A Russian Inuit couple are attempting to escape their difficult situation on the Bering Strait after receiving a border closure message in the outbreak of the Cold War. Gwenn Joyaux, director of Tomorrow Island, speaks to us about different kinds of borders dividing us all and creating female and LGBTQ+ stories for the screen.
HOW DID YOU GET INTO DIRECTING?
GWENN: I studied filmmaking at the Fine Arts University of La Plata because it was the closest career to Special Effects I could find for free (luckily in Argentina many public universities still remain open) Honestly I don’t know how I did end up directing. I guess it was the role I enjoyed the most and I progressively discovered how much I enjoy working with actors.
WHERE DID THE CONCEPT OF THE STORY COME FROM?
GWENN: Tomorrow Island is a bleak dramatic love story with a sad ending that deals with accepting sexual identity to embrace love as the ultimate way to get security. It all began with me reading a touristic news about these two islands, tomorrow and yesterday island (or the Diomede Islands). It was a random reading - I usually do that to find some inspiration - it definitely caught my attention so I did further research and found some interesting facts about the islands through history. Later on, I commented the note in one of our Methods of Creativity classes at the Kinoeyes Master and Ana Falcon, the writer, asked me permission to develop a story set in the islands. I agreed and suggested that we make a female lead story (it was a topic I was researching for my graduation thesis) and we kept developing the story together. She brought this wonderful lesbian thriller story and as a lesbian myself, I was just delighted.
DID YOU COME ACROSS ANY OBSTACLES DURING THE MAKING OF THE FILM? IF YES, HOW DID YOU OVERCOME THEM?
GWENN: Tons of obstacles! I rather not get into details on that, because it was the toughest project I ever worked in in terms of obstacles, but just for you to get an idea we were a lesbian female director, a female producer, a female writer, a female lead character (all of us expat) wanting to shoot a lesbian story…in an ex-soviet country! How did I overcome these tons of obstacles? Drinking hot chocolate! (my blood sugar levels rose considerably during that year) .
WHAT WAS THE BEST PART OF THE EXPERIENCE OF MAKING THIS FILM?
GWENN: Experiencing and overcoming the challenge of shooting in an unknown language with a crew from 17 different counties. It was learning, it was difficult but exciting and I just can’t wait to be part of a new project like this one again!
WHAT WAS YOUR REASON FOR CHOOSING TO SET AN LGBTQ+ STORY IN THE DAWN OF THE COLD WAR?
GWENN: The writer and I wanted to tell a story that could explore the insanity of borders plus the overcoming of divisions against all odds. In her case, she’s from Mexico and she found a connection with what’s happening in her country with the nonsense project of building a wall to separate Mexico from the U.S. In my case, my family had experienced military persecution and exile during the last dictatorship in Argentina, therefore I could immediately connect with Sveta’s story of surviving and fighting for what she wants no matter what (I could see my mum in Sveta). Plus, as part of the LGBTQ+ community, I’m thrilled by stories around winning the right to be and to express our love.
WHAT DO YOU WANT THE AUDIENCE TO TAKE AWAY FROM YOUR FILM?
GWENN: I believe borders are senseless because they have been created mainly to divide and separate people’s needs and wants. Galeano in one of his short tales tells “the maps of soul and time have no borders”. I think borders, used in ways as in the short film, bring only war and conflicts. I would love if the audience could reconsider the concept of borders after watching the film and maybe embrace the healthier fact that divisions and exclusions aren’t making us happier or more safe. Not only in terms of geography but also and mainly in term of thinking, because that’s the core of the story: how much damage our inners divisions can make.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU?
GWENN: I’m developing two new feature film projects together with a writer. Both LGBTQ+, one is a dysfunctional family dramedy and the other is a Science Fiction story. Plus, I’m developing an LGBTQ+ teen horror series with an Argentinean production company. Meanwhile, also I'm working as script supervisor for Amazon Prime’s new series on Maradona’s life.
ONLY 4% OF THE HIGHEST GROSSING FILMS IN THE PAST DECADE WERE DIRECTED BY WOMEN, BEING A FEMALE DIRECTOR CAN BE DISHEARTENING IN THIS ENVIRONMENT. WHAT WOULD YOUR ADVICE BE FOR ASPIRING FEMALE DIRECTORS OUT THERE?
GWENN: Work your ass out! No one will open the doors for you. And tell female stories. We’re worth the effort.
Interview by Sophie Duncan & Caris Rianne
Tomorrow Island is showing in the MAKING HISTORY shorts collection on Wed 27 March and Sat 30 March. For tickets and information please visit here. You can view the trailer below along with links to the film makers social media platforms.