Prior to announcing the Full Frame Grand Jury Award for Best Feature this year at last month’s Full Frame Documentary Festival in Raleigh, North Carolina, filmmaker and jury member, Kirby Dick, noted that even though this was a first-time feature, the winning film showcased the work of a seasoned, accomplished director, one whose craft is sure and potent and whose storytelling power lies in her ability to exquisitely document, visually and emotionally, a most unusual love story with two of the most fascinating characters to appear in a nonfiction film in recent memory.
Danish filmmaker, Pernille Rose Gronkjaer’s The Monastery: Mr. Vig and the Nun (2006) also won the Joris Ivens Award at last year’s Amsterdam International Documentary Film Festival, and was a nominee for the Grand Jury Prize in the World Cinema category at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Another prize was being the Winner of the Chicago Doc Grand Prix award. The film will have its U.S. theatrical premiere at Film Forum in New York this coming August.
On a sunny late-April day in Los Angeles, I spoke with the 33-year-old director about her seven-year journey making The Monastery, just prior to her departure for San Francisco where it played in the festival there.
Still in Motion (SIM): Are you surprised by the reception the film has received from audiences and peers at the festivals you’ve played so far? And are you a bit overwhelmed by all the work that still needs to be done, considering it’s your first major project, your first feature?
Pernille Rose Gronkjaer (PRG): It’s strange, you know, because in the beginning, it wasn’t embraced at all. I got rejected so much for this film, it was more like my “stubborn” project. And now that it is becoming such a success, it is my time to say, “well, I’ve proved you all wrong.”
SIM: That must be a bit satisfying.
PRG: That is so satisfying! We have that a lot in Denmark, it’s like “Oh, we don’t want to go with success; we’re a little bit afraid of success because maybe it can go wrong.” And there’s a lot of this. But actually, at this point, I’m just trying to take it in, because in a way, I feel I deserve this. It’s really strange to have it like that but you can get kind of terrified by it all. This is amazing, your film is out, there’s a big buzz and everything, and if you think of the amount of pressure this is adding, you can go one or the other way—you can go into deep depression and give in to the pressure, or you stick with, “Well, it’s good and I did this film and I didn’t come sleeping to it,” how would you say that?
SIM: It was hardly an “accident”—this success. It’s the result of hard work, diligence, patience, perseverance. . .
PRG: Yeah, so it’s not just an easy job, this one. I worked on this year in, year out, my dedication to my subjects never wavering, so that is why it is so very satisfying.
SIM: When did you realize that you had a pretty special thing? As I understand it, you met Mr. Vig and became immediately fascinated by him, by his character, knowing something was there but really just giving in to the mystery of the creation of something, bringing in your camera, getting carried away by your inspiration and just doing it—with no support, with people not really saying much of anything about it. When in this process did this whole notion of telling this story as a sort of fairy tale happen? Your relationship with Mr. Vig—that to me was the most moving part in the film. In a way, the subtitle of this could be “A Portrait of a Loving Family.” Vig and Amvrosjia had a marriage--the way they acted with one another, just like a husband and a wife that had been together a really long time! That was what was fascinating—your desire to tell this story was really the catalyst for that relationship between them. You created it. Did you start writing your story at a certain point during filming?
PRG: When I first met him [Vig], I was so intrigued. First of all was his appearance. I think he’s so beautiful. I couldn’t stop filming this man. I heard about him through some friends and they told me, “Well, there’s this old man wanting to make a monastery of this place where he lives. You should go and see him.” And I, at that point, was looking for interesting older people because I’m fascinated by them. And it’s so strange, now it’s dawning on me, you know, when I was a child, I lived next to a man who had this big garden with very large flowers and strange-looking houses and he looked very strange, as well. And I was thinking at that time, that maybe it’s like entering that period again. Every time I came there [to the monastery], it was like coming home. And this was a feeling I got when I was with him and also why I kept going back. And it wasn’t necessarily that I defined that in the moment I met him, but it was a vision that progressed. I think that he, in turn, was also intrigued by me.
