The heartfelt drama Sing is based on a true story; a young girl is forced to either stand up against a corrupt system or fit quietly into it. Dealing with themes of ambition, rejection and solidarity, this powerful film was created and directed by Kristof Deák and has been receiving critical and audience acclaim, winning numerous prestigious film awards, including at two Oscar-qualifying film festivals.
‘Zsofi is struggling to fit in at her new school. Singing in the school’s famous choir is her only consolation, but the choir director may not be the inspirational teacher everyone thinks she is. Can Zsofi and her new friend Liza expose the cruel truth?’
To begin with, tell us about your latest film ‘Sing’, what is the film about?
Sing is a short film about a girl named Zsofi who joins the choir at her new school – only to find out about the choir director’s questionable methods soon after. She and her new friend Liza face a difficult choice – they have to decide whether to fit into this corrupt system quitely – or to rise up against it.
How did you come to direct the film?
It was an idea I first had in 2012, developed it with a couple of British screenwriters I often work with – then dropped it for a year before dusting it off and rewriting it. We managed to secure funding for it and soon I found myself looking at actors and locations for a project that’s quite unusually ambitious for a short film.
Lets talk about the cast, who are the lead performers? What was it like working with them?
Two of the three lead actors are kids; we selected them through a long and thorough auditioning process. Once I found them (Dorka Gáspárfalvi and Dorottya Hais) I was very relieved – they were such naturally brilliant talents, I knew I could trust them to carry this film on their backs. Apart from them, there are about 40 other kids (the choir) in the film, so I also went around looking at several different choirs before settling on this one – the Bakáts Square Elementary School’s choir.
The antagonist of the film (the kids’ choir teacher Ms. Erika) is played by well-known Hungarian theatre and film actor Zsófia Szamosi – she had amazing insight into the nuances of her character and saw several layers of subtext in the screenplay that most actors wouldn’t have noticed – I think this leads to a really layered, memorable performance.
‘Sing’ has received considerable acclaim in both awards and reviews, how have you found this process of achievement? What would be your dream achievement as a director?
It was amazingly rewarding to see the film so well received in many corners of the world. What surprised me most was the amount of people who came to tell me after the screening about their similar childhood experiences. Japan, Korea, France, Germany, USA – it turns out, very different societies produce very similar paradoxical situations when it comes to ambitious teachers and obedient kids.
What are your influences as a filmmaker?
My main influence has always been sound and rhythm – I think the musical qualities of film are as important (or perhaps even more important) as the visuals when it comes to evoking emotions. Filmmakers such as Jacques Tati are a huge inspiration – my greatest ambition is to be able to tell stories about the issues of our time and our societies, in a way as entertaining, graceful, effortless yet as epic as Tati managed to.
What advice would you give to any aspiring filmmakers?
I got an immense amount of experience from working in various roles in large film productions – I think every budding director would benefit from a bit of practice as production manager, sound person, casting director, editor, assistant etc. But it’s easy to get stuck in some of these roles once you get into bigger and better paid films so make sure you keep an eye on the goal.
When and where can we expect to see ‘Sing’?
We are hopeful about selling it to several territories and I think it will be available online as well – but I don’t have any details yet.
What is the next step for you? Do you have any other projects in production?
I’m soon going to shoot my next short film. It’s a very human story about artificial intelligence and how it will affect our life – not in a few years or decades but right now.
In the meantime I’m developing my first feature film, which also deals with questions of our modern society and the various effects of progress on our lives.
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