Director Sofia Bohdanowicz discusses her process, representing older women in film, and photographing lived in spaces in her new film Maison du Bonheur.
In a lightly accented French, Sofia Bohdanowicz narrates her upcoming journey to Paris, as she packs her bags. In grainy 16 mm, she faces away from the camera as she explains that she is going to live with the mother of a colleague: “Her name is Juliane and she’s an astrologer.” Juliane has lived in the same apartment in Montmartre for decades. For the past fifteen years she has been going to the same woman for her nails and it’s been thirty years she has been visiting the same hair stylist. Over the course of thirty days, Juliane becomes the subject and star of Maison du Bonheur, a series of vignettes on her passions, habits, and memories. It is a film about a life well-lived, a portrait of both a woman and a growing friendship cast in the golden hues of a Parisian summer.
Sofia Bohdanowicz is a Toronto-based filmmaker whose star is rising in the Canadian film scene. Last year, she won the Emerging Canadian Director Award for her feature debut, a micro-budget fiction called Never Eat Alone (2016). Her Last Poems trilogy, a series of shorts about the life and death of her grandmother, were presented in a masterclass at Montreal’s Festival du Nouveau Cinéma in October. Her cinema is inspired by the works of cinema’s great women filmmakers, who searched inward for meaning and towards matriarchal figures for intimate revelations.
At the RIDM Film Festival in Montreal, Sofia Bohdanowicz sat down with The Seventh Row to discuss her process, the representation of women in film, and photographing lived in spaces.
Seventh Row (7R): Before making the film, you had never met Juliane. Did you have an idea of what kind of film you would be making when you went to Paris?
Sofia Bohdanowicz (SB): I had been watching a lot of diaristic films. There is a screening series in Toronto called Early Monthly Segments, and I saw the work of Ute Aurand and some Robert Beavers work, as well. Making a film that is a diary was really interesting to me, something that is just very honest about the day to day. I had an idea that it was going to be a film about whatever I experienced there. Maybe it is a film about me trying to make a film with someone who doesn’t want to be in a film.
I try to be open to whatever variables are there. I’ve learned that if you go into an environment expecting to get something or certain things, I often find that I am really disappointed. Seeing what presents itself to me is a much more interesting way of making a film. It’s riskier. It’s a little bit adventurous. You have to be ready to improvise and go with the flow.