By Prarthana Mitra
Polish filmmaker Oleksandr Herasymenko speaks to Cult Critic about his latest project, a short film titled Just A Coincidence that depicts a day in the life of a beggar, who meets unexpectedly with a man from his past and is forced to reconcile with his mistakes.
Here, we talk about random acts of kindness, karma, the risk of voyeurism and zero-budget filmmaking among other things.
Could you tell our readers about what you’ve been up to before “Just A Coincidence”?
I became interested in cinema two years ago and after that, I started watching every movie that I found. I started writing my own stories and then began to shoot short films. “Just A Coincidence” is the first film that was made with the help of the film school.
What inspired you to make this film?
I’m a big fan of Satoshi Kon works and the inspiration for this movie was his anime “Tokyo Godfathers”.
I am a huge fan of both old and contemporary Polish cinema. Are there specific filmmakers or schools of filmmaking that influence your style?
Of course! Hirokazu Koreeda, Wong Kar Wai and Park Chan Wook are my “teachers.” I always watch their movies before writing a story.
Tell us a bit about how you prepared for the shoot, and what determined some of your creative decisions – sound design, static wide shots, close-ups, etc.
Before first shooting day has started, I was thinking about how to tell a readable story, that won’t be too hard to understand, because in the end cinema it’s just a communication tool; for example: that static wide shot – it was determined by the calm, indifferent mood of the main hero.
Despite the working title of the film (Karma Doesn’t Exist), this feels like a story about morality and karma to me. Aren’t acts of randomness predestined on some level? What do you expect the audience to take away?
When I was telling that story to my team, they said something like “Oh, so you want to show how karma works”. But no, I wanted to show just a coincidence.
Let’s move on from philosophy to politics: there is a huge debate about how we portray vulnerable sections of the society like homeless people and beggars in films (and photography). What do you feel about the camera as a voyeur and how did you prepare your lead actor for the role? Did it involve close research with this section of the community?
Actually, no, I didn’t work closely with my “actor” (this is my friend from the film school without acting experience), because we had a lot of problems with time management. I don’t think I had to do a lot of research to see how they live. You can take a look at the streets and see that we have giant problems with this.
There are gaps in the narrative like, for instance, how the hit-and-run guy becomes a beggar. Can we expect a longer version of this story later, perhaps a feature?
Yes, I would like to make a film about the problem of the homeless. I would like to do research and find out how we can solve this.
Do you have a message for young aspiring filmmakers who struggle with a shoestring budget?
I myself am still a young director, so I don’t know if I should give someone advice. But I know for sure if you want to make films and you don’t have the money – try to communicate and find people who are also interested in this
Prarthana is presently in between odd jobs and obtaining her master’s degree in literature. She loves modern poetry and meditative cinema. Based out of Calcutta, Prarthana observes people, football, films and enjoys writing about all three. Of late, she relates to Frank Ocean’s music. Her writing experience consists of writing for various sites such as Try Cinema, The Indian Economist, Doing The Rondo, Saintbrush and various academic journals.