We’ve asked the filmmakers for the 11th annual Oxford Film Festival the same five questions. Meet Susana Casares, writer/director/producer of Tryouts. This film will be screening Saturday, Feb. 8 at 10 a.m. and Sunday, Feb. 9 at noon.
#1: In 140 characters or less, describe your movie and why someone should see it.
My film films is about Nayla, a Muslim-American teenager who wants to join her high school’s cheerleading squad. But a cheerleader with a headscarf poses a challenge for everyone, especially her family and the school. So Nayla’ll have to find her own special way of complying with both worlds… and challenging them.
One of the best ways to break the wrong stereotypes portrayed by the media is to tell stories that speak about the human struggles and joys common to every individual, regardless of their cultural or religious background. I hope the audience connects with this.
#2: Biggest lesson learned in getting the film made? Best part in getting the film made?
Making movies, long or short, is so hard that many times you are tempted to let go and take the easy route… The biggest lesson during the making of TRYOUTS was to never compromise what I thought was best for the film despite the difficulties… and I believe it paid off.
The best part was to create something together with a fantastic cast and crew. I was very lucky to work with amazing collaborators like my DP and Production Designer, as well as with very talented young actresses. We had a great time preparing the film, but mostly, they helped get film to the level I wanted.
#3: Tell us about you. What is your movie making background?
I am originally from Barcelona, Spain but I’ve been living in Los Angeles for the past 6 years. I come from a Fine Arts background and I started making documentaries and video art installations for TV and art centers about 8 years ago. When I received a scholarship from a very prestigious foundation in Spain to do a Masters in the US, I decided to try fiction. And I love it so far! I am very interested in exploring the crossroad between documentary, fiction and video art.
#4 What do you want the Oxford Film Festival audience to know about your film that isn’t obvious from its title or description?
With TRYOUTS, I wanted to explore the identity conflict that many teenagers go through when their parents have a different cultural and religious background from the people around them. TRYOUTS is not about being Muslim, about wearing a headscarf or about wanting to be a cheerleader. TRYOUTS is about the struggle that we go though when we try to find out who we are and break free from what others think is best for us. And who hasn’t gone through that…?
#5: What does the future hold in store for your film and for you?
The film premiered in Palms Springs this past June and won a Jury Award there. It also won the student Emmy for Best Drama and it has screened in festivals such as the New York Film Festival at the Lincoln Center. These coming months we have some more international festivals lined up so I am very excited to share the film with more audiences world-wide.
As for me, I am currently writing my next project: a feature film set up in the US.