When Eric Latek makes a movie, his goal is very simple: to find and interesting subject and tell a story in its truest form. His niche for filmmaking is selfless; it’s not about flexing cinematic muscles, or giving an opinion. It’s not about feeding information, or passing judgment. Instead, Latek says he has a more passive approach to filmmaking. Having completed a collection of documentary films and in the middle of a decade –long filming process for upcoming movie “Tiger,” Latek has a gift in stringing together a circuit of colorful moments that montage all the details (big and small) that give a story flavor.
“It’s just, here it is- What do you think?” Latek says about handing his films over any audience, “You can think for yourself, I’m not going to do it for you.”
It’s fair to say that all of Latek’s films have personal value to this Rhode Islander, but his recent short documentary film “My Name Is Anna,” may strike closest to home for Latek as he sheds light on the story of his godmother – a brilliant woman with Native American roots who has fallen victim to Alzheimer’s disease. “My Name Is Anna” will have its world premiere with the Flickers: Rhode Island International Film Festival this August. Viewers will be touched by the gentile story telling of Anna’s life, paired with all the beautiful details that allow any viewer to get to know this woman’s vibrant spirit as she hands her memories over to anyone who takes the time to listen.
RIIFF: What is it about documentary filmmaking that appeals to you?
LATEK: The reason I got into documentary wasn’t to get into documentary, it was that passion of just wanting to tell a story. My problem with even great documentaries is that they’re too structured in explaining everything. With “My Name is Anna” and “Tiger” and other docs that I’ve done, I like to be very passive and just let the story be seen for itself. I like to capture it like I would a traditional movie. When I go into anything I’m filming, I get my master and start filming every little detail that says something about the moment that I’m filming.
RIIFF: What is the creation process like for you when filming?
LATEK: I’m always driven by people’s stories. When I’m looking for a story for a documentary, it’s not a subject matter, it’s not a social matter, it’s not a political matter, it’s a person. It’s the human being that just triggers my own interest. When I’m filming, I’m really digesting in my own head what I’ve captured. As I’m done filming for the day, I’m back at home and my mind is just moving and I’m thinking about everything I’ve captured. I’m figuring out what I’ve just filmed says about the story. I’m not writing anything down but I’m just doing it all in my head, I’m editing, starting to build a story.
RIIFF: What made you decide to start filming your godmother to make “My Name is Anna?”
LATEK: When she started getting sick with the illness (Alzheimer’s), she was declining little by little. There were little breaks in her mental waves. It was probably as it really started to reach a steady progression that I realized that I had to, just for myself, capture her. She was an amazing woman, and I really wanted to tell the story from the female perspective. Other projects I have filmed are so oriented to the male spectrum. I really wanted to dive in and engage with the female perspective. When she started declining I thought that this was the chance to do that. It was something just for me…and her, and for the family. I didn’t really care if I showed it to anybody else. It wasn’t about putting it on YouTube or seeing how many views it would get. I just wanted to show her. I explained to my uncle and other family members- I’m not going to do your traditional interviews, I’m not going to have anyone interject in her story. I’m just going to show her. The camera is her eyes and you can just be with her. That was it.
RIIFF: Where did the script for the film come from?
LATEK: I never write anything in the realm of documentary. I just let things happen. The only writing that really went on in “My Name is Anna,” was when I constructed these moments, which really is just what this story is, it’s just moments. I saw it as kind of a fragment of Anna’s life and I thought it was important that the only person who would really voice that, besides Anna herself, was her daughter Dianne. So I simply told Dianne, write something that you would consider your mom’s voice, and I’ll just have you say it- have you read it. She was the thread that would be able to voice her mother’s story. I just said speak from the heart. I don’t want this to be a traditional voice over and I don’t want anyone else to speak it besides you. And when you do speak it, I just want it to be as a matter of fact, I want it to just be normal. It’s just life.
RIIFF: What does “My Name is Anna,” say about you as a filmmaker?
LATEK: Really with anything I dive into, there is always something personal about it. This is probably the most personal, and next to “Tiger,” one of the most painful. It was tough to edit and film. It puts things into perspective- what’s important. It kind of revealed to me that no matter how far gone you may think somebody is, you can’t be ignorant to the fact that what we don’t know, we can’t just assume is just talking nonsense.
The way “My Name is Anna” is shot just shows my love for film. I can do big block buster films one day and that’s probably still going to be the one I’m most proud of. Because it represents what I think filmmaking should be, which is about giving something to people that is a piece of you. That story is a piece of me in many ways.
RIIFF: Having grown up in Providence, how does it feel to have “My Name is Anna” premier in your home town with the Flickers: Rhode Island International Film Festival?
LATEK: It’s always an honor. It’s my home town so it’s going to be very special because it’s going to bring a lot of family to see it in a Rhode Island setting. Where better to have a world premier than in your own home town with one of the best festivals?
ABOUT THE RHODE ISLAND INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL:
The FLICKERS: Rhode Island International Film Festival (RIIFF), has secured its place in the global community as the portal for the best in international independent cinema, earning the respect of domestic and foreign filmmakers, filmgoers and trend watchers. This confluence of art and commerce brought together world-class celebrities, award-winning filmmakers, new talent and audience members in record numbers last year. Ranked as one of the top 10 Festivals in the United States, RIIFF is also a qualifying festival for the Short Film Academy Award through its affiliation with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. There are 19 film festivals worldwide which share this distinction and RIIFF is the only festival in New England. The Festival takes place August 5-10th. For more information about RIIFF, please visit www.rifilmfest.org.