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“I Was Never Going to Compromise on the Intimacy” | Rita Baghdadi, Sirens

Shery Bechara and Lilas Mayassi in SirensShery Bechara and Lilas Mayassi in Sirens. (Photo: Rita Baghdadi)

The last two years have prompted much contemplation and reconsideration of the reasons why we make our films as well as the ways in which we make them. What aspect of your filmmaking—whether in your creative process, the way you finance your films, your production methodology or the way you relate to your audience—did you have to reinvent in order to make and complete the film you are bringing to the festival this year?

Over the last two years, I definitely found myself contemplating why I make films and how I make them. When the pandemic hit, it seemed as though all my colleagues were pivoting to remote interview set-ups, forging ahead with their stories at any cost. Somehow I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I couldn’t figure out how to translate what I do behind the camera in a remote environment. In fact, it broke my heart a little to think this might become the future of filmmaking.

After putting all my projects on hold, adopting a dog and hiking around LA for what seemed like forever, I came to a realization: I don’t make films for the sake of making films. Me being a filmmaker comes from a much more primal need to connect with people on a deeper level. Like a weird form of symbiosis, vérité filmmaking allows me to give myself over completely to the process. And that’s literally the only way I know how to operate in the world. I’ve never been good at doing anything with half a heart. I’m all in or nothing.

So in making Sirens, it wasn’t a reinvention but an acceptance that if the film was meant to get made I would get it made. But I was never going to compromise on the intimacy.

See all responses to our annual Sundance Question here.

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