Interview with Filmmaker Lee Manansala (KHADIAH AND PAULINE)

KHADIAH AND PAULINE played to rave reviews at the February 2020 ROMANCE Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Lee Manansala: It’s weird – I love being in Paris. It’s my favorite city, and I’m content to just wander the city and meet with friends, etc. But I’m also big on being productive, not being idle. So in the November of 2018, with airfare to CDG being so low, I wrote something for my actor friend Hadia to act to in, something I could produce with former students of mine based in Paris, and once everyone was on board, we all just went for it.

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

I booked airfare to Paris and asked Hadia if she wanted to work on something before I ever started writing, and I think that was in June or July of 2018. We shot in November, and I finished post in January of 2019.

3. How would you describe your short film in two words?

Parisian lovers?

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

Just the uncertainty of it all. We didn’t rehearse until the day we shot the film. I didn’t even meet Colombine, who played Pauline, until we shot the scene.

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

I loved it. I was in the audience near the front row, so I wasn’t able to see who said what. One comment was unfavorable, and it really put my “I don’t want to make movies that everyone likes” motto to the test, and honestly, I really don’t. I know that it’s a very narrow space in which I like to create things, and that means it’s not going to reach everyone. But when it does reach someone, it tends to resonate and it becomes memorable and hopefully important to the viewer. I love that idea.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I’ve always been interested in the idea of why people wear certain things, and I think the stories behind our style of dress can be rich with subtext and meaning. The conversation in Khadijah and Pauline was adapted from a feature I am working on – it was always meant to be about vulnerability and loss, but the fact that it’s a woman telling the story adds to the story the idea of coming out.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

Probably Seven Samurai. At this point I just put that movie on as a sort of comforting white noise, even though it’s a sort of filmmaking I may never attempt.

8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are you feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

I am conflicted about this, so I may have a different response tomorrow. But today I feel the proposition of a centralized site for every conceivable film festival is very fair, but it helps to look at it from this perspective – film festival programmers aren’t necessarily looking for the highest quality work, but work that will add value to their festivals. It’s not that your work isn’t good, it’s just not a fit for that particular festival. In that sense, my feelings aren’t hurt by how transactional the process feels.

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

Ma Mère l’Oye – a suite composed by Ravel based on several fables.

10. What is next for you? A new film?

I expanded the Khadijah and Pauline into a three-part short film called “One Year of Khadijah and Pauline”. I’m mulling over the idea of premiering the film on a curated online site, but I still have romantic feelings about premiering it in a theater. I’m currently working on the script for a feature length film partially based on this story. Honestly and embarrassingly, I fell in love with these characters and I don’t want to say goodbye just yet.

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