Marlijn Franken - Zémidjan - african sunday

3:17, 2011, Documentary
In Benin’s capital Cotonou on sundays everyone goes to the beach on a Zemidjan, the local motor taxis. I filmed them passing the end of the road where there is a bump.
DirectorMarlijn FrankenProducerMarlijn FrankenWriterMarlijn FrankenCameraMarlijn FrankenEditorMarlijn FrankenCrew-

CountryNetherlandsSubtitles-Edition2011 Screenings-Festival Internacional de VideoArte Almirante Brown (Buenos Aires) 2011

-Festival International de Film Quintessence (official selection) (Bénin, West-Africa 2012)

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Who is Marlijn Franken?
A passionate and energetic visual artist – former fashion designer – and more and more a videomaker.

What is Zémidjan - african sunday about?
In Benin’s capital Cotonou on sundays everyone goes to the beach on a Zemidjan, the local motor taxis. I filmed them passing the end of the road where there is a bump. The repetition is very funny. I tried to give my positive impression of this wonderful and unknown African country which I visited twice, invited by art festivals. In Benin I made some art friends I hope to visit soon.

How did you start with film? And do you have an educational background in art or film?
I started because I needed video registrations of my art projects. The results of the pro I hired I did not like, so I decided to learn filming myself. I am an autodidactic filmer, but always had a very good mentor (an experienced documentary maker). I develop the other way around: next February I will start a one year course “video-journalist”. I miss lots of technical background.

Could you explain how you work, what themes or concepts you use and what is important to you?
In general I registrate where my eye falls on. So I film reality. In postproduction my film will take shape. I start creating my own reality by often slowing down tempi. Apart from the content, I think the light is most important for me. The content can even be abstract, it is the light that attracts me. You could say I film moving paintings

How long do you usually work on one project?
If needed it can be done in 1 or 2 days (I receive more and more orders, f.e. An artist portrait for a website). Normally free work takes me a week. In exception a project can take months or longer (when I need the change of seasons).

Do you carefully plan the production process or do you work more intuitive?
In my autonome films I always work very intuitive. When working for a client I have to do lots of planning. I like the contrast, as long as I am artistically free.

How does the title relate to the work, and how do you find a fitting title?
The title is important. I think a lot about it. Zemidjan is simple. It is an intriguing word, it means in ‘Fon’, an African language ‘motortaxi’ and that is what the film is about. Blue Medusa: ‘Medusa’ is the title of the original composition, from which the composer made an adaptation for this project ‘Blue’ was the title/theme of an art exhibition the film was made for.

Where do you get your ideas or inspiration from?
Can be anything. Because I mainly registrate reality it means: always having my camera with me and the subjects are on my way. With Zemidjan I was having a beer on a little terrace when I saw the motortaxi’s passing the bump, right in front of me. Another exemple: ‘Last Honour’. I was running along the river Amstel when I bumped on this wonderful procession of antique coaches and Frisian horses. Running home as fast as I could and grabbing my camera! See it and use it.

How important is sound in film, and if you use sounds, do you create your own or use existing?
Last year I learnt that sound is VERY important in film, I underestimated it. More and more I work in collaboration with a composer or sound artist (Mad as the Mist and Snow, Blue Medusa). I like that way of working. Normally I work alone (camera/editing/directing). I like having the feedback of the other, it makes the process of creating more interesting and I learn a lot. Sometimes I chose an existing piece of music, with the consent of the maker, or I take it from a free music website (Zemidjan).

How does content relate to the form of your work?
First you have to understand the story – if there is one. So there has to be some logical order. I feel free to change colors to black and white ( Last Honour) if that strengthens the atmosphere, or to put a slowmotion to accentuate a scene. For me personally slowmotion often in combination with zooming in on the subject is a way of keeping some control. In my art I search from some calmth, to balance the overwhelming chaos around me.

What possibilities of the web are yet to be explored?
I don’t know, a lot is happening yet. More streaming festivals? I see that art and film is more and more visible on Facebook. To be continued!

Did the web changed your view on art, or your career?
Sure. It influences and inspires me to look at other peoples creations. I learn a lot of it and therefore I keep developing myself which I think is very important. Because web possibilities my shortfilms are shown in different parts of the world. Because of the web I got payed work for documentaries. An exemple: Last Honour was seen on my YouTube channel by an American. He recognized the coaches and horses and send his Dutch friends of the enterprise an email. They were so touched by my shortfilm that they invited me on their ranch. Two months later I made a film for their PR.

Where would you place your work; cinema or art. And what is the difference between those according to you?
You know, I do a lot of things. As a visual artist I make textile sculptures, I am also an independent fashion designer. As a filmer I make artistic shortfilms, documentaries, registrations of events. What is in a name? If I HAVE to choose: art. I am an artist.

How influential is the reaction to your film by the audience?
Feedback is important for me, I like to share my work with the audience and hope they react. Only when feedback is well substantiated it could have influence on my next work.

What is your next project about?
Most likely something west-african. December/januari I will travel through Bénin, visiting my art friends.


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