Petra Costa and Lea Glob’s Olmo and the Seagull . A Buffalo Premiere!
Co-Sponsored by the Women & Gender Studies Program at Canisius
Ticket Information: Free and Open to the Public
• Stop in early for FREE Breadhive granola while supplies last! •
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courtesy of press kit:
A journey through the labyrinth of a woman’s mind, Olmo and the Seagull tells the story of Olivia, a free-spirited stage actress preparing for a starring role in a theatrical production of Chekhov’s The Seagull. As the play starts to take shape, Olivia and her boyfriend, Serge, whom she first met on the stage of the Theatre du Soleil, discover she is pregnant.
Initially, she thinks she can have it all, until an unexpected setback threatens her pregnancy and brings her life to a standstill. Olivia’s desire for freedom and success clashes with the limits imposed by her own body and the baby growing inside her. The months of her pregnancy unfold as a rite of passage, forcing the actress to confront her deepest fears. She looks in the mirror and sees both female characters of The Seagull – Arkadina, the aging actress, and Nina, the actress who falls into madness – as unsettling reflections of herself.
The film takes a further twist when what appears to be acted is revealed as life itself. This portrait of the creative process invites us to question what is real, what is imagined, and what we celebrate and sacrifice in life.
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In our film we sought to examine the things we celebrate and sacrifice in life. Our objective was always to inhabit the border of fiction and reality. Inside: a small apartment. Outside: a theater. A real couple, in a relationship of ten years. An actor, an actress. A real belly, a fictional narrative.
My interest in cinema began with the theater. In my teenage years the Theatre du Soleil was a source of inspiration. Later, when I started working in cinema, I longed to create a film with actors improvising in free-form and developing a story collectively. I found that too often fictional films I saw were constrained by the form, and so entangled in it, that they lost the subtleties of life itself. In November 2011, the Theatre du Soleil was touring in Brazil. There, I met Olivia and Serge, two actors in the company. We began a dialogue and decided to make a film together.
A few months later I was invited by CPH:DOX (DOX:LAB) to co-direct a film with the Danish filmmaker Lea Glob. After a week finding our common ground, we understood that we wanted to make a film where we would use a fictional structure to look into the life of a real person. The idea was to construct frameworks and situations that would allow our characters to investigate their memories, desires, regrets, habits, and secrets. We were particularly interested in the female subject, a day in the life of a woman carrying out ordinary tasks. How many unnamable and innumerable thoughts can inhabit one’s mind? How are fragments and intimations of eternity scattered throughout one day?
Immediately, I thought of Olivia and Serge. For the past ten years, they were creating theater based on improvisation, and thus, would be the perfect artists to share in this investigation.
Additionally, thanks to the generosity with which they shared so many intimate moments of their lives, shooting within documentary parameters allowed us to see those real moments of connection that existed inside the couple’s partnership.
Lea’s talents of observational filmmaking and my orientation towards improvisation allowed the film to move into territories that it would have never otherwise reached. In all stages, from shooting to editing, the work of the entire team was imbued with the spirit of a theatre troupe, where many of the ideas came to life through collaboration.
Olmo and the Seagull is in many ways also a continuation of the investigations I have been carrying out in my previous films. To a great extent, I approach my films as an archeology of affections, trying to reach into the deep levels of impalpable emotions. For example, my previous film Elena tells the story of three women from different generations going through the rite of passage from adolescence to adulthood – my mother, myself, and my sister Elena who tragically committed suicide at the age of twenty. The image which united them was that of Ophelia, from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. It was interesting for me to learn that Chekhov wrote The Seagull as an echo of Hamlet, where Nina would represent an Ophelia who does not commit suicide – a seagull that is attracted to the water, but instead of drowning in it, flies over it. Similarly, if Elena, both as the real person and the fictional character in the film, had survived her own drowning, her next challenge would have been to make sense of all that might have followed: aging, the survival of her art, the loss and maintenance of love in a relationship, and perhaps motherhood.
One of the things we are trying to do with Olmo and the Seagull is to relieve a tension I’ve always felt between the fact that every single human was brought into being by a pregnant woman and the reality that there is almost no interesting cinematic portrayals of the psychological processes a mother goes through during this period of life. Why are the only complex representations of pregnancy in horror films, such as Rosemary’s Baby? Similarly striking is the fact that there are so few critical examinations of how our society deals with the relationship between a woman’s commitments as a mother and as a professional.
While Elena explored the process of finding and grounding oneself in the world – becoming a being, an adult, a woman – through Olmo and the Seagull my hope was to investigate the process of letting go of that being, and to a certain extent, making room for something else to be born, whether that be a baby or a new version of the self, be it rooted as ‘olmo’ (elm tree in Italian) or migratory as a ‘seagull’.
In Olmo and the Seagull we investigate the beauty of acting as a way to come to terms with the real. When Serge first told us the story of how he and Olivia fell in love on stage, we knew that our film would feed from this rich space between the imagination and reality that figured in this couple’s life. Serge told us how Olivia, in the middle of a scene about the liberation of Kabul, in front of a full audience, would tease him by sending another actress across the stage to deliver him love messages. For these two characters, the stage is itself a part of their actual, personal story.
