THE WOMAN WHO BRUSHED OF HER TEARS

  • Synopsis
  • The Approach I Intent To Take
  • Comments From Writher-Director
  • Characters Description
  • Photos
  • Festivals/Press/Sales
  • Cast/Crew
  • Press Kit
  • Video

labina-the-womenTHE WOMAN WHO BRUSHED OFF HER TEARS 
SYNOPSIS by Teona Strugar Mitevska

In Paris, Helena witnesses her son’s suicide. Noah confesses the horrible truth of his father’s abuse, but Helena refuses to believe him. Her son falls over the balcony railing into the night. From this moment on, Helena’s world is turned upside down as her struggle for survival transforms into a hunt for revenge.

Ajsun is a dreamer who lives with her father and her son Ilkin. In the high mountains of Macedonia, their existence is simple and harsh. Life has a different pace and purpose there, the daily survival is what drives them all. Ajsun dreams to be reunited with Lucien, the father of her son.

victoria-pic2This is a story of two very different mothers: one that needs to punish in order to get by and the other that is forced to accept daily punishment in order to exist. This is a story of inner rage and  of suffering a silent violence and of one woman’s need to externalize it in order to justify her own existence. The other woman has to fight against traditions, patriarchy, religious and ethnic barriers just to be with the man she loves and to reunite her family. These two women from different parts of the world will end up affecting each other’s lives in the most unexpected ways.

THE WOMAN WHO BRUSHED OFF HER TEARS  tells a story about the various imprisonment we create for ourselves or are forced into. Helena’s path is precisely traced, a path she is unable to change. Ajsun wants to live. Both aspire to be free.
This is a story of two destinies coming into one, of two women coming into one, and of two worlds becoming one.

THE APPROACH I INTENT TO TAKE AND WHAT IS IMPORTANT

zan-mariThe Woman Who Brushed off Her Tears  is my third feature film and by that a much more ambitious project in terms of directorial approach and form. Comparing to my previous films: How I killed a saint where the story required a direct and bold, up in your face method, and I am from Titov Veles which was a project in search of finding beauty in most unexpected and uncomfortable places and aspects of daily life, The Woman Who Brushed off Her Tears  is a poem of a kind. While in the first I told the truth through the roughness of the experience, and in the second I went through the stomach of the spectator, here I will attempt to deliver the experience of emptiness. The Woman Who Brushed off Her Tears  is a film in search of humanity.
The story told is of people out of place, individuals who defy their society’s chains in the attempt to free them selves.

Emptiness is the profound sentiment Helena carries within and delivering emptiness is not an easy task. Translating emptiness with in the frame, in the mise- en-scene, minimizing the visual experience in order to deliver the minimum experience, so audience lives the life of protagonists is my grand challenge to tackle within form.

Compliance is the only choice Ajsun has, so we observe in order to learn and understand. Rebellion is what we expect and hope for and rebellion is what we will get but how.
Visually the frame is clean and simple, and where in IFTV I used color to intensify the emotional experience of character, here I will be placing the characters against white and grays.The visual treatment of the projects anchors on simplification: from Breugel to Malevich and Rothko-simplification of visualization, showing only the necessery/essential.

And the essential lies into condensing the experience, in our case the experience Helena and the French part of the story require. And what does she do, how doe she sees the world that surrounds her, she cuts heads. Interpretation of this is by two ways: physically she does by her extreme actions and dealing with the outside, and then there is the interior, her proper physical vision of the world. If we take the camera framing as direct link, prolongation of her interior world, camera will also be cutting heads. Helena always sees half, not entirely the individual she is engaged with, for example: from the mouth down. And it is not that she does not try, she constantly attempts to look further, in her case higher, and by this including the entire head of the person she is engaged with. This she hardly ever succeeds.
Macedonia part of the story is based in the observational powers of Flaherty poetic documentary approach, where the ethnic is not a novelty, or a spectacle. By careful observation of everyday tasks the true nature of characters is revealed. A lyrical study of their daily struggle for survival as in Man of Aran. Ajsun as the principal character of this part, and where Helena previously acted, Ajsun simply follows.

I speak of Breugel, not by a mistake. In his winter paysages he manages to simplify the very full, animating presentations of daily life by placing the event in winter/ snow surroundings, throw over white color and the scene changes, perceptions are modified; miracles are possible. The Woman Who Brushed off Her Tears  has a very elaborate dramatically structure that will be simplified not by elimination of details but by attempting exactly what Breugel did: add serenity by placing events in white snow: To commit a murder in white.

The two parts are self-depending; they complete the story structure, the puzzle, and hold together the essence of the story of these two very different women. Ajsun is continuation of Helena. And it is only by Helena’s actions Ajsun is set free of her society chains. Visually the entirely directional/interior treatment of French part of story waives with the poetic observational treatment of Macedonian part in order to create a hybrid of the two. In the end when the two women meet and their destinies mix, it is for first time we start seeing Helena through Ajsun's eyes. This is only to enforce the power of perception, and in interpretation of truth.

