Jacqueline Lentzou

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Looking Up: Week #6 Hiwa
Jacqueline Lentzou

11 Minutes

Artist Cinemas

April 17–25, 2023

Jay wakes up in Manila, yet he was dreaming of Athens. He’s had a nightmare, in which he had to save his two daughters from a special surgery: Their houses are attached to their bodies, and must be removed. In his attempt to fetch his daughters, he roams the Athens cityscape, seeing things in a very different light while he narrates his dream to his wife.

Hiwa is the sixth and final installment of Looking Up, an online program of films and accompanying texts convened by Jorge Jácome as the twelfth cycle of Artist Cinemas, a long-term, online series of film programs curated by artists for e-flux Film.

The film is presented alongside a conversation with Jacqueline Lentzou by Ana David

Looking Up runs in six episodes released every Monday from March 18 through April 24, 2023, streaming a new film each week accompanied by a commissioned interview or response published in text form. A repeat of all six films featured in Looking Up will take place on the last day, streaming from Monday, April 24, 12am ET to Tuesday, April 25, 11:59pm ET, available here.

A conversation with Jacqueline Lentzou
By Ana David

Ana David (AD): In your first feature, Moon, 66 Questions (2021), you tell the story of a daughter who travels back home to Greece to take care of her ill father, and goes through a process of figuring out whether she can do it. In Hiwa, a father has a nightmare in which he realizes that his daughters are sick and he’s not sure whether he’ll be able to save them. It seems like this topic of being enough as a family member is something that continues to show up in your films.

Jacqueline Lentzou (JL): Thank you for the amazing connection. No one until now has ever made that link. It’s a very important link for me because when I was editing Hiwa, I was thinking of the real situation out of which Moon, 66 Questions arose. At the time, I was thinking how parents and kids are mirrors of each other. Parents are the first mirrors, which is a bit scary and dangerous. But, for me, it also makes this bond super special, as the very first time you see yourself will be through the eyes of your parents. If this doesn’t go well, it can mark you forever. So, for sure, the two films are mirroring each other. It goes back to a very big question that I think goes beyond the system of the family to the actual essence of existence, to the question, first of all: Is there a good enough reason why I’m here? When in heavy depression, it has always been a big question. And then, on a good day: Am I good enough for this amazing life that I have? I always see things as circles, people as small circles. And I have always felt like like I was missing a piece of that circle, that wholeness. So I’m always interrogating around this missing piece.

AD: I wanted to understand a bit more how Hiwa came about, besides these concerns you’ve just shared on family and being enough.

JL: Funnily enough, the text that makes up the dream, the idea of Hiwa, came after the editing. The film was born out of a need to depict Athens as a city. Some people have called the film a city symphony in a way, which I like because the film shows lesser known and very mainstream parts of Athens together. Even someone from Athens might not understand whether what they’re seeing is in fact what they think it is. For example, there are shots of the most popular and crowded meatmarket that everyone has been to, but somehow located in a different word context. I wanted to give more space to how the different locations could be interpreted, to put it in the dream realm where you have absolute freedom. It’s funny because I was very young at the time—I shot it in 2016, seven years ago—and when I thought of absolute freedom, in my mind only the dreamscape could allow for it. Now that I’m writing my second feature film, I don’t care at all. I can have freedom anywhere, dreaming or not dreaming, which is amazing because it’s somehow about becoming more free as an artist and as a person—growing up. So it started all from wanting to depict Athens in a different, freer way.

AD: In Hiwa, you chose a different culture, a different language, a different nationality to depict Athens, maybe also to be freer, in a way.

JL: Totally. At the time I was hanging out with a Filipino guy who was taking care of my father (who is the father from Moon 66, Questions, in a way). One day I asked him whether he ever had an image of what Greece was or looked like prior to coming to Athens. Because when I hear of the Philippines, I have some images, even though I don’t know whether or not they are valid. He said he did, and it was totally different from what he actually encountered. Before coming, let’s say, he thought Athens was an island. This dialogue with him sparked a lot of ideas. On the one hand, there was the topic of freedom and of being able to do whatever you wanted in a dream context. It opened up possibilities even more because he was coming from a culture that was very different from mine. At the same time, there was also this closeness because we were inhabiting the same space—Athens—allowing for flexibility in the idea of geography/topography.

AD: Another common line in your films is, let’s say, the representation of a dystopian, nightmarish, and restless state of mind. In Hiwa, we have someone who fears that they may be losing their kids. Even Athens is perceived as a place that might be coming to an end or, at least, going through a transformation that could be the end of Athens as it is, the end of the world as we know it. It’s all very emotionally charged, and these are difficult feelings to cope with. Was that something you were aware of when you were editing—this sense of things becoming sad and difficult?

JL: Sadness feels like an ongoing entity in this lifetime I am experiencing. Let’s say that as I grow older, sadness gets less intense. But I’m really against this labelling of ourselves as sad or not sad. I believe I’m a very honest filmmaker. I create stuff almost the moment the idea pops up, I shoot my films fast, I write them fast, and they really carry the spirit of the initial idea and how it came about. Back when I made Hiwa, I was severely depressed, I was in a very dark hole. And of course, everything I did around that time carried that feeling. However, it was not a conscious decision. I wanted to show Athens differently, that’s all. I think The End of Suffering (A Proposal) (2020)which in my head is a cousin of Hiwa in terms of language—was again about being in the darkness, but stepping out of it while not really having found the light yet. Now I’m going to work on something about going back to the darkness after having come out of it—of course, because nothing is linear as we all know.

