Film Interview – Oceans

14/06/2020 By Rodrigo R

A film by Graciela Cassel, New York. (2017) 


I.F.: How did the project start?

GC: I wrote “Oceans” after I read Rachel Carson’s mid-century book The Sea Around Us. “Oceans,” my poem, developed into a short movie that talks about people, memories, languages, and oceans. In Oceans, a teenager discovers the meanings of the ocean when listening to the poem interpreted in different languages. The starting image is that of the teenager looking through a crystal glass sphere. In this scene, his own image and the image of the ocean are upside down, which reflects the complexity of the relationship between our spiritual world and our bodies in connection to earth and oceans.



I.F.: Why in NY

I was inspired when I visited the Four Freedoms Park in Roosevelt Island, designed by Louis Khan. He designed a beautiful park connected to the water surrounding Roosevelt Island. Particularly moving to me is how the trees aligned geometrically, planted alongside path walls ending in a theatre-like stage with no seats, empty, space where its circular walls direct the viewer to see how the city converges into the ocean.



I. F.. Why eight actors?

GC: The actors are the representation of all the counties in the world; they recite the same poem — the same words — in different languages but with their unique memories and meanings of the ocean. There is a mystery in the sounds, the voices, and the eloquence in which each of them interprets the poem. To me, they truly represent freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from fear, and freedom from want.



I.F.. How was the process?

GC: The real success of this video reflects teamwork. We were very lucky because we had an incredible actor’s coach: Michaela Mihut who joined us. She was trained in the Actors’ Studio in NY. She has a real talent in encouraging actors to discover themselves in the story they tell. Our team of cinematography and sound designers was also wonderful: Morgan Goldin, Jonathan Clarke, Adriana Cassel, Mauricio Zapata and Edgardo Parada as editor. I presented and directed the plan but the team was certainly a huge part in its creation.



Each actor deciphered the poem uniquely. Roshan Affolter (German, Farsi), Steve Bauder (English), Jordan Barton (English), Vladyslava Maliuta (English-Russian), Luisel Peña (Spanish)Elena Shalenkova (Greek), Silvano Spagnuolo (English), and Xiaoxia Zhang (Chinese),


Here are a few comments on some of the actors and their scenes: Silvano Spagnoulo begins the piece as a teenager who connects with each of the actors while walking through the park. He was natural and sweet. Elena Shalenkova, who played the violin while reciting Oceans in Greek, seemed a modern goddess paying homage to both the city and the ocean. Roshan Affolter, reciting in Farsi and German, created a tragic moment reflecting the human strength when battling fear, while walking up and down the stairs. These stairs resembled a Greek temple or a Mexican Pyramid reaching the sky. Jordan Barton, an English speaker, gave a powerful interpretation of the connection between humans and nature. Steve Bauder, also in English, recited the closure of the movie with his potent voice as a leader, gathering his group with words of wisdom and hope.

This is the Poem: “Oceans.”


The tides tie us together in a tongue that is universal; it is our language, we who live in land lying in the middle of the five great oceans, the Arctic, Atlantic, Indian, Pacific, and Southern. Rains fell from the skies, turning into rivers that, then, became the sea, creating Oceanus, the ocean river in the mysterious past that encircles our earth and ties us together as one.


It is from the aaahhh of the wave growing and in the ssshhh of the wave rolling back that our language was formed. These deep, dark waters — with all their mysteries and unsolved problems — cover more than two-thirds of our earth. Between the surface waters of the open sea and both the hidden hills and valleys of the ocean floor lie the least-known and least-explored regions of the world.


The next time you stand on a beach at night, watching the moon’s bright path across the water, and conscious of the moon-drawn tides that echo in our blood, remember that the moon itself may have been born of a great tidal wave of moving, colliding substances, torn off into space from its original convergence with the earth.



2020 Oceans, Award of Recognition, IndieFest Film, California

2019 Oceans, Inversions, Contemporary Art Inspired by the Architecture of

Louis Kahn, curated by Melinda Wang

2018 Oceans, Bronze Award Winner, International Independent Film Awards.

2017 Oceans, Best  Ensemble Performance, Maverick Movie Award, Finalist.

2017 Oceans, Honorable Mention, Experimental Forum, Los Angeles, USA

2017 Oceans, Award Winner, NYC Indie Film Awards, USA

2017 Oceans, Palm Autumn Award, Anthology Film Archives, New Filmmakers New York

2017 Oceans, Selection, International Short Film Awards, Kalmthout, Belgium

2017 Oceans. Move Productions, Short Film Festival, Belgium

2017 Oceans, Golden Award, NYC Indie Film.

2017 Oceans. Canadian Diversity Film Festival, Canada