I was approached by Jacob Jonas in April 2021 after he discovered my earlier film ‘Movement’ [about the freedom provided by dance]. A few days later we jumped into a call, and he explained to me his approach to this non-profit project called Film.Dance, to support the dance community after the first lockdown. They commission in a non-traditional way: choreographers from one country and filmmakers from a different part of the world.
How did you then proceed?
After I was introduced to the choreographer, Yin Yue from New York, she explained to me the concept she wanted to develop with the dance: a ‘unison’, which is when dancers either in a duet or a group use the same movement at the same time. Unison can appear anywhere at any time in a dance and can be done for any amount of time. It can be any type of movement: something traveling or standing still, turns, gestures or falls.
Based on all that information, I started to create the narrative structure of the film while the choreography was still a work in progress. I wanted to stay close to the true meaning of the word ‘unison’, with our protagonists traveling and also using the same movement at the same time.
We describe it as showing dancers on a journey between space and time through a magnetic energy.
I gather that finding locations for the film proved quite difficult?
We needed two different locations: a clean and very futuristic one set in the present or a near future and a rawer one representing Berlin. It was a big challenge for the simple reason that all spaces (museums or theatres) had opened up again and we couldn’t get anything for free. But after facing a few rejections or overpriced locations, someone suggested I should check out the Kabbalah [a spiritual consciousness centre] and I immediately fell in love with that place.
To contrast with it, Teufelsberg [a former American listening station in Berlin] was the perfect timeless exterior location, but we needed to pay €1,100 per hour to shoot on the rooftop. It was an important location for this project, so I had to break down the choreography and the story one more time so we could afford to shoot for only an hour during the ‘golden hour’. We were there from 5 am till 6 am to pretend it was during the sunset, and after that we went to the Kabalah Centre for the three hours we could afford there, to shoot the rest of the film – showing the transition between those two worlds.
In the film, the three dancers perform in pairs and then as a threesome. What do the moves show about the obvious tension between them?
To begin with they always seem a duo and are divided even when they are in the same space. But when they become the trio, the last part of their dance movement becomes stronger and stronger. That was the goal the choreographer was aiming for.
The film features a specially composed soundtrack. How did that come about?
To make Unison more unique, I approached the Berlin music production agency called 86Tales and luckily Gordian Gleiss, the founder, loved the concept and wanted to support me on this film. We spent a month having calls to explore different directions with the track and ended up with a lovely composition.
What does it add to the film?
The goal was to have a soundtrack that juxtaposes the visuals to add an extra layer to the story as it escalates. At first, it is very poetic, and sometimes it kicks out and give us more space in the sonic spectrum − to make the sound design more of a feature and allow it to play an equally important part in transporting the viewer across the journey that our dancers take.
Franck and cast at the Teufelsberg dawn shoot
Franck Trozzo Kazagui website
Jacob Jonas Film Dance