* IDFA Feature-Length Competition + Dutch Competition
How to meet a Mermaid
In HOW TO MEET A MERMAID, the sea breaks its silence as it unveils the stories of Lex, Rebecca, and Miguel. These protagonists, each with their own reasons to entrust their lives to the water, find refuge in the sea in search of a better place.
The sea’s unpredictable nature reveals its many faces: aspects of friendship, beauty, solace, and strength, alongside its psychopathic traits, as it extends a strangler's helping hand. The sea is precisely what we choose to see in it, and what the characters try to find in its depths. Through their adventures, the film explores the obstacles in their lives and those that transcend their personalities: cruise-ship violence, suicide, and illegal immigration. The perception of reality, which is constantly in flux, determines why Lex, Rebecca, and Miguel make drastic changes to their lives, seemingly motivated by hope or despair.
'I would prefer breathing to not breathing', declared the American writer William Faulkner. Humanity, locked in its ceaseless struggles, appears to have two options: either to live, or not to live. Even though there may not be clear reasons for the pain we can experience, it is a continuous torment for many nonetheless. Under what conditions is the will to live stronger than the urge to end life altogether?
Award-winning Dutch director Coco Schrijber conquers her fear by taking a plunge to the bottom of the sea in search of an answer: why did her brother Lex kill himself in the water? Did he fear life more than death? Life under water is a close approximation of the paradise we seek so desperately in our 'indifferent universe'. However, the primal condition of life - breathing - is impossible under water. "Get out!" the ocean snaps at Coco and the viewer, "- and live!" The sea addresses us, imploring us to keep breathing, come what may. Or is this voice our own, bidding us to survive suspended between the charm of life and the attraction of death?
Director's statement : COCO SCHRIJBER
''Dutch docmaker Coco Schrijber's unusual, highly personal film negotiates her own family tragedy with a mix of investigative and poetic techniques.''
- Guy Lodge, Film Critic, Variety IDFA Film Review
Life of Pi, All is Lost, Dead Calm, Cast Away; all are stunning films, each with the sea as their subject. Nonetheless, they all deal with 'the will to survive', as emphasized in their trailers.HOW TO MEET A MERMAID, by contrast, deals with 'the will to die', which exists alongside the former and triumphs over it on occasion. Just as with survival, this will to perish requires its own share of courage and strength of will. My protagonists have made their choice; for Lex and Rebecca, grim determination takes them past death's doorstep, whereas Miguel rushes headlong into a desperate adventure, as thousands upon thousands of illegal immigrants are doing at this very moment.
"To me, all human behavior is unpredictable, and considering man's frailty in the ramshackle universe he functions in, it's all irrational. It couldn't be very rational because this universe is not a very rational one, it seems to me" - William Faulkner, Nobel-prize winning American writer. HOW TO MEET A MERMAID, we hear the echo of Faulkner's words, leaning over a lectern back in 1958. Having decided to put aside his beloved bourbon for a minute, he treats his audience to dissemination on our human struggle through a crackling microphone. I am a great fan of Faulkner, and the fifty-year old recordings I've uncovered provide the motivations of Lex, Rebecca, and Miguel with a sense of perspective. The Faulkner quote stated above has served as the foundation for this film. In HOW TO MEET A MERMAID, we are hurled down onto earth by the universe, as portrayed in the stunning opening shots of the film: at times, in a paradise we no longer recognise as such; sometimes, in hell, and then there are times when there is nothing to it but to figure it out for yourself. Lex, Rebecca, and Miguel all reside in their respective paradises that have become a hell to them. Loneliness amidst thousands of fellow human beings (Rebecca on her Disney cruise), alone among friends (Lex at the diving resort) or Miguel (teaching surfing classes to tourists who are blissfully unaware of the fact that he uses his surfboard for purposes other than fun: an escape from destitute poverty and a gateway to that other paradise, America, his way barred by a fence.)
It appears as if I have produced a trilogy on the human struggle, without ever realising that the subject harbors my deepest fascination: how do we keep going? In retrospect, this trilogy started out with First Kill (2001): am I personally capable of killing a human being? Bloody Mondays & Strawberry Pies (2008) addresses the question of how to live without getting killed either by your job or by boredom. And now, HOW TO MEET A MERMAID, on the battle to remain alive.
With HOW TO MEET A MERMAID I stand up for the glorious beauty of our existence. This is a film about courage, doubt, difficult decisions, the lure of the sea, and the splendor of life in its occasional ineptitude at dissuading us from acts of recklessness. In the closing shot of the film, a footprint set in the concrete of a sun-drenched sidewalk, I join Faulkner by sharing in his vision: "I have great faith in man.”