IDFA 2018: Now Something is Slowly Changing
15 November 2018
Mint film office's Now Something Is Slowly Changing, selected for IDFA Feature-length and Dutch Competitions, is a minimalist reflection on the business of personal growth and development.
In the film, supported by the Netherlands Film Fund, we are shown a plethora of examples of people seeking personal development, whether by choice or corporate requirement. Some engage in pig massage therapy, others learn to be a better (future) dad in an all-male ante-natal class. Security operatives learn to deal with violent intimidation while a group of (mainly) middle-aged people throw themselves free-form around a dance studio. An obvious superstar of motivational speaking gives a TED-type address as an elderly man offers one-on-one sex counselling over the internet.
Each scene is similarly framed, a static camera pointing towards a symmetrical mise-en-scène, and each story is edited into a series of long single takes. But mint film office's Menna Laura Meijer was interested less in those seeking personal development, more in the process itself, and especially its practitioners. "I was curious about all the doctors, therapists and coaches who were treating them. I wanted to have a look at the industry, the ‘helping people' instead of focussing on the ‘sufferers', which would be a more classic approach."
She further points out that the film reflects as much on the process of documentary filmmaking as the business of facilitating personal development. "This film is much more about our profession than self-help. Documentaries have become more and more characterdriven and rely heavily on dramatic developments. We must identify, we must feel, we must be swept away in drama and emotions."
"We use music and sound design to push and underline these emotions," she continues. "We film closer and closer, sometimes so close that at the end of the film you realize you haven't seen anything really. You are forced to feel much more than think. This push to capture and translate reality, real life, in a dramatic structure is so dominant that, in my opinion, we have all forgotten how boring real life really is... So, we took away all the elements that are normally used in a film to push emotional and narrative developments. No main characters, no interviews, no sound-design, no music, only wide angles, and no camera movement."
Were the subjects in any way wary of Meijer or her motives during the filming process? "I have no hidden agenda. Me and the researchers tell people what our goal is: a film about people looking for improvement in how they live or work. Of course, people are worried about the compilation of scenes, the overall tone of the film. I always say that people should follow their gut feeling when they meet me. If they can't find the trust then they should never do it. I often compared it to therapy and coaching: when you start out you don't know if it's going to work. It is the risk and sometimes the fun and the only way to find out is to do it. Some people have seen the scenes before picture lock and some have had a veto on using it or not. But for me, that is how I always do it."
The business of facilitating self-help can elicit much by way of cynical response, as well as a fair dose of curiosity and genuine interest. How does Meijer think IDFA audiences will respond to mint's take on the subject? "The same as always, people will like it or not, will understand our ambitions or will doubt our integrity or intentions," she stresses. "I prefer not to engage with the audience more than that. The audience being viewers, journalists or people from the industry. It blocks my drive, energy, and fun of making. I don't read reviews, I don't know how many people watch it on tv or in the cinema, and I prefer to do as little as possible interviews. I try to focus on what makes filmmaking really important for me and that is working with the people I have been working with for over 20 years and making something new. Next."
SEE NL Magazine #33 November 2018 / IDFA Issue
SEE NL is published four times per year by EYE International and The Netherlands Film Fund and is distributed to international film professionals.