TIFF Interview: Juraj Lehotsky Talks ‘Nina’

Each person has its own life cycle. Every marriage has its own way to unfold. And when it comes to divorce, the process itself can advance in two ways – peaceful or turn into an ugly war not for money but for the right over children.

“NINA” co-written and directed by Juraj Lehotsky is a powerful drama about ordinary people. They share the problems half the world has. Having drama in the family. Fights, arguments is a daily routine for them. However, there’s something more important in “NINA” other than that little and sweet family relationship. It’s about how one girl tries to do something to stay happy. It’s her who means nothing bad and loves her parents dearly. She is not selfish or arrogant. She is the girl everyone would like to relate to.

During the Toronto International Film Festival I had the great pleasure, albeit via email, to have an interview with Juraj Lehotsky who gladly shared his journey of making his film, its structure and of course its deep and profound concept.

MOVIEMOVESME: “NINA” is a powerful story about a strong and very determined girl who is stuck in the middle of a family drama. I wonder where did the story of Nina came from?

Juraj Lehotsky: I was aware of the fact that there are a lot of people around me who live in very strange relationships where love is turning into hate, where families, which were often beautiful and strong, stopped existing. The children from these families couldn’t really tell what kind of people their parents are anymore, and started becoming a part of very strange worlds and relationships, where love and understanding between close ones vanished. That’s why we felt this theme and story is important to be told.

MOVIEMOVESME: Your film is very nice and profound touch with reality. It’s honest and simple. Can you talk about the structure of it and how did you plan it?

Juraj Lehotsky: We knew this theme is not so “original”, but this only made me more curious to explore ways of how to approach it. I was attracted by how an innocent child observes all the absurd behavior of the adults around it. Together with my co-writer Marek Leščák, we wanted to tell a simple story, which contains small, peculiar details of childhood, that are in sharp contrast with the destructive and absurd world of adults.

MOVIEMOVESME: The main theme for you was forgiveness. But it also was about realization and even revelation. I wonder how did you combine such a difficult concept using simple language?

Juraj Lehotsky: The storytelling in our film is very pure and simple, similarly to how simple real life can be itself. We wanted to show something that could happen to any of us – we all have families, or want to have families, or are sadly losing our family. In its simplicity, the film connects to the elementary connotations of life, ones that follow us all our life: the love towards people around us. Love that we can lose and find again. We thought it is interesting that it could be a child enlightening the adults and reflecting their own behavior.

MOVIEMOVESME: The cast did an amazing job, especially Bibiana Nováková. It was her first featured role ever and you managed to take the best out of it. How did you find her?

Juraj Lehotsky: I found Bibiana through a casting agency, which was a great surprise for me, I have to admit. Bibiana has never acted before, but had some experience with a drama class she was attending. I realized there is something strong and beautiful in her. I felt she had a great potential to develop her talent.

MOVIEMOVESME: Can you talk about working with Marek Leščák, co-writer of “NINA”?

Juraj Lehotsky: Marek is a great writer, he has an amazing sense for authenticity. Together with his co-writers, me included, he can draw a great deal of inspiration from real life, but he also comes up with great new ideas. I greatly appreciate and value our co-operation, also because we complement each other in a very effective and creative way.

MOVIEMOVESME: Can you talk about the process of submission of NINA to major festivals and the moment when you expect an answer, preferably, a positive one.

Juraj Lehotsky: When a film is just being completed and it’s only a few people that have seen it, expectations and feelings can be mixed and can change from day to day. With NINA, I felt it could be a film and a theme interesting for the festival audience, but how festival selectors accept the film can differ from event to event. Films, after all, are a subjective art form and filmmakers should be prepared for all situations and possibilities. We will only be able to truly understand the true position of our films in time.

MOVIEMOVESME: There is always a certain expectation every filmmaker has before they start making a film. I wonder what was yours?

Juraj Lehotsky: We wanted to make a film that would be “useful”. A film, that would be interesting for the audience, but would also bring something new – a new thought, a new realization. My process of filmmaking always starts with a simple idea that is usually ungraspable at the beginning, but it also attracts me so much, that I look for ways how to recreate it as story with life. The initial thought for NINA was a child, which is beautiful and pure and explores a deformed world. It is also a great reward once this transformation process is completed and the idea becomes a film which can leave its audience feeling that they’ve experienced something real.

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