploring topics that deeply resonate with me on a personal level. Filmmaking allows me to translate my ideas, emotions, and perspectives into a visual and narrative form that can connect with audiences on a profound level.

Movies have the power to evoke emotions, spark conversations, and create a shared experience among viewers. Through storytelling, I can shed light on important issues, provoke thought and reflection, and contribute to a broader understanding of the world we live in. It is a medium that enables me to communicate and engage with others, inviting them to see the world from different perspectives and fostering empathy and connection.

What's next for you?

Currently, I am immersed in my work on various editorials and campaigns for a well-known fashion brand. Alongside that, I am also planning to collaborate with a co-writer on writing a script for a short film. I am enthusiastic about the possibilities that lie ahead and look forward to the journey of crafting a compelling script and eventually bringing it to the screen.


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