Interview Alina Gorlova & Maksym Nakonechnyi

"We didn’t go into this with the intention of living up to expectations.”

Film still: This Rain Will Never Stop, dir. Alina Gorlova (Ukraine).

Roundabout the half-way point in the shooting of This Rain Will Never Stop, director Alina Gorlova was given a keyring with a dolphin on it by Andriy Suleyman, the subject of her documentary. “You should be like this creature”, he told her. “Dive past the obstacles and be carried along by the waves. Reality always finds a way.”

The reality in Gorlova’s film is a complex one. Protagonist Suleyman works for the Red Cross on the front lines between Ukraine and Russia – not exactly an easy place to operate in. And the same goes for Iraqi Kurdistan, where his brother lives, and civil war-ravaged Syria, where his parents have remained. Nevertheless, the crew visited all of these locations – in spite of war, visa issues and biblical weather. “Originally, this was supposed to be a short film set only in the Donbass region where Andriy works”, Gorlova says. “After I had presented the idea at the Berlinale, I sent Maksym an SMS to ask if he would be willing to act as producer. When more and more people started telling us that we had a strong enough story for a feature-length film, we decided to go to Syria too.”

This was Maksym Nakonechnyi’s first producing credit. “I had no idea what I was getting into. We set up our production company, Tabor, as three friends all of whom are directors. We even used to share a house together. The role of producer rotates in a natural way and I rolled into this spontaneously. We know each other’s ways of thinking, and there’s a lot of discussion.”

Gorlova’s ideas were a lot harder to grasp for those outside the group. “She doesn’t follow the most conventional narrative structure”, Nakonechnyi admits. “The storytelling is not linear and it is not driven by the main character. In addition, she uses a lot of metaphors. Investors see this as risky, especially for a filmmaker who is just starting out. But we didn’t go into this with the intention of living up to expectations.”

Presentations at festivals such as CPH DOX forced Gorlova to sharpen up the motivation for her decisions. “My choice to film in black-and-white, for example – I really had to fight for that. Black-and-white creates a stylistic connection between the different locations, and gives the film a universal feel. After all, this story isn’t only about Syria and Ukraine – it’s also about the impact of war all over the world.”

For the editing, Gorlova sorted the footage by topics such as ‘family’, ‘war’ and ‘tradition’. Once these had been put into a rhythmic order, everything fell logically into place. “We had a long list of possible titles for the chapters, but then we realised that this would just confuse the viewer. Words can’t always capture the essence of images. This is why we eventually decided not to use them.”

The title of the film itself was along the subject of a long process of consideration. “At first, the film was just called Andriy Suleyman”, Gorlova recalls. “But when we submitted the film to festivals, we switched to Between Two Wars. A title that is easy to understand, and that immediately makes the context of the film clear for an international audience. But it’s also a little simplistic: the film is more than this. Shortly after we were selected for IDFA, we felt that this was the moment to choose a final title; one that expresses the poetry at the heart of the film. Maksym SMSed me at two in the morning that he had found the right words – four years after we started. A magical moment.”

Film still: This Rain Will Never Stop, dir. Alina Gorlova.