Interview with Filmmaker/Animator Martin Gerigk (ONCE I PASSED)

ONCE I PASSED was the winner of BEST FILM at the May 2022 FEEDBACK Animation Festival.

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1. What motivated you to make this film?

I came across the original version of Walt Whitman’s poem “Once I Passed Through a Populous City” by chance many years ago. In 1925, the original handwritten copy of the poem was discovered, in which Whitman writes, however, not about a woman but about an affair with a man in an anonymous city, which may have been his first physical experience of love. Whitman did not dare to publish the original version of his poem, because of the social prejudices of his time. I was touched by the unexpected turn of this love story, but also depressed by the tragic self-censorship. I was cautious about creating a film from the text. I hesitated for many years before working on it. Whitman circles around the inescapable affection of the two male lovers. The depth and intensity of their love are not revealed in direct descriptions, but only through the approaching loss of this love. A recurring awareness tears the viewer apart emotionally, and yet, only through this, frees its inner beauty and truth. Whitman has created, with “Once I Passed Through a Populous City”, one of the most profound and unvarnished portrayals of human love – intense, universal and true. And it is this truth that I want to pay tribute to.

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

Well, the idea of the film actually goes back a few decades. But the actual realization took about a year: concept, the writing and recording of the music, the voice recordings and finally the post-production and animations.

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

Universal love.

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

The biggest obstacle was actually writing the music even though I am a professional composer and I’m used to expressing specific emotions musically. But because of the specificity of the subject there were several frustrating attempts that were close to the mood but not close enough to the emotional aspects of the poem. It was only after I managed to free my mind from self-imposed expectations that the music emerged, as if by itself, a mixture of tonal and experimental musical sequences for string quartet, interwoven with text spoken by three voices. I deliberately wrote music that is exclusively dedicated to and subordinate to the poem.

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

I was very surprised! Normally you don’t get such a direct feedback! Amazing experience!

Watch the Audience Feedback Video:

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

After my first cinematic collaboration with collage artist Nikola Gocić two years ago, it became clear to me that after many years of inner exploration of Whitman’s poem, for the first time a realistic realization of the concept was possible.

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

Definitely Star Wars…

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 idea and concept of your festival is just great! Refreshingly different. And getting direct feedback is so valuable to a filmmaker.

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

Only good experiences. It makes submissions so much easier.

10. What is your favorite meal?


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

I just finished my last film “Demi-Gods”. It’s a surreal short film which addresses three dark aspects of humanity – war, narcissism and ecological destruction – in the form of a musical and visual essay. It is thematically very different from the Whitman. Three more new projects are in preproduction at the moment.


By matthewtoffolo

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

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