Today I’m talking with Yan Vizinberg who recently decided to add
Esperanto subtitles to his film. Before we get to that though, I’d
like to learn more about the movie. What is the main topic of the
“Cargo” tells the story of a young Russian woman who is smuggled into America by human traffickers. She is driven from Texas to New York by a notorious Egyptian transporter. The film is about two very different people, who are trapped together for several days in a cargo van. They start as enemies but slowly form a certain bond, and finally see one another as human beings. So I would say that the main topic of the film is communication and empathy.
What inspired you to choose such a controversial topic?
The reason we chose this story was because of the inherent drama in the script. It had an immediate conflict, two enemies with opposing goals, but at the same time there are no traditional baddies and goodies here. There’s a collision, but no winners. It’s more of a redemption story.
Normally, controversial topics make raising money difficult for film projects. How did you find that influenced financing the movie?
Raising money for a film with a first time director is always difficult. This is an American movie, where there are no government grants, no state money, no co-production schemes. The only source of financing for a film in the United States is private investment. It’s a business, like any other. You have to go and convince people with money — and they are often smart and practical people — that this endeavor will make money and it’s worth investing into. So if you don’t have any history or stars attached, all you can talk about is the story and your passion for it.
What organizations were critical in making Cargo possible?
There are several great non-governmental organizations working towards raising awareness of human trafficking who are helping us to bring “Cargo” to movie theaters: FAIR Fund, HTA Council, Freedom Week, Captive Daughters and COVA. We need all the help we can get to spread the word about “Cargo,” and having these organizations’ support is great because their members care about the issue and see our film as a vehicle to raise awareness about the problem.
From what I understand, you’re Russian. You’re working with a famous Egyptian actor. Your producers are English and American. Your publicist speaks Esperanto. What was it like working with such an international team in New York?
Well, if you think about “Cargo” — the story takes place in the United States, but there are no American characters in it. The lead is Russian, the transporter is Egyptian, the main trafficker is Polish… It’s a new world — the world where cultures collide on a daily basis, the world of misplaced people, permanent immigrants who are no longer attached to any land, the world that exists under the radar of regular Americans. So having an international cast and crew was only natural.
At the same time, it was very important to me to keep things authentic: the main character is Russian and she is played by a Russian actress, Natasha Rinis; the transporter is Egyptian, so we invited an Egyptian actor Sayed Badreya. They have their own accents, they bring their sensibilities to their roles, when they fight each other, they scream and swear in their languages.
How do you think the movie could benefit from a more international audience?
This story is about colliding cultures — and by cultures I don’t mean just Egyptian, Russian or American. It’s about a man who sees women as inferior and an ambitious woman who has more guts than most men. It’s about a religious person and a woman who doesn’t have faith. It’s about people who are forced to communicate to each other in a language foreign to both of them. It’s about a land that worships freedom above all and at the same time — about the slavery that is happening on a daily basis. So I think it’s not a film that is of interest to just one culture — we would love to show it everywhere.
What made you come to the decision to add Esperanto subtitles to your movie?
“Cargo” is in many ways a film about communication. Communication between two very different people: an older Egyptian man who is a devout Muslim and a young Russian woman who used to dance in a strip bar. They are so different that in the beginning they don’t even know how to talk to each other — as if they are different species. But when they do talk — there is one more barrier to overcome: they are forced to communicate in English, a language that is foreign to both. When they fight they scream at each other in Arabic and Russian — and in these instances we made the decision to not subtitle these lines for the English audience, because if our characters do not understand each other, the audience shouldn’t either.
So communication and language play a huge role in “Cargo,” and I think subtitling it in Esperanto, a planned language that is designed to help people from different cultures communicate, adds a new layer of meaning to this. What’s interesting about people is that despite all their differences and animosity, they actually desperately want to communicate with each other and understand each other.
As of this writing, there are now six days left to finish raising the money needed for its theatrical release. Please support the film on Kickstarter if you can!