Imbued with a mesmerizing, dreamlike quality, Liesbeth De Ceulaer’s confident first feature takes us to the majestic Redwood Forest and introduces us to people who have strong personal connections to this once isolated region of California. Through seamless vignettes and stunningly saturated cinematography, we meet activists, scientists, loggers, tree dwellers, and Native Americans who share their compelling stories and their bond to these impressive ancient woods, which are now being threatened by excessive logging. De Ceulaer’s bold documentary Behind the Redwood Curtain transports us to this unique and fabled land.
Please describe your film in your own words.
Liesbeth De Ceulaer: Behind the Redwood Curtain is a journey through a forest with many identities. It tells a story of different people with different backgrounds and different ideas who have to share one forest. Sometimes a safe haven, sometimes eerie, but always home to the forest dwellers.
What inspired you to tell this particular story?
LDC: I found a song that gave an impression of life in a dark and stormy forest—one of the characters recites it in the film. This song was the perfect description of the woods I saw in my mind, and I decided I wanted to make a film that elaborated on it.
How does a filmmaker from Belgium end up in the Redwood Forest?
LDC: I first stumbled upon the Redwood Forest during a road trip along the west coast. Immediately I felt overwhelmed by its beauty and magnitude. I was already thinking of making a film about the woods, and here I had found the trees I was looking for.
Of all the fascinating people you interviewed, who intrigued you the most?
LDC: They were all wonderful and intriguing people. It’s impossible to say if a man living in the Redwood canopy, for years in a row, out of pure conviction is more intriguing then a Yurok Indian whose whole being is entwined with the Redwoods and who tries to keep his legacy alive. Every character inspired, moved and surprised me.
What do you want audiences to take away from your film?
LDC: I want the audience to be taken away on a cinematographic hike through the woods. I want them to feel like they’ve been moved and had the opportunity to understand a vision they would normally not see. Not only in the Redwood Forest, but everywhere on this planet, a solution seems possible when all opinions are being considered.
Do you have one piece of advice for aspiring filmmakers?
LDC: Making films is the best job in the world; it’s a wonderful privilege. It is a dream-factory. But you’ve got to put your mind to it. If you want to be a filmmaker, keep working hard on making a film.
What are you most looking forward to at the 2013 Hamptons International Film Festival?
LDC: Seeing good films, meeting interesting people and generally enjoying myself.
Note: At HIFF 2013, Behind the Redwood Curtain will be preceded by the short film Haleema: A pregnant mother and her two young children are on the search for water and safety from the ruthless Janjaweed in the desert heat of Sudan.