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Title of film: Lina / Laviai
Director: Matt Houghton
Production Company: Pulse Films
Pulse director Matt Houghton captures the grit and sweat of twins Lina and Laviai's five-year desire to race at the World Championships this weekend

What triggered your initial interest in making this short film about Lina and Laviai?

Ever since watching Hoop Dreams as a kid, I’ve been a sucker for sports documentaries. I’m always on the lookout for stories that resonate and I’d been wanting to make a short sports documentary for a while, but I wanted to find a story that felt unique.

I read an article online about Lina and Laviai: twin sisters who train together and run the same event. Both were inspired to compete by their experience as volunteers at London 2012 and their dream was to return to that same stadium five years later. I think I was just struck by the symmetry of it all.

What were the main challenges of making the film?

All the usual trials and tribulations of making a short film applied but I guess the main challenge was in the edit.

The story has a lot of different layers and balancing them all felt really important. The girls live right down the road from Olympic Park and I love the fact that it’s a very London-centric film. It’s also about the dedication and sacrifice it takes to become an athlete and about the legacy of 2012 for a new generation.

But at the centre of it all is this totally unique relationship that kind of transcends all that. My hope is that it’s a story that resonates with different people in different ways.

Did the story evolve in the edit?

The story was always fairly clear in my mind but the way in which we ended up telling it was very much a process of evolution. I spent about a year shooting with the twins on and off and in that time I shot a bunch of photographs (https://tinyurl.com/ydyhm8s6), a whole load of test footage and then a much more structured shoot over two days with a small crew.

I think it was the test footage that I shot on mini DV that really set the project off in the spirit of experimentation. When I watched it back I was really taken with the rawness of it. It felt so unvarnished and pure so I decided to use it as my starting point.

Initially, the plan was never for the film to be so visually varied but when we got into the edit, myself and my editor Max Windows felt like we needed more to tell the story so we added the archive and the Instagram photos. So where the film’s ended up really was a process of experimentation and evolution.

What was behind your decision to use the voice over as well as narrative cards?

The interview with Lina and Laviai was always going to be the spine of the film. I really liked the moments in the interview where the girls kind of talk over each other and the fact that as a viewer you never quite know who’s talking. It felt to me like an interesting and appropriate way of laying out the story.

Using the title cards really came out of the opening section of the film. There’s a lot of information to get across and we really wanted it to feel tightly constructed. Using the title cards helped with that little bit of misdirection at the start and then mirroring them at the end felt like a natural way to conclude.

How did Laviai do at the world championships?

Laviai’s in the relay squad for the 4x400m. The heats are on Saturday with hopefully a final on Sunday. Keep an eye out…

Anything else you’d like to share?

Only to say a huge thank you to everyone who helped out along the way. So many people gave up their time and considerable skills to get this one together and I’m so grateful. As is often the case with short films, the thank you list is longer than the crew list.

Credits