PODCAST — Episode 3, recorded
Elise Florenty and Marcel Türkowsky in conversation with BFMAF programmer Christina Demetriou about the film ‘Don’t Rush’.→
Elise Florenty & Marcel Türkowsky (1978, Bordeaux & Berlin) are an artist/film director duo based in Berlin and Paris. They’ve directed together several short and mid-length films exploring specific social-political situations through the prism of altered states of consciousness, delirium and ecstasy. Combining their interests in cinema and sonic anthropology, their films investigate the multiplicity of the self through a spiral of metamorphoses that interrogate our power relation—always shifting—to the ‘Other’ (‘the enemy, the plant, the animal, the spirit, the dead’). Their work has been presented at numerous international film festivals and art institutions including International Film Festival Rotterdam, FID Marseille, DocLisboa, CCCB Barcelona and Centre Pompidou (Paris). They have received the European Media Art Festival award for their film works The Sun Experiment (Ether Echoes) (2014) and Conversation with a Cactus (2017). Bom Dia Books recently published their first monograph entitled One Head Too Many.
Originally from the UK, Christina Demetriou relocated to Berlin in 2015 where—with the aim of organising intimate film events dedicated to dialogue—she founded the screening series LUNAR. While taking place predominantly in Berlin, she has also curated LUNAR screenings in Paris’ legendary Beverley cinema and the Arctic Moving-Image & Film Festival in Norway. Christina also works as the Festival Coordinator for the arthouse sales agent Coproduction Office, and has been a participant in the Oberhausen Seminar (2017) and The Film Society of Lincoln Center Industry Academy (2019).
Hi, my name is Christina Demetriou. I’m one of the programmers at Berwick Film & Media Arts festival this year. I’m here in this podcast conversation with Elise Florenty and Marcel Türkowsky. The two directors of the film Don’t Rush. Don’t Rush is a medium length film, which is in the Berwick New Cinema selection. Elise and Marcel, thank you so much for joining the conversation and congratulations on your film.
Perhaps you could start by telling us a bit about how you came to make a film in Greece and specifically how you came to the topic of Rebetiko music.
What brought us to Greece in the first place is the European crisis that broke out way back in 2011/13, which affected Greece a lot. And, parallel to this, our readings of Heine Müller texts that are mostly related to Greek anti-heroes like Philoctetes, that was living in exile on a Greek Island called Lemnos in the Northern island sea. We became interested in this notion of landscape and crisis and how these things relate. But all this research basically happened from Berlin and while we kept on doing this, we also realised that there’s a video game that takes place on Lemnos Arma 3, which is a wild video game.
So we understood that there’s also a virtual depiction of Lemnos existing in a virtual plot. And it’s basically how we entered into filming on Greece territory. It’s through this process where we started to get in touch with totally different material, people. So, we met a lot of people on this, cause we went back and forth many times to do our research, especially on Lemnos. And that’s where we met different people that we also became friends with. These people were very, very fond of Rebetiko music. We knew Rebetiko music from beforehand, but the way they were listening to it, the way they were communicating it with each other and also the way they related themselves to a nowadays time, to Rebetiko, was very specific. So it gave us a totally new way of thinking about Rebetiko in the 21st century.
So we met Giannis and we came up with the idea to ask him to reenact one of his radio stations, the pirate radio station that he used to do a lot and to talk mostly about his favourite songs, Rebetiko songs and everything that can come to his mind that are related to these songs. And so we met one night and we were in this room and as you can see, maybe in the film he’s pretending it’s not a real actual radio show. And we also had a very specific way to portray him. We had this mirror and this mirror had a specific inscription on it that gives the title of the film Don’t Rush. And we decided to shoot the whole radio station through this mirror with different angles. One can maybe realise that we are already in the same space, but we might not be in the same time because there is some phantomatic presence of friends coming sometimes.
Yes, I was wondering about the decisions to use these very intimate and quite minimal locations. I think it’s maybe one or two spaces that the whole film is shot in.
Yes, exactly. It’s only one room that seems to extend into another room, but they both share the same spirit. So the first one seems to be, almost like a backstage of a taverna that is not really open yet. There’s a wooden room, very dark, there’s only one bulb and some reflections and refractions, all the possible angles of these rooms, right? Yeah.
