Corinna McFarlane: interview
One half of the directorial duo behind mysterious festival exposé 'Three Miles North of Molkom' talks to Dave Calhoun about the making of the film
How did you decide to film at this bizarre festival?
‘We knew we were looking for a subject for our first film and we knew we wouldn’t get enough funding for a drama, so we wanted something that would have as much impact as drama. We wanted something really immersive and character-based.
‘Both of our mothers are psychotherapists, so we’re interested in group dynamics and all that stuff. I have a lot of weird and wonderful friends, and one of them told me about this festival, Ängsbacka. When we heard more about it, about this place built by two guys who used to work in war zones for the UN, it really caught our interest.’
Did the festival need persuading?
‘Well, they said no the first time. They thought it would be too intimate a process. Then, six weeks before the actual event they rang back. They thought it was about time the world knew about them and they had nothing to hide. Their whole ethos is about “radical honesty”, so they said “Yeah, bring the cameras in.”
‘Once they were on side, everything was fine. Everybody attending the festival signs a release form on arrival that says “You are responsible for your own mental health.” Which is kind of nuts. We added a line telling everyone they might be part of a film being made.’
But there’s a big difference between getting 1,000 people to sign a release form and finding seven people to film intimately. They cry, they confess, they strip naked…
‘We had four hours between the gates opening and the opening ceremony, at which 1,000 people come together and everybody walks around this enormous tent and when the gong sounds, the people near you are your group for the week.
‘We spoke in front of everybody at the ceremony and told them what we were doing. We invited volunteers and found them. Later on, the Australian, Nick, ran towards us and said “So, you’re not part of the cult? Can I hang out with you?” We said “Well, you can’t hang out with us, but you can be in the film.” ’
Did you have any worries about people playing up to your camera?
‘Broadly speaking, everyone there is going through so much stuff, so very quickly, people are focused and in their own space. We just fell into the background as a lot of other mad stuff was going on.
‘Also, you arguably have to be a bit narcissistic to volunteer, so maybe the group we filmed felt they knew themselves well enough not to expose themselves to us. Actually, I think it’s those characters who go on the biggest journey. The “show ponies” broke down, as the festival is designed to make you truthful. You’d have to be superhuman to maintain a false identity.’
Was there any sense that anyone regretted being filmed? Some of the characters expose themselves a lot, emotionally and physically.
‘Well, no. When they saw the film, especially those who appear vulnerable, they were all incredibly moved and shocked. And from a slightly narcissistic perspective, they all love the fact they’re in a film!
‘Also, some of them said that watching the film felt like the last workshop, even though it was a year later. The penny dropped when they watched it. I remember Nick, the Australian, saying “It’s the best holiday video I’ve ever had.” ’
Author: Dave Calhoun
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