I have pushed further my work into perception and significance of dialogue within the form. More than in any of my previous films I use dialogue, the characters of this story not only act but voice their opinions, they speak in most direct manner. There are no dreams or illusion; all is out in the open. The Woman Who Brushed off Her Tears  is in search of the spaces between the said. Grasping for silence is my second theme. I will attempt to develop further the correlation between dialogue and visuals and the inevitable symbiosis they create.

I am a strong believer in doing current stories in cinema, reflecting on issues and dilemmas that are important for one’s society and culture. I have chosen to place the Macedonian story within a very traditional tribe named Juruci. It is a tribe of Turkish origin that only exists today in the mountains surrounding the small town of Radovish. The Juruci are particular, not only by their refusal to accept modernization, but by their insistence to follow their traditions by rigorously following their ancient rules. Everything is out of time with the Juruci. They must be one of the few tribes still existing in entire Europe. They are very few in numbers and by filming them I will self-guard part of European heritage that is perishing as we speak. Their elaborate colored clothing is a visual feast against the white background.

This is a story about Injustice and the complicated relationship between East and West, developed and underdeveloped and our primal desire to esquire the unattainable.

I found my voice in I am from Titov Veles in terms of treatment of the film form, so I will continue what I already started. I look at framing as prolongation of the character’s perception. I look at rhythm and silence as a moment for spectator to take a breath. All and every element of the cinematic form contributes to how a story istold and experienced. Each scene has an emotional core and a name that best presents it. All these emotional cores construct the life, the breathing of the film. I can’t separate the content of the visualization. A film does not exist without proper and careful visual translation of the scenario.

In technical terms and what approach to take in order to achieve the best results, I am stern believer in preparation and leaving nothing, well almost nothing to a pure chance. Each of my film is an elaborate painting, no details is not founded upon a certain thought, idea correlation to an element that completes the form. Work with actors is essential to me since it is a character driven story I am about to tell.

This film is a symbiosis of two different worlds I am part of; I am looking forward to working with international cast, which is another challenge I embrace with open arms.

Teona Strugar Mitevska

because cinema is first and foremost a visual form of expression

THE WOMAN WHO BRUSHED OFF HER TEARS
COMMENTS FROM WRITER-DIRECTOR TEONA STRUGAR MITEVSKA

HELENE FINDING HER HUMANITY 
The character of Helene, portrayed by Victoria Abril, is a personification of a modern Western person, one who accepts the comforts of life and slowly makes compromises in regards to her real needs. It is a question of comfort vs. truth. The further we go from the basic needs and actions connected to our sense of survival, the further we travel away from ourselves. By losing this instinct for survival, we risk becoming more and more like machines, fulfilling functions yet losing touch with who we really are. In her search for humanity Helene chooses violence.

THE WOMAN WHO BRUSHED OFF HER TEARS is a film in search of humanity. The story told is of people out of place, of individuals who defy their society’s chains in the attempt to free themselves.

EMPTINESS
Emptiness is the profound sentiment Helena carries within her interior life. Translating emptiness onto the screen was one of my challenges with THE WOMAN WHO BRUSHED OFF HER TEARS. How to depict emptiness within the frame, in the mise-en-scene? How to minimize the visual experience in order to deliver such a minimal experience? My idea to express Helena’s emptiness visually was through the monochrome colors of her wardrobe put against the backdrop of the quite lively and colorful environment that surrounds her. The orderly environment she functions within, the stillness and the feeling of almost perfection. However, by carefully positioning her within the frame, she always feels detached, as if she does not belong there. Helena doesn’t walk through life, she floats, carried by the stream.

AJSUN IS A CONTINUATION OF HELENA
Ajsun wants to reunite with the father of her child. She wants to reconstruct her family, while Helena must destroy. Ultimate nothingness is the only point where things can restart again for her. As Ajsun’s story is a continuation of Helena’s ideal, Ajsun herself is a continuation of Helena. Only through Helena’s actions will Ajsun be set free of her social chains. In the end, when the two women meet and their destinies mix, it is for the first time we start seeing Helena through Ajsun's eyes. But, like life, we cannot predict what Ajsun's story will be. The ending does not offer a definite answer. There is simply hope for these characters we have grown to like, sympathize with, and love.

SHE-WOLVES
The common traits between Ajsun and Helena are their endurance, their persistence and their belief in their cause. They share an idea of family, one that is lost and the other that is to be reconstructed. The obvious contrast is in their surroundings: old and new Europe, the traditional vs. the modern, today vs. yesterday. But besides all the differences - cultural, ideological, economical - these two women are still women who live,  love and who share the same fears, basically. Emotionally there is no big difference, no matter the difference in price or quality of their make-up! The beauty of humanity is that the traits that make us human can be found in all of us. We are not so different, just as Ajsun and Helena are not: they are two she-wolves fighting for their cubs.

AJSUN THE REBEL
Ajsun survives by following the order of life. Our perception is that she comes from another century because of her wardrobe, her lifestyle. She follows ancient traditions. She is well aware of the “modern” world outside her own, yet she chooses to live as she does. A few years ago we would have labeled her old-fashioned, but today maybe she could actually be considered as avant-garde. Ajsun is actually a sort of rebel by choosing to live the way she does.