But yeah, it’s two spaces basically like it’s this kind of private space of Alekos, who’s the cousin of Giannis, who’s doing the radio show, or pretending to do the radio show and then there’s the second place, which is more appearing as an oneiric manifestation, kind of. Actually the Taverna where Giannis works. And this is where the music is played on radio. This is where the song is being played that we see in the beginning, the brother of Giannis, Vlassis, is singing to the film music, a Rebetiko from the 1980s, so it’s basically different elements that relate to this taverna. That’s why we wanted to bring this taverna as a kind of oneiric device in and out to the editing. But we are going back and forth between places that are in Lemnos in Plaka, where they live, that are very important for this music to manifest as a performative event. Because they meet there on Sundays they play songs to each other but we were not interested to show this. We were interested in the radio show and to stay also into the night, the radio show is shot during the night, a hot, very hot summer night in August. So we wanted to stay in the night, in the quiet.
Yeah. It shows how they enjoy this music, it’s not programmed, is not on a specific event. It’s also something they do at home for themselves, as Giannis says, when he needs it, is music to happen with all the issues he has towards himself, but also towards a world and the direction that the world is taking.
It becomes quite a meditative experience and adds a bit to this timelessness. The fact that it’s in the night, that as you said, you’re not really sure how much time has passed, how big this room is, who’s coming and going. It’s a little unclear. Something that I found very beautiful about the film is that there is both a sense of being very present. You give into the music, listening with friends or by yourself, but really focusing on the music. And then at the same time, you’re already transported in time to the past, to these different contexts.
It’s an interesting observation because when we started working with subtitling the lyrics of the songs, you have this testimony of a text that was produced in the beginning of the 20th century. And so you have certain names, you have certain situations that are being described by these different singers that are clearly not from this time. So there’s also this weird triangulum of what Giannis has to say, then this vertical procedure of experiencing the music as a listener, and then constantly reading these lyrics where there’s a certain sense of longing and time, maybe not longing and place, but when you get a sense for history and you travel in time and historic time.
And there’s a title of the film or these inscriptions, this motto that comes back many times in the film, Don’t Rush reflect upon also what the songs transmitting about what to do in our life, how to take the time, look for the most important things, which is maybe love and solidarity and sharing some sorrows, sharing a lament of how a life can be painful, especially when Marcel says this idea of longing, because it’s also a history of exile, but it reverberates very well with nowadays situation and especially about how the crisis has eaten Greece and how a lot of young people find themselves into these lyrics that praise, everything else than a wealth and progress and a speed and or these things…
And this was very surprising for us, how we could get to know that a whole generation, a young generation, is identifying themselves with Rebetiko in a totally new way. Which is quite extraordinary because it’s considered as a kind of traditional music. But the given context overcomes this idea of tradition and goes back to this, how this music actually came to life. Since this music is not so, went not through such a metamorphosis like Blues or Jazz or other kinds of musics that all start from the same lament, but Rebetiko by itself became just this thing that stopped in time. And it never became anything else after that, being a reenactment, people replaying songs, but how a now and new generation discovers this music, not just as a song, but as a lifestyle coming out of an urgency out of a moment of survival, a moment of existential questions that are very clearly related to drugs, which are a big problem on Greek islands and this how you relate to this stream of migration that is coming through the islands of Greece. So there’s a lot of tension going on and people are trying to find ways to identify themselves with something, maybe something more rooted to identify with. This was a very, very interesting phenomenon, which is also this idea of what a young generation does in these moments of uncertainty.
I have to add that we had the chance to meet Giannis, who is a very good storyteller. The film stands because of also his really great quality to build upon the story of Rebetiko. The now-a-day situation, economical and political situation and his own life. It’s very beautiful. And we were really amazed.
Perhaps we can go back to, I know you spoke a bit about how you chose to film through mirrors or this mirror. I mean, a lot of the shots are quite fragmented or shadowy or kind of just picking up on some bodily movements. These fragments are held together by the sort of the constant of the music or the voice of Giannis, which kind of weaves throughout the whole thing. Perhaps we could talk a bit more about why you chose to film or fracture the image in these ways.
Here, we have to add that it’s absolutely not post-produced. There’s no post-production. Some people ask – did you double this image? And this is blur? This was made on the moment, on the spot, on this unique take. And this is really interesting to have you feel free or so of experimenting while he was talking a very precious moment of being together and trusting each other. And depending on how you moved the mirror, you create some kind of refractions.
And we decided to film another moment where he’s with friends in the same room. So we never know if he’s alone or if he’s accompanied by his friends and parallel situations that we are never sure that they are doing, what they are doing. And this was also playing with this to do it with, I don’t know how you say in French we say de biais, like not frontally, just trying to find out the angles, but we wanted to keep the idea of a one flow. We don’t have the feeling that one song is missing or whatever. We try to keep this idea that you still have the feeling through the sounds that you are in one hour. When you show, even though the image brings you to different kinds of time layer, layers of time. Yes.
Well, Elise and Marcel, thank you so much for this really interesting and very generous conversation.