• CNAP Award  
  • International Competition


Sofia Bohdanowicz

Burak Çevik

Blake Williams

“The following is a story that is somewhat true, I present it as it happened, with adornment.” This phrase, which is the cornerstone of A Woman Escapes, by Audrey Benac is a twist on the famous phrase at the beginning of Robert Bresson’s A Man Escaped. Sofia Bohdanowicz’s lonely, grieving alter ego Audrey is wandering around in an apartment in Paris which belongs to her friend Juliane, who has recently passed away. Over views of Istanbul, Burak’s deep voice evokes a parcel received by mistake, which was destined for Audrey/Sofia, sent by a certain Blake: a small 3D camera. Images of the young woman in a bus winding its way through landscape marks the start, not just of a correspondence, but of a film that circulates – driven by images, sounds and dreams. The three characters’ voices mingle with interlaced stereoscopic views, the grain of 16mm film and 4K images, in an exchange articulated in the form of a plait – like the hallah Audrey bakes. As mentioned at the start, A Woman Escapes forsakes Bressonian austerity and completely embraces the ornaments of its own narrative – twists and artifice and a profusion of images and colours. Quotation and reuse are the staging rationales of this palimpsestic film, as the first letter sent by Blake to Audrey seems to illustrate. It describes Zen for Film by Nam June Paik, a work in a state of constant reinvention as it is altered and dust accumulates on a blank film. Title cards go from blue to red (the colours of 3D glasses) via a whole range of shades of magenta. From the first images showing Juliane’s gestures to the last ones, where the same gestures are repeated by Audrey, A Woman Escapes sets out a trajectory that seems to turn cinema into a manifesto for healing.
(Louise Martin Papasian) Sofia Bohdanowicz Burak Çevik Blake Williams

Interview with Sofia Bohdanowicz, Burak Çevik, Blake Williams

A Woman Escapes is the first film in which the three of you are working together. How did the idea of this collaboration come about and what was the initial project?

The film has a pretty complicated origin story, filled with alternate routes and plenty of false starts. Initially, Blake and Sofia decided to collaborate on a project in late 2019, knowing only that it would be shot in 3D. Blake lent her his spare Fujifilm 3D camera that she would use to document her upcoming year of travels, with the idea being that at some point they would combine a year’s worth of footage into a film of some kind. The next thing was a global pandemic, which put the project on pause, and, almost a year later, Burak would initiate his own correspondence project with Sofia. Burak expressed that he was moving through a tough time, and he planned to remedy it by going on a roadtrip to Anatolia with his camera. Sofia, meanwhile, was now living in Paris after separating from her longtime partner, and was living under the weight of the recent death of her elderly friend, Juliane. Blake and Burak were sending evocative materials, but—tasked with sharing her life at a moment when she felt completely paralyzed by loss—Sofia found herself unable to respond.

Long story short, Sofia remembered that Blake had at one point proposed turning their film into an “Audrey movie.” She has made several films—Never Eat Alone (2016), MS SLAVIC 7 (2019), Point and Line to Plane (2020), among others—in which actress Deragh Campbell portrays Sofia’s cinematic alter ego, Audrey Benac, and the pieces very quickly fell in place for what would become a film that dramatises this situation: a woman, grieving alone in Paris, unable to participate in two friend’s film collaborations, seeking a way out. All of the elements were there (Blake and Burak were already creating material, and Sofia had twenty rolls of 16mm film that she won from a prize at the 2020 FIDLab), and thankfully Deragh was in Paris for the month and agreed to partake in the experiment. And so it began.

By staging your correspondence, the film establishes a fertile exchange, creating an elaborate and surprising circulation of ideas, images, sounds and feelings. In this way, the film feeds on your respective practices and writings, going to the point of mixing different formats such as 3D, 16mm and HD digital format. What was the degree of autonomy or complicity of each of you in the elaboration of the various segments?

The fact that the film was partially produced during its former life as a pair of correspondence films meant that each of our contributions was, from the beginning, very personal. There was a pile of short films we’d each made, which would bear our respective autonomy no matter what kind of narrative we built around it. A lot of the film’s sense of unity only came out during the editing phase. For example, Burak’s materials represent what was, for him, a very difficult period in his life, but that material ended up belonging to a character in the film. It was real, but it is told as fiction. Likewise, the character of Audrey Benac is a construction, but she’s dramatising a particular situation that Sofia lived through. So what the film shows is real, but through editing and some creative gestures it was elevated into an elaborate fairytale.

Could you comment on the choices of format respectively adopted?

For the most part, each of us was working in our preferred filmmaking formats. Sofia has made a number of films on 16mm, Burak shoots in very crisp, rich 4K video, and Blake has been exploring various stereoscopic video formats for the last decade. Working under the restrictions of pandemic living, we resorted to the tools we already had on hand. That being said, there was a bit of cross-exploration, like how Sofia shot some of the film’s 3D footage using the Fujifilm camera that Blake lent her. It ended up working into the film’s themes in a nice way, further de-stabilizing the audience’s ability to ascribe certain elements to a specific creator or character. The viewer may think they know whose images they’re seeing or whose words they’re hearing, but the source of the materials isn’t always what it seems.

