David Hauka on His New VIFF Film, Certainty
VO: Could you tell us a little about yourself as a filmmaker?
DH: I didn't intend to go in to film at all. I was more interested in science and space. But I found that it was very compelling. I took a course and decided to go in to film instead, after being exposed to different events in the film program. It's such an exciting place to be as a young person because you're expressing your ideas and working collaboratively with other people and their crazy ideas as well. You get to manifest them and sometimes show them, and that is probably the most exciting thing that I think a young person can experience. It's always the same level of terror, when you show your work to an audience. It's seductive, difficult, sometimes extremely frustrating, but in the end it's an incredible experience.
VO: could you tell us a little about your film, Certainty?
DH: I guess the first thing to say about it, is it's a cinema essay, rather than a documentary or a fictional drama or a genre that we're used to, which may need some explaining. It's an interpretation of history rather than history itself. Because it's a personal film, it's cited on my own memories and experiences.
It's an exploration of life, loss, grief. There's a lot of humour in it. What else is there in life. You have to address the reality of being alive and what that means, of course, when people around us pass away.
VO: what made you decide to do this film in particular? What made it timely for you?
DH: well I've been working in the film industry for quite a long time, away from my original reason for coming in. I slipped over into production, working for American and Canadian studios and networks and that was a wonderful experience. I gained an enormous amount of information doing it, but I had been away from my own work for so long that I eventually became quite frustrated.
I made the decision to return to filmmaking as a filmmaker and I undertook a Masters of Fine Arts at UBC and Certainty's roots actually came out of my thesis at UBC. I started to explore areas of non-commercial cinema that I'd ignored for quite a while, because when you're working in the industry, you have to work the formula, you're delivering to the critical expectations for your film.
By going back to do my masters, it has liberated me from that experience. Other people do keep that in mind, but I wanted to stretch myself and challenge myself in a way which wasn't available to me at that point in my understanding of film.
The result was, that working closely with other academics and my mentors, at the university, I made several major breakthroughs in my practices in filmmaking and I managed to access certain areas that I'd closed off.
I'm a very observational filmmaker. My work is fairly distant and intellectual. This is certainly not an intellectual film, but as emotionally raw as I can make it. That was extremely important. That exploration has allowed me to return to filmmaking with much more force than I had before I left.
VO: what was the most memorable moment during the process of making this film?
DH: It's hard to say because it was such a long process in making the film. The test screening of the piece. At that point I thought the film was done. The response of the people who had come out to see the film was so intense and so emotional, it knocked me on my heels. I hadn't had people crying in a cinema before because of the closeness to their own experience. Particularly with things that are very, very personal. They make the transition to the inner vertical very quickly. Especially when you're using the type of structure of text instead of voice-over, collage images, no reenactments.
They dove into the piece and it caught them and they were drawn in to a very personal experience. That was the biggest surprise to me. I didn't expect anyone to respond. And they certainly did.
VO: what would you like people to take away from your film?
DH: What's interesting about the individuals who have seen the film, is they all take away something different, but primarily, they take away an appreciation of how important time is. Especially not only your own life and how much time you have, but how much time you have with people you love.
The film has a call to action in it. In my view, that is what's required in our day to day lives. Wake up and realize how precious this very short amount of time we have together is.
VO: what is the next step for you and this film?
DH: We keep pushing forward with it. I have great sympathy for the programers of different festivals. It's a difficult film to program. It's 45 minutes long. I was very fortunate that the VIFF paired me with another personal film that was an examination and it worked quite well. We've screened in Berlin and Vancouver, and that gives us some currency, but if someone wants to program it, they have to come up with a similar film to screen with it. Sometimes you work against yourself unintentionally when you want to have a work shown.
I'm also working on a new film. I've got a couple of them that I'm working on. One is a return to drama. As well, I'm working on a second part... Certainty, I hope will be a triptych, meaning there will be three parts to it. The first part about love and loss and grief and the second part about romantic and ideal love, and also a lot of math (laughs). We'll see how that works out.