" For me, Art and Cinema must be creative, having experimentation and research "-Sandra Da Fonseca

Leyla Bouzid’s first feature film ‘As I Open my Eyes’ was screened at the Kolkata International Film Festival 2015. It is a musical film set in Tunisia before the Arab Spring. In the days leading up to Tunisia’s Arab Spring, 18-year-old fresh graduate Farah clashes with her mother Hayet over her budding independence. As Farah sings, becomes politically active and embraces her sexuality, Hayet advocates caution in a country whose dangers she knows all too well. Abhijit Ganguly speaks to Sandra Da Fonseca (Blue Monday Productions)  the producer of the film about her journey in the industry and the film.

Why did you take up this profession?

After studying philosophy and cinema at the university, I became assistant of producers, and then a producer myself. “As I open my eyes” selected in competition to the KIFF is my first feature film. With the directors, we work closely on every stage of the production of the films, for the development of the script to the exploitation in festivals and in cinemas. I am at the crossroad of artistic and financial issues of a movie, and that's what I like.

As I Open my Eyes - Movie Stills
Was there any inspiration behind taking up this job?

I don’t have any one person for inspiration. I just try to honour my parent’s story. They came from Portugal without nothing but they managed to send us at school, to get an education and to choose a job, and then practise it with passion and honesty.

Are there many female producers in France?

As I Open my Eyes - Movie Stills
Yes, there are. But all over the world, to try his luck has been always more difficult for women than for men. This is especially true in India, more than in France. But this is still not acquired even in Europe. When you are a woman who wishes to undertake, you must work harder, we have to prove more things, so be more motivated. It allows to feel his desire. When women are able to lead a project to completion, it is that they want to do really. I think deep down, a woman's life is more interesting than a life of man, more complex, richer, fuller, although more complicated.

As I Open my Eyes - Movie Stills
What are the challenges you face in your profession?

The challenge for me is to manage to find the money to give their voices to the talented directors that I have chosen to produce. Money usually goes to the commercial films. But we fight for art films. At this moment, I work with three directors who are in fact three female directors. 

What subjects interest you?

All the subjects could be interesting if the treatment is inventive. All the stories have already been written, more or less. After that, the question is about the new way of telling the same story. For me, Art and Cinema must be creative, having experimentation and research. 

What are your words of advice for aspiring female filmmakers?

You will and have to work more and harder than men. If you are sure you want to do movies, you have to fight strongly. But after the fight, you will be stronger than them, and I am sure that you are already more inspired than them. 

What do you want your audience to take away from the film As I open my eyes?

The film asks this question: how can one, in Tunisia, but that is the same everywhere in the World, break free from family, from society, from the system? We follow the trajectory of Farah, who wants to live life to the fullest, who is fully alive, and for that she is punished. But Farah shows us that live her life as a young woman, or just as a human being, is priceless, and that we must continue to fight for life and freedom. This resonates very strongly right now, even for Parisians people, after the recent events to which Paris was a victim.

Financial funding for projects such as yours can be hard to acquire. Have you faced major financial difficulties in any of your ventures?

To get the financing of a film, it is always quite a long and hard way. It was also the case for As I open my eyes, but the script was beautiful and inventive. A lot a financial partners have believed in it. Besides, A female director from Tunisia, speaking about a young Tunisian girl, is quite rare and was a quality for convincing the international partners. 

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