Director Mariana Conde’s C.T.R.L tells the story of a young man’s attempt at first contact with a love interest. Hijacked in a most entertaining way, his endeavours take on an elaborate journey filled with great performances and a lot of dancing. Music video C.T.R.L was part of the BAFTA Qualifying Aesthetica Short Film Festival’s Official Selection in 2015. The film screened at multiple venues including the National Railway Museum and City Screen both situated in the heart of York. We speak to Conde about the making of the piece, its successes on the short film circuit, and her upcoming plans as a director.
ASFF: C.T.R.L has been screened at numerous festivals around the world, including ASFF in 2015. What did this exposure mean to you as a creative working in the short film industry?
MC: Above all, I make films for the audience and it is great to know that people from all over the world have watched and enjoyed our film; a small festival in Manila has even awarded C.T.R.L as their most popular film! That makes all the hard work bringing C.T.R.L to life worth it. Also, although directing is my passion, my day job still is in Production. Having C.T.R.L screened at festivals such as ASFF has given me the confidence to start introducing myself as a director and the boost needed to keep developing other projects.
ASFF: You attended ASFF in November. Can you talk about your experience and discuss your festival highlights?
MC: Stu (C.T.R.L’s Creative Exec) and I loved the atmosphere. York is a beautiful city and the networking events really allowed the filmmakers and guests to relax and get to know each other. There was a sense of pride and excitement in the air. The film selection was of an amazing high standard in all categories and the workshops were fun. We had a great time listening to Tim Pope telling us stories about his life, failures and achievements, the man is a natural storyteller. It was also at ASFF that we got to know Katie McCullough from Festival Formula, who gave a presentation on film festivals and crowd funding. We were so impressed that she is now putting together the strategy for C.T.R.L’s last year of festivals.
ASFF: C.T.R.L was nominated for Best Music Video & Editor at TMFF in the UK and won Best Music Video at Cortisonanti in Italy as well as Best International Music Video at GSFF in New Jersey. How have these awards and other accolades boosted your career?
MC: Having been awarded with Best Music Video, Best Director and Best Editor, is no doubt helpful in establishing myself as a director, but it doesn’t happen overnight.. it takes commitment and a body of work. What I do believe is that when I start looking to fund my next short, all the exposure we got from C.T.R.L, plus being able to say my last short was screened at a Bafta qualifier festival, will make a huge difference. Fingers crossed!
ASFF: C.T.R.L explores different aspects of film with dance, music and performance – all of which appeal to a wide audience. Where did inspiration for the piece come from and what message do you wish to send to audiences?
MC: The idea for C.T.R.L came from our executive producer Stu Grant. He plays a lot of video games and works as a web developer. He’s always been fascinated by fun ideas, and stories with a twist, something that makes you think. When we first made C.T.R.L the idea of a phone app that can control people idea hadn’t been portrayed in film and to me it wasn’t only original, but the perfect opportunity to put my directing skills to the test and make a short with no dialogue! Whilst the film is fun and quirky it also raises some bigger questions about how people in today’s society are always attached their phone, unable to switch off, constantly trying to create and control their online persona.
ASFF: You graduated in Film and Video at the International Film School of Wales, where you collaborated with students to make a series of short films. Where did your love of short films begin and what motivated you to study filmmaking?
MC: My passion for filmmaking comes from my childhood. I was an only child and I grew up with my Grandma’s bedtime stories, books, my Mum’s love of the Arts and an inherent curiosity for understanding the fascinating world around me. Born in Portugal, I started my education at Soares dos Reis, where I experimented with photography, learnt the principles of design and was exposed to filmmakers such as Bertolucci, David Lynch and Kusturica. Their work made me see Film as the art form that better reflects the volatility of our times, whilst combining the very elements I’ve always been fascinated by: storytelling, image and psychology.
ASFF: Do you have any projects on the horizon for 2016?
MC: I have a couple of projects in the development stage. The one I am most passionate about is a longer-short set in Morocco. I wrote the first draft of the script thirteen years ago, when I first visited the beautiful country, and it has since developed into a more complex story that approaches religion, sexuality and female identity in a refreshing way. Aisha is a coming of age film about a Muslim girl who believes a seductive jinn (spirit) is causing her to have feelings for other women. Hoping to placate this taunting spirit, she decides to join a Sufi pilgrimage to Aisha’s grotto, deep in faraway rural Morocco; but with temptation just around the corner, her journey won’t be a lonely one.
I have always been fascinated by different cultures and religions. I am a strong advocate that in this world of social media and cultural diversity, we should grow more understanding of other ways of living and help promote dialogue in a respectful way, even when the topics might be difficult. As the Western world begins to legalise gay marriage, I believe it’s time we start raising awareness to the situation of people who are still living in countries where their sexuality is still a crime.
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