Portraying the Way It Really Is
An interview with Mihkel Ulk, director of PIGGY
When and how did you decide to become a filmmaker?
I went to a high school specializing in media studies, where we learned the basics of journalism, made interviews, tried reporting and also learned how to use a camera. One time me and my classmate decided to make a short film and that’s where I got the “film bug”. During our studies we made a lot of amateur films, all of them were comedies. We used to organize screenings for other students between lessons…
When I was doing entrance exams for film school master’s programme, our lecturer Arvo Iho told us to write down a story on a piece of paper, that had changed and touched us the most as a human beings. I remembered a moment from my childhood, when I witnessed the slaughtering of a pig in a pigsty where my mother worked. After I found out I was accepted to the programme, Arvo Iho came to me and told me that this story moved him and this is what I should make a film about. His idea is to have young filmmakers tell their personal stories on a film screen. This film has affected me a lot, personally. I’ve had to tamper in my childhood and think many things over again. But I’ve also come to terms with these things.
The location of the pig farm as both a nursery and a slaughterhouse, of life and death, is immensely powerful. Where did you shoot the film?
I grew up in a similar place and the ambience in the film is very familiar to me. We filmed in a very small rural part of Estonia. Almost nothing was changed in the locations – at work, at home, exterior, everything is portrayed the way it really is. This ambience was the one feeling that I had in mind from the very beginning.
Directing child actors can be very complicated. Please tell us something about how long you shot and how the collaboration with the actors went and where you found them?
The camera style is very intimate, hand-held and close to the characters. Were you and your DoP influenced by the Scandinavian social cinema of, say, Lukas Moodysson or the Dogma movement?
I can’t say that I have been influenced by them. Me and DoP Mihkel Soe wanted to create a world that is believable and tightly connected to the story. Since the actors used improvisation, we didn’t want to restrict them technically. We wanted them to have enough space to move and to resolve the scenes in an unexpected way.
Please tell us something about the reception of this film, especially on where it has been shown and what reactions it provoked.
I has screened in Estonia and our neighbour countries. It seems that people have been mostly affected by the realistic feeling of what it’s like to see the world through a child’s eyes.
What happened to you since PIGGY and what plans do you have for future films?
I’m hoping to make my first feature film and I’m working on it now.