At 13:00 BST on Friday 16 July 2021, Guille Santos and Sadaf H. Nava's short film Ditectrice has its first public screening in the Short Film Corner at Cannes Film Festival and on SHOWstudio. Drawing from Nava's work in music, the film meditates on cinematic clichés and surreal mythologies, bringing an old fable to life.
We spoke to the directors ahead of the launch to find out how it feels to show at the most renowned film event in the world after a year in lockdown, and using the medium of film to talk about womanhood.
Hetty Mahlich: What reactions are you hoping to see from your audience at Cannes Film Festival, and what are you hoping they will take away with them?
Sadaf H. Nava: Audience reactions are not something that I personally like to think about or consider when creating a work. To me, it’s a very personal endeavour and I try not to have expectations about what others will think of it. What is rewarding is to share an inner world with an audience, knowing that everyone will take something different from it. As Nietzsche would say, you only get out of films what you already know. ("Ultimately no one can hear in things - books included - more than he already knows.'" - Ecce Homo). That being said, I am so happy that people will finally get to see the film at the Short Film Corner at Cannes Film Festival!
Guille Santos: It's our first public screening and I'm glad to be here to see the audience's faces. I wish Sadaf was here too! [Sadaf is in New York].
HM: How did the concept for the film come about?
SHN: Ditectrice is a visual accompaniment to my album History of Heat, which came out on Blueberry records in 2019. This was a project that began with the idea of an expanded music video. We wanted to challenge the typical structure of a video clip and to present it as an exercise in filmmaking.
What interested us most was the possibility to create a fictional counterpart to a musical album, which contains within itself an entire universe. The title of the film is taken from an intensely energetic song on the album, which features chaotic improvised vocals and free jazz violin. We spent a lot of time fleshing out ideas together and the whole thing fell into place quite organically
GS: When I was in Cannes for the festival in 2019, I remember listening to Sadaf's first EP Shell, specifically the song that starts with: 'Ok, I wrote a film and now I want to burn it', on loop. Right after landing in Los Angeles, we hopped on a call. We spent most of the time talking about cinema and the idea of idealistic romance. It was clear that our lead would be a muse who directs her own destiny. We wanted to deconstruct the archetype of the female fatale, exploring cinematic narratives and classic decoupage. The idea developed into a beautiful summer trip to Spain where we had the chance to get documentary footage from the San Fermin Festival.
Hetty Mahlich: What does this film say about womanhood?
GS: I think Sadaf would answer this one better.
SHN: For me, Ditectrice is the image of a modern female director, and a detective of identity. The feminine tropes in the film come from a personal place and don’t aim to promote a specific viewpoint. The main character is sincere and caricatural at the same time. My work is all about auto-fiction, distorting and creating a persona that questions my own identity and memory. The film also explores cinematic clichés such as the femme fatale, the damsel in distress, and the hero. These roles in both cinema and mythology have generally been very gendered. In the case of this film, which functions on a surrealistic plane, these positions are mutable, reversible and dreamlike. The main character is not one type of woman, but oscillates between different modalities with ease.
HM: What were both your roles in creating this film?
GS: It's difficult to point out roles between Sadaf and I in this project. I guess we settled some boundaries but what really drove this project was long hours of daily discussions, studying our characters and how we would convey a film experience of the universe of History of Heat. Most importantly, our tight crew of close friends from New York and Brazil made the experience more fun and creative.
SHN: Yes, this film was a truly collaborative process from beginning to end. We directed and wrote the film together and spent a lot of time getting it off the ground. It was so natural to work with Guille and to actualise and merge our ideas into what the film became, and the entire process was a blast!