Monica Demes, Filmmaker Discusses Lilith’s Awakening
Monica Demes is a Brazilian filmmaker whose work has been recognized by none other than David Lynch. DecayMag interviewed Monica for the scoop on her feature film directorial debut, Lilith’s Awakening, which is currently hitting festivals worldwide.
Editor’s note; Thank you Monica Demes for taking the time to participate in our interview. Questions furnished by DecayMag Guest Contributor Samantha Kolesnik.
DecayMag: Can you speak to what inspired you to make Lilith’s Awakening your first feature film?
Monica Demes: Most of all, the place of Fairfield, Iowa. The winters are long there. There are churches all around, empty dark roads, loneliness, and nature. When you add to all of that, the fact that I was always a vampire fan, you will understand that the perfect location found me. It looked like I was in the old Puritan times of Dracula, but instead nowadays in America.
DecayMag: You’ve spent considerable time in both Brazil and Spain. Do you think there are aspects of Lilith’s Awakening and your other work that reflect the culture and art of those countries?
Monica Demes: Maybe the sensuality of the film is a Brazilian quality.The characters seem to live inside the unconsciousness of Lucy Harker. And to build Lucy, I was actually wondering what would have happened to Mina (from Dracula) if she had gotten married to Jonathan and had become his wife. What kind of life would she have had if she had lived in Iowa? How would her relationship with Jonathan have been after some time together? That’s how I developed the character of Lucy. She doesn’t speak a lot because she doesn’t have much to say to anyone. She is trapped in that beautiful and lonely land, loveless and dreamless. And only one thing can rescue her: her own shadow, the one who lives inside her dream.
Barbara Eugenia is a Brazilian and you can feel that vibe every time she comes on screen. But apart from that, the truth is that it looks like a film with no borders to me.
DecayMag: Your work has been recognized by David Lynch. What was that like for you as an emerging filmmaker at the time, and are there particular works by David Lynch that influence you as a filmmaker?
Monica Demes: When I was told by Gurdy Leet, who was then the director of David Lynch’s Master in Film at the time, that David Lynch liked my short film, Halloween, I could not think properly anymore.
The magic words were, “Monica, David feels you should come.” After that, I knew I had to reach Iowa. I just had to get there. It was an invisible force that moved me all the way.
So, because David liked the short, they gave me an award at MUM University to shoot a project there in Iowa. It was certainly not enough money to make a feature film, but I talked with a Brazilian producer about this opportunity of shooting my first feature film in the US and he decided to support it. So he put in half of the production money and I put the award and a little bit more toward the other half.
That’s how I got on the airplane to the North to get inspired and write my first feature film.
My favorite films from Lynch are Mulholland Drive and Lost Highway. Both were an influence to Lilith’s Awakening because they both happen inside one character’s mind.
DecayMag: Did you choose to make a horror film, or did it choose you? Is there something about your artistic vision that lends itself to the horror genre, and to darker themes?
Monica Demes: Horror chose me. I never decided to direct a horror film. It was more like – when I wrote that first scene of the film – Lilith showed herself to me. Also, I am that kind of person who sees life more like a tragedy than like a comedy. I am not dramatic, but I do think that our life is a consequence of our actions, so that moves me toward horror, as well.
…Of course, the fact that I love horror films and that everything I write has to do with fear does connect more with horror than with any other genre.
DecayMag: What was the casting process like for the role of Lilith? What was it about Barbara Eugenia that made her perfect for the role, and what was it like to direct her?
Monica Demes: Ever since I wrote the first scene and Lilith showed herself to me, I knew Lilith had to be played by Barbara Eugenia. I just knew it. I’ve known Barbara for 20 years now. She’s a singer in Brazil. She is wild and cold at the same time. She is sexy to men and women without being vulgar. And like me and Sophia Woodward, she’s also a vampire fan.
I used guidelines of silent of films to direct Barbara since her character does not speak to Lucy. They connect on a deeper level, speechlessly. As they are part of the same self, there’s no need for words. That connection without words is what feeds the whole film with tension.
She (Barbara Eugenia) never acted before, but she has that look in her eyes that attracts you and at the same time makes you afraid.
DecayMag: Do you have plans for your next film?
Monica Demes: Yes, it’s a psychological thriller in a music conservatory.
DecayMag: Where can fans catch a screening of Lilith’s Awakening? Where can they follow your film for updates online?
Monica Demes: Lilith’s Awakening will be screening at GenreBlast Film Festival in Virginia on September 8, and in Serbia by the end of the month. It will also screen in Brazil in October and in Greece during Halloween.