To be like cats
In conversation with Vesela Kazakova and Mina Mileva, directors of the film WOMEN DO CRY
At the last minute, your film jumped into the competition of feature films at this year's Sarajevo Film Festival. Given that you are both in some way children of this festival, how much does that mean to you?
Mina Mileva: Sarajevo Film Festival is very crucial festival in our region and a lot of Bulgarian artists have got prizes there. To us personally Sarajevo means a lifeline because when were really chased and attacked in Bulgaria for the film “Uncle Tony, three fools and a secret service” in 2014, Rada Šešić chosen it for the Documentary competition. Sarajevo was the first big international festival which granted us the hope that we will continue working so this means everything.
Vesela Kazakova: We continued with Sarajevo Film Festival with the second documentary “The beast is still alive” and our “Cat in the wall”. We jumped in as the last entry, we are closing the competition and it is big, big honour. Also, Sarajevo was the first step for me as an artist because I played the main role from “Mila from Mars” and I’ve got the Heart of Sarajevo in 2005. In 2006 I was invited as a member of the jury. There was so much support from Sarajevo Film Festival because we pitched there, we got ARTE award for “Cat in the wall” for the script when we participated in the Cinelink… now for this second feature film, which was so strongly received in Cannes, the next screening to be in Sarajevo is such a blessing, it is amazing.
A whole series of layers of oppression, humiliation, superstition, conservative prohibitions, disrespect and dislike stand like a barbed wire between your heroines and their happiness. Is it so horrid to be a woman today?
Mina Mileva: We wanted to create an absurd, ironic and funny piece on female mundane desperation as such which would come across as both funny and reveal the actual state of the situation and really it is quite horrid to be a woman but as we know it is even worse to be a man.
Vesela Kazakova: This usual, very ordinary way of living of women and a lot of things swept under the carpet, with a lot of emotions hidden somewhere in the veins and it’s something which everybody should start talking of and this need of the voice of what is happening in the normal life of women. Yes, women have different responsibilities, so many responsibilities so even the normal living of women is difficult and very heavy.
How many unfortunate generations of women are needed and how much solidarity, support and understanding for a woman to rebel and say - there is me who exists too, not just a husband and baby?
Mina Mileva: Oh, you are quoting one of the characters, Veronica. I think that human brain develops very slowly so we are set in strong patriarchal roles in the last 20-30 centuries. There are examples of matriarchy in the world prior to the medieval times. In our region it’s quite strong. In Bulgaria, in Sofia area, for example, there has been reigning matriarchy for many centuries. Basically, we think that changes could only be slower.
Vesela Kazakova: I would add only one thing – the Universe belongs to the men and to the women. That’s why we talk about equality. And this is something which raised a question how we can make it and say – yes, I exist too that Veronica said – I also exist in this Universe. She said it and good if there is a woman behind her also to support her. Because men support each other, we know that very well. So it is also important for women to support women. When you support a woman, it is good to think how you support her and it is better if you support her professionally. That is what we did in our film - there are women-cinematographers, women-sound-recorders, directors…
Mina Mileva: Very often a woman producer would not hire a woman director or woman a DoP because generally those positions are considered very stressful, very high demanding and pressuring. This shows our prejudices our deep society conditioning that we do not trust women to undertake this role.
Vesela, as an author and director, you are certainly the person who knows best what she wants from her actors. What is it like to direct yourself as an actress compared to working with other actresses and actors?
Vesela Kazakova: It might be the most difficult thing to be behind the camera and in front of the camera. First of all, you are bothered about how you look. I am not vain at all but it makes a lot of effort for me to be in a good shape in front of the camera. It is another way of thinking as well because I stop the brain and I put more emotions and I switch the brain when I am behind the camera with Mina. That’s why it is good that we are two. When I was mainly focused on acting, at the same time I was thinking about if the sound is being recorded, if the camera was switched on, if they follow this reaction… I saw myself sometimes not acting but actually directing and those parts were thrown to the bin in the editing. Mina is very good and sensitive on the actors; she has very good communication with actors. That’s why it is good that we are two of us.
It seems that the sisters’ bond between Sonja and Lora is much deeper and stronger than between mother Ana and her sisters. Do the younger generations feel more mutual understanding and support than the older ones?
Mina Mileva: They’re on the frontline - the battle as such. For us, the strongest bond is between Yoana and Veronica because it’s under layered, unexpected and surprising or equally strong. The girls make the base, the foundation of the film. Without the two girls the story would not have worked, but the girls which are on the back are extremely important for their tandem as such to work well.
Vesela Kazakova: Also, this love between the sisters is so strong and you can see it even they argue. We wanted to avoid pathos. Their extreme relationship shows how love can be shown by arguments. When you love somebody you say directly things in order to help, you do not please and you do not waste the time being polite. You say to your sister that you prefer you to catch the disease and you to experience disaster but not your sister. The same you have with Yoana and Veronica when Yoana said to her sister - nobody asked you how you felt when you gave birth. You think about what is the inner tragedy, you understand your sister so deeply and you struggle because of that.
Mina Mileva: The younger generation is freer from certain prejudices and sort of hang-ups about things.
You've already worked with the cat on the film. There are several here. Do cats mean something special to you?
Mina Mileva: Such a lovely question, thank you! All animals and all children mean something special to us. But the cat in particular. You know the Egyptian goddess Bastet it is she. She is the symbol of the feminine side and the cat represents the female side of things. This is why women have cats and father has two dogs which (dogs) we love equally – dogs and birds and everything. But it is important for the humanity of films to have this special, metaphysical link with what is surrounding us with these animals.
Vesela Kazakova: Someone asked us – oh, you so much love the cat and now you make the film, do you think you will have at least one cat – and we said you will see! There will be many, many cats and many, many, women. We could not do it without the cats. The cats are part of the whole storytelling of the female side and this reveals hidden emotions behind it, something which is also independence because the cat is very independent animal. In order to be independent, we prefer to be like cats more than like dogs.
(Recorded by Mina and Vesela while driving in the car from 1988 with open windows, on the long trip from Spain, edited by another cat person)