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IDFA 2018: O amor é único

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IDFA 2018: O amor é único

21 November 2018

Geoffrey Macnab talks to emerging talent Marina Meijer whose O amor é único is selected for IDFA Dutch Documentary Competition.

Rising young Dutch docmaker Marina Meijer won international recognition for her short graduation film Cargo . In it, she dealt with the situation of men at sea, working a long way from home and pining for their loved ones back on shore.

The Rotterdam-based filmmaker's new film O amor é únic o again has a romantic element, but its origins are unusual. After Cargo , she had been developing a new project C'est les autres, which won the Karen de Bok Talent Award at IDFA. However, she had also experienced upheaval in her private life, ending a relation ship after many years. It was summer and she felt a yearning to escape.

"I thought I want to get away. I am confused in love, in life," the younger filmmaker remembers of her state of mind at this time. She decided almost on a whim to head off to Latin America. Meijer flew to Brazil having bought herself a second-hand camera. She headed to a picturesque village she had visited once before. "I felt in that village, everything reminded me of love, in a good and a bad way. I felt I had to go there and see what I found.."

Meijer is an avowed fan of Gabriel García Márquez's magical realist novels, especially ‘One Hundred Years Of Solitude'. The village reminded her of the mysterious and poetic world she encountered in his fiction. No sooner had she arrived, after a long bus journey down muddy roads, that she noticed, carved into one of the seats on the bus, the words: O amor é único. That gave her a title - love is unique. That same evening, by chance, she met Dona Alva, a stubborn older woman with a crush on a younger man. Now, she had a protagonist too. As simply and easily as this, the new documentary flickered into life.

Yes, the director says, the film has some thematic overlaps with Cargo . "I think what attracts me very much in those two films is that I am always interested in sensitive souls and the importance of love," Meijer reflects. "Of course, Cargo is about a macho man. O amor é único is about a macho woman!" The director adds that in her films, she always searches for an "emotional landscape."

In Cargo she was drawing a poetic contrast between the "soft world of water" and "the very harsh world of steel" on the boat. She was also exploring the yearnings of seafarers who seemed on the outside to be tough and self-reliant. In O amor é único , there is a similar contact between the mountains, with "their free, feminine curves" and the forbidding, man-made house with its strict, geometric lines where the woman goes to live.

Meijer came to documentary in a roundabout way. She studied political science and language & cultural studies in Amsterdam and Utrecht before switching to the Netherlands Film Academy. However, as an 18-year-old, she travelled to South America for the first time - and it had a huge formative influence on her. "I never really felt at home in Holland, in South America I did," she reflects. She also became very interested in photography. She liked to write and to do interviews, good grounding for a future documentary maker. Another key formative experience was working in a left wing student cinema in Amsterdam (Filmtheater Kriterion) where she did everything from working behind the bar to operating the projector.

Although Meijer studied photography, documentary gave her something beyond taking still images. She loved the research and the time she spent with her subjects.

Now, Meijer is looking to complete C'est Les Autres , set in a transformation centre for ‘at risk' youths in Rotterdam. The subject matter may sound harsh but like all of Meijer's work, the new film (made through Basalt Films) is bound to have a lyrical undertow.

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.

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