Interview with Filmmaker Christaan Felber (FROM HEAVEN IS CALI)

FROM HEAVEN IS CALI was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the October 2020 Drama New York Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

I’ve always wanted to make a film, but it was always very intimidating to me. It was tricky finding subject matter that was inspiring, where I could actively see the imagery playing in my head. When this subject presented itself, however, I realized it was the perfect opportunity to dive headfirst into making a film.

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

If it wasn’t for Covid it would have taken just under a year. We were about a week out from it being done, but because of the lockdown, it took another 6 months.

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

Soulful and passionate.

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

Besides the obvious logistical problems we faced during the lockdown, the most difficult part was translating and editing all of the interviews. We had to hire a translator who was well-versed in not only Spanish but in the local dialect and then assembled pieces of the interviews to create a cohesive narrative. It made the entire editing process so much trickier!

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

I honestly get really squeamish listening to people talk about me or my work…I don’t know why! haha. Once I got over it tho, it was nice listening to all of the great reviews people gave the film. I’m so glad that a festival like this exists because it can be difficult finding people who don’t have a horse in the race, so to speak, and are willing to give you honest feedback. It was very helpful!

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I first found out about the Colombian salsa scene through my girlfriend Jen, who also produced the film. We traveled to Cali to see her family and I often like to shoot personal projects while traveling, so I did a bit of research and found out that Cali is known as “the world capital of salsa,” which I never knew. The salsa scene in Colombia, specifically Cali, is everywhere: from the nightclubs to the shows, to the music collectors and DJs to the dancers, salsa dancing is more than just an art-form or musical style, it’s a way of life. I decided it would make a good photo essay, which I shot and published and then realized that the energy, athletics, and music translated really well into film, so I decided to make it into a short documentary.

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

I think it’s a tie between “Cool Hand Luke” and “True Romance.”

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

FilmFreeway takes the task of applying for festivals – which can be very daunting – and streamlines it. They have a really easy-to-use interface that makes the entire process so simple.

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

“Mr. Face” by Ty Segall

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

Yes, I have a film idea that I just started and am really excited to pursue! This one is definitely going to be shot locally and in English.

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