News 2013

Interview with Noaz Deshe, director of White Shadow

Giulia Ghigi Who was Noaz Deshe before becoming a director?

Noaz Deshe I try to stay away from titles, although at the end of a film you have to write what was your contribution as a credit, I find it hard to call myself a director. I rather feel like I am part of a story and I get the fun task of making sure all the characters stay in the appropriate light. Some kind of a participating audience.

GG Why did you choose this story for your debut film?

ND The importance of this very human story and challenges of making it work with little means are a very strong engine.

Maybe I can answer that in the future. Right now I can say it came in loud and clear as something that is urgent. It must be made and made now. The Idea dictated the rules and gave an endless source of energy to keep going into a lot of unknowns. So that was very thrilling.

GG Why did you choose film as a medium for your artistic expression?

ND Cinema is not the only way for me to communicate ideas. But if the opportunity arrives to combine all these things I love, then its real joy. There is a romantic wish that when you set out to go make a film, that it will take you far deep down what you do not know, expand and break what you do and teach you things about how you perceive your surroundings. If a story can offer even a little of that within your process. Then you have to. It is a way you can get lost inside ideas in their nonverbal form. A vacation from the daily thinking.

GG How was the experience on the set of a feature-length film?

ND One day we changed our schedule in the last moment and went to shoot in a different location. Were we did not go, a Lion went and killed ten people. The army shot him. One night we heard artillery and found out that an old military weapons depot is exploding. Missiles flew into the international airport and surrounding villages. One of the kids that was acting in the film, Willy Wilson, got hurt and would not speak for a month. Crew members contracted malaria and aggressive skin rashes. Nothing is for granted. And nothing will happen unless you walk it by the hand to the right light. The entire crew was extremely committed. Everyone was on a mission pushing each other to make it work. No one questioned the reasons or way to make it . It is an energy we kept and it kept us going.

GG There are several documentaries dealing with the sad facts of albinos in Africa. Is there anyone in particular who inspired you? Why did you choose to make a fiction film instead, and which differences gave it to the story?

ND Vicky Ntetema, whom I met later in Tanzania is a BBC journalist who had a lot to do with exposing the trade with albino body parts. When I read about her story it gave me the first kick.  The more I researched and read into the subject the clearer it was for me that the only way I could bring an experience of what it means to be in a situation like this would be a fiction film with strong roots in reality. Fiction allows you to focus on small details and tune the story to the essential, it also allows you to be free with experimentation cause you dance around your narrative thread.

Approaching the film with a screenplay allowed me to be free with everything that is documentary around it because I could keep the narrative thread and be sure the characters stories will carry you through the chaos.

GG The screenplay was written very quickly, did you immediately think of the character of Alias? Why did you choose the perspective of a young boy to tell the story?

ND Yes, he was called Alias in the first thought and the main story was very clear because it arrived one night as a set of images of Alias running and what he does in order to hide. It was called White Shadow and it was a real chronicle of a young person with a price on his head. This was very vivid even as an abstract idea. One has to make sure that a story like this will have strong and very personal roots. Therefore I was sure that the best approach for me would be to bring the experience of this boy rather than an explanation of it. That would be the authentic and reactive to go through it.

Alias in the film is thrown into a new reality. As a viewer I wanted to be able to piece together the details of the plot just like he would perceive his new reality.

GG For the realization of your movie you have a very personal style, for some aspects similar to reportage, such as the use of handheld camera, in others very refined, as the work with sound or the choices of frames and cuts. Why did you choose this approach?

ND The only conscious technical decision I had to make is to make it credible, that it should be truthful to the details of that particular reality. I don’t really know what that means, apart from describing something that is not in sync and suddenly snaps into sync. it’s not one of those things you find in the ether. It is very subjective.  But based on intuitive reactions to the research and plenty fact checking –  some things just look more right.  The music in the film has a roll to emote the mental and physical condition of Alias, an echo of his character. Just like with the story itself the idea was to keep it experiential. To stay sensory and keep asking questions.