"Life shatters all schedules": Sergey Dvortsevoy interview

English Daily #2
This year’s Regional Panorama jury president Sergey Dvortsevoy is one of those rare filmmakers who has equally mastered both the art of the feature and the art of the documentary. In recent years, this distinction is gradually fading away and even GAIFF has been presenting both types of films in a single program since 2019. As for Dvortsevoy, the difference for him seems to be purely technical. "The thing is,” admits the director, “in both documentaries and feature films, I'm dealing with reality in one way or another." However, he adds, “I never violate life."

Dvortsevoy emerged in the late 90s with the documentaries Happiness (1995) and Bread Day (1998) and began thinking about transitioning to feature films in 2004, during the making of Into the Dark. This intimate portrait of a blind old man posed a new moral challenge for Dvortsevoy. "You film a blind person, and he doesn't see you, he doesn't see the camera, he doesn't know what's going on," he recalls. "I mean, you can film anything you want. And I was afraid that I might lose that moral boundary. I realized that this is dangerous for my soul."

After a somewhat rapid succession of films in his earlier career, the productivity of Dvortsevoy has somewhat waned, with Tulpan (2008) and Ayka (2018) being his only feature films in the last decade. The main reason is that same principle of not interfering too much with life. "I have a script, but I constantly change it, depending on what life gives, what nature gives. Only twenty percent of the initial scripts of both Tulpan and Ayka remained in the final versions.” Dvortsevoi admits that despite the impressive artistic results it brings, this method does tend to create complications for his crew: "feature films must always involve concrete planning. Everything has to be done in accordance with a pre-arranged schedule. However, when you let life in, it shatters all schedules. And I have to convince and prove to the producers that it’s better this way."

This was especially the case with Ayka. Samal Yeslyamova, who plays the eponymous character, received the Best Actress award at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival. In Russia, the film was also met with fiery debates, considering that at the heart of Ayka lies the troubling statistic that in a single year, 250 Kyrgyz women gave up their newborn babies in maternity hospitals around Moscow. Dvortsevoy was determined to understand why this was happening and as a result the protagonist is the collective image of all these women. "They live in terrible conditions,” Dvortsevoy explains. They often find themselves in very difficult situations. I am now thinking of creating a fund to help them, maybe together with the Kyrgyz government, as I realize that the situation will not change soon. In general, art has its own way of effecting reality. For instance, an investigative journalist can write an article and immediately see people’s reactions. Art, on the other hand, affects people's souls in a gradual manner, it’s a long-term process. To achieve that, is my goal."

Don’t miss Sergey Dvortsevoy’s rendezvous with the audience at AGBU on July 13 at 15:00, after which you can catch the Yerevan premiere of Ayka in the Grand Hall of Cinema House at 21:30.

Sona Arsenyan