Despite what seems like a frantic Berlinale (4 docs in Forum and her recent acquisition of the Javier/Carlos Bardem-starrer doc Sanctuary), producer and sales doyenne Irena Taskovski is determined to take it all in her stride.
“I am active in the promotion of mental health and wellbeing in the film industry because a lot of people are burning out,” she stresses. “Of course we can have a career of five or ten years and get our first Oscar, but then we collapse because we have worked so crazily to get it all done so quickly. Or we can slow down and find better ways to do it less intensively.”
The first of her Forum titles, The Exit of the Trains by Radu Jude and Adrian Cioflâncă (Romania, 2020), is a Holocaust-themed, black-and-white experimental montage documentary made up of archive photos and documents concerning the June 1941 Iasi pogrom, with photographs of the victims and a soundtrack with statements about their fate.
This is the second film that Taskovski Films has represented from Cannes veteran Jude and producer Ada Solomon. The Dead Nation (Radu Jude, 2017) is a film she continues to actively represent, she comments, adding that “we believe in supporting unique and talented people that change and shake everyday realities with their visions and talents.”
Taskovski points out that Luca Ferri, director of The House of Love, is a “new and upcoming talent from Italy who has been very well tracked by festival programmers.” The film is the last part of his ‘apartment trilogy’ and follows on from Dulcinea (selected for Locarno 2018) and Pierino (DOK Leipzig 2018), and is a 77′ documentary that portrays the life of Bianca, a transsexual prostitute who lives in a suburb of Milan, told within the days before the supposed arrival of his ‘nipple-Brazilian’ girlfriend Natasha, whom she hasn’t seen for over two years…
Strike or Die by first-time director Jonathan Rescigno (France) is a documentary composed of unreleased video footage of the French miner revolts of December 1995. When they are re-assessed in contemporary times the rage still smoulders and the struggle seems more present than ever.
“The reason we took it is that is a very subtle reflection of our times,” comments Taskovski. “In a cinematic way Rescigno really creates this tension. When you watch the film he creates this nervousness and anxiety, and a feeling in your bones for the dissatisfied society, particularly among its workforce.”
The Foundation Pit by Andrey Gryazev, meanwhile, is a found-footage documentary on censorship in Putin’s Russia that shows the “great division” between Russian citizens and the Government. “The film gives a voice to all those people against, and who have very specific complaints about, Putin’s government,” Taskovski says. “It is an amazing collage of views of the people today, which maybe in Russia’s everyday media you will not have the chance to see, as it is raw material of the people… I like the courage and playfulness of the director who put it all together in holding up a mirror to his society.”
Sanctuary by Álvaro Longoria, which world premiered in Toronto, follows brothers Javier and Carlos Bardem in their endeavour to raise the necessary awareness and support to create the world’s largest marine sanctuary in the Antarctic Ocean.
Taskovski Films points out that her company is active in raising awareness of climate change through film, which she considers a “stronger communication tool.”
“We decided to collaborate with the Sanctuary project and the film to promote this Greenpeace campaign, as [we did on] other environmental films such as Losing Alaska (Tom Burke, 2018) or Rush Hour (Luciana Kaplan, 2017). “These actions within the film industry are especially important because of the power films have on viewers. If we unite our forces together with youth movements like Greta, we can make a change”.
As reported in Business Doc Europe at IDFA 2019, Taskovski is determined to set up mindfulness retreats in 2020 for stressed out film professionals. Her C_FAR programme (Conscious Film & Arts Residencies and Retreats) will offer succour, for now, in India, Mexico, Portugal, Germany and the Czech Republic. She points out that in addition to her film work she is a trained 5Rhythms movement meditation facilitator and embodied leadership coach.
“Many of us industry people are losing our health and, because of the pace of today’s times have put on us, we constantly run after money and endless hours of work. I feel the craziness of what we do,” Taskovski explained. “We need to start taking better care of ourselves, we’re one global family. We can’t keep changing the world with our films if we are in good shape ourselves.”
Her workshops will provide “practical exercises for everyday life” and
advice on self-care and mindfulness, and will drum into attendees the very basic and obvious fact that “if they lose their health, nothing else matters.”
“Mindfulness and movement meditation reduces stress, increases focus, wellbeing and good mental health. It gives us more energy and creative practical solutions in our work,” she concludes.