Surgery is one woman’s experience of arriving and living in a hospital during COVID 19 shot from her iPhone using her own point of view.
Esperanza Sanchez Espitia is a woman born and raised in Colombia. She was trained as a photojournalist and began working from different local media. Her work as a photojournalist made her document and created international photographs exposition documenting the life and hardships of the First Nations communities. After being persecuted, she arrived in Canada as a political refugee with her two children. She is living in Canada for more than 18 years in Canada. She arrived in Regina and registered in the Master Program, Film Production and Directing at the University of Regina. It is with great pleasure for Toronto Film Magazine to interview her.
How did you start making films and what was the first film project you worked on?
I started making films as a student at the University of Regina. My first film is called Silent Pain (2019). This short film is based on a true story. I was born in Colombia, a country shaped by violence. In Colombia, the use of weapons of war ranges from land mines, firearms, and knives, which are the most used by the poor people. As a child, I witnessed multiple knife murders, and those violent scenes let a deep trauma in my life. Silent Pain (2019) became part of my healing process. This film has helped me to transform my perception of the use of knives.
Silent Pain (2019), Andrew has only known the sharp cutting edge of life. Hopeless, he let himself be carved out into silence and loneliness. Until Sonia came along, flipping his life around and yielding him the handle.
What was the inspiration behind the making of your film?
In the realization of my short film Surgery (2021), I was inspired by the Cinéma Vérité or Direct Cinéma movement approach of the 1950s and 1960s. I attempted to capture the sound and images with as much accuracy as possible. This film represents my objective reality as a filmmaker, observer and listener, using an industrial type of soundtrack, made directly from my hospital bed.
In the editing process, I was inspired by the young filmmaker Terence Nance and his film, An Oversimplification of her beauty (2012). For the sound, I was inspired by Robert Bresson (1997), “Notes and Sound.” And by Delian Mode (2009), YouTube documentary.
What is the most challenging aspect of being an independent female filmmaker in the film industry?
Being a female filmmaker is extremely difficult because the film industry is dominated by men. Most of the huge film Production companies in Hollywood, such as Netflix, Amazon, Disney are ruled by men. There is a strong gender bias in the industry.
How difficult is it to fund indie films?
It is very difficult because almost every time you are going into your own pocket to finance your own film. If I make a movie, I may not have a salary, but the crew and cast will always be paid. It is my sense of fairness in production films.
Please name three of your most favorite directors. How have they been influential in your work?
I am still exploring the incredible archive of the world cinema. Yet I have three directors that I found regularly on my view list.
Assia Djebar, LA NOUBA DES FEMMES DU MONT-CHENOUA (1977)
Agnès Varda, Cléo de 5 à 7 (1962)
Barbra Streisand, Yentl (1983)
These films had the power to give me back the wisdom of all my female ancestors. I saw my story reflected in each of the woman protagonists of these films. All those women with war wounds, daughters of fears and forced to live tied in chains, in repetitive circles of misery and poverty. Djebar, for example, directed her film more than 40 years ago and on another continent. My experience is different in geography and history, but I can relate to the feminine issue and to the notion of giving voice to Latino-American women.
How did your project go into production and how did you finalize the cast and the crew?
I was in the hospital, I only had my iPhone, it was working, I was the cast, and I was the crew, and I was in location. Total bootstrapping.
How was the film received by your audience and film festivals and what is your plan for further distribution of the film?
It is the first time this film gets an international audience. It is also the first time it is presented at a festival.
What do you recommend to other filmmakers regarding the making and the distribution of independent films?
The more you know about filmmaking and distribution of independent films, the less mistakes you will make or better decisions you will take like sending your work to an appropriate festival.
What is your next film project and what are you currently working on?
For both questions it is the same answer: I am presenting preparing my master thesis project that will be a film with autoethnographic approach from my life's journey that includes my life in Colombia and in Canada.
Why do you make films?
I think it is the power of changing destinies and transforming lives that come from making films and sharing them with an audience.