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Daybreak interview with director Gentian Koci

FIPRESCI Warsaw Critics Project 2017 2017-10-23

 

Social realist drama Daybreak by Albanian director Gentian Koci, which won the best actress award for Ornela Kapetani when it premiered at Sarajevo Film Festival, competed in the 1-2 section at the 33rd Warsaw Film Festival.

Daybreak is a very harrowing story about what it takes to survive. What inspired you to tell it?

This story comes from my inner sensations, condensed from my daily observations of people walking on the streets of Tirana and other European cities. I tend to observe their faces and try to wonder how they feel; what their struggles are. I wanted to awaken the political nerve of people. I strongly believe that the pressure on them comes from the political and socio-economic structure and the indifference of those with power over them. I seem them as part of a chain. Because of pressures from above, the links of this chain break and people start to fight against each other, in order to keep the small things they have in their lives at any cost.

What reaction do you hope and expect audiences to have?

I believe artists are idealists at their core. I really hope that this film could make the audience deeply reflect on things happening around them, on their relations with other people, and on how difficult it is to survive in the society we’re living in. From these kind of reflections I really hope they could find the strength to change something, even if it’s a very small change in their lives.

The tagline for the film is “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”. Did you intend main protagonist Leta to be morally ambiguous?

None of us is perfect. I don’t like to create black-and-white characters. I prefer grey zones, because there you have both visible and invisible elements of a character. All of the characters are grey somehow; they are with Leta and try to help her, but they have to keep their own things together. Because of the socio-political system we’re living in, we are with each other and at the same time against each other. The audience has to ask themselves important questions about the characters’ complex intentions.

Ornela Kapetani is outstanding as Leta. Did her performance come easily?

It was very difficult of course. We had so many long takes. But she’s a very talented actress, and we worked really closely to build a character who reaches that level of psychological realism. I was very happy to find her after a lot of interviews and video casting.

What inspired the documentary feel of Daybreak?

Working on documentaries before helped me to envision the style of the film, because I wanted to shoot the scenes in a realist, concrete way, as if I could capture the actual reality of things. From the beginning I had a clear idea of what style the film would be, and aesthetic choices I would make. I wanted to cut away all cinematic language artifice, and make a deal with the audience. They’re coming into the dark theatre to watch a movie but will follow the story with their own eyes, without feeling this kind of intermediary presence or even over-presence of the director. Of course this made my work very difficult, especially when it came to working with the actors or my DoP, and sometimes we were on the edge, but I just went for it. In terms of other filmmakers, Abbas Kiarostami was an inspiration.

 

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