Get your ticket to a conversation between Jonas Poher Rasmussen (Flee) and Eliane Raheb (Miguel’s War), two nonfiction filmmakers creating character studies of their close friends.
At Seventh Row, we pride ourselves on seeking out the best hidden gems that nobody’s talking about to ensure that our readers never miss a great film again.
We have released individual tickets for a masterclass with Jonas Poher Rasmussen (Sundance documentary award winner Flee) and Eliane Raheb (Berlinale’s Teddy Award winner Miguel’s War). These acclaimed emerging filmmakers will discuss nonfiction character studies.
The masterclass takes place over Zoom on Sunday, August 15th, at 2:30pm ET.
The masterclass is part of the ongoing 2021 Creative Nonfiction Workshop, a two-month celebration of boundary-pushing documentary filmmaking. Creative nonfiction films are more than mere information dumps; instead, these films are as much about how they’re about their subject as what they’re about, exploring the meaning of terms like ‘truth’ and ‘reality’.
Rasmussen and Raheb will partake in a 90-minute discussion about collaborating with a friend to tell their story in a collaborative and accurate way, and how creative techniques allowed them to do that. The last third of the discussion will be dedicated to audience questions.
About Jonas Poher Rasmussen
This January, Danish filmmaker Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s Flee was the talk of Sundance, taking home the festival’s World Cinema Documentary Grand Jury prize and was swiftly picked up by Neon. The film has picked up awards at every festival where it’s screened.
In Flee, Rasmussen uses animation to tell the story of his childhood friend, Amin, a refugee who came to Denmark from Syria. Interviews with Amin, in which he recounts his past, are visually recreated through animation, as are his memories of a childhood in perpetual motion.
Rasmussen’s previous documentary, What He Did (2015), uses reenactments at a theatre to investigate the psychology of a gay man and playwright who killed his boyfriend over a decade ago. The film alternates between conversations with the man himself and scenes from the play, which bring the stories he tells to life and reinterprets them.
This is what Rasmussen said when we interviewed him about Flee:
Almost everything takes place in the past. I thought animation was a really good way to make it come back to life. I used this technique that I’ve used before, in radio documentaries, for interviewing: he’s laying down, and he has his eyes closed and talks in the present tense. It’s a technique I use in radio normally, because in radio, you don’t have an image, so you need the subject to paint a picture. I asked him to talk in present tense and be really precise and also descriptive about environments.
In the beginning of the first interview, I asked him, what’s the first memory you have? That was him being in the backyard of his house, in the garden, and his sister telling stories about their father. And then, I would ask him, okay, but what does it look like? What are the materials? What is the house built out of? What kind of plants do you have? What are the colours? All these things gave us a lot of information that the animators could use to bring this back to life.
The way he starts talking about it, he kind of relives his memories instead of just retelling them. He’s back there. I think that’s a really good tool to engage the audience, because you live it with him, all of a sudden, instead of just having the story told.
About Eliane Raheb
Lebanese filmmaker Eliane Raheb impressed this year out of Berlinale with Miguel’s War, a film that uses verité footage, recreations, and animation to narrate her friend Miguel’s journey from fighting in the Lebanese Civil War to fleeing to Spain, where he now lives. The film won the Teddy Award for best queer film at Berlinale 2021.
Raheb has spent her career crafting complex nonfiction character studies, often dealing with the lasting trauma of the Lebanese Civil War. She considers Miguel’s War to be a companion piece to her 2012 film, Sleepless Nights, which follows the parallel stories of a former high ranking militia officer and the mother of a missing communist fighter.
This is what Raheb said when we interviewed her about Miguel’s War:
It was also [confusing] for Miguel if I am his friend, or if I am the filmmaker. I usually don’t become close to characters [as a] friend until the filming is over. It’s always very, very disturbing to manipulate images of your friends. Even if you are honest, you have the power. But I became friends with Miguel before the shooting and in the shooting. It was a long shoot, not in terms of days, but in terms of years, because we didn’t find the money in the beginning. So I was shooting parts and shooting parts, and then coming back and shooting. There was this relationship between us which [deepened].
I said from the beginning, it cannot be a film that would be edited in a normal way. I have to reflect, as much as possible, everything. I have to reflect that we are friends, and he was afraid of me at certain times, and I was pissed off at him at certain times. It has to reflect that. Things he told me in the [original audio] recording, [he told them differently] during the shooting. So I felt that no one can edit this film but me. I knew [the material] in my guts. I have to [make the film] as if I am making a dress, sewing it from the beginning to the end. And I have to [include] things which maybe are not necessary. An editor would say this is not necessary, but for me, it’s very important.
How can I attend the masterclass?
If you are a 2021 Creative Nonfiction Workshop ticket holder, you already have access to the masterclass.
However, we’re currently selling a small allotment of one-off tickets to this masterclass. With one of these tickets, you will get access to the Zoom call on Sunday, although you won’t get the other benefits of being a workshop ticket holder (access to the films, a free ebook, access to a recording of the masterclass after the fact, etc).
If you are a student or a low income person and you want to attend the masterclass, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll see if we can accommodate you. We have a small allotment of free tickets available for these purposes.
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