THE JURUCI
I am a strong believer in doing current stories in cinema, reflecting on issues and dilemmas that are important for one’s society and culture. I have chosen to place the Macedonian story within a very traditional people named Juruci. They are of Turkish origin that only exists today in the mountains surrounding the small town of Radovish. The Juruci are particular, not only by their refusal to accept modernization, but by their insistence to follow their traditions by rigorously following their ancient rules. Everything is out of time with the Juruci. They are very few in numbers and by filming them I hope that I am preserving a part of the European heritage that is perishing as we speak. Their elaborate colored clothing is a true visual feast.

TWO PARTS MAKE A WHOLE
The two parts of the film – France and Macedonia - are interdependent. They complete the puzzle and hold together the essence of the story of these two very different women. The Macedonian part of the story is inspired by the Flaherty documentary approach, where ethnicity is not a novelty or a spectacle. By careful observation of everyday tasks, the true nature of characters is revealed. Visually, the entirely directional/interior treatment of the French part of story contrasts with the poetic observational treatment of the Macedonian part in order to create a hybrid of the two.
It was definitely a challenge to tell two stories and make them feel as one. Helena’s story was always about emotion, while Ajsun was more about action. Even when Helena takes action, she does it in the name of both women. This idea helped me work through the writing as if I was dealing with one character and not two. From the beginning I knew that the two stories would be completely opposite in all possible ways: visually, but even more importantly in philosophy, in the way the two women view the world. In a way, I am referring to myself, these two parts of me: a Macedonian woman now living in the West.

VICTORIA ABRIL 
My sister Labina is also the current director of the Manaki Brothers Film Festival, one of the oldest film festivals for cinematography in the world. We met Victoria Abril when she came to the festival for a Lifetime Achievement Award. Upon meeting her, I rewrote the character of Helena to fit Victoria more appropriately. We sent her the script and she was hooked!
I always considered having a “foreigner” play Helena would be a positive aspect for the character. We were worried about accommodating an actress of Victoria’s stature with our limited means: no trailer, no heat, not many of the things she is used to on a big production. We resorted to our famous Macedonian hospitality.
The shooting conditions were not the most comfortable, especially in the mountains of Macedonia. But Victoria worked with us and our limited means, and I think she used this to better construct the character of Helena. Victoria kept telling us: “Here, it’s just like Malaga when I was growing up!”

SHOOTING OUTSIDE MACEDONIA
I was quite nervous about shooting the film outside of Macedonia. I believe it’s a concern for any director the first time. Surprisingly enough it ended up being the least of my problems. Directing is directing anywhere in the world. But working with actors from other parts of the world can inevitably carry with it different schools and techniques. But in the end, it’s all part of the work. Through practice, you learn more about the actor and his or her ways of creating a character and you adapt in order to help them do the best they can. Language was not an issue for me since I speak also French. My French cast also helped me to capture the true music of the language.

SISTERS AND BROTHER
My sister Labina (actress and producer) and I, we are Yin and Yang. My brother Vuk (production designer in our films and a visual artist in his own right) and I, we are male and female versions of the same. On the set, we are inseparable, we protect each other against the obstacles. In private, we fight a lot. In the end, it works rather well. Michi, our post-production coordinator, always says: “Don’t mess with the Mitevski sisters and brother!”

helena i emil

Helena Emil

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Ajsun

arben-women

Lucian

ismail

Ismail

kaeliok

Ilkin

Panorama_rot

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Macedonia/German/Slovenian/ Belgium

Writer/Director:Teona Strugar Mitevska

Feature:Drama / 35mm/ Color/102'

Cast: Victoria Abril,Labina Mitevska, Jean Marie Galey, Arben Bajraktaraj, Firdaus Nebi, Kaeliok Fonenimum Varka

Camera:Matyas Erdely

Production Design:Vuk Mitevski

Production Designer Germany: Stephan Von Tresckow

Costume:Monika Lorber

Make up: Mojca Gorogranc– Petrusevska

Editor : Nicolas Gaster

Sound Recording: Paul Heymans and Fred Meert

Supervising Sound Editor: Fred Meert

Sound Mixer : Phillippe Baudhuin,

Screenplay advisor :Jean Samouillan

Screenplay editor : Franz Rodenkirchen

1st Assistant Director : Ali Cherkaou

iCasting director : Kirijana Nikoloska

Production Company:Sisters and Brother Mitevski – Labina Mitevska, Macedonia

Co-producers:

Ostlicht filmproduktion -Marcel Lenz, Guido Schwab, Germany

Entre Chien et Loup, Belgium - Diana Elbaum and Sébastien Delloye

Vetigo Film -Danijel Hocevar Slovenia

Luminary Media - Ana Jordanova Macedonia

Supported by : Macedonian Film Fund

MDM Mitteldeutsche Medienförderung

Eurimages

Slovenian Film Center FS

Viba Film

Casa Kafka Pictures - Dexia