Maryland Film Festival recently caught up with filmmaker and MFF alum Jessica Oreck whose film THE VANQUISHING OF THE WITCH BABA YAGA screens Tuesday 2/17 at the MICA Brown Center at 7:30pm.
Jessica’s earlier features include BEETLE QUEEN CONQUERS TOKYO (MFF 2009) and AATSINKI: THE STORY OF ARCTIC COWBOYS (MFF 2013).
What inspired you to create THE VANQUISHING OF THE WITCH BABA YAGA?
When I started this project more than six years ago, it was very specifically about the common practice of mushroom collecting in Eastern Europe. In my head it was a familiar investigation of a cultural phenomenon much like my first film Beetle Queen. But after I had spent nearly a year researching, the author Andrei Codrescu put me in touch with a bunch of his poet friends in Romania. I spent the first couple weeks of production with them in Transylvania, collecting mushrooms, wandering through forest, cooking, and talking about history, literature, art, censorship, and social dissidents. It was from these early conversations that the focus of the film was carved.
What is the biggest challenge you faced making this film?
There are always difficulties. Our camera started having speed and registration issues about halfway through production. And everyday we would pack a five-person crew into a crushed and cramped car in extreme heat, bumping over nearly non-existent roads. We would get stopped at borders, lose equipment in the mud, get food poisoning, get lost. But overall, I think those things sort of blur in my memory, and I am left with a misty, romantic nostalgia for that place and time.
Who inspires you with regard to filmmaking?
Oh, it runs the gamut: Claire Denis, Jean Painleve, Bert Haanstra, Werner Herzog, David Attenborough, Jan Svankmajer, old Hollywood Westerns, Pixar…
What are you listening to music-wise right now?
Always XTC. And my friend Paul Grimstad (who also composed most of the music for the film) makes the wildest pop music – so I am always bouncing around in his world too. But I’ve been on this Classic Country kick of late.
What is next for you?
I’m sort of taking a break from feature filmmaking for the time being.
But I am currently in production on some short educational content for the web. I really love making shorts and series. The return/investment ratio is so much more satisfying. And these days, the educational aspect is really what gets me up in the morning.
THE VANQUISHING OF THE WITCH BABA YAGA screens on Tuesday 2/17 at 7:30pm at the MICA Brown Center. Jessica will be there to introduce the film and do a Q & A afterwards. Tickets will be sold at the door and are $10/free for MFF members and MICA students and faculty (with ID).