My entry into cinema began with Meeting My Father Kasper Højat, a story that grew out of my own personal experience. My father disappeared when I was two years old, never to be heard from again. Then, when I was eighteen, I was notified that he had hanged himself in a prison cell.
In the film I lead the audience through a highly intimate detective journey, as I try to reconstruct my father’s identity. I lay out my father’s pipe, gloves and photos to the viewer as though I were pinning them up onto a bulletin board of sorts, sifting through all the clues. The film relies on classic fictional devices – reconstructions of certain scenes, a narrator, humor, emotional distance, the consideration of a weighty subject – but at the same time the form never lets go of its documentary aspect. I move between chaos, spontaneous emotions, and, eventually, a kind of synthesis and crystallization.
Here, we opted to use, as a sort of baseline structure, formalistic constraints on the lives of our characters: our aim was to structure and order what seemed like spontaneously shot documentary footage. We entered an area with known contours and an established storyline, but it was also an opportunity for us to push past that and to explore new territory.
It was poignant for me to be able to play with the tensions between acting versus being, because it was the question Olivia herself faced in her life, never more poignantly than during her pregnancy. Engaging in this process with Petra, Olivia and Serge helped enrich my approach to documentary-filmmaking immensely.
Throughout the entire process of making this film, the actors, production team, and directors jointly entered this blurry space between the real and the imagined. As a collaboration between genres, cultures and personalities, this film became an intense interrogation of questions of form and storytelling.
A pregnancy is a very real transformation of a woman’s body and mind. To watch and create a film with such generous actors, who were open and giving in such a crucial moment of their lives, has been a continual inspiration. Their generosity has brought me in touch with a deeply felt desire to look at the very basic things in life and to dare to embrace the ordinary. Our film opens with the life of Olivia, as she is about to leave the stage (albeit temporarily) to start a family. This resonated with me, naturally. I am thirty-three years old, an age when a woman has to decide whether or not to start a family, and how. This personal connection has driven me to look even more closely at the drama that unfolds in the film.
photo by Pamela Pianezza / Picture This !
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Petra Costa’s (Director) first feature Elena (2012), premiered at IDFA and won several prizes in festivals worldwide. It was the most watched documentary in Brazil in 2013 and in 2014 was released theatrically in the United States. Executive Produced by Fernando Meirelles and Tim Robbins, Elena unfolds as a mixture of fever dream and psychological thriller. It tells the story of two sisters – and as one searches for the other their identities begin to blur. The film was called “a cinematic dream” by the New York Times, “haunting and unforgettable” by the Hollywood Reporter and was defined as a “masterful debut that takes nonfiction where it seldom wants to go – away from the comforting embrace of fact and into a realm of expressionistic possibility” by Indiewire.
Petra started her training in theater in Brazil at the age of fourteen and later went to the Dramatic Arts School at the University of São Paulo. She then went on to study Anthropology at Barnard College, Columbia University. She completed her masters in Social Psychology at the London School of Economics focusing her studies on the concept of trauma. Currently pursuing her PhD at the European Graduate School, Petra is also writing a feature fiction film entitled Strange Fruit.
Lea Glob (Director) graduated from the National Film School of Denmark in 2011 with her well received short film Meeting My Father Kasper Højat, an autobiographical interpretation of the director’s personal encounter with her long lost father. The film is an almost archaeological investigation of the father’s identity, seen through the directors imagination, as she goes through the boxes of objects left behind of the father. Among other acknowledgments, the film was nominated for the National Danish Film Award and for The Robert Awards, and won a Golden Panda for most innovative documentary film at the Chinese Shiuan TV Festival.
Since then, Lea has received the main award at Nordic Talents for the development of the documentary project Human Female Sexuality, a highly visual film and transmedia project, which investigates the (often contradictory) inner life and imagery of female sexuality.
Lea Glob works both as a filmmaker and Director of Photography and has received the “Real Talent Award” given by the Danish Film Directors. Based in Copenhagen, Lea also works and teaches as part of the Artistic” Research program at The National Film School.
Here is a curated selection of links shared on our Facebook page for additional insight/information:
2/26/16 – “For in her second feature, Costa, assisted by co-director Lea Gob, turn your gaze to a deeply feminine universe, but also universal, starting from the of pregnancy Italian actress Olivia Corsini and her relationship with her husband Serge Nicolai to analyze not only the insecurity aroused by the experience, but the existential and professional doubts experienced by the protagonist. In the process, the filmmaker also explores the nature of representation and the border between art and reality as – as if all that were not enough – build a challenging and fascinating narrative structure.” Pablo Villaça, Cinema em Cena – link
3/1/16 – Courtesy of Petra Costa’s Twitter (@petracostal): Thoughtful interview at #FilmmakerMagazine on #OlmoAndTheSeagull. Those that make ideas simmer and sprout… – link