Katyusha (United Arab Emirates | 2015, 15 min)

Directed by: Karina Kiseleva

A dramatic portrayal of self discovery by Katyusha as her mother passes away, she aims to fix her relationship with her abusive father by taking up his favorite sport: boxing. Ultimately, she wins her match but reaches home with the good news...too late.

Interview:

Born in Kazan (Tatarstan - Russia) and raised in Dubai (U.A.E), I caught the bug for entertainment at an early age, but really got caught in the whirlwind during my high school years, which lead me to failing my last two years. The year before my last, I had my principal speaking to teachers whether or not I should be given a chance to finish my last year at the school. Being more of a misfit I had great leadership skills, which saved me but didn’t save my grades! Since most of the time I was busy rehearsing monologues and taking acting classes. It was my favorite avenue of expression. I could hide behind characters and still express what I felt inside. After the last year, I was given a – what they call “reality check.” Eventually the search for going to a business or hospitality school ended when my father finally asked “Do you want to pursue your career in the entertainment world?” Without hesitation I said “Yes.” Exhaling, he replied “Then go do it. I don’t want you to ever reach the stage of looking back and think of all the ‘could have dones’ or ‘would have beens’.” And that was it, I stayed up and enrolled in the morning to Film School for a bachelors in Film Production. I never looked back nor did I ever doubt my choice. Through the years I directed two music videos, engaged in humanitarian activities which lead me to producing a documentary about the labor force in U.A.E, worked on Fast and Furious 7 and assisted Nicole Kidman for a commercial. I applied to every single production company in U.A.E and got no replies. So, I decided, I wanted to study further, I chose to enroll into NYU once again (being rejected the year before), but, NYU rejected me (again) and a week after the rejection I got the acceptance from NYC Indie Film Fest (yes, you guys!) AND got the green-light into establishing my own production company in Dubai. I choose to keep climbing the ladder, I have lots to share with the world, and I strive to keep creating meaningful stories that could contribute to my audience for the better.

This was such an intense film about serious subjects. What made this topic so important to you to make a film about it?

I wanted to portray the inner struggle of abuse. I did not want to victimize my character, in fact I didn’t want to victimize any of the characters, I just wanted to show the humanity in each of them. I wanted to speak to my audience, to other people who may feel the same way and just remind them they’re not alone. I wanted it to serve the purpose on a much larger scale, I know a lot of women who are in this situation, and this film is a dedication to them.

How did you film the boxing scenes? Stunts?

There were no stunts used in the films, we had a boxing coach on-set who worked with the actors. We had training and choreography done with him prior to the scenes. We all had a few bruises after the filming, I kind of wished we made them more brutal though!

What camera did you use or type of camera techniques did you use?

We used the black magic design. Paranoia is something the character deals with, and I didn’t want it to turn into a thriller or horror, so I researched a lot into framing, so that each shot was from the point of view of Katyusha, I had done a lot of close ups with her in particular so we could get as close to her as possible.

Are the two sisters in the film actual sisters in real life? They look exactly the same!

Yes, actually all three are sisters (little one included). Which was exactly what I wanted because I wanted to show the challenge Katyusha faced with being the eldest and not wanting the abuse to pass on to ludmilla - ludmilla serves as the clone character to Katyusha.

Would you consider this to be a feminist film?

Perhaps yes because it’s from the female point of view. But the struggle is universal.

You have taken many roles in the film, how was that process?

Robert Rodriguez may have coined the term “Rebel without a crew” - but I live it. (Don’t advise it though). Very challenging, I would say...If you’re not up to Clint Eastwood’s standard, then don’t shoot AND act! Especially if it’s your first film. Stick to one and do it well. This film took much longer than it should have because I was handling so many roles and then after it, I started to see all the missing pieces. I’m a pretty harsh critic, so I’m glad I finally got it out there. But if you’re wondering if it was intentional then no, I had an actor in place to play Katyusha and then she canceled last minute and we were shooting the next day (hashtag low budget film problems!) So I just jumped in. And that’s the first rule they teach in film school, to roll up your sleeves and get the job done. I think I took the term “Independent” filmmaker too literally.

The film flows so well, the ending is a big shocker. Why brought you to this decision?

I chose to not go the happy ending route, because the reality of the situation is never
pleasant. I feel if it had been a happy ending it wouldn’t’;t have felt as real. Reality is always a little more complicated.

Director’s Closing Statement:

Storytelling is allowing others to go to school on your tuition. My teacher said this one day. And there’s brilliance in it because it explains more vividly the term “stories are for survival.” There are many opinions, biases, stereotypes (the list may go on about the divisions we have created) of our world and unless we tell our personal point of view about it, the generalizations will remain. I’m merely providing a platform of a situation that some or many may be facing, I’m hoping that they will find a similarity in the character (Katyusha), because we may come from different backgrounds but certain things prove that we share the same ground. And that’s where you find humanity. That’s what “Katyusha” is about.