With her debut in the feature film “Sonne” she is one of the revelations in this year’s Berlinale: the Viennese Kurdwin Ayub, who will also open this year’s Diagonal with the film. Ahead of the world premiere in the Meetings section, the director, born in 1990, spoke to APA about the purpose of telling migration stories differently, filming with amateur actors, and the trick of getting your rebellious father in front of the camera.
APA: Your first documentary “Paradise! Paradise” was a very personal work in which you portray your family. How personal is it to understand your feature film debut “Sonne”?
Kurdwin Ayub: I actually played with what is real and what is not real in all my work for ten years. And I think that goes for “Sonne” too – I like to blur what I am, what is fictional. What is clear, however, is that I got a lot of details in the film from media reports, for example that a group of young people in Lainz killed a young wild boar. And of course the emotional world and the detachment from the past have similarities to my life.
APA: And last but not least, her parents are playing again…
Ejubi: The funny thing is that my parents do not play with themselves at all! My mom was completely free and my dad was strict – the opposite of what is in the movie. It was practically a therapy session for us.
APA: In “Paradise! Paradise!” your dad questioned each of your stage directions in front of the camera. How did it work this time?
Ejubi: I wanted him to be there from the beginning, but he said something like “Choose your stories and actors.” I then threw it at my mom, which made her jealous and yet he wanted to be a part of it. (laughs) My mom was always great at responding to instructions, I know she’s at her best when I just give her space …
APA: Against this background, would it ever be imaginable for you to address a topic that you did not develop yourself?
Ejubi: Yes of course, if it is interesting! But basically it’s so hard to gain a foothold in the film industry, which is the case for everyone. This is why you are more likely to accomplish your things when you have the opportunity to make a film.
APA: “Sonne” is now produced by Ulrich Seidl Filmproduktion. Is the language of Ulrich Seidl’s film also a model for you?
Ayub: I do not think he’s a role model for me – he’s the only way for me. I can not make a genre movie with super scene where everything is written. I come more from the documentary, performative. It’s the only thing I can do. (laughs)
APA: So working with amateur actors is not a budget decision, but an aesthetic decision?
Ejubi: I loved that. And that’s why I chose girls years ago. After all, they also played their part in script development. I know the characters of my performers so well that I can adapt the role in this process. And during filming, I found my tools to set a goal for the actors, such as when I tell them: make them angry. Since I shot mostly chronologically, they always knew what had happened the day before.
APA: What stands out about “Sonne” is the style pluralism, which alternates between TikTok, Insta and mobile videos. Did this also take place during the process?
Ayub: The concept was clear from the beginning. And half of the videos are staged, the other half from the girls archives or shot from the situation.
APA: “Sonne” has a film language that is unusual for Austrian cinema, and you show a living environment that is rarely portrayed from an internal perspective in local cinema. Was this your conscious goal?
Ayub: My first sentence when I submitted the grant was that I want to make a film that tells migration stories differently and accurately, not as wrong as it usually seems. And I think I did that.
APA: Will it continue in this direction for you?
Ayub: I am already working on the next project, which will be called “Moon” and will play with the differences between the West and the Middle East. In short, I would like to show feminism in Europe and the Arab world – and again with amateur actors.
APA: Bad question at the end: Does the world premiere at the Berlinale mean more to you or the honor of being the diagonal opening film?
Ejubi: Oh, I did not expect both. But both are wonderful! On the diagonal it would be nice for everyone to come from the team, which is not possible here. This is certainly a big part of the festival feeling …
(Interview conducted by Martin Fichter-Wöß / APA)