SIM: Vig calls himself “deformed,” a “cripple,” hardly considers himself to be an openly emotional caring or feeling person. That turns out not to be true. I think he discovers that by the end of his life. But his trust in you—this young woman with a camera. You have this conversation actually on film, I think that’s brilliant that you left it in there, where he asks you the same question you ask him, “Why are you doing this?” The answer In his case, is wanting to leave his property to the church, leave a lasting legacy; in yours, wanting to make something also lasting, also enduring with your film.
PRG: Yes, so interesting. In a way though, I had to prove myself to him. He’s very special and that goes for Sister Amvrosjia, as well. So you have to begin there in that new place with people who don’t know you and I think that’s one of my strengths as a storyteller—I don’t quit, I work hard! When I first met him, he was going to go to Russia to find the nuns.
SIM: So your timing was amazing.
PRG: My timing was perfect! It couldn’t have been better. Unbelievable. That’s when you look up to the sky and say, “Hey, thanks!” It was meant-to-be and I’m going to go on this trip with this man. And I went with him and that was my first shoot. And the first time also when he thought, “Okay, maybe she’s more than just a regular person that is not going to be there tomorrow.” I committed and I said, “I want to go there with you. Should we go?” And then we went for two weeks. This was where the first trust, the first bond was actually made. It’s a good way of getting close to a person, traveling together. You know, he would always find something that interested him and just simply STOP and go into this kind of reverie—so slow sometimes. This tested my patience, as you can imagine! And I remember we went up to this monastery north of Moscow and we got off this bus, we didn’t know where we were, and the bus left and I was standing there in the middle of nothing, in Russia, it was so dark and here I am standing next to this old man I just met. And I remember thinking, “What am I doing? What’s happening?” (Laughs.)
SIM: Five years (the time it took to finish principal photography) is a chunk of time in your life, not to mention the two years editing, scoring and finishing.
PRG: Yeah, I discuss this a lot. I’m not sure I can really make a film with/about a person just in and out. Somebody else can and that’s fine, that’s their method, but I have to love them, my subjects, in a way. That’s really important to me and maybe that’s what gives the extra dimension to my stories. Even the stuff I did earlier on in my career [several documentary and reality series for Danish television], there is this dimension. We could choose it in the editing, if I was “there” or not. But in the process of actual filming, I really have to be there, totally involved in every moment.
SIM: There’re always interesting discussions to be had about how much of a presence the filmmaker should be in his/her pieces. In terms of what I see in your case, this is not just a straight verite documentary, straight reportage. This is your journey too, just as much as it is Mr. Vig’s and the Sister’s and everybody else in the extended family of the film and the relationships you create with one another leads you, in turn, into delving into Vig’s relationship with his parents. I would wager to guess that he never spoke to another soul about his feelings towards them—about his deep-seated feelings, his odd (but hilarious) thing about noses and why his own mother's nose was such a problem for him.
PRG: This was what was so great! It’s so easy to make a kind of psychological profile of someone, saying this or that is what went wrong and things like that. But, it was so strange; it was a way of saying something about his mother. And there are so many interpretations one could have—I have my own, of course. He says something very precise but over the course of time—it was really unbelievable how and when things were revealed. And it was happening all in front of me.
SIM: It’s very special and very rare. These days we watch a lot of stuff—and at least I find myself asking, “Is this true? Is this contrived? Is it made up completely? How much were these people manipulated to create this situation? How much were they directed?” Maybe it doesn’t really matter and that’s a whole other discussion. But there are these purists, these absolutists whom you’re going to run into with issues or problems with these sorts of things.
