Monika Truet’s beautiful tale, “Of Girls And Horses” is a sumptuous, slow burn of a film in which love, friendship and nature redeems all. The tale follows the story of troubled teen Alex, whose despairing mother sends her to a remote farm in Northern Germany in a final attempt to put her life back on track. There she meets little-rich girl Kathy and the two make an unexpected connection. With its epic scenery and quiet soul, Of Girls And Horses is a coming-of-age story unlike any other. Paula Hammond caught up with Monika to chat about films, filmmaking, and whether cinema is still a bit of a boys’ club…
What or who inspired you to become a filmmaker?
As a child and teenager I was most impressed by going to the movies. Growing up in a small town, there wasn’t much to see, so movies like Polanski’s Repulsion left a strong and long-lasting impression on mer. Much later, I learned how to make Super-8 and video films and my then partner, Elfi Mikesch – already established camerawoman and film director – supported me in the making of my first short films in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
It’s often said that film making is a male-dominated industry. As a woman who makes films that often focus on the varied life experiences of other women – how easy have you found it to get your voice ‘heard’?
Unfortunately the film industry is still one of the last boys’ clubs. I’m a member of a group of mostly younger female filmmakers in Germany who are trying to change this and fight for more equality in the distribution of funds. (The group is called: Proquote Regie.) Even the queer film community is dominated by the boys. But I am hopeful that we women filmmakers, may we be queer or straight, can make a change. Since it is an international movement, our chances are good.
You’ve been given many labels: ‘feminist filmmaker’, ‘lesbian filmmaker’, ‘avant guard filmmaker’…. how do you feel about such labels? Are they a help or a hindrance to a filmmaker?
I personally don’t take them too seriously. Labels seem to be important to give people orientation. As long as my films are valued as interesting pieces of work I’m fine.
Your film Seduction dealt with the topic of sadomasochism. Why did you choose such a potentially controversial subject for your first film release?
This was a collaborative work with my partner Elfi Mikesch. We didn’t think about the controversial character of the film. We were just dedicated to working on it. Only later, when it premiered at the Berlin Film Festival to controversial reactions, did we understand that we had broken a bunch of taboos.
Gendernauts has rightly won awards, as well as praise from the transgendered community. Again, what was the appeal of the subject?
At the time I was toying with the idea to get a sex-change myself. So I was close to the female to male transsexuals. But after learning so much about the transformation process I shied away from the possibility and made the documentary about it instead.
Female Misbehaviour was considered a radical film in the 1980s. Do you it still has a relevant message for today’s audiences?
I hope that it is still more than an historical look at taboos of the women’s movement of the 1980s. Maybe the message that audacious brave women like Annie Sprinkle push the boundaries of normative female behaviour is still inspirational for a new generation of women.
Tell us a little about the evolution of Of Girls And Horses. How easy was it to find the right cast and locations?
To find the right farm with the right horses and people was maybe the hardest. It took me a lot of researching until we found this ideal place. The horses were amazing. Relaxed and friendly. So were the farmers: supportive of our shoot and even willing to play small parts in the film. The casting process was a little easier thanks to the actors’ agencies which provide reels of the actors online. I quickly picked the four actresses and for Alissa, who plays Kathy, I also cast her horse for the film. It was also a big plus that Alissa and Vanida, who plays the riding teacher, are excellent horse people.
Of Girls feels like a very calm film, despite the emotional journey that the characters go through. Where does that calm come from?
It might be that my own longing for tranquility transpired into the film. I made it at a time when I was getting tired of the hectic pace of digital life with its overflowing information. I needed a break and enjoyed enormously spending time at the farm in the middle of nowhere.
Of all your films, which one do you feel most proud of and why?
That’s hard to say for me. My films are almost like my children. I like them all. I don’t have a favourite like any good mother. Even when they have flaws, I still have warm feelings and remember the circumstances of their making.
What tales do you still want to tell?
Inshallah! There are several themes I’m thinking about but, to me, it’s bad luck to talk about projects which haven’t materialised yet…
Of Girls And Horses is out now.