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Interview | Dream Café

Dream Café Short Film By Dasha Khritankova

1 – Tell us about your first film “Dream Café”. How did you get the idea to make this film?

Around the time when I began writing “Dream Café”, I found myself and many of my friends going through a similar struggle – we all were working so hard to achieve our goals, that there simply was no room for balance between career and other aspects of live (personal relationships, friends and family, hobbies, etc.) Originally, when I found myself in this situation, I thought this problem is only something that artists encounter, because of the nature of our jobs (most of us are freelancers). However, soon I found out that a lot of my friends who are not artists were going through the same struggle. Society nowadays is so focused on achieving your goals and dreams, that it never seems to be enough no matter how high you climb.

Is there a difference between working hard for your dreams and over-achieving? Where do you draw the line between supporting your loved one’s dreams and sacrificing your own happiness for them? These were the questions I was trying to find the answers for, so, I decided to raise them in “Dream Café”.  

2 – What is your perspective on modern-day cinema?

I think cinema is a powerful tool that can be used for many purposes: entertainment, being a voice for the voiceless, sending a message to mass audiences in hopes of changing the world, or simply expressing your emotions without trying to make a difference. I also think it’s awesome that one can combine those purposes to make a film work for them. For instance, you can make a deep film that will truly make a difference and still have commercial success (like Schindler’s List, Dir. Steven Spielberg), or you can fully focus on the artistic value of your project and aim for recognition at big film festivals without looking to make money from your movie (ex. Leviathan, Dir. Andrey Zvyagintsev). 

I also love the fact that making movies is becoming more accessible now. Cameras that give you fantastic quality have become pretty affordable. Even the cameras on our phones have become good enough to produce very reasonable content. There are many cheap and even free sources that help you learn new things and become a better filmmaker. And, most importantly, there are so many platforms to showcase your work, and the demand for any type of film-related content is high. All of these things make it much easier for independent and new filmmakers to get noticed and find their own audience and their own success. A few decades ago, filmmakers were almost entirely dependent on big production companies and important people in the industry. If they don’t like you – you’re out. Nowadays, filmmakers can be independent, create the type of films they like and still find their audience and their own success. 

3- Humour occupies a central place in your film. How do you think that humor, unlike other genres, helps or makes visible topics such as oppression in the works?

The realization that humor can be used as a tool for telling serious stories came to me right before I started writing the script for “Dream Café”. It may sound a little paradoxical, but I think that humor can help the audience perceive the seriousness of the message you’re trying to communicate. When you watch a drama and you cry because the cruel world is ruining the  protagonist’s life, that, of course, can be powerful. But when your audience is laughing and having a good time, then the serious idea of your film gets inside their brain and heart slowly and gradually. It doesn’t hit them like a hammer, but rather smoothly lets them take it in and think about it after they watched your film. 

“Dream Café” became my first experiment in creating a fusion of laughter and seriousness, cuteness and sadness. Based on the international recognition that “Dream Café”is getting, I would say that this experiment was a success, and I’m working on making humor part of my artistic voice and incorporating it in the films and screenplays that I’m developing right now. 

4 – What directors and movies do you think work best with humor?

The first names that come to mind are Woody Allen and my favorite, Wes Anderson. They both are known for their clever humor and unique aesthetics. Even though both of them make incredibly funny movies, the themes of their films are always serious and sometimes even sad and heartbreaking.

Other good examples of humor being used to talk about not so funny topics are Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Dir. Martin McDonagh ) and Jojo Rabbit (Dir. Taika Waititi). I loved both films and both filmmakers used the humor for these serious pieces exceptionally well.

5 – What directors or writers have influenced you the most and why?

The already mentioned Allen and Wes Anderson have always inspired me the most. As you can tell from “Dream Café” I like surrealism, and both filmmakers use it in their own unique way. 

Some other filmmakers that inspire me are the contemporary Russian Filmmaker Andrey Zvyagintsev, and a Soviet writer and director Vasily Shukshin. Both of them are brilliant storytellers and both focus on the stories of simple people.  They don’t talk about the great evil that puts all of humankind in danger. Rather, they focus on how easily one person’s life can be affected and even ruined by another person. Both Zvyagintsev and Shukshin are from Siberia, like me. Therefore, I feel especially connected and inspired by their films. 

6 – Do you plan to make a feature film?

Absolutely! I’m working on a screenplay right now that I will also produce and direct in the foreseeable future. I’m also collaborating with other filmmakers to work on their features as both a writer and producer. 

7 -What plans do you have in mind for your professional future?

Besides working on my first feature, I’m hoping to focus on making more short films and music videos as a producer, writer, and director, as well as work with other filmmakers on their feature films and other creative projects. 

Dasha Khritankova

Dasha Khritankova is a producer, screenwriter and director, originally from Siberia, Russia. She’s currently based in New York.

Dasha’s films have been received with success at various film festivals across the globe and earned multiple awards and nominations, such as Best First-Time Filmmaker and Best Technical Achievement Award.

Dasha is in the pre-production stage of her next short film, and is diligently working on writing her debut feature.