Uizenmaa: I challenge myself all the time to find my own way

By HELEN Wright


B.Uizenmaa, known as Uisenma Borchu, is a Mongolian film director living, studying and working in Munich, Germany. Her debut feature film, which she also acted in, “Don’t Look At Me That Way” (“Schau Mich Nicht So An” in Germany) won the Most Promising Talent Award at the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2016 last week, as reported by the UB Post.

 Her film was made in both Germany and Mongolia and is about Iva, a single mother, who falls in love with her next door neighbor Hedi (played by B.Uizenmaa). But when Iva’s visiting father fails to turn up for a planned dinner, Hedi goes in search of him, and what happens threatens to tear them all apart.

 The film had its world premiere at last year’s Munich Film Festival where it won the Fipresci Award 2015. In January, she won the award for Best New Director at the 37th Bavarian Film Festival, receiving a 10,000 EUR prize.

B.Uizenmaa was born in Ulaanbaatar and moved to Germany with her family in 1989. She has one son.

The UB Post spoke with B.Uizenmaa about her movie, her love for film making, overcoming sexism and the Mongolian film industry.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

How did you get into film making?

I have always been looking for ways to express myself. I started writing first, and I have been watching films since I can remember. But when I started to study film, I realized that I have the vision to make a film by myself. I think that writing and listening to music gave me the base for becoming a filmmaker.

What has the reaction been like to your film? Were you surprised by the reaction to “Don’t Look At Me That Way”?

It was great. People are surprised by it, but some feel free. Especially the women who watch it. Some feel sad because it is very much about solitude. The film raises some questions about why we are socialized the way we are and why we treat each other like the way we do.

Some have problems with the superficial aspect of the film like the nudity. They ask why I would want to provoke through nudity? Then I say why do you feel provoked by nudity? You know people in our world feel provoked by a nipple or by a naked ass but they are absolutely fine with a headshot. This is funny.

All in all, I am very happy that people internationally see and appreciate the language we have chosen for our film.

How did you come up with the plot of your film?

I am always observing society nowadays. Then I found this feeling that I wanted to discover more. I read books and I wrote. Looking at paintings is usually the way I develop my story. But the feeling comes is first. I wanted to come closer to these different lives of two different young women – their attitudes and their hopes and fears.

How did it feel to win your award at the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2016?

We were already so excited to go to Japan. We had already heard that this festival is very popular and that the programming director Teruoka Sozo is known for his cinematic perspective. This film is something special to me and I wondered if an Asian audience could see something special in it as well. I also love Asian cinema very much. We were running in the competition and we felt so honored being included in this program alongside so many other strong movies from all over Asia. It was a big surprise. I feel at home when people feel and understand my film in all its complexity.

How long did it take to make?

All in all it took almost three years. That includes the writing, preparing, shooting and editing. But the writing and developing the idea of the story out of the feeling took most of the time.

How did you fund the film? How many people worked with you to make it?

It was made with the budget from my film school in Munich, the budget for my graduation film. My partner is Sven Zellner, who is the director of photography, and we had a nice little team. The producers and actors, it was a small team so we could use the advantage and be very flexible.

Why are you now based in Germany? Do you come back to Mongolia much?

I came to Germany as a kid. I grew up between these countries and this has given me a different way of looking at the world. I try to be in Mongolia as often as possible.

What was it like to film in Mongolia?

It was great. The old Mongolian lady I filmed with was so understanding and gifted. It is the culture and the language that I learnt first – so my heart is always delighted to be back in Mongolia, even though my Mongolian is kind of bad. But I am trying to learn.

What is the film industry like in Mongolia?

I don’t know exactly. My goal is to make movies in Mongolia and I want to do it soon. But from what I can observe, it is that Mongolian films are more about copying rather than making original and individual films. And of course they are not shown anywhere else except on Mongolian TV or cinemas. I think the quality needs to be pushed up, it is not about the money.

Have you found you have to work harder as a female director? Have you experienced any sexism in the industry?


I have to prove myself 10 times more than a male director does. I feel that, but I don’t care. This male dominated world wants to put pressure on your back but I don’t feel worried at all. I think we women need to laugh about this because no matter how hard they want to oppress you they will always be underestimating us and the power women have is too big. I do not only mean men with this, I am talking to all the women who fight against women too.

Equality is to judge someone by their quality of work. I feel sorry for everyone who feels he or she can only be someone when they start becoming corrupt.

Are there any themes that run through your work? Or any topics that you particularly want to focus on with your film making?

I am always very curious about women and men in our world. There is too much to mention or to focus on. But I am always into the intimacy of everyday life.

What inspires you to make films?

It is the film making itself. I challenge myself all the time to find my own way.

This film was the first time you have acted, what was that like and how did you prepare?

It was great and I liked it. My curiosity brought me in front of the camera and I wanted to discover more about the feeling of filmmaking. I think I am now on a path to understanding more about the work of an actor or actress. I feel free in front of the camera. To direct at the same time was also very nice, because I could intervene directly into the scene. That was very helpful. I wrote the script, so I was already very much prepared for the role.

What was it like balancing being a parent, director, actor and student?

I do all that with passion. My son is understanding and he gets the situation. It is always hard but I am a strong and a strict mom, and I do behave sometimes like a little kid too. That is very important I guess.

Who are your favorite filmmakers?

I like films from the early 1920s in Germany, which was a very modern time; the Italian neo-realism and of course the nouvelle vague. They always impress me.

What does your family think about the film? I read that your dad designed the poster?

I think they like this film. My brother Chingunjav Borkhuu is also a filmmaker and he supported me with the production in Ulaanbaatar and found the actress that played the grandmother. My sister Tschagsalmaa Borchuu is the costume designer, so we are one crew.

I told them very early about the story. I remember telling my father the ending of the story and then he looked down, said nothing, so I knew that the ending is great. My father is a painter and he always is very much involved in my thoughts. He is a good critic: he is very honest and his advice is important to me.

Which other countries would you like to work?

I like shooting in dangerous, adventurous and lovely spots in the world. I would like to continue with that. The most inspiring things are the people you meet. The way they live makes you always question yourself. That is food for the soul.

Is your film going to be shown at any other festivals?

It will be shown soon in Vilnius, Lithuania. Then I hope I can come to Asia again. In June, the film will be released in German cinemas. I am very happy about that.

What are you going to do next?

I am writing, shooting tests, and I hope I will find the right producers.

Short URL: http://ubpost.mongolnews.mn/?p=19200

Posted by on Mar 23 2016. Filed under Prime Interview. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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