Interview by The Independent Awards – 2021

Director Biography – Catherine Gropper

Catherine Gropper, internationally produced playwright /artist. Her film series The Meeting ( the interpreter) is winning awards and is a finalist in film festivals including London, Rome, Sweden, Germany and America. Her play Embers earned a four-star review from The Scotsman at the Edinburgh Festival and will have a workshop in NYC in October. Her not for profit was formed to promote awareness about water and its impact on communities. M Phil from TC Columbia University. She resides in NYC.
Catherine Gropper – Film Director

Hi, Catherine! Thank you for granting this interview and sincere congratulations on your Outstanding Journey as a Filmmaker.

You wrote, produced and directed the film ‘The Meeting (the interpreter)’. What should the audience expect to see?

I had a philosophy professor at college who shared that painting was at the core of my being.
That’s the part of me that makes films.
I hope that this audience is engaged with the subject matter heightened through an amazing colour sensibility.
In the case of The Meeting ( the interpreter) the film’s hero takes his viewer on his journey. We actually witness a painter measuring perspective glancing at his village archway. He acts as a metaphor for interpreting the scene around his easel. Whether it’s an elderly man wearing a white suit, walking with a cane or myriad children bouncing a bright red beach ball. The viewer or as you put it the audience expects to travel through these Italian villages. Why? To enjoy the wonder of life, bells, washing, fresh sardines, daily bliss, the whole of it. It is not robbed from them, not yet
And I feel, in my country at least, we’ve forfeited these pleasures sometimes, these simple ways of being. What for? In favour of the latest media hype or personality? It is a fervent hope to send an audience on a journey into and away from what is in front of them. And eventually inside of them too. Ravello is in juxtaposition against the infamous Trump Tower Meeting of 2016 with big, sweeping paint smears paint on a small screen.
Our Russian -American hero, the actual interpreter for that particular meeting is translating for a Russian lawyer. She at the last moment pulls a bait and switch. “ No dirt on Hillary, instead of trying to convince attendees ( Don Jr. among many ) to remove American sanctions on her Russia. She belongs to her country as much as to herself. Maybe each is half full.
She attests to the unfairness of the Magnitsky Act citing its human rights convictions is overblown. All this while the interpreter has to explain her point of view. An easy task for his perfect seamless interpretation. After all, he is doing his job. We all try to do our job to the best of our ability. No one wants their life examined under any microscope. The irony in The Meeting (the interpreter) is that Americans could interrogate the way Russians did. What matters most? The world we leave for our children, to play freely and dance on the sand.
Out of this meeting‘s maelstrom emerges who is greedy, who is peculiar, who is politically tainted but also who tries, no matter the costs, to hold on to self, personal identity and self-worth!
And it isn’t always an easy feat, especially in the snooping glare of media gossip and sensationalism. It’s harder for some than others, isn’t it? Especially those with the most integrity. They have the most to lose. The little man as a translator is overshadowed. Aren’t so many of us really?
How much to grin and bear, while the powerful reach into their egos. Ignoring any humanity ( what’s that anyway ) in the first place.

Tell us a bit about your background. When did you decide to become a filmmaker?

Painters may become photographers; photographers become filmmakers. I see everything through that lens … of a painter …first. Light, lighting, laughter, life, all inform sensibilities. So in a sense, we all are filmmakers, aren’t we? What we take in. How we interpret it. I love poetry and imagery which seers into our ways of being. So we come out better for it than before. The first box of crayons. Looking out of a window at children in a playground. Watching rain, prismatic colour, freeness. Putting sheets up between doors and writing scenes for middle school students on weekends.

What are the directors that inspire you the most? What other films or TV programs influenced this film?

When I saw The Piano and how Holly Hunter interpreted her role directed by Jane Campion it left me sort of spellbound. A Piano on that beach haunted me. Nothing will ever compare to David Lean lighting that match, that flame breaking into that sunset in Laurence of Arabia ( cinematic exquisite poetry ). Aren’t we lucky to have experienced such a jewel? My mom, an actress adored William Wyler films. It’s really marvellous how he gets it or he got it. How do people know that much about human nature? And then direct with such subtle nuance? Stanley Donnen, oh my God, the music of love. So, so sophisticated. Two For The Road. I saw it 11 times. Audrey and Albert. Gorgeous. These all are the early influences. We all have favourite films we inhale deeply. Same goes for art , Gauguin, Kiefer and Vermeer ( light ) and Durer ( detail ) and Julian Schnabel. I love his films cause he comes directly from the point of view of the painter. Arnie Glimcher‘s mambo kings are intoxicating. Mark Rydell’s Cinderella Liberty. Those star war scenes when half-animal has humans sit together in their star wars pub. Acting sort of like a chorus for the action. A pause to laugh. Luke is deep and light and dark, allowing younger generations to feel darker colours within but without guilt. Someone said maybe there is a single line of poetry in the centre of the universe. Maybe a short Bezos rocket trip will let us know if poetry hangs from stars.

Where did you get the inspiration for creating your story? How did you come up with the idea for your film?

I’m not sure but it’s a lovely concept. “In The Heights “floods the souls of its characters musically and honestly. Stage into the screen. A new west side story. David Hare plays. Michael Gabon in “skylight”. Six Degrees of Separation from play to screen. Alan Rickman was such a strong stage director. Irreplaceable. After Louie transforms how we share the love during an aids epidemic through Gagliostro ‘s painterly poetry. Any documentaries; those are pretty much my favourite. Truth Truth Truth and more truth. My Tents of God revealed superstorm Sandy ‘s impact on States Islanders and we learned that wildlife was also displaced. Today heron egrets, birds abound on those marshlands. Their silver lining.

