FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION - 'DANA'
"BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT"
"Fantastic twist, under a #MeToo lens, on the revenge and urban vigilante genres, with a mise-en-scène of utmost elegance and a brilliant use of dark comedy,"
- Xavi Sánchez Pons
(Selection Committee of Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia).
After surviving an assault, Diana decides something must change. She will now take justice into her own hands and change her name to "Dana", which translates to "the one who judges."
Directed by Lucía Forner Segarra
Lucía Forner Segarra is a Spanish filmmaker and cinematographer. She has written, directed and produced several acclaimed short films including “Marta” and the most recent “Dana” which has played at 121 film festivals and won 42 awards, including the Oscar®-qualifying “Best Live Action Short Film” at the St-Louis International Film Festival. Forner Segarra is currently preparing her first feature film, a horror comedy in line with her previous work. When she’s not directing her own films, she works as a video operator on features and commercial shoots.
DANA burst out of my guts. It has allowed me to work through my anger and trauma, and to talk openly about a topic as taboo as sexual assault. Thanks to the short I have connected with the people around me and with strangers, women who have opened to me about their assaults. There has not been a screening of DANA in which no one spoke up in person or through social media about this issue. It isn’t a comfortable subject and in most cases the victim knows the aggressor and it is extremely hard to speak up and report it. But it must be done and that’s why I made this movie.
What inspires you as a filmmaker?
What inspires me the most as a filmmaker is well crafted stories portraying compelling characters, preferably female protagonists. I grew up mainly watching men doing cool things on screen, it’s time for a change and I aim to be part of that change.
Where did the idea of “DANA” come from?
The idea of “DANA” arises from a combination of two traumatic experiences I had. I once suffered an assault with strangulation, from which I was ultimately able to break free. I avoided being raped. But during the struggle to free myself from the attacker, trying desperately to preserve my physical integrity, I felt that if I had the means to do so, I would have killed the attacker. I learned afterwards from the police that the assailant was a repeat offender.
This event brought back deep fears in me. As a teenager, I was molested by a boy I knew well and even liked. I didn't tell anyone for years, but if I ever watched an act of rape on screen, my stomach would turn upside down and I would feel troubled just by the idea of any physical touch. After the attack, I finally worked on my trauma with a psychologist-sexologist. Years later, fed up with news about rapists, I wrote “Dana”. The uneasiness, the traumatic experiences, and the anger that I felt… This is my way to channelling them and healing them through this short.
Why is telling this story so important to you, and why are you the best person to tell it?
"DANA" burst out of my guts. It has allowed me to work through my anger and trauma, and to talk openly about a topic as taboo as sexual assault. Thanks to this short, I have connected with the people around me and even with strangers; women who have opened to me about their assaults. There has not been one screening of "DANA" in which no one has spoken about it in person or through social media. That is insane. We must use our art and any storytelling tools to speak about these issues, because it happens to many women and people close to us, way more often than we can imagine. Often times we keep it quiet, and these assaults rarely get reported. It isn’t a comfortable subject to delve into, that’s for sure, and in most cases the victim already is familiar with the aggressor, that’s why it’s extremely hard to speak up and report it. But it must be done.
I don't know if I'm the right person, but I needed to exorcize my own struggle to serve others and I'm glad I did.
What was the most challenging or unusual part about making this film?
The hardest thing about making this film was that some of the scenes closely resembled what I had endured in real life, and I had a hard time recreating those. Shooting some of these traumatic moments, I felt too closely connected with what the actress was feeling. By the time I said “cut”, I was completely overwhelmed by emotion.
Tell us about your creative process? What is unique or unusual about it.
I love creating characters that I would like to see on screen, and even if I deal with sensitive topics, I always intend to infuse them with a touch of comedy. In “DANA”, there is portrayal of assault, but there are also strokes of dark comedy and the combination of trauma and humour really works. Not because I am making fun of rape, obviously not, that wouldn't be funny at all. The laughs come from the practical issues, like when the protagonists Dana doesn’t want to get dirty with the blood of her victims, because it grosses her out, or the way she refines her killing techniques.
You seem to be a daring storyteller. Tell us about your background and what led you to become a filmmaker?
My parents are true cinephiles and I got the bug from an early age. I first trained as a cinematographer, but I had the strong longing to telling my own stories. I have ended up directing my own scripts, making them alongside close friends who work in the industry, while still making a living as a video operator on bigger sets. I’m passionate about capturing my vision and twisted sense of humor through my films and I feel fortunate for the chance to do so with great professionals I can call friends.
Talk to us about the theme of your film and how you would like the audience to receive and/or interpret its message?
“DANA” talks about rape, killing in self-defense, trauma, female empowerment, taking justice into one’s own hands, and sorority. The message I would like to send to the audience is that women are fed up with being abused and something must change.
How important was it for the film to incorporate blood, graphic imagery, and genre film elements. Do you consider yourself a “Genre” filmmaker?
This was the way I wanted to portray the story. I wanted to focus on “revenge” more than “rape”, and I had the need to see the rapists’ blood, due to my own personal rage, I guess. As my family always says “fake blood doesn’t hurt”.
Obviously, I love genre. If I’m passionate about cinema, how am I not going to like films where fears are explored in such depth? I consider myself a filmmaker, and if someone wants to pigeonhole me as a “genre” filmmaker, I would take that as a compliment. Some film directors reject the genre label (even despite having made genre); they look at this style of cinema as “inferior”, but I don’t share their opinion at all.
How has your short been received so far and what impact has it had with audiences so far?
“DANA” is still in distribution in the circuit and it has been very well received at film festivals around the world, in 22 countries so far. It has been selected in over 120 festivals and has won 42 awards to date. Thanks to winning the “Best Live Action Short Award” at the St. Louis Film Festival, the film is now qualified for an Oscar® Academy Awards’ submission.
The short was also a candidate for the Goya Award, the most famous film accolade in Spain. Thanks to this, several production companies are now interested in my work.
Tell us about your lead actress Thais Blume. What is special about her and why did you want to work with her?
Thais Blume is amazing. On top of being a brilliant actress, she is also the nicest person there could be. I love having a positive atmosphere on set, and everything feels so easy with her. Thais is a well-known actress in Spain and when I first saw her perform, I knew right away that she was my “Marta” (the eponymous lead character of my previous short “Marta”), and so I cast her in it. She accepted right away after reading the script, but she was puzzled about the fact that I thought she was perfect actress to portray a woman who wants to be a serial killer. And regarding “Dana”…? I wrote the script with her in mind from the get-go.
The beauty about our relationship is that we get each other, and we will definitely continue collaborating together in the future.
What's next for you? Talk about your next project and where you're at right now.
I wrote a feature script called “María Jesús”, a pitch-black comedy about the character from my previous short film “Marta”, but unfolding years later, when she’s growing tired of being a murderer. I’m actively looking for a production company to make the project with. I'm also in the process of writing a feature film based on “Dana” and a short film about a woman victim of domestic violence with touches of dark comedy.
What are you still looking for to achieve?
I would like to continue enjoying telling stories that deal with themes I connect with.
Trick question: do you think sexual harassment will ever be abolished? How can we improve women’s safety in society?
In my opinion, the foundation lies in education, so that people don’t feel entitled to sexually harass others and for victims to speak up and report it. I also believe that investments should be made in the prison system to achieve proper reinsertion into society.