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CIRCLE Interviews: Meet Lina Vdovii, CIRCLE 2020 Participant

Updated: Jan 29, 2021

Lina Vdovii is an award-winning independent reporter from Moldova, based in Romania, with experience in investigative and narrative journalism and new media. Her articles have been published in outlets such as The Guardian, EUobserver, Courrier International, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Balkan Insight, Al Jazeera and others.

She is also the screenwriter of ACASA, My Home (2020) documentary,winner at Sundance.

Q: Please introduce yourself and your project briefly.

A: My name is Lina Vdovii, I am a filmmaker and a journalist from Republic of Moldova, currently based in Bucharest, Romania.

Lina Vdovii, photo from private archive

My project, TATA, is a personal documentary about me and my father. When I was little, he would beat me and my sisters with his black leather belt, while leaving his brutal fists for my mother. After years of not talking to him, I decided to confront him about our past. I go to Italy, where my father has been working for 18 years, but there I find out some disturbing information about his work place that dramatically changes my whole understanding of him.

TATA is a close look on how violence is spreading not only inside our family, but in the larger society as well.

Q: Why this film? What is your most important motivation?

A: TATA explores how my father and I are trying to break a cycle of violence that has existed in our family and in our culture for generations. It is crucial for me to succeed in this task if I want to be a better person and a decent mother for my daughter.

It is also a film about the dilemmas of a child in a situation where her violent parent asks for help. What do you do when the person who instead of loving you the most, hurt you the most, is in a dangerous position? Finding the answer to this question is the biggest motivation for me to work on this project.

Q: What is the biggest challenge in making this film?

A: As a journalist, I have always told other people’s stories. I would meet them, ask intimate questions, at times dig into parts of their lives that were a source of pain and trauma for them and even though I was always respectful to their boundaries, only now, while working on telling my own story, I understand how difficult it must have been for many of them. Most of my articles were about victims of human trafficking, of domestic violent, of abuse, exclusion and poverty. They were heartbreaking stories that many times left me traumatized as well. However, I never, until now, had a complete understanding of what it was for those people to share their personal, deeply intimate story with me, a stranger.

So the biggest challenge for me is to open up as much as I would want any other person with a story worth telling to open. I strongly believe in the relevance and importance of human experiences that other people can learn from, but exploring and showing the most painful part of my life is more difficult than I had expected.

Q: What would be the most frustrating/troubling part of filmmaking (as a woman)?

A: There are several issues with being a female filmmaker. First of all, it’s the issue of trust. Even though the number of women in documentary filmmaking is rising, it is still very difficult to earn the respect a man would earn with the same work. A woman must work twice or even three times harder to be considered as good and professional as a man.

On the other hand, especially in our part of the world, there is an enormous load of invisible work that a woman does - the household, the children, the family as a whole - that many times stands in the way of her career. I have always envied men for the huge amount of time they have just for themselves and their professional ambitions. We, as women, feel this pressure from the society to perform in so many other aspects of life, that it becomes exhausting and quite frustrating.

Q: And the most rewarding one?

A: That if you manage it all - to be a good mother, committed partner, and hopefully, a successful filmmaker - you are a superhero!

Q: How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect your work as a filmmaker?

A: Luckily, working on a personal documentary means you stay a lot at home, with your close ones, opening and healing wounds from the past. Therefore, the pandemic hasn’t affected our work as much as it would have if we were working on something that requires travelling. Of course, we traveled as well, but we did it in the short windows last summer when it was possible.

Also, the pandemic made it possible for me to virtually attend three international workshops, with tutors from all around the world, that helped my film tremendously.

Q: What inspires you the most in your creative journeys?

A: The people around me: their enthusiasm, their sorrow, the way they overcome obstacles or even swim in their pain, taking it all in, with courage and stoicism. I am a person who finds inspiration in other people.

Q: Can you compare your experience at CIRCLE with other similar platforms that you have been part of?

A: CIRCLE is special in its unique way of bringing together female artists that form a community of trust and support. At CIRCLE, I never felt in competition with anyone. Instead, I received support, love and inspiration. It is a program that apart from helping you with your film, helps you grow as a person as well and for that, it has important added value.

Q: What were the most important benefits from being part of CIRCLE program?

A: I met extremely talented people who inspired me with their dedication and involvement. For my film, but also for myself, in general, this is extremely valuable.

Q: Name your favorite woman-directed film and why.

A: I have many women directed films that I love, but most recently, I watched Communion again, by Anna Zamecka, and I remembered why I fell in love with it at the first sight. Anna has an extraordinary way of completely melting herself in the lives of her characters. She blends like she’s the wallpaper in the house. She shows, with compassion and love, all of their joys, sorrows, their wishes and the ugly daily struggles that we all share. She never judges. There is so much love in that film - that is also very political - that there’s no way someone watches it and then forgets it.

Q: Do you have a favorite documentary film? Why is it one of your favorites?

I don’t have an absolute favourite documentary, but I love films that show the courage of the filmmaker. And when I say that, I don’t mean the cinematography, but the story itself. How is he, the director, involved in what is happening in front of his camera? How does it impact him? What turmoils of his own are reaching clear waters while he’s documenting the story. You can always sense those things while watching a film. I have a much bigger respect for bold directors, rather than the ones who follow a recipe.

Q: What is the most important thing for you as a spectator? What do you search/expect to find in films?

A: To be subjugated by a film so much, that I need to wait a couple of days before I am ready to watch something else.

Q: What advice do you have for other (female) directors?

A: To be bold and to believe in themselves. They are just as talented as the male directors.

Still from Lina's film TATA

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