RUSSIAN PAVILION AT CANNES PRESENTS “OKAY, MUM”
On May 21st, 2017, as part of the 70th Cannes Film Festival, the Russian Pavilion hosted a showcase for writer Eva Lanska's directorial debut, the social drama entitled "Okay, Mum." Intended as a draft for the upcoming eponymous feature, the film inaugurates a short-subject series devoted to relationships between parents and children. Made in Great Britain and starring British actors, the film tackles the issue of child abuse.
The plot of “Okay, Mum” is centered around Natasha, a 12-year-old girl forced to survive, rather than live, in her own family while her parents are constantly at each other’s throats. The father takes it out on the child, and the mother does nothing to prevent it. The girl appeals to her mother, but her cries for help remain unheard. A sensitive and imaginative child, she suffers all the more for it as her terrifying visions make her stay at home unbearable. As a grown woman, Natasha goes to great lengths to avoid following in her parents’ footsteps and to forget her childhood, but ends up making the same mistakes, and her internal dialogue with her mother continues on. The film allows the viewer to filter a family conflict through a child’s consciousness. Although "Okay, Mum" tells a child's story, it has been rated 16+ and is intended, primarily, for adults.
Eva Lanska, director:
"Childhood memories are the sweetest, most vivid, most tender. But everything changes when children are forced to grow up too soon. In our film, the camera "stands for" the child's eye, and we see the outside world through this prism. It’s obvious that a story like that could’ve happened anywhere. For a kid, there’s nothing worse than her parents’ divorce, their squabbles, the physical and emotional violence inflicted in the family. It’s impossible to see what goes on behind the closed doors in each family, but we do have the power to address the issue through art and thus influence the most hard-hearted parents. A Russian Pavilion presentation is, first and foremost, our international mouthpiece that calls the attention of people around the world to the problem of emotional violence suffered by children in their own families."
Natasha's parents are played by British actors Sam Redford, known for his roles in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, The Hurt Locker, and K-19, and Gina Bramhill, who previously appeared on TV in Mr. Selfridge and in an episode of Sherlock. Little Natasha herself is played by Eleanor Stagg, who, despite her age, has already worked with Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard in Macbeth, and with Drew Barrymore in Miss You Already.
Eva Lanska, director:
"I've never seen such a tight-knit team, and I was really impressed by their discipline. The cast and crew grew into a unified whole for the duration of the shoot. The British actors are responsible and highly professional, and generally have it together. Sam Redford had to play the complex part of a crazed, despotic father who tortures his own child. Since the most painful injuries are to be found within, he prepared for his role by studying psychology with great care. Of course, these emotions are not typical for him, but he would get in character in no time––and most importantly, he knew how to deal with young Eleanor. Though she's a professional actress, she's still a child, and a ballerina at that, so her worldview is pretty fragile. She's a talented and, what I valued even more, a genuine girl: she remains her wonderful self even when she's acting."
Aided by Alex Marx who played the lawyer in the film and produced it, Eva Lanska is currently at work on a screenplay for the feature version of her short. In addition to that, Lanska has written several screenplays about parent-child relationships. According to her, these stories are meant to spotlight the consequences of parents and educators not having enough information on child-rearing. "If we can convince one person to stop and think about their child's problems, then it's all worth it," says the director.
Alex Marx, producer:
"As soon as Eva shared her idea with me I knew I wanted to be a part of it. The issues brought up in her film are as timely as ever, and Eva has a lot of first-hand knowledge on the subject, because she's been doing volunteer work for years and gathering information all the while. Mind you, Russia is not the only country where child abuse is a hot-button issue: it's just as relevant to Great Britain where I live. It wouldn't be an overstatement to call the theme we explore a universal one."
A screen- and prose writer, as well as a filmmaker, Eva Lanska graduated from the Lomonosov Moscow State University with a degree in journalism. Afterwards, she went on to study directing and acting at the Moscow Art Theater and London Film Academy. With three years of television work in Russia under her belt and vast experience in music videos gained in Paris, she now produces her own TV content and documentaries in England.
Eva Lanska has also made a name for herself as an activist. As a member of the international public organization Union of Social Child Services, she traveled Russia in 2010-13 on a volunteer basis, lending children from state-owned orphanages financial and moral support and raising awareness about child abuse through media channels. Lanska claims that over the years she has accumulated enough material for several films, which she now wants to direct.
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