Gandalf in Georgia: An Interview with Documentary Director Marcin Lesisz
Ekran recently caught up with Polish filmmaker Marcin Lesisz, whose fascinating and award-winning short Goran the Camel Man has been playing at Hot Docs and was reviewed here. In the interview below, Marcin talks about how he met his nomadic, free-living protagonist and discusses plans for a second film about this ‘camel man’ – a tale of an unusual quest for love.
EKRAN: How did you get to know or hear about Goran, the film’s subject?
MARCIN LESISZ: I do a lot of travelling and hitchhiking around Europe, Iran and other countries. I was travelling with my friend in Turkey we met him one night. We were looking for a place to pitch our tent and he came out of the darkness. He was like Gandalf from Lord of the Rings.
He approached us and said, ‘Hello traveler, are you looking for something?’ We told him we were looking for a place to sleep, and he said, ‘You can stay with me, near my tent, close to my camel and my animals’. The next morning I woke up to this whole set up with his camp and his camel. We talked a lot about his philosophy and he agreed that I was the right person to make a film about him. A year later he went to Georgia and I took a cheap flight there from Poland. I just took my camera and went. I made this movie without any funds or sponsors. I was absolutely alone. However, recently, the Krakow Film Foundation has sponsored me and they’re my representation at festivals. It’s been a really surreal experience, especially since I made this movie on a very small budget.
EKRAN: How long did you spend filming Goran?
MARCIN LESISZ: Altogether I spent one month with him.
EKRAN: I’m really interested in how the film develops. At the start he’s living in what seems to be this wonderful place, with all his animals, and then you see these people photographing him, and…
MARCIN LESISZ: There’s conflict.
EKRAN: Yes. So how did this conflict happen?
MARCIN LESISZ: Goran doesn’t have any money or means of support; he just lives like a gypsy in a nomadic way. So every time somebody comes along the road and asks to take a picture of him with his camel, he asks them to give him some money or food. If he sees 20 tourists trying to take pictures of him at once and they give just one dollar, he’s going to get offended. And that usually leads to a fight or a conflict. But that’s only because he has this strong character and personality that he can get away with what he does…
EKRAN: So what’s next for you?
MARCIN LESISZ: I’m thinking of making a bigger movie about Goran, but now I have to find a new style for this project. Goran is having problems with his camel Ghini. His camel – who is a female – is depressed. She doesn’t have a partner, and she needs to reproduce with a mate, she needs children. Now Goran is looking for another camel and in Georgia there aren’t any. He was thinking to go to the city of Astrakhan in Russia where there’s a camel market, but because of the Russia-Georgia conflict he can’t go there. So now he’s thinking to go to Azerbaijan. I want to make another movie about Goran because this short was done without any dialogue, only silence and contemplation to make us understand his way of life. This next film will go deeper into his ideas and will be a follow up to his situation now, where he wants to go and why he decides to go there.
EKRAN: So this will be a feature-length film?
MARCIN LESISZ: Yes, I think so. I’m very happy that the short is being presented at a lot of reputable festivals in Poland and now here in Toronto, Canada at Hot Docs – for me that’s a big honor. In Poland it was successful because it won the ‘Zoom’ competition at New Horizons [in Wrocław] and in the Polish section at the Szczecin European Film Festival. It also won in the international section at the Parnu Film Festival in Estonia.
Now I’m going to the Cinédoc-Tbilisi festival in Georgia. I want to meet up with Goran there. I haven’t had the chance to see him in three years. Maybe there we can write up the script and plan the next movie.
Interview by Jonathan Owen
For more information on the film Goran & the Camel Man click here.