We caught up with Director Nika Fehmiu to talk about her latest film LOOK AT ME.
Nika Fehmiu’s Tribeca selected film ”Look at Me” prompts us to question our disconnect with societyStarring Hadley Robinson (Little Women), John Gargan (Homicide City) and introduces Connor Vasile alongside Juliette Alice GobiOn a New York City winter night, the fate of a young intoxicated boy is determined by his brief encounters with strangers, exposing a deeper underlying American truth. The modern day yogi, the pseudo social media activist, the young binge-drinkers, and the first generation American: all bound by their desire to be seen, yet blinded and divided by it, unable to look into the eyes of another.
Watch the trailer here
Congratulations on your debut “Look At Me”. Where did the story come from?
This project began as a reflection of this peculiar time we live in, one filled with rife social activism and pervasive online communities yet dominated by a generation that appears apathetic and even more disconnected from one another than before. The story itself was pieced together by various incidents I’d observed or been involved in, by creating characters that all stemmed from different versions and identities of myself. So in a way, it was somewhat inspired by a series of true events. I had recently written a short that I was planning to film in Belgrade, Serbia- my second home away from NYC- so I wanted this short to be very much a New York film, exploring the undercurrent and arteries of the city.
Why was it so important for you to tell that message?
For me, it’s important to reflect the time and society we live in, especially when it appears to be crying out in pain. I chose to tell this story to question our individual and collective priorities, and explore the consequences of this shared system of values.
In this movie, the leading character is being portrayed by Hadley Robinson. How did you across her?
I was very lucky in finding Hadley. I went to Middlebury College, and she grew up in the town of Middlebury, so we had a mutual friend who connected us. Hadley had just graduated from Juilliard and been cast in Gerwig’s “Little Women”. We met over drinks in the fall of 2018 and I knew immediately. She’s a force to be reckoned with, you can feel it deep in her soul. So I cast her on the spot, waited for her to finish shooting “Little Women”, and then we began working together.
I also had the great joy of working together with Juliette Alice Gobin, another good friend from Middlebury who I had collaborated with before. I love working with Juliette because they possess this paradoxical fragility and durability, a palpable strength yet open vulnerability.
More towards the end of the film, we also see Connor Vasile as the man on the stairs. How did he join the cast?
We found Connor by doing a casting call through NYU’s different acting studios. We saw a bunch of people but had great difficulty casting the part, given how specific it was, from physicality and ethnicity to temperament and talent. But after Connor auditioned, we immediately cast him. He was perfect for the part.
This movie will have its world premiere during the Tribeca Film Festival. How does that feel for you, even though the festival will now take place online?
It’s a really special feeling. I was overjoyed when I found out that “Look At Me” was selected to premiere in competition at Tribeca. I grew up in this city and it will forever be my home, having shaped me in innumerable ways. As I mentioned earlier, for me, this was always very much a New York City film. So I couldn’t imagine a better place than Tribeca for it to premiere. Tribeca has always persevered in times of adversity, having been founded in 2001 as a way to heal and move forward post 9/11. Given today’s climate amid the pandemic, the decision to take the festival online truly celebrates that spirit of resilience and strength. So I am honoured that “Look At Me” gets to be a part of that truly humbling response. Connecting to each other through storytelling feels all the more vital during these uncertain times.
What do you hope that people will take away from “Look At Me” after seeing it?
I can only hope that it will inspire a moment of reflection and questioning, perhaps giving pause before looking past another person’s humanity.
Will this film be screened during other film festivals (whether it’s online or not)?
I hope so but given the current climate this is still very much up in the air and to be determined.
Where did your passion for film come from?
I have always had the need to tell stories. At the beginning of high school, my teachers told me I had too many passions and I needed to choose and focus on one. This seemed like an impossible feat for me. I loved writing, photography, theatre, philosophy, politics, fashion, literature, dance, piano, physics, painting and so much more. How could I ever choose just one thing? At that moment in time, I was taking my first videography and mixed media course- and there it clicked. This was a place where all my interests combined into one. I immediately knew that film would forever be my vehicle for storytelling.
I have always had the need to tell stories.
I also come from a family of actors in former Yugoslavia, both my parents and grandparents. I never really attributed my being in film to this familial connection but it would be foolish to not recognize the effect of being raised by a family of artists. Of course it impacted my relationship to art and creativity, and influenced my greater outlook on the world. But they were completely hands off when it came to me figuring out what I wanted to do with my life. Actually, my parents always wanted me to become a physicist.
Do you already have other projects you’re working on?
I have a couple of projects in the works. I’m currently developing my first feature and writing my first series. I also have found myself immersed in two accidental quarantine projects- one is a collection of animated shorts based on the moments that people have felt the most alive and the second is a camcorder documentary on the year 2020. Needless to say, this strange and complicated period has provided ample time for creative exploration.