Close-Up: An Interview With Eva Lanska

Close-Up Culture chats to Eva Lanska, a filmmaker who won’t only let that define what she’s capable of.

You seem like such an incredibly talented women, really pushing yourself to get involved with everything you love and inspiring conversation through it. You’ve written, released music, made films, and so much more, I’d love to know where your passion for the arts and being creative started.

It all started with the library. I was born in Post-Soviet Russia at that time there was a large deficit of things in the country. There were not even essential products. The only things that was fortunately available were books, and thankfully, my mother taught me to read at a very early age. Authors Theodore Dreiser, Somerset Maugham and Irwin Shaw became my best friends. Books expand the horizon and erase the boundaries of the impossible. They helped me dream.

When I was 10 years old, I dreamed of becoming an actress, performing on the world’s best theatrical stages and creating new images of classical heroes. At that time, I did not know how to make my dream come true, but I had my goal. The goal is what defines a person, and later your social circle, a sentiment I share with Ayn Rand.

You’re currently living in the UK, but I know that you were born in Russia and have lived in France. How have these places influenced and inspired you throughout your life and work? And if you’re hoping to travel or move again soon (when the world allows us), where are you off to next?

Russia gave me an understanding of classical Russian culture, but France helped me to understand “the art of living.” I have never lived in America, although the opportunities in the U.S. are truly unique. Many in Europe are skeptical about the concept of the “American Dream,” but in practice, I know people who, having arrived in America, after several years, have realized their ambitions thanks only to their talents and dedication. In Europe, this would be impossible. I would love to tour across America by car.

Through your work, you pose pressing questions to your audiences. What do you hope they feel or do after experiencing it?

According to Borges, “The There Are Only Four Stories: The Siege of the City, the Return Home, the Quest, and the Sacrifice of a God.”

The second and third ‘stories’ are often explored in my work. In the script for the film, I Am Not An Actress, I discuss these issues extensively through my characters.

I began writing this work influenced by the study of creativity and the outlook on life from the philosophy of Brigitte Bardot.

Of course, any film is a dialogue between the author and the viewer. I do not impose any particular point of view in the film. It is important that the viewer draws his or her own conclusions. This film is an opportunity to discuss topics, such as idol phenomenon in popular culture, the tragedy of great popularity, sexual abuse, the drama of an aging woman, the drama of the relationship between fathers and children, etc. Please tell me how many people you know who are not at least indirectly touched upon by one of these questions?

Your films have been to many film festivals and are appreciated for their style and story tackling. What’s it like having your work shown to so many people around the world, especially in places like the USA who may not understand or welcome a European style?

Personally, I adore American literature and cinema, and its influence I feel is underestimated in Europe. Despite the fact that these strangely divided oceans, the problems we face today are very similar. Since I have lived in Europe, Asia and Middle East, I suppose that my style will unite all of my experiences.

How true to life is your film work, or is a lot of it fictional? Is any of it inspired by things you’ve gone through or stories you’ve heard?

I think that movies that are based on real events are of great value. I try to use my personal experience including the emotional pain I have experienced in my work. I also use aesthetic experiences from the art and history of my friends.

You are actively involved in so many organisations and charities which is lovely to hear. When did you start using your time for good like this, and how do you choose the foundations you’d like to support?

In many ways, personal experiences. About 12 years ago, I organized an event for musically gifted children to raise funds for their education. The project was successful and we were able to help many children. Music education for them is the only chance to find a job in the future. I was not spoiled as a child, and today I can easily remember what a child feels when in a difficult situation. As a woman, in the process of building my career, I have repeatedly received ambiguous offers that made me feel offended. I believe women’s solidarity, including in charitable work, can help us defend our rights. When an artist gains some popularity, it becomes easier for him to be heard in the media and I think that talent is given in order to ultimately use it to help people.

Through your work, you bring awareness to some of the movements. How did this start? And what is the writing process like when you’re creating something that looks at alarming social issues?

I am worried that in practice, women still do not have equal rights with men with regard to employment. For example, the American initiative group Time’s Up notes that only 4% of the highest-grossing films of the last decade were directed by women. In 2014, a report from Ellis-Petersen showed that over time an increasing numbers of women working with blockbuster crews dropped to a new low of 21.8%. Even more striking is that in the top 100 grossing films, women accounted for less than 2% of directors. Unfortunately, in 2020 there were no significant changes, with the key positions in the film industry being still held by the majority of men. This is still hard to believe, after the tremendous work that women show to the world each year. Now in the new year, it’s time for men to open the door and let women go forward.

From novels to charity work, you really have had an amazing life so far, but what can we expect from you next? Any surprises?

You never know what awaits you tomorrow. This is the beauty of life.

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