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SUNDANCE 2020 World Cinema Dramatic Competition

Visar Morina • Director of Exile

“I wanted to show the feeling of being imprisoned in one's own point of view”

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- We spoke to German director Visar Morina on the occasion of the world premiere of his feature Exile at the Sundance Film Festival

Visar Morina  • Director of Exile
(© Maria Asselin-Roy/Sundance Institute)

Kosovo-born, Germany-based director Visar Morina has presented his new film, Exile [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Visar Morina
film profile
]
, in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition of Sundance. In it, he follows a man on a journey fuelled by paranoia, creating an oppressive microcosm that produces a universal effect. His main character is an immigrant who believes that he is being bullied by his colleagues because of his non-German origins. Exile will also take part in the upcoming Berlinale, in the Panorama section.

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Cineuropa: How did you go about developing the story?
Visar Morina: Everything was very quick. In the beginning, there was a certain atmosphere I wanted to reproduce more than a real story. I had a few scenes and images in mind, and within three months, I had completed the script. For the conception of the main character, but also for the other roles, I took certain qualities and peculiarities of people I know or had met at some point in my life. It was important to me to create a human being with imperfections in order to allow for a more realistic portrait of the person. No one is completely good or completely bad, just like in real life, and I like all of my characters for different reasons.

The main character, Xhafer, is indeed something akin to an anti-hero.
Actually, I wouldn't say that. It's interesting what expectations the audience has in many cases. The standards by which a character in a film is judged are often very strict. Sometimes I think that if people insisted on justifying the behaviour of the people around them in the same way, there would only be good people left. As I said before, making mistakes is just part of it.

Exile is about paranoia – the paranoia of the main character and that of his colleagues. But it seems as though you are also talking about paranoia on a wider scale – that of a whole society. What was your intention?
I agree that we are living in paranoid times, and this is especially true for German society, which I know best. We experienced a radical change of atmosphere: first, in 2015, we were convinced of the need to help the refugees and were feeling good about it. Afterwards, in 2016, everything changed radically. The assaults against women on New Year's Eve tipped public opinion in a hostile direction, and this is an opinion that was shaped and stoked by the media and, ultimately, by politics. From then on, there was a special swearword just for people who sympathised with the “refugees”. A basic degree of mistrust was applied to foreigners in general. It is this emotional state of mind that concerns me and that I wanted to express. With Exile, I wanted to show the feeling of being imprisoned in one's own point of view, which makes one blind to everything else.

How did you find your protagonist?
It was very difficult to find him. The actor had to speak German very well, but still have a clear accent and be the right age. I had the same problem finding the kid to play the son in my previous film [2015’s Father [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Visar Morina
film profile
]
], but here, I think there were no more than 50 or 60 actors who even met the criteria. So it was a great stroke of luck to find Mišel Matičević for the role, as he did an excellent job.

Essentially, the plot concentrates on a few interior spaces that quickly become claustrophobic and constrictive. What did the visual concept look like overall?
For me, everything should be reduced down as much as possible. Repetition is very important for me – for example, in the costumes, the decor and the motifs. One of my dreams would be to repeat the first second of a film for over two hours, if possible. In this sense, I feel influenced by authors like Beckett. I wanted to alternate between completely empty rooms and completely full rooms; the hallways of the building were very important to evoke a sense of intricacy. I worked very intensively with my production designer, Christian Goldbeck, to create as many contrasts as possible.

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