Zaida Bergroth’s retrospective at Tampere Film Festival features three short films from the years 2004 and 2006. Glass Jaw and Heavy Metal deal with teenage angst, whereas The Town Manager is a part of a series of films inspired by different political parties. Bergroth’s Carte Blanche is a compilation of her favorite short fiction and documentary films and presents works by such names as Lynne Ramsay and Krzysztof Kieslowski.

You started your career with short films – but now you are an internationally awarded feature film maker. What does short film mean to you now and what did it mean at the beginning of your career?

There are people who seem to be excellent short film directors but who struggle with feature films, and the other way around. There is often more space to take risks in short films, there is no commercial pressure, it’s undeniably more art than business. I guess that’s one of the reasons you can really be surprised watching a short film screening, you really don’t know what you’re about to see. And I love that. With features you more or less have an idea from beforehand (because of the marketing and the decision you already had to make at home).  I appreciate short film makers very much. I think I have struggled a bit with shorter formats, probably because my strengths lie, I think, in my way of depicting characters rather than in depicting an interesting moment. That takes time, at least in my case, and my own favorites of my short films are pretty long, 30 and 40 minutes. So I really love and respect watching short films that can really handle a short time frame and still make an enormous impact. Short film making is its own art form. In the beginning of my studies I might have thought that short film making is rehearsing for the longer format. Obviously that’s not the case.

You were raised in an artistic family, your mother is a painter – why did you choose filmmaking for living?

From early on we watched a lot of classic films in my family, and I fell in love with Hitchcock, Kurosawa and Bergman. Chaplin and Marilyn Monroe were my heroes. There was always this magic I couldn’t get enough of. Even when I was very young, my mother let me see films that were not suitable for children, for example Hitchcock’s Psycho, but the way she did it was great, she used to pause the video before something horrible happened and asked me to imagine the director standing just next to the film frame, the sound guy and the clap girl and so on. This was extraordinary, I loved the fact that this secret was shared with me. And yet the world depicted was so flawless and believable, so true. Pure magic.

You will have both a retrospective and a carte blanche at the Tampere Film Fest – how will you choose the short films for the carte blanche, what is a good short film to you?

A good short film makes me react. I guess I’m a physical art consumer, I feel it in my body when I’m watching something interesting. Somebody is sharing something, being true, revealing him-/herself. That’s what I respect, and that’s what gets me excited. It’s hard to put in words, and in a way I don’t even want to find words – a great film deserves the mystery and magic surrounding it.

Do you have any favourite shorts of your own work, or a short film that you are very proud of?

The most important short film (of my own work) for me is the one I graduated from the film school with,  Glass Jaw (2004). In a bit of a naive way it was a declaration of something, maybe independence, I guess with it I found at least a distant echo of my own voice. I had been a bit lost in film school, I had a hard time to connect with the scripts I was given to direct.  Glass Jaw was the first I took the risk with and dared to write myself. It’s of course still hard for me to watch it because of its countless flaws, but still, making it was a revelation for me, I understood that above all I need to trust myself and listen to my own instincts.

text: Anita Libor