Film Interview – Rivers

03/07/2020 By Rodrigo R

A film by Graciela Cassel, New York. (2016)

Running time: 7 min 16 sec

AFP: How did this project start?

GC: Rivers received a grant from the City of New York-based on my proposal to film the banks of the rivers of New York, as viewed by a captain, a bird, and a child. This artwork was an adventure, not a challenge, to find the characters in the film that would support the different “view-gazes” of looking at the river.  One main element I used is a flag: the object moves from hand to hand, giving rights to a territory.  This is the element that brings everyone together. In Rivers, the piece transitions from the captains, to the rivers viewed by the birds, and, last,  to the children.


AFP: How was the process?

GC: My storyboard was drawn with images of sailboats moving within a circle, details of the boats, a flag falling into the water, and children finding the flag. 



AFP: How did you plan the scene with the boats?

GC: I searched for a great while because it was almost impossible to find five sailboats without commercial advertising on their sails. Finally, in Jamaica Bay, the Polish Marina agreed to participate in this project. Our first film-date was cancelled because of a storm and no boats were allowed into the waters. Our second date? All worked out! We were a team of five cameras, six captains, and two sailors in each. We added a motorized, very small dinghy to the five sailboats. 



AFP: What was the idea behind sailing in a circle?

GC: I wanted a circle of energy, a feeling of togetherness in a difficult environment. This group of men and women, together in the sea, moved the boats, as if in a dance of circular patterns. We started the day with the captains, sailors, and our camera crew, all climbing onto the boats. We were in high spirits, making the day move smoothly. Eugenia, our fifth camera, climbed on the dinghy. She was the bravest of all to accept the small motorboat and was able to film the long-shot takes of the boats in circles, with her camera work both far and close. 



AFP: Was there a story?

GC: My idea was to film the bay, details in the boats, sails, ropes, clocks and also capture the movement of their hands manoeuvring the ropes. This abstract movement revealed the effort and precision that goes into sailing. 


AFP: What about the next scenes?

GC: The next scene was on the beach, focusing on birds. We filmed this scene with a drone; it was an exhilarating experience to capture the banks of the bay with the bird-eye view flying over the beach.  The beach was almost deserted. Suddenly, we noticed three children playing on the beach. I decided to include a scene with these children instead of the one had planned for another day. I changed plans quickly, asking permission of their father to film a scene with them.  They were very excited, siblings and the youngest of all, a girl.  She followed her brothers without hesitation.


The older children were very gentle with her, showing her how to walk and hold the flag. This bay was covered with shells and high grass. We filmed this scene with the children marching and playing with the flags.  We moved to the other side of the bay to film the last scene.  We could see the opening of the river into the ocean. I brought balloons and after tying them together, I encouraged the children to raise the flag aloft with these balloons. The task turned out to be difficult! The children attempted this many times until the balloons flew away. What we achieved, though, was as if they liberated the flag, bringing hope, freedom, sense of belonging and rights to other people who were far away in the world. 



My great thanks to our camera crew: Edgardo Parada, Jonathan Clarke, Albo Greene, Eugenia Vlasova, Victor Torres; and also to the Polish Sailing Club: captains and crew, and finally, to the Children crew: Isaiah, Mathew, and Briana Jeds. Also, much credit to our music created by  Massimo Sammi.