“The Meeting ( the interpreter)” Movie Poster

 

What did you enjoy the most about working on the film? What did you find more challenging?

Anatoli Samochornov, the meetings’ interpreter inspired the story. Interviewing him, speaking to personal truths, sharing conversation about the rights of the everyday man being eclipsed. We concluded there was a story in all of it. It is a stage play which during covid, evolved into this short film series. Theatres went dark like much of the rest of the cities. Whenever stuff goes darker filmmakers can pretty much shine their spotlight into that darkness. Brushstrokes, wide ones, creating new consciousness in canvases.

I enjoyed speaking with Anatoli. His visions, his reflections, his anger all became a rich reservoir allowing for truth, no holes barred. Also, we were not so sure that the average Joe was really heard much less understood. Perhaps feeling may be marginalized. The challenge was covid 19. It hit like a ton of bricks and ordinary lifestyle ( in that Italian village symbolism ) got swept away. How to hold on to your hat so to speak.

 

What was the hardest artistic choice you made in the making of this film, at any stage in production?

It wasn’t easy to shoot a lot because during the pandemic one could not go very far. So I returned to many images of places and people. Using their daily ritual as the setting. And I do believe, still, today when we get in touch with life‘s simple pleasures, it’s important, because we thirst for it. It keeps us sane really, and to have been cut off from accustomed daily rituals was tough. People need people like the song says.

This is not one film but rather a series of cinematic shorts. And it is based on the play I wrote of the same name. None of it is easy. One jumps in sometimes. Because the truth in our stories is so compelling, poignant and real that there is no other choice really.

 

What is the universal message that ‘The Meeting (the interpreter)’ conveys?

No one can truly interpret what is right for us I don’t think. Not our family, not our parents, not our spouse, not our schools, not our children, not our government, especially not our government …can interpret our lives. Only we can do that. It’s not easy, not at all. We wrestle with our upbringing, our talent, our flags, our screens and ultimately we still face our own mirror. It’s tough, looking and seeing who we really are. I mean, well maybe we are told by so many who we are, that we lose an innate sense of self. Does this make sense? And then there‘s ego knocking on our subconscious door. What happens to that simpler world we want unless of course, we want a more complicated one. Yes, we do want that too. Human nature is complicated after all. My mom shared human nature always swung back and forth. And not to allow circumstances to overcome you. The only person who can interpret our lives is our self really. When we can’t always do so perhaps we rely on God to help out. Hence the ritual of a Sunday Orthodox Easter. A priest conducts service and a ritual of resurrection is more important than anything else. Untainted. Nature, beauty, art (opera in my film), endless beaches, city noise and the sea all inform our senses. During the pandemic, we went deeper inside to excavate truer colours. The interpreter in the meeting does this. And he represents us all. Who we really are, who we really become. Sharing vulnerabilities which have become taboo in our country.

Can you tell us about the greatest moment in your film career? Do you have any advice for new filmmakers out there?

My film career is very new. I enjoy creating experimental films using poetry or philosophy. My advice to anyone wanting to interpret his or her world is to not be afraid to reveal who they really are. Not to allow anyone to judge how they see. To really explode imaginations. And not just witness life but participate in it. To reach people with what they feel and believe and find out how others do this too. To feel validated by making art. I guess that’s a huge one. Though it might be just as validating to make scrumptious French toast with tons of fruit if we are lucky enough to freely make meals. So many have their simpler lives ripped from their inalienable rights. When those artefacts and simple villages where war-torn village life became rubble, well perhaps filmmakers try to pick up some of the rubble and build back a way of being for others.

What’s next for you? What are you working on at the moment?

I’ve been working slowly for a decade on a series about mothers and daughters maturing through their journeys together. Usually, my plays are about women and their iconoclastic dreams. I understand what makes them tick. I think. When I created The Meeting, The Interpreter I felt dumbstruck. I didn’t know how to interpret a man‘s point of view or his responses to his world. It was foreign territory so to speak. Though any story which is honest or gut-wrenching transcends gender. Truth, truth. I’m still not sure if I’ve done it justice. I will leave that up to the audience ( your first question for me ). This interview scares me a bit because it touches nerves and artists like to be upfront and centre in their art as much as they enjoy hiding behind it. If we keep on connecting through art maybe we become more truthful. I wonder how different this interview might have been if it was in person.

 ‘The Meeting (the interpreter)’ – Overview

Conversations with Trump Tower June 9 interpreter and translator (Anatoli Samochornov )result in several short videos as well as stage play teleplay and radio play.

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 Catherine Gropper – Director Statement
Travelling through Ravello and opera and art is contrasted to DC and interior landscapes of the interpreter‘s mind. Meetings with the Trump Tower June 9 actual translator and interpreter
inspire this series of short videos about how the everyday man is up against the system ( politicians country FBI media slander ) revealing the inner landscape of one man who struggles and ultimately survives through epiphanies with faith and friendships.
Actual FBI and Congress testimony flesh out the characters in conflict over human rights sanctions and the real meaning of living and the joy of being. Several characters, a Mata Hari type Russian attorney and partial antagonist to the main character, determine who and how we each must interpret our own existence( not dependent on family or country or government but rather on our own self vision. When and if we find it resulting in private validation. Who we are is our crusade to win so long as we ascend and share awareness of purpose or a new way of being.
The Meeting ( the interpreter) by Catherine Gropper

Connecting to Catherine Gropper:

Twitter Catherine Gropper: @cgropper3

LinkedIn Catherine Gropper: https://www.linkedin.com/in/catherine-gropper-288248191 

Catherine Gropper Website: www.catherinegropper.com