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Ventana Sur: Katherine Jerkovic on Personal References, Icebergs and Whispered Truths

Canada-born with roots in Uruguay, Croatia and Argentina, Katherine Jerkovic split her childhood between Belgium and Uruguay. At 18, she settled in Montreal and studied film at Concordia University. After a few shorts (“The Winter’s Keeper”) and some video-installations, she has finished her first feature, “Roads in February.”

The film is a co-production between Nicolas Comeau (“Catimini”) at Montreal-based 1976 Productions and Micaela Solé (“Norberto’s Deadline”) at Montevideo’s Cordon Films.

Since 2002 there has been a bilateral co-production agreement between Canada and Uruguay. In fact, Canada has similar agreements with eight Latin American countries. “I believe that the key has essentially been a mutual and respectful understanding among all the people involved in the feature; all Uruguayan and Canadians enthusiastically feel part of it,” Solé said, adding: “The feature explores, in a very personal way, looking at the ‘Other,’ and allows the viewer to reflect from their own perspective. This makes it possible for diverse audiences to warmly receive the film.”

Always showing a keen eye for emerging talent, Sandro Fiorin at Miami-based FiGa Films handles “Roads in February” international sales. The feature world-premiered at the Tallin Black Nights Film festival, and recently snagged the City of Toronto Award for Best Canadian First Feature Film at Toronto. The film is confirmed for several upcoming festivals, including its next stop in Havana’s opera prima competition. “Roads” will be released in Canada on Feb. 8th.

“Roads in February” is a first feature inspired by your own life with a documentary spirit. Tell us about how to build a narrative with these elements.

The script is based on my own experience going back to visit my grandmother throughout the years. She passed away at 95, so I was very lucky to have her in all the important stages of my life, from childhood to my own motherhood. I started writing out of necessity, to make sense of what I was doing with my life and to find a positive way to cope with feelings of uprooting and nostalgia. As I moved through this process— a therapeutic one— I introduced fictitious elements and worked out a more standard narrative structure so that the film could reach more people. I believe that when I implemented this change, I felt ready to share a story, to make a movie that could be meaningful to others as well.

It’s a movie about clashes: socio-cultural, between generations, modernity and rural environment. However, everything is subtle and serene. The viewer has to put it together.

I used to think that in this period of great human tragedies, often depicted as great melodramas, we should not forget that truth is sometimes whispered, like in a half-sleep. This expresses the essence of what I believe in. Most of what we see in movies, social media and the news are intended to make us react in a fast and powerful way. But inner change and true understanding are long and profound processes, and they are not easy ones. I am always suspicious when things are ascertained in a bold way, because it means there is no room left for the audience to judge. Therefore, the tone and pace of my movie tries to respect the audience’s perception, and to be closer to the pace at which we evolve and come to terms with things.

How should the audience approach this movie? What should be the right expectations?

It should have no expectations. Expectations kill a movie. Just enter the cinema with an open heart and no hurry, hoping for a special journey.

“Roads” makes clear the kind of cinema you’re interested in. But, could you talk about the kind of movies you would like to make in the future?

When telling a story, I try to show how the small things, events and reactions speak of larger, deeper issues; like the “tip-of-the-iceberg” metaphor. Humans are complex and contradictory, it’s impossible to explain them! But if I manage to open a small window into their soul, I feel I’ve accomplished something. The characters I write about are inspired by people who have moved me or have taught me something. So basically, I try to share something that I have received. Also, I come from a very visual type of cinema. I was trained to believe in the expressive power of sound and images, and not to rely so much on dialogue. In the future, I hope to refine this idea of a sensorial cinema that has a genuine interest on how people struggle to make sense of their lives.

You’re a perfect candidate to make Canada-Uruguay co-productions, but this combination is quite unusual. How has the financing-creative association worked for you?

Maybe these international treaties should be more flexible to adapt to the realities of different countries. Movies are not made in the same way, nor with the same budget scale in every country, so sticking to the rules can be difficult. Everyone’s personal commitment to the project is more important.

What’s up in the horizon?

I just finished writing a narrative feature. It’s called “Coyote” and is set in Montreal. I hope the financing process will be shorter than it was for “Roads in February.” “Coyote” deals with some similar issues, like family and broken dreams, but in a very different way. It’s a bittersweet tale about parenting, with a tender light at the end.

CREDIT: Juan Angel Urruzola/Cordón Films

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