Horizon, winner of the Drama Award at SMHAF 2018, is a coming of age drama about a fiery 16-year-old who slowly loses control over her emotions in the run up to a diving competition. Here, director Giancarlo Sanchez talks about the making of the film.
A teenage girl who is struggling to control her rage is a refreshingly unusual subject for a film. What drew you to this story? And what research did you do into the subject?
The script initially had a different approach to the story. It was more about the accusation this girl Lieke makes and what the consequences of the lie are within the community. The only thing I could think of was: why would she lie? What’s underneath this story about a girl, apparently on a path of destruction? Instead of analysing the conflict and what it does to other people I realised I was more empathetic to what she was going through. I wanted the viewer to feel how it is to be her. We then made the decision to tell the story from her point of view. We did some research but to be honest we were on a mission to make her specific journey engaging and emotional instead of portraying a symptom or a condition.
Susan Radder delivers an extraordinary performance as Lieke - what was she like to direct?
During the auditions it was clear that Susan is a revelation. She’s a very perceptive young woman, so during the first conversations about the story and the character she came with great questions. Susan was also very vocal about what she thought she could do and dared to be honest about the aspects of the character she didn't quite understand. For about a month before shooting we went through the script and all phases of the anger of Lieke and impulsive decision making. It was truly a collaborative process. And now we're friends for life!
An interesting thing about the film is that it leaves lots of questions unanswered - it is never completely clear, for example, what exactly happened between Lieke and her swimming teacher. How important was that ambiguity to the story?
We were adamant on telling a story about: accepting yourself. With your imperfections. With still lots of things to learn. And therein serve an optimistic angle on a situation that mostly feels hopeless. We felt so strongly about this message and this journey that it made explaining what the details are of what happened, or for that matter what didn’t happen, not a priority.
What is the bigger challenge - making a film about mental health problems, or making a film about teenagers?
For me it would be the former. I remember my years as a teenager very vividly. A very turbulent time with lots of highs and lows. It can be tempting to disregard it as teenage foolishness. But for me a time period that gives a lot of inspiration and insights how we treat each other and react to one another. Bittersweet.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m finishing up a drama series about gangs in Amsterdam. A real life story about a group of friends who started to kill each other after getting entangled in power games. Very grim and violent. So let me know if someone had ideas for a comedy.