One-On-One With Filmmaker Isa Benn

The award-winning Canada-based filmmaker, screenwriter and playwright on her film Heal/Rage, why she takes pride in creating honest stories and suffering a "beautiful mental breakdown" during lockdown.

Though the pandemic-induced lockdown hurled many of us into the unknown — mostly leaving us at war with our mental health — it can be said that some good projects came out of this isolation period.

In early 2020, nine filmmakers isolating in various parts of the world came together for a collective experiment. Scattered across different parts of the world, the team of female filmmakers each worked on short films that formed part of the anthology One(Nine) — a nine-chapter project of perspectives and experiences — real, unreal, fiction, non-fiction and everything in between.

The team included Canada's Ingrid Veninger, Mina Shum, Isa Benn and Slater Jewell-Kemker, as well as Dorothee Wenner (Germany), Shengze Zhu (China/USA), Carmen Sangion (South Africa) and Lydia Zimmermann (Spain). One(Nine) premiered digitally at Canada's Female Eye Film Festival that ran from March 12 to 29.

Below, Isa Benn muses over her film Heal/Rage, a poignant tale that encourages healing in all its entirety.

What was your motivation for telling this particular story?

My family is spread out. The premise of the film is that I am on a phone call with my mum and grandma. My grandmother lives in Mombasa, Kenya with her sister. My mum is North and West African, so she lives in different parts of the continent as well. I visit at least twice a year, but this time, I couldn't visit due to the pandemic. The phone became a central part of our conversations. I noticed how lonely the women in my family were during this time. Doing my routine check-ups, touching base with them to see what and how they were doing became very centering. I started feeling like I was their parent. The men in my family are very sensitive, tender and sentimental. The women are very hard, strong, extremely opinionated and talk a lot to each other about everything.

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