Interview with director Cassie De Colling (GULMARG – PARADISE ON EARTH)

Cassie De Colling’s short film played at the March 2017 DOCUMENTARY Short Film Festival

 Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

A lot of factors came into play when making this film. I was struck by the situation in Kashmir and I wanted to help create a perspective for the western skier to see I wanted that to strong but also not negative as I am very aware that they are injecting a lot of economy into the area, its a double edged sword. It was a challenge as the topic is a strong one and I didn’t want to use my own voice, as admit I am not an expert on the melting pot of issues that are revolving around Kashmir politically and socially.

From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this short?

5 years. It took me about 4 years to find the time to get it to a 45 minute edit which was a really strong piece but I just didn’t feel as though it was balanced. It was also my first film as a observationally documentary and I personally didn’t fee like I had adequate infrastructure in place for a smooth distribution. That is when I decided to cut it down to make it shorter, more palatable to the short film circuit and audiences.

How would you describe your short film in two words!?

Rough Diamond

What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

When I returned for Kashmir my parter who helped me film it was particularly difficult and didn’t’t want me to use the footage. I basically had to wait a year for things to cool off before seeking legal advice to negotiate obtaining his permission to use the percentage of footage he had shot. It was very emotionally draining. The story also we really difficult to string together I didn;t feel expert enough to go into great detail about issues, so it was the struggle to set up my scenarios and tie them off whilst not getting too invested. Also maintaining relationships with both Kashmiri people and westerners through out the experience has been tricky, some people see the film as something that could portray Kashmir in a negative way, which it isn’t, But Kashmir is a complicated place, I just want tourist to have some understanding of that when they are making a journey their.

What were your initial reactions when watching the Toronto audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

It was great. The film has been such a struggle for me to get together. It was lovely that it sparked conversation and considerations to the people in the audience. Especially in Toronto a multi cultural city, in a country that is known for snow and mountain culture.

WATCH the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

How did you come up with the idea for this short film?

I originally set out to Kashmir to do a pro-bono film a documentary on a NGO that were providing Snowboards and training to Kashmir. When I arrived the company was no where to be found and they went silent. I never heard from them. So I was in Kashmir with my partner and I was dedicated to filming something… We had lugged our DSLR’s and filming gear through the military enclosed airport of Srinagar, we had to make the most of it.

The tension with the westerner and locals sort of lays dormant in Gulmarg. I could feel that but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Over the time I was their I supposed I saw and filmed more and more things that proved this to me. So it was just a matter of capturing those the best we could and at the same time making friends and building relationships with the people I interviewed.

What film have you seen the most in your life?

I am a bit of a one time film watcher… So don’t know

What song have you listened to the most times in your life?

It would be some kind of 80’s Australian anthem. Money for Nothing – Dire Straights

What is next for you? A new film?

I am working on a very exciting VR project called Uku360 It is an underwater 360VR project looking at the first peoples of the world connection to the ocean. Check out for more information. We are about to film the pilot in April 2017.


By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival


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