Interview with Catherine Gropper

Updated: Jun 2

Director Biography

Tents of God, 2019 wildlife conservation film festival nyc Noida Film Festival, Noida, India, honorable mention, 2019 Embers, 2001-2, Edinburgh Fringe, 4 star review The Scotsman 8/01,NYC, New York Times Review( Anita Gates ) Miss Crandall’s Classes, Mead Theatre, DC, 2009 review on line ( Salome Jens ) primary stages supporter, Clarion Choir supporter, member dramatists guild.

Director Statement

Traveling 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 right 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.

1. Hi Catherine, tell us first what was the inspiration behind this movie?

The inspiration behind this story is the interpreter himself, Anatoli Samochornov.

Our conversations led to the realization that his story, being the only interpreter at the Trump Tower meeting, was inspiring. After all, the June, 2016 infamous meeting was front and center. Sometimes the press or media took advantage blowing up the privacy of the attendees. So why not focus through an honest lens? There is a quiet, more personal reflection of a man who faced unexpected intrusion.

Listening to him, a distinct voice emerged of perhaps a man not being listened to enough. Maybe temporarily he stopped listening to himself somewhat. Like we all do sometimes. Embarking on a soul-searching journey, the interpreter represents those of us who cannot control circumstances we inadvertently find ourselves in. The work he did for his client, a Russian attorney, catapulted his life into a more public light than he imagined.

His uncanny expert ability to interpret for heads of state, Pulitzer Prize winners and presidents was no match for characters at a meeting who had other interests.

So a simple man gets caught up in a political maelstrom. This ignited what rights he or any of us really have.

Who really controls our world? The film’s opening image.

A poignant desire to reveal his own self acceptance perhaps?

Life closer to nature becomes profound . A beach, our faith, art, opera and cameradie with trusted family friends. This stuff matters.

Through listening , knowing him, it began to serve my creative source more spiritually. So when your soul speaks you are inspired to listen.

During quarantine I was inspired to create an accompanying film series opening up these themes.

A lightness of being through a painter revealing the village life around him. To be who you are instead of who others want you to be became clearer. What if that attorney expected her interpreter to be someone he was not?

Any time a writer meets anyone who makes them reinterpret life in their art inspiration is the obvious outcome.

Maybe real inspiration comes from meeting one another and witnessing who we truly are when we really listen. We talk for a brief span so that our journeys are understood through believing in each other in acceptance before we move on.

None of us ever wants to lose a part of our self so we face our shadow until we know ourselves better than before.

2. We see lots of images in the film. Does every image carry an individual meaning?

Every artist, filmmaker, playwright conscientiously make deliberate choices. Sometimes late at night a film’s image in a frame is too large or being aware of leaving one part out. That awakens an edit.

To interpret the open, honest point of view is crucial . So yes, imagery is definitely chosen. Then it is rearranged until it adds a new layer of meaning, interpretation. Like painting perhaps.

The photo image of a paper flyer “who really controls the world “ in the back pocket of a man sets up the entire story. This theme is juxtaposed against religious belief, art, people enjoyed life, all serving as liberation. Tyranny of having governments or any oppressive ordering of how we might live is examined intuitively.

Laundry as imagery , washing clothes with pride, drying them in early sunlight, are images from Amalfi villages we might have left behind. Today clothes swirl in round metal machines making noise, polluting so another symbolism of ritual is lost.

Symbolically it might be asked how are we cleansing our souls and our lives? Not just to be done with it, fast and quick ? Children continue to echo purity and joy in all of my work. Playing catch, skipping through DC fountains, grabbing the ring riding carousels, sounds of waves, such shimmering gets lost in our lives. When the Italian police motorcycle interrupts a boy’s bouncing ball, new sounds sear our senses.

So protection from such authorities’ roars of oppression, stop freedom.

Finding solace in art and in faith we question which is the more creative? Does God give us personal liberation and do we need to go through a priest to ascend ?

I love the image of just those tapered beeswax candles. Simple and unlit yet evoking prayer. This notion of what we hold quietly within is an unseen image in all I do.

Matte red Easter eggs are symbolic.

What the voiceover says about the grey egg with the white painted cross on it is my favorite

reply. The warm voice of a friend asking him why and he replies : I didn’t have white eggs so I painted a small church with the Russian Orthodox cross in white. There it is , simple.

3. Why did you focus on that particular man in the church? Is there any special reason behind that?

The man in the church, a priest , is conducting the Russian Orthodox Easter service. First hearing his words in the film I decided to take them out for a sound of his ringing a big bell meant more .Of course when entering he greeted me loudly jarring me saying “Christ Has Risen! “Now that would have been fine to have in the footage but we don’t always have the right to record one another, just like that , to serve our art. So my decision was, leave it as is.

Yes I feel he is important. He guided his Orthodox Easter meaning. His white cassock and tall head covering looked like wings ascending. It is about veneration. When he walks around the altar he leads his congregation to kiss iconic images. So in a sense he guided us towards deeper intimacy to God. And he is a distinct difference earlier to the Russian men sitting around a table chatting. I almost did not put him in frames so I definitely understand your question. Because he dominates the scene somewhat doesn’t he? But he is crucial to showing their faith because the characters in the larger story are Russian. And I believe faith for people is intrinsically personal.

The interpreter is Russian - American and deeply , quietly a person of faith. While his antagonist, a lawyer is Russian and is devoted to government or clients. I feel that privately we arrive at solemnity. Ultimately who are we beholden to?

4. Your interaction with the local people matches the style of Abbas Kiarostami. Do you want to comment anything on that?

No dictatorship can control our dreams.

Even in a prison you still have the ability to live your sentence outside of your cell , through your imagination you can pass over the insurmountable walls Kiarostami says.

I’m grateful for the comparison to Abbas Kiarostami. I am not so familiar with his films until this interview. He once said that life like a tree can’t be uprooted safely. Like creativity one’s life might not be so fruitful. He believes in village life. His characters are not typical. And so when we witness the ordinary it is hugely meaningful for us all. (We lost that during covid).

Occasionally he used art from printed pages in books like lithos. Perhaps a love of poetry as image is something we share.

He spoke about our dream life. Maybe I want to revere that dream imagery. Maybe it is not allowed enough in our work lives. Those transitory thoughts, though we hardly utter them can be conveyed through poetic images. Self acceptance, psychologically or spiritually occasionally forfeited. Why?