Interview with directors Ken Kamara and Arianna Marin

  • Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that filmmaking is your way of telling stories?

Although we come from different backgrounds, for both of us our shared love for storytelling was born a long time ago, way before we met. Telling compelling stories by means of moving image was the natural development of a career in photography (Ken) writing and researching (Arianna).

  • Do you think it is essential to go to a film institute in order to become a successful filmmaker?

One can never be sure of where to get their most important lesson from: that might come from the street, as well as from a film school class. For sure any filmmaker won’t go far without the right dose of passion, practice, and a little bit of luck.

  • Is it harder to get started or to keep going? What was the particular thing that you had to conquer to do either?

Both can be hard, if one lacks faith in their own capability, and perseverance. At times, the hardest things to manage are the voice in our head, telling us we are not enough, and the fear of failure.

  • What was the most important lesson you had to learn that has had a positive effect on your film? How did that lesson happen?

We had to learn to accept that things might not work out as we plan, and that possibilities are limitless. We filmed URBANO while on our honeymoon in Havana, with our then 8-month old baby with us all the time on a sling, a bad stomach and fever due to food poisoning, and only a limited amount of time (and equipment!) to make it happen. We trusted the possibilities, and we managed to make it happen.

  • How do you find or generate ideas for documentaries or is it a different process for every project?

The source of inspiration is the world around us. The trick is to never forget to look at it with wonder, and a fresh pair of eyes. When serendipitous things happen, one needs to be ready to catch them. This is what happened with Urbano: we passed in front of him in a street of Old Havana and fell instantly in love with his charisma and warm look. We approached him and the rest of the story you can see it for yourself!

  • Can you describe your approach to writing treatments?

It generally requires a fair amount of thinking, of knowing what the project is about and what we wish to communicate. Then we try to keep it short and to the point: nowadays producers and commissioning editors are busier than ever and can only invest a short amount of time in reading a treatment.

  • Do you ever use the camera yourself?

Always! (Ken) .. Arianna sometimes.

  • What do audiences want? And is it the filmmaker’s role to worry about that?

It is good to know what the trends are in the industry. That said, we believe one should be more focused on creating something that resonates with their heart and values, rather than pleasing the audience. Needless to say, it is a huge plus when the film is well received.

  • What role have film festivals played in your life so far? Why are they necessary? How do you get the most out of them?

As independent filmmakers we are grateful for the existence of film festivals. They are the stage where we can showcase our films, have them reviewed, receive feedback, learn about other films and the industry in general. At this point, if it were not for film festivals it would be far more challenging for us to reach the audiences we reach, and get the feedback we get. Having your film run in a competition is a learning experience, a very humbling one.

  • Do you believe that a filmmaker should be original and fresh or he/she should stick to classic but safe cinema style?

As mentioned above, a filmmaker should stick to what they feel is true in their heart. Otherwise what is the whole point of making films?