Ága press conference with director Milko Lazarov, actors Feodosia Ivanova and Galina Tikhonova and producer Guillaume de Seille
Ága tells the story of elderly, indigenous couple Sedna (Feodosia Ivanova) and Nanook (Mikhail Aprosimov) who live in the icy tundra of the Arctic north. The film follows them as they carve out a meagre existence in the traditions and rituals of their forefathers. Ága is an elegant cinematic experience that transports the audience to another time and displays a tender humanity.
Director, Milko Lazarov was joined by cast members Fedosia Inanova and Galina Tikhonova and the film’s producer, Guillaume de Seille, at the Berlinale press conference. They discussed the sources of inspiration, the life of indigenous people and the process of building a realistic portrayal of their way of life.
What motivated you to tell this story?
Milko Lazarov: Well, actually, I’m telling a story that might have happened anywhere. In Germany, in Bulgaria. It’s the story of the last family on Earth. I shot in the north because I wanted to really be focused on aesthetic and intuition. These are the two pillars on which the whole production rests. That’s the typography of my creative work as a filmmaker. The aesthetics of relationships but also the environment. It was my central motivation and without it, the film would not have happened.
The main character is called Nanook much like the seminal film Nanook of the North. How much did that documentary inspire Ága?
ML: We are now celebrating 100 years of this documentary so I decided to name the male protagonist after Nanook. Its intentionally so. Please bear in mind that this is a fictional story. There are legends but they are from all over, not just the north.
What was it like shooting in such harsh conditions as actors?
Feodosia Ivanova: The weather was quite cold but we managed, we are northerners after all! It was difficult but we know how our indigenous people are living. We learned a lot from them, about surviving in this climate but also to prepare for the role.
How did you go about financing the film?
Guillaume de Seille: The script was wonderful. You see in the script how the idea of the story gets clearer and clearer. The financing wasn’t that difficult because the idea was so great. To make a film where love is so visible. Every human emotion seems tripled.
How much of the story was based on Inuit legend? Is family the core of Inuit mythology?
Galina Tikhonova: The script was based on the Inuit legend but then at the end of the story it combines a lot of legends and mythologies of other indigenous communities in the arctic. This question is interesting because we noticed yesterday that there were similar questions about family and relationships in our area. Having lots of kids in the Republic of Sakha is quite common. Maybe you’ve heard of the region in Russia, it comprises one fifth of the territory but the population is very small, less than one million people. Of course, the policy of the local government is to have more children. For example, I have three kids, which may seem like a lot for Europeans but in our region it’s quite normal. We are keeping our traditional way of life. It’s the same all over the world with families. I can’t say we do things totally different.
Is there a problem of the indigenous community flocking to the cities?
GT: There is a problem in our community, when youngsters want a better way of life and choose to move to the cities and leave those rural areas. It’s their choice, the world is changing and the same is happening in our region.
How did you construct this realist experiment? How did you build such chemistry between the actors?
ML: Beauty, aesthetics were our main ideas. We wanted to build the characters so that they would be aesthetical, no matter who it was. This was our lead idea. We all lived together, we had a number of rooms on the same floor, same building. We really tried to make sure we had close relations. We also took care of hygiene, this was important. We looked at all the details, including the nitty gritty of life. That’s what you see in this production. The film is bigger than we are. We need to serve the film and we need to have this attitude of not wanting to hurt or damage the film.
Ága does not have a UK release date yet. Read our review here.
Read more reviews from our Berlin Film Festival 2018 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Berlin Film Festival website here.