Exploring Family History in MS SLAVIC 7 | SOFIA BOHDANOWICZ & DERAGH CAMPBELL | TIFF 2019

Exploring Family History in MS SLAVIC 7 | SOFIA BOHDANOWICZ & DERAGH CAMPBELL | TIFF 2019


[Organ music] [Bohdanowicz] I came across my
great-grandmother’s letters Googling them online. I had found some of her poetry online and was really intrigued by
her work, and her biography, and her history, and I
discovered this beautiful correspondence between
my great-grandmother when she was living in
Toronto when she was in her 60s and this man named Józef Wittlin, who was also a poet in his 60s living in
the Bronx in New York. “Hi, I’m here to see some
letters in the Józef Wittlin correspondence and compositions.” “Have you been to
Houghton Library before?” “Uh, no.” “And do you have a library privileges card?” “Yeah, I just picked it up.” “I need to see it, please.” [Bohdanowicz] The character
named Audrey Benac first appeared in my first feature film, called Never Eat Alone,
and it was a film about my grandmother Joan, trying to connect with a lost lover from her twenties. And this was a story that
very much happened between her and I, but I realized that making it like a documentary
about our relationship wasn’t something that was
very interesting to me. And I had all of this footage and all of this interesting information. But I didn’t have a way to, I guess, propel this narrative line. And I had seen Deragh
in Matt Porterfield’s I Used to Be Darker. So one day I finally got
the courage to ask her if she’d be interested
in being in the film. And she just had such a natural way of inserting herself in
a very small situation. And from this collaboration,
we decided that Audrey, I guess, should kind of continue to tell more stories that I was finding within my family. So then after that, we
made a short film called Veslemøy’s Song. “On my way to the library I found myself taking photos of the things people had left behind. A mit and a smashed margarita glass were both keeping the fountain in front of the Lincoln Center company. I showed the librarian my passport, and she gave me a temporary library card. ‘It’s good for three months,’ she said.” [Campbell] Audrey began as this sort of stand-in for Sofia in interacting with her real-life family. And now she’s a really
interesting vehicle to continue exploring Sofia’s family history but also, as we’re doing that, develop the character a bit more and explore what is behind this desire of hers to
know and understand things. But then she’s also a person, too. She now has sort of become a little bit independent of us, too. She’s not exactly Sofia, she’s not exactly me. She sort of has her own
quirks and idiosyncrasies. “Well, it wasn’t your property. I mean, that is my property. So, I mean, I get to make
the decisions about it. Whether you think it’s
stupid or uninteresting, is kinda beside the point.” [Bohdanowicz] I think she’s very much
developed into her own person. [Both laughing] And I think that, you know, MS Slavic 7 is very much a film
about becoming and also developing your voice and
feeling more comfortable articulating yourself and deciding, I guess, which direction you want to take with your life. And I feel like in every film, Audrey is ghost-hunting to some capacity, or just has a mission
to set something right. “Basically, the symbol of birds is this idea of… arrival. And when a bird… a bird sings out, that is language uncomprehended. And then, when a bird flies away in the sky, there is a vanishing point at which the bird is no longer visible. [Campbell] The monologues
I kind of see as abstractions that are kind of just representing her train of thought, and you’re not completely sure, you know, is she sitting in
the corner of a bar alone reciting these things? Or is it kind of just a vocalization of the notebook that’s in front of her? And I kind of like that, in film, you can show an image and it can kind of exist
in this sort of liminal space where you don’t actually
have to make the decision of whether it’s real, or a metaphor, or a fantasy. [Organ music]

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