PRG: This is something I and my team and other filmmakers I meet—well, we talk a lot about this. I went to the National Film School of Denmark and this film school is an art school. And in going around with other Danish documentarians out of this tradition or education, well, we meet this a lot. I don’t think that there is one Truth—every time I move the camera, there is a choice, every time I make a cut in the editing, there is a choice. But the test is finding the truth within those choices—those choices make sense because they reflect some deeper truth that is being revealed and that serves the piece as a whole. For instance, being true to your main character. And being true to your audience. Because everything is manipulated, it just is, and to shy away from that is, well. . . . But you have to be true to your story and true to your main character. I think that’s the most important thing. Is it dignifying for them? Has it been good for them? Has it been a good experience? And I think you owe it to your audience, when they go in and see this film, you have to lead them through. You take them by the hand—not with just big letters explaining what they are about to see and voice-over from one end to the other telling them how to feel or how to interpret. But definitely leading them on a journey—I think that’s very important. I shot all the material in the documentary way, you could say. I couldn’t “direct” Mr. Vig. He didn’t want to be directed. And I found that very good for me as a filmmaker.
SIM: Was it your desire to direct him sometimes? Was your propensity to tell him what to do ever heeded?
PRG: I tried it once or twice in the beginning. But I never really tried it again. You know, he was very precise. He would say to me, “I never repeat things. I never do things twice.” And, man, that kept me sharp [snapping fingers] as a director! I wrote a lot of things down but I had to figure out how to get something or capture an event and I would just have to be there when it happened. I sort of had to figure things out before he did. I could see that something was about to happen and I’d just arrange to be there, no matter what. I could plan it somewhat, but always, always had to be on my toes and be there when it happened. He communicated with me—I would know the next time the nuns would be coming and stuff like that. I know he found the whole process of creating this story and making this film interesting. In the beginning, he was making faces, very dubious, but after a while, he would email me, “I think you should come and document this; this could be interesting.” (smiles)
Once I had all this material, I had a screenwriter and an editor come in. We looked through the material, about 100 hours of footage—80 of which I shot completely on my own; the additional 20 was extra shooting I did once my producer [Sigrid Helene Dyekjaer of Tju-bang Film] came on board—and then we wrote a script. This was not only for our own process but this was also to convince the financiers that this could be a feature-length project. I was at this seminar showing some footage I had shot on my own and I was there by myself showcasing to a bunch of producers and Sigrid came up to me afterwards and asked me who was producing this film for me. I replied that really there was no one, there wasn’t anyone who wanted to see the potential and she said, “Yeah, well, we have to talk.” Then things really started happening. She believed in this project as much as I. So in the process of that, we had to convince the money people. It was my first feature-length film and I had to have somebody else say, “I believe that this is a feature-length piece, as well.” And so that’s when we had the screenwriter and editor coming in and looking at the material.
I think a lot of people who see this will say that this could just as well be a narrative film. Because that is how it is structured, of course. We needed to discover where the “point of no return” was, what’s the middle plot point, how time passes in the editing, etc.
SIM: That’s the essential backbone of telling any good story. This is why we trustingly open a book, see a film, watch a play, listen to a concert—we expect to be led on a journey and hope to discover something we didn’t know existed, to see something, seemingly familiar, in a new light, hear a different rhythm that we never heard before, etc. To me, that’s what defines an inspired piece of work, emphasis on the word “work.”
PRG: Again, from the tradition of the film school, I think we look at it as an art piece, no matter what we’re creating. You have to put your fingerprint on it, leave your unique expression on it. This is a “Pernille” film.
I had a strange experience. I worked with an editor on another film and then one day, she called me up and said, “Oh, I saw another series that you did, I saw it the other day on the television and as soon as I started watching it, I thought, ‘Wow, this must be something that Pernille made.’” And she looked at the credits and there I was.
SIM: That’s a nice compliment.
PRG: That’s such a nice compliment! As a filmmaker, you have to leave your mark on your work, just as you would do with a painting or sculpture or like any other piece of art that you created. I think that’s very, very important.
