Interview with Filmmaker Mistaya Hemingway (NAïADE)

NAïADE played to rave reviews at the April 2021 Experimental, Dance, Music Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

I made this film initially because I came across a sculpture in downtown Montreal that was a reflection pool- I had never seen anything like it before. At the time, the MeToo era was in full-swing and I was working through a lot of memories, choices and experiences. I was coming to understand how much the male gaze had influenced who I had become as a dancer and a woman. I wanted to use the water as a feedback loop in order to throw away the parts that were no longer valid to me. I found that the reflection pool offered me a chance to do this.

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

For several different reasons it took a long time- two and a half years. Initially, we shot for three days, many different ideas and with different people- it was a ‘happening,’ in a way. Afterwards, we had too much material. There was a lot of interesting stuff. Ultimately, the person I was working with saw a different narrative. The images that made it into Naïade were the ones that spoke the most to me, so I finally took the footage back and edited Naïade in three days, because I knew exactly what I wanted. I also knew I only wanted to use that one track of music, instead of a collage of music. Also, because I didn’t have much money to make this film, friends helped me out with the colouration and sound mix- which meant I needed to wait until they were available.

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

Haunting poem

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

The biggest obstacle was coming to terms with the fact that I didn’t share the same artistic vision as my friend, who was supposed to edit it. I wanted to finish the film and not lose the friendship. In the end, I managed to make the film I wanted and keep the friend, but it took me a while to negotiate this. Finding the courage to express my own artistic vision, and not waiver despite pressures or differing views, is always a learning process for me.

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

It was really emotional to hear their feedback. That I was able to make something that could touch someone else who I’ve never met before, was very gratifying to me. As this is an abstract experimental dance film, I was pleased to hear that the narrative came through, or their perception of it. Especially right now, it made me happy to feel a connection with the audience through my art form.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. When did you know that you wanted to make movies?

I had the chance to participate in a foundational dance film in the early 2000s which helped to restart the genre. It took me several years before I would realize that I could do it myself. I feel like the camera helps us to see. For me, spending the day working on a film is one of the best kinds of days. Also, since I spent many years working in live performance, I love that I can capture a moment with film and share it with people all over the world.

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

I know it’s a bit controversial to say this these days, but I have probably seen more Woody Allen films on repeat than any other films- Annie Hall, Manhattan- all of them, really. With my kids right now, I try to show them films from my childhood that were important to me. I definitely have an ache for nostalgia, or for times I never lived and places I have never visited. I love films for that.

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

I think it works, overall. It’s good to be able to centralize all the festivals like that- I’ve come to discover festivals I would have otherwise not known through this platform.

9. What is your favorite meal?

Impossible question. Spaghetti Aglio et Olio, a perfect Thai curry, a fresh green mango salad on the beach, extra spicy.

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

I am in post-production for a film I made last summer, based on a film by Maya Deren from 1944. I shot it out at the lake I spend time at so there is water again, but in a completely different way. It’s quite weird, but i’m really excited about it.

I’m also working on a dance / film / immersive media / XR project about my father’s architecture- it’s a long term project that enables me to work with different kinds of digital artists. Plus I get to reconnect with some of my father’s architecture, which is very special.

I also just wrote a grant application for a film I would like to shoot this September with some friends. We miss dancing together, so I made a project that would enable us to dance safely outside in this very unusual park. There’s a bit of 1960s nostalgia in that one, combined with a drone camera and real 35mm film. I hope we get the funding! So I’m keeping busy, even if it’s been pretty quiet in general this last year.

By matthewtoffolo

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

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