Read an interview by Anita Libor which is featured in the Cannes section of our World of Shorts magazine. Maryna Vroda is the director of Cross County, a short film about running, which won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2010.

Regarding storytelling, Cross Country is a very peculiar film. Was it hard to write a script for a story like this?

It was very easy for me to write and we went on to shoot directly through the script, we didn’t experiment. It was precisely prepared because we financed it ourselves. But the idea came because I wanted to be understandable not just around my people, I wanted to say something in poetry form, something universal. I was thinking about it even before the idea. I wanted people to understand it without translations. What I was looking for was a simple, interesting poetry form. But I like to change the forms. It is not the question of hard and easy, it is the question of my interest in the topic. I am a young filmmaker, and I don’t know what is normal or easy for me. I would like to make new films in new ways, I try to go to a territory I didn’t know before. Cross Country was a new form for me in the beginning. Each time I do something, I try to find a form that connects one to the idea.

What is your relationship with cross country running?

I did run a lot in my childhood, in my school years. It is a beautiful childhood memory for me. I like to run long distances and one of my favourite films is The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. I love that film, but I only watched it after I’d made Cross Country. Running is a philosophy, because you run short distances and long distances in a different way.

Could this be a metaphor for your filmmaking attitude? What do you like the most in making shorts?

Shorts are a great form for independent things. In shorts you have an idea, and you can do it even with your friends.  I started to do short films because you can see the result faster. And it gives you the power, the energy to do something big, the belief that you can do something bigger and stronger.

A concept photo for the director's upcoming feature film "Stepne"

A concept photo for the director’s upcoming feature film “Stepne”


Are you ready to do something big now?

It is great to do feature films, and between them documentaries and shorts, where you can experiment more. At the moment, we are working on a new story with Kirill Shuvalov, a feature film called Stepne. The Institut-Francais helped me with this new project and we sent it to the Cité International des Arts. So now I’ve been here in Paris since February, and I will stay until the end of June 2013.

When you were making Cross Country, did it ever cross your mind that it could win the Palme d’Or?

I am connected to reality, I am a young Ukrainian director making her first steps towards independent cinema. Of course I was thinking about and hoping to be invited to some festivals, just as with my previous shorts. But I did not plan at all to participate in Cannes, and I especially did not concentrate on winning. I concentrated on expressing my message in a really short and simple form. My producer Florence Keller was very sure we would get in, I don’t know why, but I did not take her seriously. I always made jokes about it.

I noticed that your short film is exactly 15 minutes long – was that intentional?

When we were editing, Florence told me a lot of things about Cannes, but we were free with the timing. She told me to make my own decisions with the editing, and when I finished it, it was exactly 15 minutes, only 10 seconds longer with the title. With this length, it was perfect and everything I wanted it to be. I think people should not change things in their film just to get in the competition – there are many other programmes like the Critics’ Week etc. There is no reason to break your film.

But you can only win the Palme d’Or if you are in the competition.

Yes, it is a good reason to edit the film if all you want is to win this prize. But first, you should think about an idea that can be concentrated very clearly in these 15 minutes. Fortunately, in our school we had to make films under 10 minutes, and I always had problems with the editing. This 15-minute-length was the best format for me. If you want to win in Cannes, plan under 15 minutes!

How did the Palme d’Or change your life?

It is good to think about what you will do with it, because it does not immediately mean any money. It brings a lot of attention, attention even if you don’t want it. It takes all your time: you have to talk with a lot of people about your upcoming projects. So it is better to be prepared with a lot of projects, because if you win, people want to know who this person behind the film is. It offers you some possibilities, but you have to be ready for them. The Palme d’Or was good for the film, the country, and the people working on it. But I had a life before it. The Palme d’Or does not change your life – you have to change your life.

What is your best memory of Cannes?

When I had already received the prize, and we spoke with many big stars behind the scenes: actors, directors – and they were all such normal people! And the cinema, the spirit of the audience – they were really expecting something. That moment of silence, when they are waiting for your film, it is very beautiful.