That’s what you’re good at over here (the U.S.). You’re good at thinking of your audience. But I guess sometimes it’s a bit of a no-no when you do documentaries.
SIM: Why is it frowned upon, do you suppose?
PRG: Some might say, “Well, that’s commercial.” And documentaries are looked upon as something really pure, not to be “messed with.”
SIM: Some of the best nonfiction films I've seen of late have been "messed with" in that way. I feel a sea change where that’s concerned, though, don’t you?
PRG: I hope it’s changing. I think it’s important to move people, to entertain them—no matter whether it’s narrative, documentary, whatever. In Denmark, I think the general public has the impression that documentaries are something that one needs to see because the issue is very important and that you have to learn something and they’re not expecting to be entertained. They’re expecting to learn something and I think that is good, we all need that, but I think we also owe it to them. If we’re going to compete with all the other stuff out there—Spiderman and all the others—we need to show we can entertain, as well. There are so many good documentaries made, we owe it to ourselves and our audience to try and compete artistically.
SIM: You know, driving over here, I had this very funny thought and the thought was this: I’ll bet anything, I will soon be reading about a production of the fictionalized version of your film with really big stars and a really big budget. Is this starting to crop up for you?
PRG: I’ve heard it, yes, and I’m not uninterested. (laughs) I’m not sure I would direct it. It would be really interesting. It would have to be well-made. And yes, certainly big budget because of the fairy-tale thing, the location.
SIM: But the feature would have to be just as good, even better, than this film, otherwise, why bother, right?
PRG: I think it would be a totally different film. But I think it’s a good inspiration for a feature, no matter how you do it because it’s such a good story, a story that can be told over and over again with an important message.
Documentary is also developing and creating new genres. Narrative nonfiction is an interesting turn in this process. People are trying out different ways of telling stories. It’s interesting to see all the experiments being done and I really like that they challenge, they push the limits of the art form just like narratives can and often do. It can become really sexy.
SIM: What have you seen in this genre in the last little bit that’s taken you like that, inspired you as an audience member?
PRG: As I go to festivals, I see a lot of films now—my world in that way is opening. I will say that Manda Bala by Jason Kohn—I loved this film. I thought all the way through the film, “These guys are amazing!” That’s my favorite right now, I love it. It’s a visual masterpiece. He’s very inspired by Errol Morris who’s also a very narrative storyteller with his nonfiction pieces. The film is very disturbing but very sexy; I was blown away. This for them was also a long process; I think it also took them four or five years to film. I think that stubbornness, that perseverance, is what characterizes a really good filmmaker. One who lives comfortably with and listens to what we might call our stomach, our sixth sense, if you will, and we trust that very much. I live by the fact that I believe so much in what I’m doing that I will keep on doing it even though it doesn’t pay my bills. And I think it was the same for these guys that did this film even though they worked with a much larger apparatus. It was just me with my camera most of that time. But it’s frightening because your belief is not something you can measure, you can’t put it in numbers, you can’t take it out and put it in a box and take it out when you need it. It’s something that’s just there and you have to trust it and preserve it and be nice to it. It’s really your main instrument.
SIM: Were there times you can recall during the making of The Monastery where you lost your way, where you stopped believing or “listening to your stomach”?
PRG: Yes. But I never thought about it in terms of Vig—I never stopped believing in him. Or her, for that matter. But as the years passed, people would look at me oddly and say, “You’re still talking about that film?!” So then I thought maybe I should just stop talking about this film and just do it because people did think I was strange. I would stay with my friend’s family [who lived close by] because it was too scary to spend the night or stay at the castle, and I could just imagine them talking, “What’s going to happen to this girl? She’s working and getting no money. She’s single and doesn’t have a job and is running around filming an 86-year-old man. What’s going to happen to her?”
