Interview with Anu Valia, Director of Drifters. Best Experimental at ASFF

The Best Experimental Film Award at ASFF 2015 went to Anu Valia for Drifters, a portrait of a lonely actress. It depicts her life as she bids for substantial and meaningful human contact in between theatre jobs and her late-night radio. It’s a haunting film that stays with the viewer long after it has ended. We speak to Valia about the film and what inspired its creation.

ASFF: How have you found the experience of receiving recognition at ASFF for Best Experimental with Drifters?
AV: I feel like when you make something, you make it in sort of a void with your collaborators—you’re feeling certain emotions and feelings, and you’re trying your best to siphon them into a certain art form hoping other people will relate. So to have ASFF not only include this in its programme but to receive any kind of accolade is a wonderful feeling. To me it just means that some people felt something when they saw it, and that’s all that matters to me.

ASFF: A substantial part of your career is focused around television, specifically comedy shows. However, you prefer to touch upon more serious matters once you are behind the camera. How do you balance this stark contrast in your working life?
AV: People aren’t just one “thing”—they have many different desires and drives that are always changing. So I think as a director, I’m drawn to things that are tonal and that experiment with exploring emotion through film. As an actor, I have been lucky to do more comedic things because it’s simply fun. And at the moment, doing comedic work or branded work allows me some flexibility as in I can make a living and then I also have time to make the art I want to make with the rest of my time. I get to do comedic work and dramatic work, and I think they can live nicely side by side.

ASFF: What particularly draws you to experimental films, and were there any particular challenges during the process?
AV: My friend and I were speaking recently about the limits and benefits of language. And one of the limiting things about language is if you’re feeling an emotion, in order to communicate that emotion with words, you have to kind of distill it into language and then hope that the other person understands what you’re saying.

Even then they are just understanding you, they aren’t really experiencing that feeling with you. But with film, you can communicate a feeling using visual, aural, tonal cues, and it’s kind of this unfiltered feeling that someone else can just experience and hopefully feel as well. That to me is the best thing about all types of film—experimental and otherwise. It’s only challenging when you’re looking to find the best way to create these landscapes and you’re hindered by budget, but in the end, no one is asking me to do this, so it’s not a challenge because I love it.

ASFF: As an actor yourself, do you feel any personal connection with the film’s protagonist?
AV: Absolutely. I actually am acting more after making this movie, and I’m so surprised at how much more connected I feel. Also when I made this, it wasn’t just about the actor’s experience, I wanted to explore the question of fate and if you “choose” to do something where your success is dependent on others, then how do you find happiness? How do you reconcile your feelings towards fate in that way? That feeling is not limited to acting nor is it limited to having a job at all.

To see the trailer for Drifters, click here.

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ASFF 2016 will open for entries in December.

1. Anu Valia, Drifters.