Face to Face

1 October 2015 text Vladimira Nikolova
Kamen Kalev does not like to talk about how he wakes up, what coffee he drinks, where he likes to take a walk or pther personal stuff. But he is quick to answer anything to anything related to the cinema. So, we caught up with him to chat about his new movie Face Down that will have its premiere in around 10 days.

In this story about people trafficing there are two main characters - the French Sami, who strikes a deal with the police and infiltrates a Bulgarian people traficing channel to avoid prison and Elka, whom he is trying to rescue. For all other details, we ask the director.

Face Down is based on a true story - what caught your attention?
It all started when a friend of mine called, a priest in a small village. He said: "There is a person here, who has a gun and has taken refuge at the gypsy's ghetto, he is hiding from the mafia and the police." I went to meet with him and he told me his story. I felt the humanity in this stranger, a thing he was fighting to preserve. He had gone through some terrible stuff and was feeling a lot of guilt. The other thing that grabbed me was the message about the prejidices that people have toward this group and I saw that this character had potential to be touching, to trigger empathy. Then 2 years went by in the casting process - the thing we were looking for was maximum authenticity.

Don't you lose that initial momentum of wanting to make the movie in the long preparation for the shoot itself?
This is a danger that is always present in cinema - the work stretches in time and it is very easy to lose the essence of what you want to say. You work on stages and layers: you think about writing, then you start shooting, then comes the montage. You rarely see the film as a whole thing. Every time you have an opportunity to watch carefully only one layer. And that saves you from fatigue nad running blank.

Which part of the process interests you the most?
I love the work with the actors. It is strange to think about how much there is to prep before the characters stand opposite each other. Months before that there are castings, locations scouring, costume and stage design. Only after that is all done does start the most interesting part for me: everything is ready, the crew is silent and the actors step in front of the camera and I have the chance to see how it all comes together. Often the beginning is a complete tragedy, but after a few takes you can start to see the thing you have imagined. Well, sometimes it can happen from the first take. The work with the actors is very intensive, most times I just let them feel the character and represent it before I byurden them too much with my views. I only step up and offer help when I see they need directions and then we start looking together for the right path.

Which was the hardest part of Face Down?
Shooting the scene with the van at the border. Melville Pupo, who plays Sami, is not a driver and we were told from the beginning that he does not want to drive. In the end, he drives for the most part in the movie... At the border, we had a license only for a few hours, there were some problems with the car and it was very difficult for all of us - and the scene is of special psychological importance.

What is it in social cinema that attracts you? Do you really belive it saves souls?
I rather believe it did. Maybe it's naive of me, but I think we are built to swerve away toward the poles, to not be in balance - the bad in us exists together with the belief that we can overcome it. For me, social cinema is an embodiment of this belief - that we can handle evil.

What is the road of the movie from now on?
Now it begins its meetings with the audience - it will make its premiere in France, here it will be on from 16 October, at the beginning of the month it will appear at the Golden Rose festival in Varna and at the end of the month it has a German premiere at the Hofer Festival.

What would Kamen Kalev be if he didn't direct movies?
I don't know, so far this is my destiny - to make movies. I often ask myself general questions - why should I do the talking and not someone else? But for the moment I direct movies and will continue to do so as long as I feel the urge and someone backs me up financially and has a desire to work with me in a  team.


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