Victoria Yakubova (Schneid) was born in Tashkent, Ouzbekistan, former Soviet Union, in 1977. In 1990, at the age of 13, due to the 90’s events there, she immigrates with her family to Israel. In 2002 she leaves Israel to realise her Biggest Dream: carry out her film studies in Paris, France. She directs several short feature films, works many years in production (“What Happened here” by Rob Nilson, etc…) She writes and direct a theater play “Barbara and Brassens” in Israel. In 2014 she returns to her homeland by chance, which leads to a short movie called “Treasure” (13’). In 2016 Victoria is going again to Kazkahstan to shoot her first feature film “OLMA DJON”. Today Victoria is preparing her next feature film “Cinecittà”. Living between many countries she cites often Jodorowsky – My homeland is in my shoes.
Exclusive Interview with Victoria Yakubova Schneid- Filmmaker
NY Glam: How long have you been making films and videos?
It’s hard to say. I started making actual films during my Cinema studies, when I already was 25 years old. As Sergey Paradjanov said, and I guess he was right, we were born directors, and for as long as I can remember I have been making movies in my head, creating them among my family, friends. Fantasy is hard to control. When I was 7 I created a street theater, we were inventing stories and performing them in children gardens and yards…
But then life matters forced me and my family to leave our land, Ouzbekistan, and we immigrated to Israel. We arrived 2 weeks before the war started (one of many), so my dreams were going away from me, disappearing in the fog of this new language, this new, hard life of immigrants, wars, military service. This immigration was very hard for me but made me what I am now, a stronger person, I think. After the army, where I served as a graphic designer, I became a web designer. I was enjoying very much my work, but at some point, I understood that a single image was not enough for me, even if you manage to say many things in it. I wanted to tell stories. So I started everything from a blank page and I decided to finally realize my dream. Cinema Studies in Paris. I was 25. I started then to live the dream. The real one.
NY Glam: What film was your directorial debut?
This one, “Olma Djon”, that I have the honor to present to the Filmmaker Festival of New York Festival is my first feature film. My first film was “Nicotine Intime”, a short film I did in school, about a girl who keeps her memories in her cigarette butts. Her diary is made from them, and if she wants to live again any moment in her life, she just needs to smoke it.
NY Glam: What is your recent film about?
“Olma Djon” is about finding Love. Deep in our hearts, the most Perfect and Pure love – the one given by the Mother.
This film was a research for me about what is Motherhood, in many levels. In “Olma Djon” the father of the family can’t find a way to communicate with his daughter, who refuses to speak. Only when he digs his way deep inside himself to reach and rediscover his mother’s love will he succeed. This film was a real “voyage” for everyone who participated in the process. A fantastic journey deep into the heart.
NY Glam: How did you go about casting for the film?
I always go by intuition. I never watch my actors’ previous films. I need to feel. To see this invisible “link” that unites me with the actor, from where we can start the work. What is interesting for me is to work with the actor, involving his and my personal feelings, past, and dreams. The process is as much interesting for me as the result itself. And every actor is different in the approach that he or she needs in order to reach what I am searching for, the deepest TRUTH about the character. This deep truth for me can’t be “played” but has to be “lived”. Then the spectator can identify to the character. Then his pain and joy become the ones everyone can feel. Some times everything happens because I meet an inspiring actor, like it was for Olma Djon. I met Aziz Beyshenaliev and we had each others’ trust. From the first day of writing « Olma Djon » we spoke, discussed it, and this film is inspired and contains every corner of his soul. Now we are working the same way on our next project « Cinecittà ». Aziz became a real collaborator, as we share the same “past”, we see the world through the same prisma. Then and now he is the spine of the project. I am very thankful for his support to me, as he is a very well known actor and Olma Djon was my “debut”. I did not have the same work process with Natasha Mashckevitch and Aysha. It’s another story, deep and interesting, very different each time… About Natasha Mashkevich – I saw her photo and knew immediatly that it had to be her for the role of Sara. We met and discovered that so much of our path was the same. We had less time to work than with Aziz, but she followed me, very pregnant, to Kazakhstan. I discovered that she, too, like myself, was originaly from Central Asia, and that this shooting was her first coming back to her homeland… She is a talented actress with an