Interview with Filmmaker Murat M. Eyuboglu (OCEANO: A PACIFIC RITUAL)

Directed by Murat M Eyuboglu
Filmed on the Jogasaki Coast of Japan, the choreography of Dai Matsuoka of the celebrated butoh group Sankai Juku is a meditation on the music of Paola Prestini and the verses of Pablo Neruda. The film opens with the images of the Arctic and the Antarctica captured by the Emmy-laureate Sylvestre Campe.

Get to know the filmmaker:

1. What motivated you to make this film?

During the early months of 2020, my friends and longtime collaborators Paola Prestini and Jeffrey Zeigler approached me to ask if I would like to imagine a visual universe for the solo cello album that they had just recorded. The album featured Paola’s music for solo cello that spanned two decades and each piece was inspired by a poem. Océano: A Pacific Ritual was one of those pieces. Jeff had performed with the Kronos Quartet for eight seasons and knew Dai Matsuoka (who dances with the celebrated group Sankai Juku) from some earlier collaborations in Japan. I asked Dai if he would select a location on the Pacific Coast to perform his choreography and I would direct remotely. (Travel was, of course, not possible during the first year of the pandemic). He and his film crew found the location that you see in the film. We had various email exchanges on the ethos and the aesthetics of the piece–which followed earlier Zoom meetings we were having about the larger project. I sent Dai footage of underwater seaweed in tidal pools that I had shot some ten years ago in Maine to inspire his movements. Our costume designer Chiaki Nishikawa was also inspired by this footage and designed the extraordinary costume you see in the film.

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

Océano: A Pacific Ritual is part of a group of four short films which are called Houses of Zodiac: A Refracted Anthology. From conception to the finished product, all four shorts took a little over two years to complete.

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

[A] Pacific Ritual 🙂

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

The biggest obstacle was of course not being able to travel during 2020 and all the other pandemic-related restrictions that followed in 2021. This was my first experience in directing remotely and I have to say, it worked surprisingly well. Not only that everything had to be communicated in writing, but sometimes it had to be translated as well, often using AI. I live in New York, Dai lives in Tokyo, my assistant editor lives in Rio de Janeiro and my editor lives in Chicago. But it all worked out well in the end.

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

I have to say that watching the feedback video was a very moving experience for me. After months and sometimes years of work, one rarely gets an opportunity to hear such thoughtful feedback. Just the sheer idea that strangers spent the time to watch what you have done, moved by it and articulated their thoughts, is humbling. Then you realize that through the experience of the film, they are not strangers any more; omehow the film created a wonderful, if ephemeral, community.

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

I had an early training in photography starting at the age of ten. My later education took me to different places, namey musicology. But after I participated in the production of a documentary in Brazilian Amazonia, I wanted to start making my own films. Some skills were transferable from photography but needless to say, they were insufficient. I made a number of music videos which I consider to be my film school. My first feature film was a music-based documentary on the Colorado River.

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

Do you mean the repeated watching of a film? Something I do for pure fun with friends sometimes is to re-watch either Double Indemnity or Amadeus. Otherwise, I am not so much a repeat-viewing person.

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

I am so impressed by your audience engagement strategies; it is above and beyond what I’ve seen at most other festivals. I can’t really think of what else you can do right now.

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

I find FilmFreeway pretty effective and it seems to have done well mediating between me and your festival.

10. What is your favorite meal?

Wild mushroom tarte flambée with an Alcasian white.

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

I have been working on a feature documentary on the Amazon River Basin since 2017. Here is the trailer for it. I hope it sees the light of day…


By matthewtoffolo

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

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: