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Clermont-Ferrand Interviews: Douwe Dijkstra, director of Green Screen Gringo

Sunday 26 February 2017, by Abla Kandalaft

One of Mydy’s Lucile Bourliaud’s TOP 5 from this year’s Clermont-Ferrand Film Fest, and winner of the Grand Prix, Douwe Dijkstra’s Green Screen Gringo is a highly original short in which the filmmaker invites ordinary Brazilians to read poems or talk about their country while a green screen superimposes random scenes that jar, complement or clash with the situation at play. Douwe’s previous work, Démontable (2014) and Supporting Film (Voor Film, 2015), have both been lauded on the festival circuit.

Green Screen Gringo - (TRAILER) ENG from Douwe Dijkstra on Vimeo.

What is your interest in mixing images like these? Would you consider them to be the natural follow-up to the old mix-tape?

The mixing of images relates to how I add up observations when I travel. Something, I think, everybody does. You might not actually see certain things in the same scene, but they still add up in your head to form your personal accumulated impression of a place. In addition to this there are also the media, be it TV, newspapers or social media. With digital media in particular I think we view them in a mix-tape kind of way, switching quickly and arbitrary from one thing to the next. A mixture of real, fake, close and distant realities that has become custom, I tried to include this in the film as well.
Also, collaging techniques are something I worked with in a lot of my previous films and I wanted to get it out of the controlled studio environment. As to explore this way of working outside in a city. With chaos and accident as part of the process. This blending of pictures is not just a technical approach but foremost a method that results in an investigating and exploring way of conceiving a film.

What contrasts were you trying to explore?

Many different ones, nature versus city, past and present, the visitor and the visited. When filming in Brazil I started with the most obvious and explicit: inequality. Seen in many ways in São Paulo’s streetscape, it’s what stroke me first. But I also wanted to go beyond that, because showing contrasts like that can become vulgar. I looked for detours in the narrative to tell a story of inequality and intolerance and I also tried to include the political situation. The way the Brazilian people are currently represented by their rich-white-male-cabinet is maybe the biggest and saddest contrast of all.

Can you tell us more about the shoot? How did the people you were filming react?

At first I started with the naive idea of approaching people all by myself. I don’t speak Portuguese so I used a letter to tell people about my project. This didn’t work at all, you need to have a conversation, so I needed a translator. Many people, and especially Bella Tozini, were extremely helpful in assisting me during my shoots. Sometimes they needed to talk to people for 10 minutes in order to win their trust, sometimes people only asked questions afterwards. But overall people responded very positively to my project. I must say that ’the gringo’ is greeted with great hospitality in Brazil. I think that, in general, people in Europe would be far more hesitant to be filmed for something like this.

What films have inspired you this year?

In feature films I was very fascinated by the works of Ulrich Seidl lately. Especially his Paradise Trilogy and Im Keller. I love the way he combines documentary scenes with staged and acted scenes. Sometimes it’s on the edge of exploitation, but this also makes his work very powerful. As for short films I really liked BÄR by Pascal Flörks, funny and touching. And I am very excited about Symboblic Threats by Mischa Leinkauf, Lutz Henke and Matthias Wermke. It is very inspiring to see how they reveal political and media hysteria with humour, precision and just plain guts. Also amazing is the recent long documentary Stranger in Paradise by Guido Hendrikx, a very bold approach on the refugee crisis.

If you’ve already been to the Clermont-Ferrand, could you share with us an anecdote or story from the festival? If not, what are your expectations for this edition?

In 2015, I was at the festival for the first time and I made the mistake of only visiting the last weekend of the festival and skipping the film market. In 2016, I did go during the week and found out how interesting and fun the film market can be. When babysitting the Dutch stand at the market for a bit because the Eye people were out for lunch, a Brazilian guy stopped by to win information about Dutch Filmfestivals. I couldn’t really help him with that. But I did tell him that I was working on my Green Screen Gringo film. He turned out to be a very important advisor and supporter of the project. And some of the voice messages he send me on Whatsapp about the political situation in Brazil ended up in the film as voice overs.

Are any other releases scheduled ?

No new releases scheduled, but working on future plans. As for future releases of Green Screen Gringo, among others it’s going to Punto De Vista, Festival Internacional de cine de lanzarote, Tampere Film Festival, Shortwaves and the Glasgow Short Film Festival.

We also caught up with Douwe at Clermont, and had a chance to expand a little on Green Screen Gringo...

Le court du jour : "Green Screen Gringo" de Douwe Dijkstra from ClermontFd Short Film Festival on Vimeo.

You heard the man, see above for other festivals at which you can catch the film. More info at www.douwedijkstra.nl.

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