Interview with Filmmaker Mimi Chakarova (THE MIRROR)

THE MIRROR played to rave reviews at the December 2021 CHICAGO Feedback Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

A few years ago, while having lunch with a friend at an outdoor café, we saw a white woman walk by with a huge “WOKE” button attached to her designer purse. Last year, many of my white neighbors made BLM posters. My Black neighbors joked how the movement has once again become a fashionable acronym. None of their windows were decorated with signs of why their lives mattered. When the Asian population became a target to violent attacks, the signs changed. Then it was time to vote, and once again, little children were at work – drawing the messages their liberal parents deemed relevant and timely. And so the idea for “The Mirror” was born.

What do well intentioned white people say on a day-to-day basis to their Black co-workers and neighbors? We are bombarded by the outbursts of the Karens, but rarely do we turn the mirror on white people who preach equality and inclusion yet still can’t seem to get it right. I reached out to a colleague, a Black woman, who is a radio host and a teacher at the Oakland School for the Arts. I mentioned the idea of assembling a series of audio interviews with Black women that we would then animate in a creative and visually compelling way. Delores was on board. She was sick and tired of the clueless rhetoric she has to endure. She knew of other Black women who were fed up with the persistent ignorance and covert racism in some of America’s most liberal neighborhoods and workplaces. Little by little, we created an animated montage of their voices, recounting the hurtful, and at times absurd, situations Black women experience on a daily basis.

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

The idea was born several years ago but we began work on this project in early 2021. The production took eight months. Post-production, another two.

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

Necessary and honest.

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

Our biggest obstacle was the film’s structure. I wanted to see movement in the visual landscapes we created for each story. The common scheme that my artistic collaborator, Lola Noguer, and I agreed on was the layering of colors, pen marks and stains. We added elements with each scene and at times subtracted them from the frame, leaving only the bare building blocks of each illustration or portrait. Like the animated stories, the music score by Gavin Templeton intends to surprise and evoke an emotional reaction. In the beginning, the music is neutral and disarming, even absurd, but gradually, as we dig deeper into the consequences of the encounters we hear, the music reflects the severity of the ignorance and hurt experienced by Black women.

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

My initial reaction was that the audience truly understood why we made this film; why we decided to animate the stories; and why beauty and layering are so central in the visual landscapes that Lola and I created.

Watch the Audience Feedback Video:

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

I was a photojournalist for many years before I picked up a video camera. The moment I decided to make films is when my still camera reached its limit. I wanted to see movement…I wanted to hear a person’s sigh. I shot my first video footage in 2008 and it was terrible. I made every mistake in the book. It took another ten years before I could look at my footage and feel satisfied with my progress.

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

Probably Flashdance but that’s because so many of us coming to America from other countries wanted to believe in the fairy tale that Hollywood offered the world.

8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?

The audience feedback is invaluable. It feels so personal, like people sitting in my living room, talking about the process and how it made them feel. I could have watched their feedback for another hour. So often, when we make films, we find ourselves in the dark. It’s hard to be a creative person… like living in a cave with your thoughts and problems. It’s also a vulnerable place – sharing a film with the world. My team and I are so grateful for the feedback we received from your audience members. It’s a true gift.

9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?

It’s been seamless. I’m so glad they exist.

10. What is your favorite meal?

I like food but I prefer a good conversation even better.

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

Absolutely. We have two films in the works in 2022. One of them will also be animated – another collaboration with Lola Noguer. It will also be scored by Gavin Templeton. Essentially, the same production team you see in “The Mirror” will be working on this next project with me. We also have a fellowship program for women filmmakers through Still Rise Films and we are mentoring our fellows as they complete their short films.

By matthewtoffolo

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

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