UNEDITED INTERVIEW WITH CECILIA CORNEJO
Can you talk a bit about your background and what led you to filmmaking?
I always enjoyed writing and had a love of color. I started as a painter who quickly realized that she couldn’t paint (or draw for that matter). And so, when I took a class in video production, I realized that this was the perfect medium for combining my love of words with my love of images—images that I didn’t have to create from scratch.
Can you talk about a moment, a film, a screening that really inspired you to become a filmmaker?
Not really—there wasn’t one definitive moment but a series of them. I was definitely inspired by Jean-Luc Godard’s Two or Three Things I know About Her, by Joris Ivens’ Rain and by Chris Marker’s San Soleil… I remember watching these films and thinking, “wow! I didn’t know you could do that!”
What is the genesis of “I Wonder What You Will Remember Of September”?
This film came from a need not to have my personal history erased.
Can you elaborate on the process of making “I Wonder What You Will Remember Of September”? How important is the process to you? Can you contextualize “I Wonder What You Will Remember Of September” in relationship to your body of work overall. Does this film relate to themes that you typically explore or is this film a departure?
My work is usually very personal but it opens up to questions and concerns that go beyond the personal, or at least I want to think it does. My work usually gravitates toward the personal and the political and so, in that respect, this film is a continuation of that tendency.
How does your point of view as a mother and a woman inform your filmmaking? (Some women have felt that if they were to be taken seriously as filmmakers they had to be “closeted” mothers or choose between the two. Is that something you have encountered?)
A while ago I realized that, if I wanted to do the kind of work I like (personal/political/poetic), using the means I have (very little money and/or resources and working more like an artisan than a filmmaker per se), I would probably never be “successful,” in the way success may be conceived today (showing one’s films at prestigious venues, receiving funding, etc.). This realization brought me a lot of peace and allowed me to focus on what’s important, which for me it is to make work. Of course, we all want to berespected and/or recognized for what we do, whatever this is, but if I dwelled too much on that thought I’d probably not make anything, at all.
Does your role as a filmmaker inform how you see yourself as a mother?
My role as a maker informs a lot of the things I do, including being a mother.
Did you have reservations about including your kids in the project? Can you share a story about the process of working with your kids?
Yes and no. At the time of the making of this film, I was always with a camera in hand, and so recording my daughter felt natural. However, once I decided that I’d like to include some images of her in the film, I was careful to frame her in such a way that you can barely see her face. And this sense, she is much more present as an aural being than as an image.
How do you balance teaching, making films, your family, life, etc? Can you share a day in your life doing this balancing act?
If you are going to be an artist AND have a family, you need to have a very generous and supportive family. And you need to realize that you are part of their lives and so, you must be there for them as well. In our case, it works like… We take turns! That’s the best way to put it; so, if I have to be gone for a week, my husband and daughter pitch in, but then when it return, I pick up the slack and they can relax, and so on… I enjoy the variety I have in my life immensely, and I consider myself very lucky to live this way. Right now, for example, I’m preparing for a Documentary Video Workshop that I’ll be teaching in Chile over the course of three weeks. I’m also at the very last stages of my next film “In the cage there is food,” which will be finalized after I return in August. I’ve also been collaborating with a friend on the translation of one of Jorge Sanjinés’s essay on his work with indigenous people in Bolivia, and I continue to make jewelry, and knit, and practice ballet and modern dance on a weekly basis. The down side of this juggling is fragmentation, and this is hard to live with. But I’m getting better at it.
We have shared the rationale behind putting together the Kid on Hip program. Do you have any thoughts on being included in this group of films as a screening program?
I feel honored to be part of this program and wish I could see all the other films. I also feel curious about how it will be received.
How important do you think a subjective mode of storytelling is in media education? How do you use subjective storytelling in your teaching?
It’s very important in that it encourages individual thought and reflection. The classes I’ve taught have, more often than not, dealt with the personal and subjective. The issue for me is more about making the personal connect to the bigger issues. Go from something private to something that is relevant to us all.
What are the important messages to convey to women filmmaking students?
An important message to convey to all students is that they need to decide how free they want to be, realizing as best as possible the consequences of their decision. Aside from this, for women students, I emphasize the fact that ANYONE can learn to use technology.
Does your point of view as woman and mother affect the way they you see your work in relationship to technology?
I am not sure I understand this question.
Do you think there is a relationship between choice of technology and development of concept? Can you explain the relationship between technology and concept in “I Wonder What You Will Remember Of September”?
Yes. In I wonder… I knew I wanted the images that go along with the child’s narration to be shot on Super 8 and that they had to be close-ups. I also knew that the conversations with my daughter had to be shot on video, making them look especially plastic and contemporary (two different ways of approaching home-video). I also think that sometimes you don’t have the choice, and then you have to decide what that means…
How do the different changes in technology expand or contract the storytelling possibilities? Can you give an example of how changes in technologies have changed the way you approach telling the story you want to tell?
The changes in technology continue to open up more possibilities, although as digital prevails and film stock disappears, one could also make claims that certain modes of storytelling are disappearing. For example, I can no longer shoot Super 8 Kodachrome… This is a huge loss… But the bigger problem I see is that, while new technologies continue to be developed, the storytelling craft, or the knack to experiment with new forms, seem to take backseat. We spend so much time figuring out the new technologies and interfaces that the time dedicated to the craft diminishes.
In your opinion, are there particular approaches to filmmaking that academia does not value as highly? How do you think this way of thinking affects approaches to media education?
As I said above, educational institutions are faced with having to catch up with the constant change and/or improvement of technology. This creates the need to re-acquaint one self and students with the changes and the craft of telling a story or not telling story becomes a second thought. As a consequence, students risk ending up with work that may be technically-proficient while totally uninteresting. There is an infatuation with technology that I find very frustrating. Also, when it comes to technology, the emphasis is always placed on “how can we use this new technology,” rather than “what does it mean to use this technology? Do I need it for what I have to say? How does it enhance (OR NOT!) the execution and delivery of my work? So, the greater risk for me is that I see educational institutions inadvertently producing technologically well-trained students that still do not know how to think and may very well be unaware of their responsibility as media makers.