So I kind of stopped talking about it and just worked. Then, some years later, I was teaching at the film school and I showed some footage to my students there. I wanted to show a little bit of this raw material I had shot as a launching point for teaching them something, you know? I showed them the scene where Vig and the Sister are outside looking up at the wall where the water is leaking through. I looked at the students watching it and their eyes were big, they were totally focused and when it was over, they asked to see more. It made me realize for the first time, that perhaps I had something. I felt ready to bring it out into the world. For a long time I kept it solely to myself. It was time to see if “my child,” as I started thinking of it, could go out there and stand on its own.
SIM: In terms of your relationships with your characters, did the camera become invisible after a while? Because it seems to me that this film became a true collaboration between the filmmaker and her subjects. They participated in the documentation of this journey; it became just as important to them as it was to you.
PRG: My camera and sound equipment and I became one, like a unit. The microphone on him was part of that unit. This became kind of a ritual, putting this microphone on him. Every morning it was, “Good morning, Mr. Vig. I’m going to put this on you now.” So he was always aware. And so out of necessity I put myself in the shooting—as you see in the film, I come out from behind the camera and help him sometimes with whatever he’s doing. But most of the time, I don’t help. I let him do his own stuff. And for an 86-year-old man, that’s sometimes also very nice. You know, people have this notion of old people as being absolutely helpless and want to carry them, help them, take over. Instead of saying to him, “Don’t go up that ladder, please don’t go up that ladder,” I was like, “Okay, let’s see what happens!” And, of course, it would be fine.
But this ritual, this was a very nice ritual. In the beginning, he was very resistant, pulling away and making faces. He didn’t really like it, me touching him and going down through his clothes to secure the unit. But by the end, he would present himself to me and surrender willingly. I think he knew that I was there for a reason and I think that maybe the trust, the interest that I had in the project—you know, it’s like building a relationship where in the course of filming there is a mutual belief in what you’re doing and that it’s something nice and positive, that there is no violation going on. He understood, of course, I had my own interests in doing this film, but that I was also there with an interest in his project and what he was trying to do in his life, in his vision, never wavering in believing in him as a person.
SIM: I didn’t really catch this the first time I watched it, but at one point, when you’re talking to him about the fact that, basically the nun is crazy about him and did it ever occur to him that she was doing all this for him, not just out of a sense of duty to the Patriarchate?—you sort of goad him in a way that he seems to find enjoyable—he says to you that “you have a special way of seeing things.” To me, I felt at that moment that you might be experiencing a bit of pride at that comment and would have been flattered by him saying that. He wanted you to know that he noticed that you had this gift. And that you were enriching his life by showing up year after year, documenting his story.
PRG: Yes, that’s where I thought perhaps there would be criticism because I was a participant in that exchange; I was breaking the rules of neutrality and not being the pure documentarian. I went over the line because there was a kind of manipulation there. I did it very intentionally. After a while, I just could not objectively pose questions to him. I was like, “Man, can’t you see this woman is crazy about you, can you see that?!” We do that as humans to each other and I really just couldn’t help myself. Yeah, I was there with the camera, but for me, at that point, it was so important to say my piece about this to him. The main point for me in that experience is that at the end of that exchange, he admits that he’s kind of handicapped. “I’m stubborn, I’m one-track-minded, I’m not a man that gives into feelings.” And when he said those things, well, it was so nice for me to hear because he knows it all, he knows himself and he’s sharing that knowledge. And that’s also why you can forgive his stubbornness and everything else that goes along with it.
To me, it’s always so interesting to enter into these relationships. It is. It’s also very hard. It’s another dimension of my life. I know a Russian nun now. I can call up a Russian nun—how many could do that?
SIM: She’s an amazing woman. With a beautiful nose. (laughter)
PRG: She’s an amazing woman. And so wise. And so clever. This is a special one, yes, absolutely. Well-educated, an entrepreneur. Vig’s respect for her was palpable.
SIM: I’m assuming she’s seen the film?
