After traveling to many festivals around the world, the romantic film “Slow” is coming back home. Lithuanian cinema-goers will finally have the chance to watch it in cinema theaters. The film’s story centers on the relationship between a contemporary dance performer and a sign language interpreter, which is profoundly changed by the protagonist’s confession of asexuality. As the premiere approaches, the Vilnius Film Office initiated a conversation with the film’s director, Marija Kavtaradze, and producer, Marija Razgutė.
Very soon, after having been screened at international festivals, the film “Slow” will return home. How does it feel? Do you dream about how the Lithuanian audience will react to the film?
Razgutė: The premiere is coming soon, but we wish it would come even sooner because excitement and stress are taking over. Probably, most of all I would like the film not to leave anyone indifferent. It is not so important that those who watch it like all the details; we would like the film to give people something to talk about, something to think about, something to share after watching it.
Kavtaradze: One of the nicest things for a director is that people go to see the film, that it touches them and that they want to talk about it. That would be the ultimate fulfillment.
What is this film about for each of you? What inspired one Marija to make a film about a unique love story and another Marija to produce it?
Kavtadze: For me, this film spoke about love, about how seemingly incompatible people are able to forge a connection. About human resistance even in difficult situations to try, search for a relationship, fight for it and give it all. About the meaning of such a relationship.
Razgutė: This is not the first time me and Marija have collaborated. I really liked the experience of working on the film “Summer Survivors”, everything went smoothly, we found a way to understand each other, we made the film with a small budget. We always know what and why we are doing. The result was good, the experience was interesting and brought us many discoveries. The film “Slow” seems like a kind of continuation of our joint work.
At the same time, I was very surprised by the very idea of the film, it appeared new, unexpected. Like the character in the film, I searched the Internet for what asexuality is, what it feels like, what a person goes through. Interestingly, the situation the characters experience is recognizably relational and romantic, but the conditions and circumstances in which they operate are very unique.
“Slow” is an intimate film about relationships, sexuality and asexuality. Didn’t you feel rather apprehensive talking about it?
Kavtaradze: Indeed, not only the topic of asexuality, but also that of sexuality is little talked about in our society. There were various fears. For example, I was afraid to represent a group of people that I did not belong to. I tried to be as respectful as possible, I researched the subject, but the questions still came up: is it right for me to make a film about it, is it ethical?
At the same time, this is a romantic film and we make no secret of it. It was scary that, as a director, I would appear shallow, too sensitive. When immersing themselves in their roles, actors must open up, give themselves up, be vulnerable. This is exactly what the director goes through while making a film as well. If you try to hide, the movie won’t work. Opening up is always scary, but it’s a good indicator that the film is worth making.
“Slow” is not your first joint project. How did you two meet? What made you decide to work together?
Kavtaradze: Our first acquaintance took place long before the film “Summer Survivors”, while working on the film “The Saint”. It was a film where I learned a lot.
After that it was natural to continue working with Marija. The director and the producer are the people who are together from the beginning to the end of making the film. When I approached Marija about “Slow”, I didn’t have a script yet. I only sent her a description with just a few ideas and scenes. It is natural that if our opinions, and approaches were drastically different, if there was a lack of trust, it would be difficult to work together.
Razgutė: I would agree that trust is very important. Although we are working on the same film, our responsibilities are very different. Therefore, there must be constant communication, a candid conversation about what happened, what has changed. By sharing all the information, we can feel each other’s pulse, understand each other’s decisions, and the common process.
What makes this project unique to you? How did it enrich you and did it bring many firsts?
Kavtaradze: I have several practical answers. The research itself enriched me, since while writing it was essential to learn a lot about asexuality, sign language and the world of dance. It was the first time I worked with a choreographer, an intimacy coordinator, and we shot on tape for the first time.
The film gave me a lot in the human sense as well. People’s reactions, conversations, and meetings with the audience were very enlightening. I felt a lot of real feedback, raw feelings, and that can’t help but have an effect.
Razgutė: When working with such a topic, you inevitably rethink a lot. This is the emotional part that you reward yourself with.
On the other hand, this is the first film I produced that was screened at the Sundance Film Festival, the first Lithuanian motion picture awarded at this festival, the first Lithuanian film in the “Co-Production Market” program of the Berlin International Film Festival, Lithuania’s candidate for the “Oscar”… We don’t work for awards, but the fact that the work is noticed, and the effort is appreciated is very nice.
This is also the debut of actors Kęstutis Cicėnas and Greta Grinevičiūtė in leading roles in the cinema. How did you discover these actors?
Razgutė: when Marija first told me about the subject of the film, one of my first questions was about who could star in the film. Marija immediately told me about Grinevičiūtė – her acting and dance performances. It was a bold decision to choose someone with a background in dance and movement for the role. At a very early stage of the shooting, Kęstutis totally convinced us all: he plunged deep into Greta’s world. I think it’s a very good, and interesting combination.
Kavtaradze: I remember when I did the casting with Kęstutis and sent the recording to Marija, you could hear me constantly laughing in the background: the very first meeting with Kęstutis was already fun and entertaining.
Razgutė: Marija said that in order to believe the story, you have to see two people, a man and a woman, not two famous actors. I think that seeing new faces and talents gave the film a lot.
What was the creative process like? What were the greatest challenges?
Kavtaradze: There are always challenges in creativity, we constantly think about how to make one decision or another, but it seems to me that this time we really believed in the process. And everything went smoothly.
Razgutė: When you work with people in foreign countries, even in the best case, the vibe may be off. Therefore, we say that a bit of magic happened in the whole process: we found a smooth way to communicate with everyone, managed to present our idea and the gist of what we wanted to say with this film in the right words. The work, the energy put in, every step taken did not go in vain. Everything went well: both the things that we arranged in advance ourselves and the circumstances that were beyond our control.
How was the film received abroad?
Kavtaradze: The film was very warmly received by the audience in Poland, the Czech Republic, and the USA. Sometimes, after the interview, the journalists would start talking about their relationships, sharing their personal experiences. The questions we got were very different: some people were interested in the topic of asexuality, others were keen to know how the film was shot. It’s nice because it means there’s something to talk about after watching the movie.
Perhaps there is something you would like to wish to the future viewers of the film?
Kavtaradze: I’ve already joked once that I don’t recommend going to this movie on a first date (laughs). Of course, the biggest dream of a creator is for people to be open. A lot depends on your mood when you come to watch the film.
Razgutė: I’d like to wish people the openness that the film offers, not to be afraid of themselves. After leaving the film, I would like the audience to ask themselves questions about love, intimacy, and relationships, and to answer them.
Thank you for the conversation.