Officially Selected Alumni Interviews

Aline Pimentel: Lift-Off Filmmaker Interview

Brazilian-American Filmmaker Aline Pimentel’s short documentary “The Human Face” follows Oscar-winning artist Kazuhiro Tsuji, who gives meaning to his own life by giving meaning to each and every mark on his sculptures. Experiencing what is behind every wrinkle of time on the human face transforms a superficial mask into a window to the soul.

After winning at Berlin Lift-Off, this captivating doc went forward to Tokyo Lift-Off, and has also received a Season Awards nomination. We interviewed director Aline to hear a little more about how this film came to be, and her path as a filmmaker.

Interview by Sneh Rupra

First of all, how did it feel for the subject of your documentary, Kazuhiro Tsuji, and his team to win the Oscar for their work on Darkest Hour?  

He is extremely happy to win this after 3 nominations 

Did you come across Kazuhiro, who inspired this doc, or did you know you wanted to make a doc in this field, and then went looking for a subject?

I came across Kazu 4 years ago when I first saw his sculpture at Art Basel in Miami. I had no idea at the time that his background was in film. I only learned this after I invited him to do an interview for my former blog on the Huffington Post. When I decided to pursue a career in film, he was the first story that I wanted to share. I was so in love with his work that I wanted to share my admiration with the world. 

What was your relationship with Kazuhiro like on set? How much did you balance direction with simply acting as an observer?

It was very easy and inspiring to work with him on set.  He is definitely a more mature professional than I. He has been working in the business since before I was born, so he knows what he wants. But I did have creative and directorial input, and he always made me feel confident in my choices and decisions on set. Ultimately, things evolved very organically.

What was it like gathering the old footage that appears throughout the film?

After the first cut, we knew we wanted to bring a little more texture and density to the editing. So, we took a couple of weeks to search possible ideas and play around with old footage.  It was a fun process. 

Did you approach filming the models as if they were real people, with regards to lighting etc.?

Yes absolutely – they are so lifelike, they deserve nothing less.  

Were there any unexpected challenges you faced during production?

I had to travel to LA for filing the end of the project, and I was 8 months pregnant at the time. Besides that, I have to say everything went pretty smoothly. 

Did you discuss Kazuhiro’s philosophy and approach to his work a lot before filming?

Before even conceiving the film, I interviewed him for my former Huffington Post blog, as I mentioned before, so I gathered a lot of information about his philosophy and approach then.  When I decided to do the film, I also did a lot of research on the direction I wanted to take to tell his story in a way that would be true to his work.  

Has the experience of making this film changed your perceptions in any way?

Certainly. He changed my perceptions of career norms. Kazuhiro left behind a highly successful career in film and starting something completely new as a fine artist – that is a bold move. And it is highly inspiring to me personally, as I transitioned my career from fashion to film recently.  

Are there any new projects on the horizon that you can tell us about?

Yes, I’m working on a new doc but it’s still in the early stages of production. You will hear from me soon.