After several wins for her previous feature, the genre-bending Mulat (Awaken) (2016)—snagging directorial and acting citations from the International Film Festival in Manhattan, a Best Narrative Feature conferment at the World Cinema Festival in Brazil, not to mention an “A” rating from her native country’s Cinema Evaluation Board—New York-based filmmaker Maria Diane Ventura, who first got her start as a music producer, remains unflagging as a promising new voice in world independent cinema.
Proof of this is the recent sold-out premiere of her character-driven European-postcard jaunt, Deine Farbe (Your Color), at the Hofer Filmtage in Germany.
The festival, informally dubbed as “House of Films (HoF)” by Wim Wenders, is perhaps one of the most important film festivals in Germany and has been associated with such notables as Wenders himself—a major figure in New German Cinema who directed Cannes breakthroughs Paris, Texas (1984) and Wings of Desire (1987)—as well as Peter Jackson, who famously helmed the film adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings novels.
Auteurs such as Werner Herzog and Jim Jarmusch, to mention but a few also held their premieres at HoF, which served as the kick-off platform for their respective international careers. Thus the festival’s reputation as being a hub for new discoveries. The inclusion of Ventura’s international film debut among a veritable pantheon of modern classics is, indeed, a triumph in itself.
Deine Farbe is the story of two friends, Karl (Jannik Schümann) and Albert (Nyamandi Adrian), both dealing with being stuck in a small-town rut of predetermined futures and limited life choices. And they are playing the hand they’ve been dealt as any late-teen or early-twentysomething would: by commiserating with their closest friend, going on a knee-jerk road trip to a foreign city, and, of course, documenting everything on camera.
To any citizen of the internet, updates, selfies, and “stories” are like proxy confessionals, unwitting echo chambers not just for our woes but also our neuroses, and Karl and Albert are the same. This naturally begs a discussion of their racial, economic, and social differences, which may be few and far apart but are terribly pivotal. When they hie off from their unbearably stifling small town existence to Barcelona on the pretext of arresting their perceived descent into futurelessness, a promising life of adventure and possibility awaited. Or so they thought.
“Finding myself in yet another country with a culture very different from my own made me realize that we all are Albert and Karl somehow. At one point in our lives, we’ve all been lost, rebellious, and desperate for meaning and purpose. None of us have gone through life without suffering or mistakes,” the filmmaker muses.
The road scenes are beautifully shot, and the visual tapestry woven between the two cities, despite a heavy concentration on understated but picturesque suburbia, is still nothing short of poetic. The acting, though it occasionally drifts towards melodrama, is an uncomfortably spot-on mirroring of the times. Schümann’s Karl, in particular, is a revelation: a breeze in talky sequences, and volcanic in the more tension-filled passages. He’s already appeared in some low-key Hollywood starrers—Taxi (2015) with Peter Dinklage, The Aftermath (2019) with Keira Knightley, and a portentous appearance in Wim Wenders’ Submergence (2017), which had Alicia Vikander and James McAvoy in its stellar marquee—but his turn as one-half of Deine Farbe’s beautifully vulnerable duet of leads is deserving of a quick reassessment of his powers.
Maria Diane Ventura, meanwhile, bravely eschews her previously established storytelling turf of psychological thrillers to make way for a more straightforward, more introspective commentary on class, privilege, mental health, self-perception, self-preservation, and, above all, friendship. On top of this, she is working with a cast and a milieu that’s far from her comfort zone.
“I dream of making films in places whose cultures differ from my own. Ultimately, I want to prove that despite our fundamental differences, emotional experiences are universal. I want my work to be a testament to my belief that barriers are illusory and unity is attainable if we approach every idea and disparity with tolerance and acceptance,” she shares.
Of Deine Farbe’s chilling appraisal of the digital life, meanwhile, she asks, “Does social media really foster connection or does it just further exacerbate our detachment and disconnect? I don’t intend to preach. I just hope we retain the ability to self-reflect and decide the role of social media in our lives, given that it is such a powerful medium."
Deine Farbe is slated for exhibition at the second Diorama International Film Festival & Market in New Delhi, appearing alongside 19 other entries in the International Diorama category and competing in 21 award categories.
The filmis also set for international release in 2020. More than an acting or a narrative vehicle, Ventura feels strongly about its sublime messaging, a far cry from didactic megaphone-isms.
“In our current world where punitive measures and grave intolerance are the immediate courses of action for anything deemed opposing to what we perceive to be the ‘right’ way, I hope that realizing we are essentially the same could help us be more empathetic, or at least lead to discussions that make us more open to understanding how people are the way they are instead of immediately casting judgement, further perpetuating a polarized climate,” she ends.
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