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In our final instalment of the Takeover Cardiff artist profiles we bring you Lotte van Gaalen: the documentary film maker from The Netherlands.

Lotte has come to Cardiff for the very first time to work alongside Zoom Cymru for Saturday’s event, creating incredible films with 17 – 23 year olds.

Lotte’s work is emotional, appealing and innovative, and she brings to Zoom Cymru a wealth of experience and knowledge.  Today, our guest blogger Amber Bell met her for a low-down of all things “filmy”, and what exciting things we can expect from Saturday’s showing…

Q: Can you tell me a bit more about the work that you do?

A: In the Netherlands, I work as a documentary film maker.  Since graduating last year, I’ve been really lucky with some of the exciting work I have been asked to do.  When I first met the guys from Zoom Cymru, I was actually participating in a European Film Forum in Milan.  The Forum was basically a chance for young film makers from all over Europe to get together, network and learn from one another.  That’s how I got to know them – Zoom Cymru were also there!  They told me they were working with Takeover Cardiff, and were looking for an international artist.  When they invited me over, I was overjoyed to say yes!

Q: What led you to become a documentary film maker?

A: I always wanted to do something creative.  Initially, I was really interested in journalism.  At about the age of 17, I was introduced to this critical film by a Dutch film maker, Sunny Bergman.  The film was called Berperkt Houdbaar, and revolved around the notion of female beauty, and the way that women are pressurized by the media to look a certain way.  This film hugely inspired me, and let me down the path of documentary film making.

I then got into film school – quite a big feat as places are coveted in the Netherlands!  This was a brilliant learning curve for me as it taught me that I didn’t want to make political or critical films.  I wanted to make “film films”!

Q: What does your work tend to be about?

A: There is no particular theme with my work.  I’m not really drawn to subjects portraying actuality.  I prefer to evoke a level of emotion in my work, and something that is understandable to everyone, regardless of education and background.

For example, I created a graduation film centred around the Dutch Coast.  The film wasn’t filled with facts, but rather encapsulated what the coast meant to me in a poetic way.  I’m currently working on a film about family relationships, and in particular gay men’s relationships with their Mothers.  It’s subject matters like this that I love to convey; things that people can relate to.

Q: Why did you want to get involved with Takeover Cardiff?

A: Firstly, I had never been to Wales!  So that was an exciting step for me.  It’s been brilliant to get to know Cardiff, and I’ve already met so many incredible film makers.  Secondly, I felt a real connection with Zoom when I met them in Milan.  I knew there and then that I wanted to work with these people.

Working with Takeover has also been fantastic as it means I get to do what I love: making films and coaching young people.  Although I have taken part in many workshops, I have never taught this age group before – so it’s been a real learning experience!  They have a whole new attitude to film which is so exciting to see.

Q: Do you think events like Takeover Cardiff are important to youths and the arts community?

A: Definitely.  For the arts community, it is great to be able to cease this opportunity to display work.  Although there is so much going on in the arts, often it is not visible to the community.  Unless something is pushed right in front of your face, you might miss it altogether.  So Takeover Cardiff is ultimately making arts available to a mass audience, allowing people to be challenged and inspired by it.

I like to think for young people that making films and taking part in media courses allows them to learn so many more general skills that will help them throughout life.  Through the process of film-making, they learn how to express themselves, communicate, negotiate, plan things in advance, compromise and learn from their mistakes: I believe these are all powerful learning tools!

Q: How have you found working with Zoom Cymru?

A: I’ve really enjoyed it!  They have provided me with a nice balance.  I am given room to do my own thing and communicate in my own way, but then they are there to back me up when I need them. As I am new to working with this age group, and the people of Wales, they really help me understand people’s backgrounds and needs.  I couldn’t do this alone – I have learnt so much from them, things that I will now implement in my own work away from Cardiff.  They have made me feel so at home; a real family atmosphere!

Q: What do you hope to achieve through your work with Takeover Cardiff?

A: I really hope that participants feel like they have learnt something; this is so much more important to me than the end result!  I want them to feel proud of what they have achieved, and confident in their film-making skills.  If the participants leave feeling like they have really contributed something, and have had a good time, then that is the best reward for me.

Q: What can we expect from Saturday’s performance?

A: There will be two films shown on Saturday – they are really quite short films, and will be playing on a loop throughout the day at CFQ (Womanby Street).  The general idea was to give participants a chance to express their view of culture in Cardiff.  The first focuses on the opportunities young people are given in the arts in Cardiff.  The second is a bit of a social advert; it portrays the frustration of kids about the lack of interest in teens about the history of Cardiff – this really surprised me!  I mean, the kids were genuinely disappointed in the small number of their peers that were interested in places such as the Castle and Museum.  Throughout the day, the participants will also be floating around the city centre, handing out leaflets and bringing in new crowds to see the films.  They are all very excited to see people’s reactions – as are we!

For more information on Zoom Cymru, visit their website: http://zoomcymru.com/


For more information on Takeover Cardiff, and a list of our partners, go to http://www.britishcouncil.org/wales-arts-takeover-cardiff-toc.htm

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