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An Interview with Daniel Fawcett and Clara Pais, Directors of In Search of the Exile

by Mike Haberfelner

August 2016

Films directed by Daniel Fawcett on (re)Search my Trash

Films directed by Clara Pais on (re)Search my Trash


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Your new movie In Search of the Exile - in a few words, what is it about? And since In Search of the Exile is a rather abstract, associative movie, how much emphasis did you put on the plot as such in the first place?


In Search of the Exile is a visionary quest through a mythic dimension, a dream land where reality morphs and transforms, it is a film that has to be experienced with the senses. Even though it may seem abstract there is a narrative there but it's not the hand-fed narrative of industrial cinema, this is a disintegrated narrative that will be experienced and understood differently by each person who watches the film. There are some graspable elements, a wasteland, a wanderer, a house in the woods with a witch, but how all this fits together is down to the viewer to interpret.


In our work we are interested in expanding general concepts of narrative and storytelling, there is an instinct in humans to create stories but when people think of narrative generally they have in mind a very fixed form, especially in cinema, and this can be very restrictive and boring to both creators and audience. But storytelling is a very ancient and varied craft, it is not just about relating information but about creating an experience which somehow disrupts the apparently continuous flow of space and time and presents us with visions. So in this film we felt very free to have just a few narrative elements and let the images be our guide through this journey.


What were your sources of inspiration when dreaming up In Search of the Exile? And how much of the film was based on an actual script, even?


The initial ideas and narrative threads came from a series of poems that we had written called The Exile's Return Home. These were as near as we came to having a script, the film differs from the poems somewhat, they share some characters and the sense of a journey through a wasteland. Our inspiration comes from many sources, we rely heavily on dreams and visions and find a lot of inspiration from painting, the tarot and mythology.


In In Search of the Exile you made some very bold artistic choices - want to take about those for a bit, and the reasons behind them? And was the look of the movie planned from the get-go or only decided on in post?


We set out to make a film that was like a living painting, we have used similar processes to create some sequences in other feature films and some of our shorter works and installations but this is the first full length film using this process all the way through. Our aim was to create a film that was ungraspable, that could not be pinned down through the intellect but that offered the possibility of a completely unique cinematic experience.


What can you tell us about your overall directorial approach to your story at hand?


There was no real separation between production and post-production, we shot sequences and then would edit them the following day then shoot some more based on how the previous day's work had turned out. Due to the fact there were very few people involved we were able to work like this. We have been really working on developing a filmmaking process that gives us as much freedom to experiment and explore as possible, we nearly always work with some form of script and all our films are narrative but we want to really investigate the extreme reaches of what narrative cinema can be and to find ways of making films that allow us to change and reinvent the film as we go rather than to follow a fixed plan.


Do talk about your cast, and why exactly these people?


Two of the roles are played by us, the red knight and the witch. The other characters were played by performers we worked with in another film currently in post-production called The Kingdom of Shadows, really they are playing similar roles in this film and there is much in common in some of the themes and characters explored in both films but they have a very different formal approach and different atmosphere altogether.


The Wanderer was played by filmmaker Fabrizio Federico [Fabrizio Federico interview - click here], and it is similar to his role of Cain in The Kingdom Of Shadows, he did a great job manifesting the anxious energy of this character lost in a wasteland. The Lovers were played by Joana Castro and Bruno Senune, two extremely talented Portuguese dancers that we have been lucky enough to collaborate with on several projects now.


A few words on the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?


The film was completed in about a two month period, first we created the images without any sound and then once the edit was complete we worked on the sound and music. We often have two or three projects on the go at once and as a lot of the work happens in our studio and around the house, we might spend a morning doing some post-production on one film then in the afternoon shoot some sequences for another film. So generally it's very creative and enjoyable, we can get more stuff done and we can really use the most of our relatively small resources. We work more like painters or sculptors than industrial filmmakers really.


The $64-question of course, when and where will In Search of the Exile be released onto the general public?


We have a couple of screenings coming up, the next is on 27th of August when the Experimental Film Society will be screening it in Dublin as a part of a double bill with our first feature film Savage Witches. Also in November the San Diego Underground Film Festival will be hosting the North American premiere. More screenings to be announced soon.


Daniel and Clara on set

Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of In Search of the Exile so far?


It has been fascinating, we have only had a couple of screenings so far but the effect it has had on people has been incredible. Some people love it and submit to the experience and go on their own journey with it while others resist and struggle a lot. At one screening recently we even had someone shielding their eyes and turning their head away, they had such a hard time with the film that they preferred to stare at the wall rather than watch the film!


Any future projects you'd like to share?


We are currently in post-production of two new films, Black Sun and The Kingdom Of Shadows [Black Sun and Kingdom Of Shadows interview - click here], both will be finished by the end of October. We've finished editing both films and we are working on the sound and music at the moment.


The Kingdom Of Shadows is a surrealist cinematic vision inspired by dreams, biblical myths, alchemy, family history and silent cinema, you can see some preview images here: This film will have its world premiere at the Cambridge Film Festival this October.


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Black Sun is the first in a series of films exploring humankind’s relationship to darkness. It's a personal exploration of the portrayal of female characters in European fairy tales, painting and literature. The premiere will take place in Porto in November.


We're very excited about these two new films and can't wait to share them with an audience!


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Thanks for the interview!


© by Mike Haberfelner

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Thanks for watching !!!



Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD