This week we had the chance to ask Joël Jent some questions about his short film Eating the Silence, and his thoughts on the filmmaking process and the short film industry in general. Here’s what he had to tell us…
Interviewer: What inspired you to make this film?
Joël Jent: Our film focuses on three topics disability, vulnerability, and loneliness. A subject that has especially fascinated us, is solitude in an urban context. During my university studies, I lived in a cheap microscopic one-room apartment. When my neighbor told me that my previous tenant had been lying dead in this apartment for weeks, until he had been found, I could no longer live there. The pictures became too visual and specific and they haunted me for quite a while. But what remained in the long term were the recurring reflections on loneliness. How is it possible, that there are so many people living in a city, completely disconnected from any social contact whatsoever and why is there not more awareness of it? In my country (Switzerland) this has become a real issue, as family ties tend to not be as strong as in other cultures. When the pandemic started, I was asking myself, how lonely people must be feeling, being even more isolated through the measures against the pandemic. This thought persisted and grew into the wish to highlight this very issue. Doing more research, we found out, that mainly the lives of elderly people in cities are affected by chronic solitude.
This is how the story of Rolf came alive: We wanted to tell the story from the point of view of one singular character. Living on his own as a hemiplegic, Rolf carefully preserves his pride. Through his condition, he is deprived of oral language. This brought us to draw his inner apocalypse as a reflection of the outer dystopia by using images as the primary narrative source.
Interviewer: From the lessons you have learned through your experience, what advice would you like to give to aspiring filmmakers?
Joël Jent: Read and research a lot. Prepare well, but don’t overthink. Don’t wait. Once you feel ready, do! Filmmaking is best learned by practicing it, playing with it, and exploring the possibilities in its creation.
Interviewer: Eating the Silence shows us how communal life affects individuals existentially. Especially during the pandemic, we witnessed many people cease away not directly because of the virus but the consequences of being isolated. What do you think about the detrimental effects of that following the pandemic?
Joël Jent: The pandemic did not only hit us all through infection but made us aware of many underlying patterns, processes, and behaviorism we have internalized. As social life through the pandemic came to a halt, this magnified the vulnerabilities and gave away society’s face without any makeup. It made us aware, of how fragile our way of living is and how our priorities shifted. They started life on their own, which is disconnected from who we really are and what matters to us. I guess one central problem causing this disassociation is velocity. Our high-paced living hinders us from creating calm spaces to reflect. That’s why art is an important means to question our behavior, to mirror and emphasize aspects we tend to forget or exclude from our conscious space.
The pandemic raised so many questions. And so our wish grew, to create awareness with this film. Not only for isolated and vulnerable people but also by reminding us of the simple fact, that we all need to be more attentive to one another and that solidarity is a value that must be defended and fought for. Every single day.
Interviewer: Rolf works on a sculpture from time to time. Do you think that art is a cure or just a way of distracting from reality?
Joël Jent: It can be both. Even at the same time. Art can not only cure us, it can complete us, but it can question us at the same time, can deeply disturb us, and even tear us apart. It can confront us with aspects we don’t want to expose ourselves to. As our consciousness is highly selective and tends to focus on what we deem favorable for ourselves in a specific setting or moment, art can disturb this perception by bringing something to our attention, that we are trying to forget or make disappear out of our perception. This deeply contradictory nature of art is what makes it so fascinating as a body of reflection. Because life itself is even more complex and contradictory. And art refers to life. It associates, disassociates, reflects, or deflects life. If you perceive it as shocking, it is probably life itself as a body of reference that is.
Interviewer: Why do you think Short films are important?
Joël Jent: Short films can reflect aspects in a very concentrated form. This allows us to emphasize and narrate pointedly. This is the base for immense creativity, as it asks for reduction to the essence. A short film is as well incredibly important for young filmmakers to learn and develop their cinematic language and to find their style. They allow for greater risks and thus challenge conventional narration through new ways and perspectives of storytelling. This is what makes them so refreshing and surprising.
Interviewer: Where do you see the film industry going in the next 3-5 years?
Joël Jent: I think it is an incredibly interesting time for filmmakers. There have never been so many forms and formats finding their public and ways of distribution start to become more accessible as the number of platforms, distributors, broadcasters, programs, and channels is evermore increasing. At the same time, we can see, that the constant availability of unlimited content starts to bore the public more and more. Platform productions consist of few original and groundbreaking productions and a big grey pile of productions, that are replicating one another. Maybe it is comparable to the end of the studio system in the late 1950s. Saturation and growing boredom. That’s why I guess that in 5 years people will become more selective and also more individualistic. I strongly believe in a renaissance of cinema. Not only because it is the most beautiful way of watching films, but also because of its quality as a social experience. Sharing a story with strangers by watching it in a dark room. It’s a unique setting. A public context for a very intimate experience.
For filmmakers, I think it will become even more essential to start building an audience from step one. And a more selective and individualized audience should not be understood as a threat. It should be read as a chance. A chance to win a more conscious audience over to discover new forms of filmmaking. Because the film is most touching, challenging, and encouraging, when it walks on new grounds and when it is seeking its own way: To surprise its ever-curious audience with what they came to discover: Storytelling. And this; our deep craving for stories, will never change.
Watch Full Short Film Here: