Antwerp to Cannes
Meet Imge Özbilge; proud Antwerpian since 2014, artist universalis and nominee for the Cinéfondation short film selection in Cannes. I can barely decide what’s more exciting in that sentence, living in Antwerp or getting invited to one of the most prestigious international film festivals in the world. To be precise though, it is Imge’s animated short film, Camouflage, that is nominated. We sat down with Imge for a chat.
This is Antwerp: What is Camouflage about?
Imge Özbilge: It’s a very personal story about a forbidden friendship, translating that into a more universal story was a real challenge. It’s about appreciating differences and realizing that we, as human beings, can learn from one another.
TIA: Where did you draw inspiration from for the script?
Imge: The actual trigger for writing this script was an incident from my own life. I had moved to a new house in Istanbul, with a nice balcony looking down on a garden. Occasionally I would go out for tea and I would see my neighbor going out into her garden to do the same. Even though this was our only contact, it was a nice neighborly friendship we had going on. Then one day, I walked passed a woman on the street in a full-body Burka, with just the face visible. It was only later that I realized it was my neighbor and it got me thinking. When we don’t carry our cultural or religious identity with us, it can be much easier to communicate. Outside, she was wearing her burka, I was wearing my sunglasses and we didn’t recognize each other. But in our gardens, we were just two women in their pajamas enjoying some tea.
TIA: Camouflage has a unique art style, how did you come up with it?
Imge: For me, the most important thing is to develop your own character. Personally, I like to stay in touch with analog materials like paint and pencils. I draw everything on paper first, I scan it in, then I put the set together in Photoshop and eventually the animation itself of course.
Also, before I started drawing, I did a lot of research on Ottoman miniature art, an ancient forgotten art form. Not only is it incredibly beautiful, but it also holds a lot of history. I was born in Vienna and only moved to Turkey when I was fifteen, so for me, it was a way to learn about my country and its history.
TIA: There is no dialogue in the film, what was your reasoning behind that choice?
Imge: I think that words can carry a lot of value and meaning, which, in some cases, makes it easier to convey a message. But at the same time, I don’t want my work to be didactic. Not using dialogue means that the images must speak for themselves. This leaves more room for interpretation. Art, for me, is something that everyone should be able to relate to in a personal way.
TIA: Out of 2600 entries from all over the world, only sixteen short films were selected for Cannes, Camouflage being one of them. How amazing does that feel?
Imge: I don’t think I realize it yet, once I’m there I’ll probably have a better grasp on the situation though. I’m trying to prepare by reading up about what to expect, but all of this still feels very surreal to me. The hardest thing was not being allowed to talk about it for a month, until the press release. Only my family and close friends knew about it and it was killing me. When something exciting like this happens to you, you want to shout it from the rooftops.
TIA: What would it mean for you, to win in Cannes?
Imge: Honestly, I’m not even thinking about winning right now. Being selected is already such an honor and feels like a victory to me.
More than "just" Cannes
TIA: Is there a project you are working on now?
Imge: Within a few months, I will start working with the ontwikkelingsatelier from VAF (Flanders Audiovisual Fund). I got selected for the ontwikkelingsatelier which means I already have a short film project that I will be working on for the next two years, probably.
TIA: Where would you want to see Imge five years from now?
Imge: I would like to co-direct an animation film, together with my sister. It would be a nice challenge to combine our visual styles and make something out of that.
TIA: Besides animation and filmmaking, who is Imge?
Imge: I was born in Vienna, but moved to Turkey when I was fifteen years old, I studied in the Netherlands for a while and then ended up here in beautiful Antwerp. I have been living here now for two and a half years, together with my husband. I love swimming, but also reading and I really like spending time in nature.
TIA: Why Antwerp?
Imge: It’s a beautiful city and the art scene here has so much to offer. The people are open minded and understanding to different art forms. And I just love harbor cities in general, they often have a different, more international vibe.
TIA: Personal hotspots in Antwerp?
Imge: The Botanical garden, Middelheim park and the Witzli-Poetzli bar.
Text by Kevin Lau
Pics by Kevin Lau (portrait Imge) and Imge Özbilge