My Favourite Fabric as seen by Gaya Jiji

Mon Tissu Préféré - photo du film © FDC

 Damascus-born director and actress Gaya Jiji made three shorts before shooting Mon Tissu préféré (My Favourite Fabric). Her first feature film, presented in Un Certain Regard, tells the story of Nahla (Manal Issa) in a Syrian suburb.

Gaya Jiji won the Women in Motion Prize at the Festival de Cannes in 2016.

Tell us how your film came into being.

It's a deeply personal film, inspired by my own life and that of my loved ones. It started out as the desire to tell the story of a freedom-seeking Syrian woman… but then war broke out and her fate mirrored that of her country more than ever. That's how the film came about.

What was the atmosphere like on set?

The shoot was very rich, dense and tough all at once, with a team from all four corners of the globe, all speaking different languages – Arabic, Turkish, French, English and so on. To try and conjure up my city of Damascus in another city altogether – Istanbul – was another challenge, but these constraints enriched the film with artistic choices I'd never have thought of otherwise.

A few words about your actors?

They gave their all, with no limits. They let me into their world, just as I let them into mine. There was a great deal of honesty and sincerity in our exchanges – they were one of my sources of inspiration throughout the shoot.

What did you learn while making the film?

The most interesting thing for me was how the transition from screenplay to actual shoot can turn a film upside down. What looks solid in the script isn't necessarily the same on camera. It gets rewritten during the shooting and then again in editing. You have to have the strength to destroy and reconstruct at every stage.

Your sources of influence?

Films like Belle de Jour by Buñuel and Ettore Scola's A Special Day were with me as I wrote, along with The House of Bernarda Alba by Federico Garcia Lorca, which was a great source of inspiration in depicting the family home of the main character in my film.

What's your take on cinema in your country?

Despite the efforts of some filmmakers to break the censorship, Syrian cinema is still a prisoner of the State, which is the only source of funding. But I strongly believe that a new Syrian cinema will find its feet through other means, and through opening up to new horizons.

Can you tell us about your next project?

At the moment it's nothing but an idea. It's the story of a Syrian immigrant in Canada during the war, about his life in this new country with the memory of what he lived through, and his memories of childhood, youth, war and love.

It'll be an Odyssey through his memory, in search of a lost memory, or one we have tried to lose.