2020 Student Academy Award Finalist, Elisa Maria Nadal, on “Prisoners of the Body”

“Prisoners of the Body” is a metaphorical exploration of movement itself. Music accompanies its journey into the world – along five chapters, set in different scenarios. In this liaison of film and dance, the camera itself becomes the protagonists expression – and dances. www.prisonersofthebody.com

Elisa Maria NadalWriter and film director Elisa Maria Nadal was born in 1985 in Southern Brazil. After a serious accident, she had to give up a career as a professional dancer. She studied social communication and journalism in Curitiba, Brazil, where she received various awards for her documentary thesis, “Tele-Visao”. Afterwards she moved to Munich to study documentary film at the University of Television and Film. Alongside, she studies Media Art at the Academy of Fine Arts Munich. In recent years she shot in Germany, Brazil, Nepal, Bulgaria, Iran, Turkey, Greece and India.

STUDENTFILMMAKERS: How did you approach this form of storytelling through movement?

Elisa Maria Nadal: I love dance. I believe there is so much to be explored in the connection between filmmaking and dance. It was a challenge to find a way to tell a story with movement but a very nice and inspiring one. What we were trying was to work with feelings, not explaining them with words, but trying to pass a message through body movements.

STUDENTFILMMAKERS: Can you describe directing the dance sequences and your collaboration with choreographer Gonzalo Cruzinha?

Elisa Maria Nadal: The scenes were first created in a way to put dance out of the normal environment. Trying different perspectives of it. Exploring the relationship with space. Mostly Gonzalo Cruzinha and I developed a main feeling for each scene, and he was helping me to transform it into body movements. The dancers helped in the creative process as well.

The first scene I called, “The Birth of Movement,” and it is the moment where movement becomes conscious about itself. It was shot underwater.

The second scene was the “Effort for Survival,”  and it is related with the idea that we are born in a body that has needs. We are attached to our bodies and our necessities.

The third scene comes out of the idea that after we have what we need to survive, we always want more. We have the society around us to affirm our existence but who is in control? Am I really in control of my actions? I believe this scene is very related to our current world. Social media, etc.

The fourth scene is a deep reflection of the self. I called this “Mirror Scene” or “Experience of Myself in the Other.” The main idea of the film is that the protagonist is movement. In this scene, movement is seeing itself and playing with its image.

The final scene is “Unchain of the Form,” to break the prison of the body.

STUDENTFILMMAKERS: How did you film the underwater scenes, and can you share a “Challenge and Solution”?

Elisa Maria Nadal: It was very nice! It was my first underwater shoot, and I learned a lot. The water temperature was a challenge for the dancer, and we had a warm tube for the dancer when he was out of the pool. This way we could shoot longer. There were a lot of challenges. We had to put weights everywhere we could. What was really helpful was to have an underwater sound system so I could communicate with the underwater camera operator. He could listen to me when I was speaking at one microphone outside the pool as I was looking into the monitor. This helped a lot.

STUDENTFILMMAKERS: If you could share your Top 3 Directing Tips for new and aspiring filmmakers, what would they be?

Elisa Maria Nadal: Believe in your ideas. Many people, with more experience probably, will say that some of your ideas would not work, or maybe some of your ideas are impossible. But keep believing in your ideas. On one hand, don’t be foolish, but on another hand, don’t let insecurity take over.

Ask yourself all the time what you want to say, what it is the meaning behind every detail.

Enjoy the process! Have fun with it, even during the hard times. Maybe it turns out that everything you planned so well, does not work, and you need to find another way to do things. Just enjoy the challenge.

2020 Student Academy Award Finalist, Elisa Maria Nadal, on "Prisoners of the Body"
Interview conducted by Johnny Lee Solis; NJ/NY based musician, composer and writer.

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