The scheme of this circulation, visually articulated by the map drawn by Audrey Benac’s character, follows the logic of the braid of bread. Could you tell us in more detail how you worked on the film’s structure and on the editing?

The map was one of the starting points for the film! Sofia described the essential narrative idea to Burak in a phone call, and he drew the map to help clarify for himself what would take place in the film. His map is what we asked Deragh to redraw in the film, which, as you note, is then evoked again in the braided bread. That braiding is a great analogy for the editing, too. The project was passed around for a while — first Sofia assembled a rough cut that helped us win post-production funding at FICUNAM’s Catapulta Lab, then Blake worked on the film for a few weeks, then it got passed to Burak when Sofia visited Istanbul for a month to help film some new scenes.

Since the entire film had to be edited like a 3D film, eventually Blake ended up handling the fine-tuning stage of the edit at his home studio in Toronto. During this period, he would make edits, and for each change he’d export a clip of what was moved or added, upload it to Vimeo for Sofia and Burak, and they would then either approve the edit or suggest something else in response. This went on for several months, up until the final colour grading and sound mixing stage that we did at Estudios Churubusco in Mexico City. Of course, if we’d worked on the film with all of us in the same room it probably would have only taken a couple of weeks to finish. Drawing it out like this allowed us to sit with the film in a way that we normally wouldn’t, and it’s part of why there’s such a strong feeling of patience and contemplation in the movie.

The use of intertitles marking the passage of time throughout the film introduces a style of writing typical of the diary film. How did this choice come about?

Because of the film’s origin as two different correspondence projects, we do think that the film is (at least partially) situated near the diary film tradition. Including dates and marking the passage of time alludes to that connection. It’s also something that comes from our past work. Blake’s recent films have had a playful and absurdist use of temporal intertitles; Burak’s work deals a lot with dreams and memory and therefore the relationship between the past, present, and imagined futures; and Sofia has drawn inspiration from Rohmer’s Le Genou de Claire, which ended up being a model for our intertitles’ handwritten and colour-coordinated aesthetic. But also, having three filmmakers work together on a film, each writing our own dialogue, working in different time zones, shooting in different formats, guided by our own distinct sensibilities and interests — it introduces a lot of potential chaos and messiness. On the one hand, we love that sort of thing, as we each have made our share of sensual and experimental work. But there is a narrative here that needs to come through, too, so we borrow from Silent Era tactics, using intertitles to suggest a basic structure and chronology that holds everything together, and lets the more expressive aspects breathe.

On the other hand, the film also makes clear reference to works by other authors, in particular Robert Bresson’s film, A Man Escaped (Un condamné à mort s’est échappé), from which the title itself is inspired and whose quotations punctuate the film. Why did you choose this work in particular?

The appropriation of Bresson’s film is actually the core of Sofia’s correspondences in the film. She was living and grieving in Juliane’s home, tethered to these projects with Burak and Blake that she had little motivation to work on, and felt both creatively and emotionally imprisoned. While living in this in-between zone, she happened to watch A Man Escaped on the Criterion Channel. She’d seen it before, but this time it provided a total epiphany. François Leterrier’s narration became a way out—an escape, you could say—and in a moment of desperation or madness she started lifting dialogue and visual motifs from the film and applying them to her own situation. So while Burak and Blake were creating video letters that offered windows into their own lives—telling stories about their personal interests and struggles—Sofia managed to reconnect to her life and circumstances through a sixty-five year-old French film. It was so irrational and inspired that we couldn’t resist it. Weeks later Sofia began shooting, and the rest is history.

Interview by Marco Cipollini

  • CNAP Award  
  • International Competition

Technical sheet

Canada, Turkey / 2022 / Colour / 16 mm, HD, 3D / 81’

Original version : english, turkish
Subtitles : english
Script : Sofia Bohdanowicz, Burak Çevik, Blake Williams
Photography : Blake Williams, Sofia Bohdanowicz, Burak Çevik
Editing : Blake Williams, Sofia Bohdanowicz, Burak Çevik
Music : Sarah Davachi
Son : Blake Williams, Sofia Bohdanowicz.
Avec : Deragh Campbell, Blake Williams, Burak Çevik

Production : Sofia Bohdanowicz (Maison du Bonheur Films), Burak Çevik (Fol Film), Blake Williams (BlueMagenta Films)

Filmography :
Sofia Bohdanowicz : Point and Line to Plane, 2020. MS Slavic 7, 2019. Veslemøy’s Song, 2018. The Soft Space, 2018. Maison du bonheur, 2017. A Drownful Brilliance of Wings, 2016. Never Eat Alone, 2016. Last Poem, 2013. Dalsza Modlitwa, 2013. Wieczór, 2013. Modlitwa (A Prayer), 2013.

Burak Çevik : While Cursed by Specters, 2020. A Topography of Memory, 2019. Belonging, 2019. The Pillar of Salt, 2018.

Blake Williams : 2008, 2019. PROTOTYPE, 2017. Something Horizontal, 2015. Red Capriccio, 2014. Many a Swan, 2012. Coorow-Latham Road, 2011.