A Talk with the co-directors of I Touched All Your Stuff

After a US Premiere at the Museum of Moving Image earlier this year, Maira Buhler and Matias Mariani’s I TOUCHED ALL YOUR STUFF is set to have its theatrical  premiere on August 28, at Cinema Village (in New York) and Arena Cinema (in Los Angeles).

This interview with Maíra Bühler and Matias Mariani was originally published in the Montreal International Documentary Festival.

How did you discover the story of Kirk, and how did the project of the film start?

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Christopher Kirk

We were working on the research for our previous film, She Dreamed That I Died, in which we painted a broad canvas of foreigners arrested in Brazilian prisons. During the research we interviewed over 500 people, pen and paper at hand, always asking the same question: « Tell us about your life? ». From all those interviewed, Chris was the only one who refused to answer this question. Instead, he asked us a series of questions, on the film we were planning to make, and said he would only talk to us if he had 8 hours to tell his story directly to the camera. We were, to say the least, and what he told us, the so-called V. Story (a tale about his love and obsession for a Japanese-Colombian woman), was our point of entry to what would become this new film,.

There is a real narrative construction, that’s why the film is so fascinating. How long was your “investigation”, and what choices did you make during the editing process?

The investigation took the better part of five years, in which we dedicated ourselves to the project as well as other stuff (we didn’t have any funding through most of that time). Early in this process Chris directed us to find a 80 GB hard drive which he had left with friends in Olympia, and which contained his systematic cataloguing and registration of this relationship he had with V., and that’s when we made what would probably be the most important conceptual decision of the film: that his story would be told through this hard drive, that the information in there would guide our creative process. That, together with another important decision – not to interview V., and focus the whole film on his perspective of the story – were the leading motivations for our editing process.

Kirk is a storyteller, and sometimes we don’t know what to think listening to him. Did your relationship change during the shooting, and how did you decide to interact with him?

Yes it did, at first we were very entranced by his narrative capabilities, by how well he was able to craft his tale. However, even in the beginning, there were parts of his story that seemed inconsistent, or that he simply refused to talk about. And that was a motivation in itself, not a motivation in « finding out the truth » (an act we, as filmmakers, abhor), but a motivation in making his story more absorbing and intricate by pointing out – through editing – where he somehow lost of control of the story, and it developed more of a life of its own.

Have you been in touch with Kirk after you finished the film?

Yes, we’ve  been in touch with him. When we finished the film we went to Olympia-WA to show him the final cut before premiering it in Marseille. As he had gave us total freedom to work, we thought it would be nice of us to show him in a private situation before going public. After that Chris also went to Marseille and was able to be in the Q&A with us. Besides that, we keep him updated about festivals, critics and all matters related to “I Touched All Your Stuff .”

Hippo#1Did you ever think about finding V.?

When we first heard the story we did. But as soon as we got the HD we understood that V. would be always a kind of « hidden » character, someone that is not objective but that is a projection of Chris’s own perception about her. We wanted to built a subjective portrait more then anything else. Of course that had to do with the choice of never showing her face and keeping her mysterious, conveying this in-apprehensible aspect of « the other » in human relationships.

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