incredible courage, always agreeing to try things and not being afraid of anything – She is a rare pearl. Very different from Aziz that needs more words, Natasha is more about capturing the energy of things. She also experienced immigrating in Israel as well so sometimes when I wanted to tell her something without anyone else understanding, I would talk to her in hebrew. That was our secret. Her part was difficult, without any word, and in that cold atmosphere, hearing a few words in hebrew was like a “love” whisper to her soul. We also discovered that she and Aziz were born in the same city. Another piece of the puzzle. With Aysha Berrikkizy – our youngest actress on set – we had worked together on my previous film. I saw her in a very small role, and I wanted to meet her. Sometimes I get confused and think that she is a younger me.. LOVE at first sight. In her eyes I saw everything I needed. Deep deep wisdom, coming from I don’t know where. You know I worked with Ronit Elkabetz, a very well known israeli actress and director who passed away 4 years ago. She was telling me “I found every character I play in my previous lives.” That is the case with Aysha. This girl was born with a huge talent. As any child, she was playing between the takes. But as soon as I was saying “action” she was transforming. It was amazing for everyone on the set. I did not want to direct her, I wanted to discover what she would propose to me. And each time it was a thousands levels up from what I was thinking. About Saltanat Tashimova who interprets the Shaman Woman, I wanted to have a true shaman in my movie. She is one. She is a painter and had an exhibition planned during our shoot, but after we talked and I told her the story, she decided to cancel the exibition. The role was her’s. That face was there and we were all under her shamanic inluence. What a journey!
NY Glam: What was the most important lesson you had to learn that has had a positive effect on your film? How did that lesson happen?
The lesson was not to be afraid of yourself. To go to the place where the intuition guides you and act from there. The film was shot in 9 days in difficult conditions. As it was extremely urgent for me to shoot this film for personal reasons, I had to adapt myself to what was offered to me. We were in the Kazakh winter, minus 20° celsius, in snowy mountains, with a low budget and many risks. Only 9 days to shoot a full lengh feature film. As a director, you are asked questions every second. You don’t have time to think. You only have time to feel. The answers came from the belly, so they were right. And when you as a director are connected to your real CORE, the crew, every one on the set, trust you and follow you, reaching their truth about the light, the acting, the costumes, the frame, the rhythm…, everything. So actually you create the wave, and everyone is swimming on it. That was a great experience I guess for everyone there. We were very tightened by the conditions, time etc but at the same time very free. This freedom was very important. Of course I only succeeded because I had an amazing supporting team, especially my producers that made everything for me to feel confortable. I learned from Kazakh Hospitality so much. I was received like a queen, everywhere. I learned a lot from this country, the Dignity I think the most.
So what I “learned” from this film – EVERYTHING! In terms of professional cinema, I had the chance to work with huge Maestros in Post Production. A year and a half of continuous master classes. Pavel Doreuli who designed the sound, teached me about voices, as we re-recorded the dialogues. He virtuosly recreated the sound of the entire film from scratch! Do you know what is the sound of a snowy apple garden? Now we know. Vincent Arnardi, the re-recording mixer, has been the most precious gift I had on the film. I learned to listen and to hear. But not only the sound, also my heartbeats. My breath. With Herve Schneid, the editor (and my husband), the montage journey was an intense and ininterrupted self questioning. I learned to tell the story from what I had in my hands. It was amazing to see that the more experience these people have, the less they are afraid to try, and the craziest they are. For exemple the trance scene was a complete surprise to me. A Master Piece. That’s when I learned to be free from rules. I learned so much from my dear composer Shigeru Umebayashi who teached me the Meaning of music in a film, and from composer Abbas Bakhtiari who gave me the heart beat of the film with his Iranian instrument The Daf… Color Correction, the minimalist difference between colors and how it influences the perception of the scene, from Elie Akoka. Special effects, the magic! from Alain Carsoux. I learned from Aleksandra Aronova, art and costume designer, that it is possible to create “No Time” what she actually did. I learned how to work in simposium with Iskander, my DoP – that definetly became now my “Cine-Eyes”. And many many others, actually I learned everything from every one. I hope I was a good student!
