INTERVIEW WITH EVI ROMEN

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On the occasion of the festival Sotto le Stelle dell’Austria 2021, director Evi Romen will present her feature film Why not you. Cinema Austriaco had the opportunity to have a chat with her and learn more about her film and her career. Interview by Marina Pavido.

Marina Pavido: How did the idea of making Why not you originate?

Evi Romen: I got the idea when I was in South Tyrol for a short time. There I noticed that, like in every country, there are people who live a bit on the margins of society. This is also the case for the son of a friend of mine who lives in my village. In those days, by the way, there was the Bataclan attack in Paris and among the victims was a young man from South Tyrol. I immediately thought that the young man might even be from my country. It was strange, however, that something so ‘big’ could somehow also concern my village. In any case, it is also a very ‘modern’ way of dying, something that did not happen at all many years ago.

M. P.: The town of Hochwald lies between two nations and represents a crossroads between two cultures. At some point, a third one is added, the Islamic culture. Yet there are still those who find it hard to accept the coexistence of so many cultures. In this regard, what role does society play in your film?

E. R.: I decided to set my film there, because I was born in South Tyrol, but such small communities exist all over the world. And as the world becomes more and more global, certain situations also occur in environments where no one could have expected, where there are still people who are afraid of what comes ‘from outside’. By the way, people travel much more often today, environments change and new situations arise. For example, many years ago I could never have met a Muslim person in a South Tyrolean forest, whereas today it is something absolutely normal. This is the birth of a new world, of a modern world, of an interesting world, which for some people can also be observed with a certain awe.

M. P.: You often emphasised objects in your film, be it a photo on a mobile phone or a wig. What does the wig, for example, specifically symbolise?

E. R.: On the one hand, the wig is a talisman. A talisman that somehow also saved the protagonist, because at the moment of the attack he does not wear the wig and is not seen. On the other hand, a wig changes somewhat the identity, the protagonist is always trying to be someone else, he wants to change, he wants to become famous. In practice, the wig occasionally helps him to feel like someone else, to find the courage to be different.

M. P.: What is the role of dance and music in your film?

E. R.: The protagonist wants to become a dancer, but since he comes from an alpine village, this is not a very popular sport, so he tries to learn by himself. But even though dance plays such an important role in his life, we never know whether the boy is talented and whether in other situations he could have started a brilliant career. In any case, dance is an attempt to feel different from others.

As for music, on the other hand, since I am a collector of records of music mainly from the 1960s and 1970s and I used to work as a dee jay, music is something that has always been very important both in my life and in my work as an editor. Among other things, I also studied music before devoting myself mainly to film and photography. So I tried to include a nice music selection in the film. Some of this music had already been composed by a friend of mine, while others I took from my collection (I also swiped some records from my grandmother) (laughs). Through this music, I also tried to outline the character of the protagonist. In any case, this music is not music that a young person would listen to today, it has nothing to do with the age of the protagonist, it is more like ‘universal’ music, which awakens emotions.

M. P.: What were the main difficulties during the making of the film? Did the pandemic influence the shooting in some way?

E. R.: When the pandemic broke out I was already in the post-production phase and I was in Belgium. I immediately had to stop my work in Belgium, returned to Vienna and continued working online. As for the presentation of the film at festivals, however, I subsequently spent a lot of time in the kitchen sitting at the table and managed to go all over the world like this, even drinking a few glasses of wine now and then, especially to celebrate when I won (laughs).

M. P.: This is your first film as a director after a long career as an editor. How did the desire to make a film originate?

E. R.: The desire to make a film has always been there, I just often never had time. I studied film in Vienna and also shot a few short films, only later I discovered I had a special talent for editing. I immediately started working, then I won the Österreichischer Filmpreis for Best Editing and I thought it was almost a lifetime achievement award. So I realised that my own career had to be turned around. I still really enjoy working as an editor, it was not a moment of crisis, but then I turned fifty and I said to myself: ‘It’s now or never’.

M. P.: How did your passion for cinema originate?

E. R.: My passion was born at the Film Club in Bolzano. My father was surprised that I never watched television, but went often to the cinema (laughs). For years, I dedicated myself to artistic photography, even though it was very expensive at the time to take pictures on film, so I looked for a job I could do while at school and started working at the Film Club cash desk. From the first moment I became part of this ‘crazy’ world. It was a cinema with about fifty seats, there were problems managing costs and rights, but somehow we managed and over the years we also founded the Bolzano Film Festival. And then, during the holidays, instead of going to the mountains like everyone else, I was always at the cinema (laughs). I have always been passionate about music, writing and photography, but I realised that cinema combines all the arts.

M. P.: Are there any films or authors in particular that have been a model for you?

E. R.: Fellini, Fellini and Fellini (laughs). And also Luchino Visconti. But anyway, I have always loved these totally crazy trips that Fellini used to stage, and I have also always wanted to stage a trip like his.

M. P.: One last question: are you currently working on any new projects?

E. R.: Yes, I am working on a new film, but it will be released later than planned because of the pandemic. The film is called Happyland. Again, it is a ‘coming and going’ story set in a small town. The main character will be a woman in her fifties who returns to her country after a career as a musician in London.

Info: the page of Evi Romen on iMDb