Hot Docs 2017 Profile: Lucija Stojevic
“La Chana is ultimately a film that celebrates a woman’s strength to confront and rise above tragedy in her life.”
In the world of flamenco dancing, La Chana (the stage name of the self-taught Gypsy dancer Antonia Santiago Amador) is Queen. She reigned supreme throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s, but suddenly disappeared from the spotlight at the height of her career. This film follows La Chana as she prepares for one last performance after 23 years away from the stage and reflects on her life, her career, what is, and what could have been.
La Chana is a film about about many things: dreams and passions, aging and loss, acceptance and re-invention, love and abuse… and so much more. Director Lucija Stojevic accents La Chana’s story with archival footage and weaves everything together into a completely engrossing, beautifully heartwarming, and an all-around wonderful character piece on a fascinating woman.
La Chana had its World Premiere at International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) in 2016 and was the winner of the IDFA Audience Award. It has previously screened at Flamenco Biennale, DocPoint Helsinki and DocPoint Tallinn, International Film Festival Assen, Thessaloniki Documentary Festival, Tempo Documentary Festival, Vera Film Festival, Vilnius Iff Kino Pavasaris, Eurodok, and Le Voci dell’Inchiesta (where it also won the Audience Award!).
You can see the Canadian Premiere of La Chana at this year’s Hot Docs International Film Festival, screening at 9:15pm on May 1st, 11:00am on May 3rd, and 9:30pm on May 4th. GET YOUR TICKETS HERE.
TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF AND HOW YOU GOT INVOLVED WITH FILMMAKING.
LS: I’m originally Croatian. I grew up in Vienna, Austria and then lived, studied, and worked in Edinburgh (UK), Florence (Italy), and Prague (Czech Republic). I’m now based in Barcelona, Spain, where I have set up the production company Noon Films. I initially got a degree in Architectural Design from the University of Edinburgh and then discovered that I was actually much more interested in film and went on to study film in Prague.
Undecided whether I want to continue in architecture or film, for a while I concentrated on doing media for architects (which was actually not very exciting) and then started focusing more on what actually really interested me — finding a way to tell human stories that I felt needed to be heard. I initially worked in short format and did over 30 short docs for publications such as The Guardian, Global Post, and The New York Times while also working for other production companies. But I wanted to sink my teeth into a bigger, deeper protect. And then La Chana came along.
TELL US A BIT ABOUT LA CHANA. WHERE DID THE IDEA COME FROM?
LS: La Chana is an intimate portrait of Gitana flamenco dancer Antonia Santiago Amador, known as La Chana. As she returns to the stage for a final performance, she reveals the secret that cut short her promising career: for 18 years she was the victim of abuse at the hands of her first husband. It’s a strong, female story about love, loss, re-invention, and aging. La Chana herself inspired me to tell her story. She is a fantastic character who still has so much zest, so much artistic talent and wisdom. And, of course, she also has a fascinating and important story that needed to be revealed.
DID YOU HAVE A PERSONAL CONNECTION WITH LA CHANA PRIOR TO THE START OF THIS PROJECT, OR DID YOU SEEK HER OUT WITH THE IDEA OF THIS FILM IN MIND?
LS: No, I didn’t have a personal connection prior to the project. I met La Chana through my friend, Beatriz del Pozo, who is a close friend of La Chana’s. Beatriz is a musicologist and flamenco teacher who is aware of, and deeply appreciates, what La Chana has contributed to the flamenco art form. She is the one who approached me and said that she thinks that the art of this amazing artist needs to be documented. So, one day we went to La Chana’s home for a paella and La Chana also told me her personal story of what was happening behind the scenes. Right there and then, the project started.
WHY DO YOU THINK THE STORY OF LA CHANA IS SO SOCIALLY RELEVANT TO AUDIENCES TODAY?
LS: Unfortunately, La Chana’s situation as a woman who was stopped through violence and social circumstances to pursue “what she was born to do” is the reality of too many women still today. The film both brings light to this important reality and inspires women to take control of their fates and fight for what they believe in. La Chana is ultimately a film that celebrates a woman’s strength to confront and rise above tragedy in her life.
IN YOUR DIRECTOR’S NOTE, YOU STATE THAT YOU BELIEVE “IT’S VERY IMPORTANT TO TELL STORIES OF WOMEN’S LIVES FROM ALL WALKS OF LIFE”. WHO ARE SOME OF THE WOMEN YOU WOULD LOVE TO MAKE DOCUMENTARIES ABOUT?
LS: To be honest, I’m as interested to tell any man’s story as a woman’s if it’s important and relevant to tell. But, I do think we have a problem today in how women are represented in film both in front of and behind the scene. That needs to change. Women are too often portrayed through the lens of men because they are still the ones who are mostly in decision-making positions in the industries. So, we get too much of the image of the forever young, beautiful woman — a one-dimensional image of a woman. But, there are so many nuances that woman live through, experience, and know that don’t make it to the screens enough. And in the industry, women still don’t get the same opportunities as men, so these stories often go amiss. That can’t be.
I would love to make documentaries about any women that can shed light on some aspect of our humaneness. And it’s not so much for me about the who, but the what. I think that the important thing is to bring to the surface stories and themes of real women and that we need to get away from the stereotypical way that women are too often portrayed in film.
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT SOME/ALL OF THE OTHER AMAZING WOMEN WHO WORKED ON THIS FILM?
LS: This film would have never seen the light of day had it not been for the dedication and support of a team of amazing women. Our US producer Deirdre Towers is a flamenco dancer herself and a video artist. The co-producers Susan Muska and Greta Olafsdottir of Bless Bless Productions are award-winning documentary filmmakers dedicated to telling women’s stories. Their work includes the beautiful films Edie and Thea: A Very Long Engagement & The Brandon Teena Story. Beatriz del Pozo is a musicologist who brought her knowledge and invaluable expertise of flamenco to the film. We also had a difficult time finding financing for this film and counted on a lot of personal donations, mostly from women, to be able to produce the film. But there were also some fantastic men who were involved in the film: Samuel Navarrete, the DoP, and Domi Parra, the editor who brought a lot lot of sensitivity to the film.
WHO ARE YOUR FAVOURITE WOMEN WORKING IN THE FILM INDUSTRY?
LS: Except for the ones I just mentioned? Too many to count!
WHAT’S THE BEST ADVICE ABOUT FILMMAKING YOU’VE EVER RECEIVED?
LS: Follow your truth (from La Chana, of course)…
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON NEXT?
LS: I have a project in development that’s also music related about a Viennese Holocaust survivor who associated flamenco music to the trauma of surviving the Rivesaltes camp as a child. It’s a film that looks at how a specific event in one’s life is carried through the course of one’s entire life and examines the power of music in memory.
RECOMMEND ONE #MUFFAPPROVED FILM FOR OUR BLOG READERS:
LS: Watch Edie & Thea: A Very Long Engagement by Susan Muska and Greta Olafsdottir! It’s a lovely film about strong women.