PRG: Oh yeah, several times. He never got to see any of it which makes me very sad. When he died, it was like losing a grandfather. The fact that I could not show him the film, the fact that he could not be here now experiencing all this. . . . However, you know, I’m very superstitious so, in fact, I think that he is really here and he is watching all this, looking down, and you know, doing stuff, pulling strings and making good things happen. (laughs)
It’s so important for me that the subjects see the film that portrays them, their lives. And we discuss it. But I thought if she is the one who sees it and approves, and some of Mr. Vig’s family sees it and likes it, then I feel that if they are happy, if they like it, he would also be satisfied.
Ambrovjia saw it a lot of times before it came out and laughed all the way through the first few times. But now that she’s seen it many more times with audiences, she tells me that when she sees it now, she likes it more and more. She can distance herself a bit at this point. At first I think it was very hard, very distracting, to see herself there on the screen. I experience that now when I look at the footage of this project that I’m doing with my grandfather. It’s very hard to be objective, to get outside the film and watch yourself as a character. But it’s very important to me that she’s able to see the film objectively and like it and say it’s a good piece of work we did together.
There was a notion for a while that maybe the film would have a different ending when we didn’t know whether she was coming back or not because she was having problems resolving financial issues and finding money to carry on with the project. I talked to my producer about this, saying I felt like I really didn’t know what was going to happen. She said we would just wait and see and so we waited for close to a year before she came back to the castle. But I did have different scenarios that I was thinking about. But then we got a message that she came back. And so I went over there and got that shot where they make the procession around the castle and then the two of them are standing on that hill looking out over the property.
SIM: It’s such a satisfying ending, again from the fairy tale aspect: his legacy will live through her because there she is and remains to this day—his final wish realized. It’s quite beautiful. I wanted to also just mention the lovely score—the music in the film is exquisite and is a living, breathing character all on its own.
PRG: You can download it from the web site now. Finding Johan [Soderqvist], the composer, was incredible. I needed beautiful music for this film. I needed music that was very emotional, something that buttered me up inside to match my feelings for these people. He scored to the finished footage and then, this unbelievable guitarist, Matthias Torell, who did this hit number with Eagle Eye Cherry, came in. I said to Johan, “Oh, you know I hate those documentary guitars, that’s the worst thing you could come up with, I hate that shit.” And he said to me, “Yeah, but I know this guy, he’s incredible!” I was dubious. And so this cool Swedish guy shows up, all casual with just his guitar. When he played, it was just like heaven coming out of his guitar. And after hearing that, I surrendered to the guitar.
My producer was very, very good in saying, “Okay, well, we’re going to have a good score. If we’re going to go with feature length and so on, we’re going to put some money aside for a good score. That was really nice of her to do that—sometimes, in the budget, that’s one of the first things to get cut or it’s somehow an afterthought. We left a space for that and I’m so grateful. We like it so much and people love it too and so that’s why we have it accessible on the web site.
This was actually his first documentary. He’s a very experienced composer for feature films. He’d never done a documentary before. I told him it doesn’t matter. I told him, “You just do whatever it is that you do and it’ll be good.” I love his music. And the music has a narrative feel.
SIM: And now post-Monastery, what’s next for you?
PRG: We’ve been pitching something in Geneva this last week. I will have the same team. This is my team now, I love them! I’ve got the best editor in the world, Pernille Bech Christensen. She’s so amazing. Like Johan, she also works with [well-renowned Danish director] Susanne Bier. I really like documentary, but I’m flirting with the narrative form, as well. I was schooled in the tradition of storytelling as an art form. Maybe it’s not so much narrative or documentary that matters, it’s more how you tell a good story and in the ways you do it with the material that is presented to you. That’s what’s most important for me. I want to tell good stories. I have something now I’m very interested in and it’s documentary, but I also have something too that is a narrative.
