INTERVIEW – VOIN
After J. A(2020) the final component of a trilogy, you approach a new portrait. How did you get interested in Voin Voynov?
We met in 2007 in the context of Berlin’s electronic music scene. Everyone knew Voin for his extreme character; a multitude of unusual stories about him got around; some of them funny, some of them cause for concern at times. We became friends. I followed him one summer in Bulgaria, in his family and on visits paid to friends from childhood. Voin was born in Sofia and grew up under the communist regime; when it collapsed, a kind of wild capitalism was established in Bulgaria; his parents earned a lot of money really fast and Voin left for Western Europe. He had the words « EAST » and « WEST » tattooed on his right and left wrists, respectively. This division intrigued me.
Voin’s stories are presented like many different pieces in an incomplete puzzle. How do you account for this choice?
Voin was always telling new stories I wasn’t able to arrange chronologically. There was no possible life master narrative. Establishing causal or hierarchical relationships between memories failed to translate his character’s intensity. We needed to create gaps, emptiness between micro-narratives. It’s up to each and everyone of us to weave our own connections.
Intimate questions intersect with political problems linked to the Bulgarian regime. How did you get the interviews organized?
I was interested in the places Voin had grown up in: his grand-parents’ home in the countryside, the Soviet low-rent buildings in Sofia and the house in the luxury suburbs where his parents settled once the regime collapsed. These are the key places which enabled the triggering of intimate and collective memory. Then were added a few emblematic props: the National Palace of Culture, a Bingo…
Voin evokes memories, goes for a walk, plays, dances and also talks with his parents. How did you choose to stage him?
Voin is quite accustomed to playing with his own image: he’s an artist and stages himself in his own practice. I tried to create a staging space that would leave room for such a thing. The still frames create, with their light, an ambiguity about the nature of the stories being told: sometimes we’re left wondering whether or not he’s telling the truth.
The film crosses different places according to an enigmatic arbitrary logic. How did you work the editing?
I first worked with Sebastian Bodirsky. We looked for a structure enabling us to trace a path from the Soviet buildings to the pavilion house, but there was no counterpoint to Bulgaria, something to embody those twenty years Voin had spent in Western Europe. I only found it three years later, after digging deep into a film I shot in 2009 while I was deeply immersed in free parties somewhere in the Berlin suburbs where Voin was one of the protagonists.
Why mix different video formats with Super 8?
The image formats reflect different layers of memory; but associating one to a specific time seemed to me much too archetypal. I used the film for stories that were sometimes inspired by a more recent past than that evoked in the video sequences.
You are one of the founding members of Elinka Films, Voin’s production company. What is its specificity?
Created by women directors, it works horizontally. Elinka’s film-makers work on the company’s different films not only as producers but on all other positions involved in film-making according to a system of exchange that values each and everyone’s skills, making circulation between projects easier and enabling the existence of films difficult to produce in a conventional logic of financing.
Interviewed by Olivier Pierre