AD: Maybe we can talk about happy things too! I know you are a fan of animals, and you make a point of inserting a few of them in your films. In Hiwa, turtles (or their shells) are visually depicted as these sort of backpacks that the girls carry, and we are told they are physically attached to their home—the idea of the turtle as carrying its own home on its back.

JL: The turtle holds a very special symbolism for me. It is an amazing animal because of how ancient it is. When I look at a turtle, I am communicating with a world dating back billions of years; it’s a link to something very sacred and ancient, like communicating with a god almost. But apart from this, as a child, I was so moved by the fact that they don’t have a house, but carry it. Being an only child of divorced parents, I was moving between houses all the time, carrying my backpack back and forth, with my books and stuff. I never knew where I really belonged and which house to call my own. Even as an adult, I’m constantly moving. However, I always have my stuff and, in a way, my stuff is my house—I’m like a turtle. It’s why this was brought into the film. At the time I was also much more into the theoretical framework of psychoanalysis and dream-work. There is a part of dream-work—a Greek word, metathesis—in which something you saw or that happened during your day unconsciously enters your dream and becomes part of something else in it, a different construct. This is how I wanted it to work in the film. Consciously, the family have a turtle, Yana; unconsciously, without the father understanding the connection, Yana pops up in his dream as his daughters’ house in a way.

AD: Just before we started talking, I realized I’m just a few meters away from the Zeiss-Großplanetarium (Berlin’s Zeiss Major Planetarium), where I had one of my best experiences of cinema-going. It was a Berlinale Forum Expanded screening in 2022; we were all just sitting back and looking up at moving images. I’m also reminded of Jorge Jácome in his introduction to this series mentioning that he wanted to have Johann Lurf’s ★(2017-2022) in the program, but that the film was only available for viewing on the big screen. I guess I wanted to ask you if you’ve ever considered a preferred way that you’d like people to see your films.

JL: Yeah, I read that and I was very moved. For sure, my preferred way would be for people to see my films in a cinema, but I would ask them to go alone, not in the company of someone. For me, watching a film is like reading a poem, reading a book, or listening to a record. It can be shared, but the experience should be individual. It’s a different experience for all of us, I guess. I’ve watched films with friends and I’ve watched the same film alone, and it’s a different film. I always wondered: Why? What shifts? I think that when I’m sitting next to someone, unwittingly, some of their thoughts get inside my head and merge with my own. Then I have to recalibrate to see which thoughts are mine, and which are theirs. So if I could choose, I would choose for the viewer to watch my films in a cinema, alone.

AD: I’m curious about your favorite part of Hiwa, if you have one.

JL: I think the beginning. I really enjoy the moment when we understand that soon we’re going to hear the narration of a dream. I like this in-between state: a dialogue, a coffee machine, a teapot, and suddenly, a dream. In the films I watch I really enjoy those moments when there is a transition, a change of dimensions in a way. I love it because I can feel it coming: It’s in my stomach, it’s in my heart.

AD: Did you dream last night? Do you remember what you dreamed?

JL: Funnily enough, no! I haven’t dreamed at all these last two nights. I had a session with my analyst this morning, and when I don’t dream, I don’t have anything to say to him because we’ve been doing pure Lacanian dream-work this past year. I was so worried, I asked him, “Darian, are they gone?” He said, “How could they be gone? There’s no way they are gone.” I asked, “Can you promise?” He’s a Lacanian therapist, he rarely speaks, but he said “Okay, I promise.” Amazing that you ask. Thank you.

AD: Thank you so much. This was really beautiful.

Ana David is a film programmer based between Porto and Berlin. Since 2021, she’s curator at Batalha Centro de Cinema, a public institution dedicated to cinema, artist film, research, and discourse recently opened in Porto. She’s also a member of the selection committee at Berlinale Panorama since 2018. Previous programming positions include IndieLisboa, Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival, BFI London FF, and Queer Lisboa, the latter as co-director.

For more information, contact program@e-flux.com.

Film, Psychology & Psychoanalysis
Family, Fiction, Sleep & Dreams, Geography
Return to Looking Up
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Jacqueline Lentzou (b. 1989, Athens) is an artist whose cinematic language involves discovering poetry in seemingly mundane premises. Her tools are word and image associations, the dream-construct, and intuition. Through her work, she aims to discuss non-traditional family systems, loneliness, love, and the lack of it. She is the recipient of numerous awards including the Leica Cine Discovery Award by Semaine de La Critique for Hector Malot: The Last Day of the Year (2018), the Golden Hugo in Chicago IFF for The End of Suffering ( A Proposal) (2020), and the Grand Prix in Reykjavik IFF as well as Sevilla Film Festival for Moon, 66 Questions(2021), her debut feature that premiered in the Berlinale Encounters competition. Retrospectives of her work have taken place in Montreal, Vienna, Porto, and Ghent. Lentzou was the New York Onassis foundation fellowship recipient for 2022.


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