YIDFF 2009 International Competition
The Mother
An Interview with Antoine Cattin (Director)

A Life Unwittingly Captured

Q: Why did the two of you decide to make this documentary?

AC: We first met at a film festival in Munich. [Pavel] was a cameraman on a film submitted to the festival, and I was on the selection committee. When we got the chance to talk, we realized we had shared interests and that we were on the same wavelength. I had wanted to make a film someday, so we ended up making one together.

Making The Mother was an act of diving into a person’s life. It was important to develop a close relationship with the subject of the film. Through doing so, her life is seen by the audience for the first time. However, even though she did gradually grow more comfortable as we filmed her, it never got to the point where it was so natural that she wasn’t bothered by the camera at all. As we filmed there wasn’t a constant succession of various events, so it took a very long time.

Vertov, a director from the Soviet era, speaks of “life caught unawares” on film. More than aiming to creating anything ourselves, we wanted to skim something off the top of a life we were surveying.

Q: How did you come to meet and film the documentary’s subjects: the mother and her nine children?

AC: Initially we were working on a hunch. When we visited the village for our previous film, the person who was the most open was the one who became the subject of this film, the mother, Liuba. Plus, she had nine children so it was a situation where there was always something happening, a truly chaotic lifestyle.

We focused on the happiness of their home life, especially the children, and at the same time the male and female relationships, as well as those between the mother and the children. As we edited while we shot, we came to realize that Liuba was a very valuable individual. We were drawn to her strength in the midst of that environment.

Q: This film is about the influence of a mother, so were you reminded of your feelings for your own mothers? Also, did your awareness of your mothers’ influence change as a result of shooting this film?

AC: Some people say that all films are self-portraits of the people who make them. For me, it was worthwhile to reconsider my own relationship with my mother through shooting this film.

Meeting Liuba was a deeply moving experience for me. Liuba’s family’s situation is the exact opposite of the environment I grew up in. A fundamental assumption of the Protestant culture in which I was raised is that a mother and her children are separate individuals from infancy. No matter how young, one must bear responsibility for oneself. Liuba raises her children in an entirely different way to how I was brought up. Liuba devotes every drop of her own blood to her children.

Also, the Russian world is patriarchal, and it’s a society where even though men are strong they don’t do anything. I think that in this world, it’s generally the women who work the hardest. You can see that throughout the world situations where men eventually rise to positions of authority thanks to the support of women. That is particularly noticeable in Russia.

Q: What kind of films do you want to make in future?

AC: I think there are two kinds of director. Ones who wait with great patience for something to happen, and those who don’t wait around forever for something to happen, but rely on their own imagination to create new worlds in fiction films. However, in actuality there’s no such border between documentaries and dramatic films, and such limits are very artificial. From now on, I’d like to keep making works that don’t rest in either category and exist somewhere in the middle.

(Compiled by Ito Ayumi)

Interviewers: Ito Ayumi, Chiku Hiroko / Interpreter: Yamanouchi Etsuko / Translator: Don Brown
Photography: Kudo Rumiko / Video: Suzuki Hiroki / 2009-10-09