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Dina Yanni Talks About 'The Dark, Debra'



Please tell us a little bit about how you initially became interested in cinema and about learning this art. Ever since I was a child, I have loved old Hollywood movies and immersed myself in the whole atmosphere of their charisma and glamour. I had also developed an interest in the campy Elvis movies which also inspire my work to this day. At first, it was kind of a naive passion for the material, which changed when I went on to study political science. My studies opened my eyes to the immense social power that comes with these movies in shaping the world and distributing their norms and conventions around the globe. Movies and media seemed to be the ideal place to appropriate these norms and to trouble them. Which one of your works is The Dark, Debra, and how long did it take to produce it? Because of the low resolution of the sample, „The Dark, Debra“ was a frame-by-frame work. Since I wanted to free Debra from the other characters, the working process involved a lot of masking which resulted in endless hours of work in After Effects. How did you come up with the main idea of this experimental film and how long did it take you to reach the final decision? The remix of an existing work contradicts the idea that the meaning of this work is fixed forever and can only exist in one context. Remix films work with aikido-like methods, taking the codes of their source and directing them against their original meaning. Debra Paget always stood out to me because of her continuous despair and sadness. Paget was introduced to the Hollywood system at a young age and later fell into the trap of portraying the ideal woman. This image was very much associated with sorrow and sadness, always caused by the men in her life. This observation triggered an interest in subverting this image and an impulse for satire.



Do you think today's audiences connect with experimental works more than in the past? I don’t think the connection between experimental film and its audiences has changed. I think, more than anything, access has changed. Today, audiences are often filmmakers themselves which has shifted the line between producers and consumers. Generally, there has been important democratization in media production. Which filmmakers have influenced your work and thoughts more than others? I’m inspired by the heroes of détournement and montage who appropriated pop cultural symbols and subverted them. Sergei Eisenstein, René Viénet, and Esfir Shub are upon them. But there are also so many great contemporaries, like the artist collective Soda_Jerk, the filmmaker Peter Lichter or Donna Kuhn. What lessons did you learn while making this that you think would help other filmmakers to know? From my experience, it was difficult to pursue the story I had in mind and at the same time get stuck in frame-by-frame work. You just have to push through it, I guess, and the results will be even more satisfying. Do you think that film festivals provide a good opportunity for young filmmakers so their works can be seen and recognized? Film festivals definitely give visibility to artists and their work. What I find unfortunate is the major shift to online festivals after COVID. They are of course more accessible, but at the same time the feeling of a live screening and being part of the community created at the festival is really special and important.


Despite the changes that the cinema industry has witnessed, do you think the availability of tools and the advancement of technology have helped filmmakers or caused countless productions?

There has been a radical democratization in media production, which also affected the Avantgarde film. More people than ever are producers because they have the opportunity to express themselves. The result is a more informed, more media-literate population.



In your idea, can academic training be a better help to become a filmmaker or practical work?

In order to produce profound work, I think it is essential to critically examine the society we’re living in. I really don’t think these processes of reflection and re-examination have to happen inside academic walls.


Please tell us about your next project.

I just published an excerpt of my current work in development, called

„Boys! Boys! Boys!“. It elaborates on the queer subtexts in the Elvis movies and explores the original narrative minus the women. It’s a piece of fan art that simultaneously pays homage and is critical of the source material.

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