Now it’s become so easy for people to do documentaries, anybody can do a documentary. Or a narrative film, for that matter. So, in the community of filmmakers, we talk about this—we have to kind of distinguish ourselves from everybody else. We have to keep our jobs or be able to keep working in this field! How do we distinguish a documentary filmmaker from someone who’s never done one before, a regular person versus a filmmaker—how do we distinguish between those? How do you?
SIM: Have you seen a film that received all kinds of accolades and was made a big deal over, where you sat there and said, “Oh, but this is amateurish”? Not in any kind of negative way, but knowing that it was someone who obviously didn’t know what they were doing, they were “winging it,” so to speak.
PRG: I think there’s a trap you can fall into as a documentarian and that is just picking a topic that is disturbing or bothersome or weird, and people will take it in, not because it’s a quality piece of work, but that they feel the subject matter is it. There’s not really a good story, just the controversy or importance of the topic—war, famine, etc. It goes back to the notion of documentary just being something dry and boring that will teach you something you need to know. That’s maybe what distinguishes a professional from the crowd—a real filmmaker will always tell a good story no matter what the situation. This is what will separate things, I think. A lot of things are opening up for the documentary—there’s a market, there is now Netflix that exists and Amazon where you can know about these films and watch them.
SIM: I think Netflix has done a great service to the documentary community in this way.
PRG: I would love to see that come to Europe. As I go around to different festivals now, I see that there are so many good films being made. The Internet, too, is the way to get our films out there. My film has been playing recently in Holland and they have this great thing where the theatres can access the film on a server and the cinemas throughout the country just can go there and download it from a main server and then they play it to paying audiences. It’s very good quality, as well. This is the future, I think. I was doing a lot of national stuff before, for a good ten years or so, but only in Denmark. Some of my work has been seen abroad, but not like this. This is really my first, real international experience and I can just see this is where the market is. It’s out here. A way to give anyone, anywhere the experience of my work.
SIM: As a film lover, I want to be able to have access to that. I don’t know if I’m any different than anybody else, but a lot of the content that’s available is so dissatisfying, so inferior.
PRG: That was what was so exciting in the beginning coming over here—watching my film with all these audiences, and wondering how it will translate to the American public.
SIM: I think you saw right away that it did and does resonate incredibly well. People I consider mentors, other filmmakers I admire, love your film, too. There’s a level of appreciation, admiration that speaks to the craftsmanship, your voice and sensibility. That must be very satisfying for you, as well.
PRG: Somebody said to me, “In your time as a filmmaker, you wear it [your first film] as a sweater.” He was speaking of my experience as a first-time feature director and how this film was just a nice one to have on oneself, to wear and go around feeling great about it. So I’m very, very proud—this is one of many defining moments for me recently, as a filmmaker and as a person.
SIM: I’ve spoken to other filmmakers who have films playing the festival circuit, rocketing around the planet with their film and having a ball celebrating with others in the “class of ’07,” as you put it. It’s like your party, your celebration.
PRG: It’s so rewarding and so is meeting all these people over and over again that are becoming like old friends, seeing other films, comparing notes, sharing war stories. So inspiring! I’m a little tired now after seven years of making this movie—it’s so good to get fed again in a way, after all of that. It’s good energy because I know I’m ready to get back on the horse again and start another project. I feel very blessed, I must say.
So we have our U.S. premiere here at the Film Forum in New York in August. And hopefully, we’re going to bring Sister Amvrosija with us.
SIM: Yes, convince her to come—she has to experience New York City!
PRG: Yes, I also think she has to. It will depend on the distributor, etc. But when I was there at Easter, I passed by the Film Forum and they already had flyers up about the film. And in San Francisco this coming week during the festival, we are going to meet some theatre owners up there.
And then we will see who will be playing Mr. Vig on the big screen, right? He will have something to say about this, I’m sure, up there in his heaven, grumbling, “No, I don’t want that guy, I want that guy!” (laughter) He’ll pull strings there, too. It would be very interesting for me to see how all that would work.