NY Glam: Tell us a bit about the other films you’ve made and your other projects.
You know, we directors can speak hours about our projects, but here we have only few lines 🙂 I will tell you about the previous one “Treasure” which I also shot in Kazakhstan, with the same actress Aisha Berrikizzy and the same DoP Iskander Narymbetov. This short film was made in 2 days. Also a very urgent film. I had only 5 days left in Kazakhstan when my “Cine-Father”, the kazakh director Satybaldy Narymbetov told me: “the story you just told me about your childhood, go and shoot it!”. It was like the biggest Blessing I ever received. When you are given Wings, you just go and fly. Everything came to place very quickly like a puzzle, we shot it and the film traveled all over the world in many festivals. That’s when this life gift collaboration with Iskander Narymbetov – my dear DOP started. I have many projects, many dreams, that I hope will be achieved.
NY Glam: What role have film festivals played in your life so far?
You don’t do films for festivals but you want them to be watched. So festivals are super important. You meet interesting people and your movie is seen by a public, which you are in contact with immediately. Our premiere was in Eurasia Film Festival in Nursultan, Kazakhstan. I was so suprised by the way the public received the film. A real deep dialogue happened there. This woman for example who told me that she arrived to the film by pure chance and that it made her forgive her own mother… This is something big, you know… Then it was the Rome Independent Film Festival, where we had our first award, Best Feature film. I swear, you never forget your first award. It gives you this energy to push further, to believe in what you do. Another beautiful exemple is the Torino Underground Cinefest. It went online this year because of the corona virus. First we were sad not to have a proper screening, but then the miracle happened. The film was seen online by 2300 people in Italy only! I received letters from the epicenter of the corona, from people thanking me for the movie, which they saw in these so peculiar conditions, isolated in their homes, and it touched them even more. You understand, when you receive such letters, that your mission is accomplished. You feel happy.
NY Glam: Is it harder to get started or to keep going? What was the particular thing that you had to conquer to do either?
The hardest think for me is to keep going. Sometimes in this very big competition you get lost, you loose hope and trust in yourself. But you have friends, new ideas, feelings, and you just can’t not restart again. In my case the crisis lasts about 3 days maximum. As I am a very passionate person, strong feelings are here to help me to want to create again. To say something urgently.
NY Glam: How has your style evolved?
This is a very interesting question. I needed to go back to my roots in order to find my true self and to create from that place. As the same “Cine-Father” told me: “Stop telling stories about others, tell me your own story.” That’s when everything started. You know you can go far away looking for the truth but it’s actually just inside you. In your roots is the truth for your fruits.
NY Glam: What has been your personal key to success?
To define success for myself. What is it about. Not to play other people’s success but my own. I think it is different from one person to another. It is so easy to fall into the trap of the game around us, especially in the cinema world. I guess to LOVE what you do and to do only what you LOVE is the key for life, not only for success. Not to compare your path to other’s…
NY Glam: What are you thinking about doing next?
As I said, I am working on a few projects, one of them I wrote in Italy last year, entitled “Cinecittà”, where I expressed all my love and admiration for Italian cinema, from after the war to our days and Italian people. I wrote it with the precious collaboration of Aziz Beyshenaliev, for whom the main caracter is written. The female caracter is a very inspiring actress too, but I can’t tell you yet her name. I hope that it will be an incredible Duo. I have another very challenging project based on the amazing script written by a great Italian script writer Rinaldo Rocco, that will happen in Paris. And the one based on my book “Chez Moi” (My Home) the quest for where my home is and what it means to me.
NY Glam: Where does your studio want to go from here?
I am an independant director so I dont have any studio giving me directions. I have my own wishes, ambitions, beliefs and convictions. Like a boat in the open ocean, free and happy, sailing wherever the wind of creativity and desire takes me!