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Interview with Producer Janine Teerling for Un Certain Regard Film "Mediterranean Fever" (2022) at 75th Cannes Film Festival

Interview with Producer Janine Teerling for Un Certain Regard Film "Mediterranean Fever" (2022) at 75th Cannes Film Festival   

Netherlands born and Cyprus resident Janine Teerling is a producer and writer. She recently attended the 75th annual Cannes Film Festival as one of the European Film Production (EFP) “Producers on the Move”. In its 10th anniversary, the EFP Producers on the Move the selects twenty talented and rising star European producers to highlight and celebrate during a specialized Cannes producer networking program. Having had her film “Patchwork” in the East of the West competition at the 2021 Karlovy Vary Film Festival, she had her latest co-production" “Mediterranean Fever” (2022) by Palestinian director Maha Haj screen at this year’s Cannes Film Festival in the Un Certain Regard Section. With her Cyprus based film production company AMP Filmworks, which co-produces films for the European and international film industry, Janine is unstoppable.

Interview with Producer Janine Teerling for Un Certain Regard Film "Mediterranean Fever" (2022) at 75th Cannes Film Festival Producer Janine Teerling

In an interview with Janine at Cannes, here is what she had to say:

Did you always know you wanted to be a writer and producer?

JANINE: Yes and no. I used to work in academia, in the field of Human Geography and Anthropology (specialising in Migration Studies). I’ve written various articles and a monograph on migration, identity, multiculturalism and home and belonging. So, yes, I’ve always enjoyed writing and writing has always been a large part of my work and life. Producing came much later. I started playing with the idea of making a career change when I first came to Cyprus in 2007 to carry out ethnographic research as part of my PhD research at the University of Sussex (UK). As European and International Cinema had always been a passion of mine, part of my immersion in Cypriot society was making sure to attend every film event that took place on the island, which got me introduced to the small but vibrant Cypriot filmmaking community. Soon enough, I was asked to conduct research and development activities for Cypriot audio-visual projects, first on a freelance basis next to my academic activities, until I decided to make a career shift and fully dedicate myself to filmmaking. Since 2012, I’ve been active as a producer at Cypriot production house AMP Filmworks. Of course, I was taking a risk at the time, and it was quite scary, but it’s a decision that I certainly don’t regret. My main occupation is producing, but I still enjoy writing and love being involved in script development.

 

Can you tell us about some of your previous films? Like Boy on the Bridge and Smuggling Hendrix?

JANINE: “Boy on the Bridge” was the first feature film I produced, in 2016. It is a coming-of-age drama that takes please in a village in Cyprus in the 1980s, directed by Petros Charalambous. The film had its world premiere at the Rome Film Festival and participated in more than 50 festivals worldwide, winning 13 international awards including Best Film and Best Director. In 2018, I produced Marios Piperides’ political comedy “Smuggling Hendrix” (a co-production with Germany and Greece). The film was awarded Best International Narrative Feature at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival in 2018 went on to participate and win awards at many other festivals. The film was sold (by the Match Factory) to numerous territories (including North America, Eastern Europe, MENA and China) and theatrically released in Germany, France, Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Israel and Hungary, amongst others. “Smuggling Hendrix” was the film that gave us our international breakthrough and brought us to the right momentum for securing an international foothold.

 

You attended the Karlovy Vary Film Festival 2021 with your film called "Patchwork". Can you tell us about the film?

JANINE: Patchwork” (a Cyprus-Israel-Slovenia co-production), the second film I did with Petros Charalambous, is a character-driven social drama featuring Greek actress Angeliki Papoulia as a mother haunted by her ambiguous feelings about motherhood and the broken relationship with her own mother. The film’s central theme is the societal and internal pressures felt by women regarding norms of motherhood and the taboos surrounding situations where these expected norms are not met. 

 

What was the inspiration for the tough story of motherhood in the film?

JANINE: The inspiration for “Patchwork” came from the women in my own life, including my mother. Surrounded both by friends who are mothers and those who are not, I came to realise that there are many unspoken truths about motherhood: those private corners of shame that we often struggle to even tell our closest friends, or the inexpressible yet universal emotions that make us cringe merely by recalling them. In a society where maternal love is celebrated, and the glorification of motherhood is everywhere in the media, I wanted to write about those issues that are rarely discussed – issues such as maternal “abandonment” and regret. A woman who chooses not to, or is unable to, live with her child – or one who expresses a regret of motherhood – violates a taboo that transcends class, culture, and geography. When one (rarely) turns up in books and movies, she's often treated as a deviant and punished accordingly. Therefore, my aim was to develop a script that addresses these issues with sensitivity and without judgement, emotions which I hope will in the end be conveyed to the audience.

 

You work at a Cyrus based production company called AMP Film Works. Can you tell us about the kinds of films inspire you to produce?

JANINE: We tend to go for character-driven stories that in one way or another reflect on the social fabric of our society. We look for stories that we feel strongly about telling, that have something unique. What this unique element is can range widely, from looking at the mundane and every day from a fresh perspective to a lo-fi existential commentary on society, to a black comedy reflecting on the absurdities of political conflict. For this reason, we don’t look for any particular type of genre, just as long as it is telling the story in the best way possible. But yes, we are particularly attracted to stories of those who are silenced or unheard, or stories that challenge, or shed a new light on, the way we, as human beings, are conditioned, individually and collectively. Of course, we also have to consider the markets and resources a film can reach. We do have to be able to feel that the project has international potential, particularly considering the small size of the local market.

 

Your most recent film just screened in Un Certain Regard at Cannes. Can you tell us about that film and the story? Can you also tell us about that experience?

JANINE: “Mediterranean Fever”, the second feature film by Palestinian writer/director Maha Haj’s, is a co-production between Germany (Pallas Film), France (Still Moving), Cyprus (AMP Filmworks) and Palestine (Majdal Films) and being sold internationally by Luxbox. The film, which can be best described as a dark-comedy-drama, follows Waleed, a 40-year-old, aspiring novelist and stay at home dad desperately trying to overcome his writer’s block whilst battling depression, as he develops an unexpected friendship with his new neighbour Jalal, a small-time crook. It premiered at this year’s Cannes Film Festival in the Official Selection Un Certain Regard. The response from the audience was overwhelmingly positive, as were the critics reviews, while the jury granted the film with the Best Screenplay Award. So, yes, we are extremely thrilled. 

Interview with Producer Janine Teerling for Un Certain Regard Film "Mediterranean Fever" (2022) at 75th Cannes Film Festival Interview with Producer Janine Teerling for Un Certain Regard Film "Mediterranean Fever" (2022) at 75th Cannes Film Festival

 

Interview by Vanessa McMahon

 

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