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Stefan Otto Ruiz

Stefan Otto Ruiz, a 27-year-old filmmaker, photographer, and writer from Germany, is a burgeoning artist delving into the exploration of his artistic vision. While he has been immersed in film, photography, and poetry for many years, his short film "About to Disappear" marks his first public foray into cinema. Stefan's creative journey intertwines his passion for filmmaking with his literary pursuits, particularly poetry, sparking a unique blend of visual and written artistry. Notably, his film "About to Disappear" clinched the award for Best Cinematography in a Short Experimental Film at the Experimental Brasil 2024.

1-Can you introduce yourself and share a bit about your background in the world of filmmaking?

My name is Stefan Otto Ruiz, I am 27 years old and I am a filmmaker, photographer and writer from germany. I am still a very young artist and feel like I am really just beginning exploring my artistic vison. My short film “About to Disappear” is in fact the first time I have shared a film publicly and submitted to festivals although I have been working on film, photography and poetry since many, many years.


2-What inspired you to create the experimental short film "About to Disappear," and what themes did you aim to explore through this project?

My goal was to create a poetry film. That’s a genre I am really interested in especially because I am not only a filmmaker but also writing poetry. Often when we talk about the relation of film and literature we talk about cinematic adaption of novels or theatre plays. But what about cinematic adaptations of poems? That’s something that especially in more mainstream or conventional cinema does not really exist. It’s more something you find in experimental and avantgarde cinema. And I think you need a more experimental form to make films that relate in some way to poetry.
Now I was interested in not really adapting my poems but to put them in a relation with the images I was creating at the time. It’s like two kind of poems – the written poems and the visual/cinematic poems – in dialogue with each other. The film itself is in it’s structure and aesthetics like a poem not a conventional movie.

I think in this way I could also tackle the themes of the film – melancholy, the search for transcendence, loss and existential and metaphysical questions – in a better way than with the methods of conventional cinema.


3-Could you describe your creative process when crafting the poetic-philosophical meditation that is "About to Disappear"?

On the whole, the process was rather free flow and associatively driven. I didn't have a storyboard or anything like that, just a rough idea of how the movie would develop and what rhythm and themes it should have. Then over time, especially during editing, the structure of the film became more concrete. Many of the images were largely created independently of each other, without a concrete plan from the beginning of how they would relate to each other, and only in the editing process did they fit into the film.


4-Can you discuss the significance of utilizing dreamlike nature and sky imagery in "About to Disappear," and how it contributes to the film's overall message?

In my opinion, the film represents a person's introspection while utilising images of the outer world. The images of nature and the sky operate as a metaphor for the inner life, for thoughts and feelings.

An essential theme is the search for transcendence in the world and the existential forlornness of humanity. What I actually only noticed quite late in the editing process is that almost all the images have a view upwards. The sky, sun, moon, stars and clouds can almost always be seen. It is precisely this upward gaze that visualizes this search and the metaphysical need of mankind.


5-What drew you to the stylistic elements of Slow Cinema, and how did you adapt those elements to suit the narrative of "About to Disappear"?

I have always been very fond of slow cinema. I have studied it a lot, both personally and in terms of film studies and also artistically, and I love this calm, meditative way of filmmaking. Many of my favorite filmmakers such as Andrei Tarkovsky, Béla Tarr, Lav Diaz, Angelopoulos, Pedro Costa and many more can be attributed to this movement. I think that contemplation and slowness are very important aesthetic principles for me. I also like the fact that this gives the individual image more attention and time for its own aesthetic value.

Even though my film is close to this tradition in many respects, there are also differences to many other slow cinema films, especially in the very strongly aestheticized images and one scene in particular, which is very quickly edited, loud and not at all 'slow'. As much as I love slow cinema, it is not a dogma for me and I find it important to ask myself anew with each film what aesthetic methods and narrative structures are needed for the individual film.


6- How do you believe the absence of a human voice throughout the film enhances the viewer's experience and understanding of the existential themes presented?

I find that the human voice can sometimes be a bit intrusive and can become very prominent compared to the other sounds and the music. I found it more fitting, both atmospherically and thematically, that there is no voice, as it is a film about the absence of humans, or rather, only in one scene can a human be seen as a distorted, stylized silhouette. In my opinion, the fact that the poems only appear in written form reinforces the quiet, contemplative nature of the film.


7-What challenges did you face during the production of "About to Disappear," and how did you overcome them?

I think one of the challenges was to create a clear structure, dramaturgy and rhythm to the film, because I had so many ideas, images and texts I wanted to incorporate. But I am now happy with the result! It’s a very personal movie and I totally get if not everyone can relate to it. I didn’t even think of sharing it with others in film festivals. That was perhaps a great difficulty for me: sharing my work with others and submit it to festivals and so on, because it’s such a personal film to me. That’s why I am so happy about winning the price for “Best Cinematography in a short film” at your festival! It means a lot to me and gives me the courage to pursue my art further!


8-What are some of the overarching themes or ideas that drive your creative work as a filmmaker?

One of my main interests and inspirations is philosophy. I am particularly interested in existential Philosophy and philosophical pessimism. And these question that arise from this – about the meaning and meaninglessness of existence, about being, time and nothingness, about death, loss and suffering - are very important for my artistic work no matter what form it takes. I believe that art has the task of enabling reflection on the existential dimension of the human condition, something that is often lost in everyday life. Art makes it possible to confront these issues and themes although it can be painful. But it is a necessary confrontation. And although I think that philosophy and art have truthfulness as their goal, they are very different in their paths. I am also convinced that perhaps some things and questions are better understood through art and poetry than through philosophy


9- How do you hope audiences will respond to and interpret "About to Disappear," particularly in relation to its exploration of existential experiences?

I hope to offer viewers a sensual, atmospheric and emotional film experience that puts them in a contemplative and enraptured state that stimulates thought and feeling. I think that the abstract nature of the film and its metaphorical openness, which perhaps some viewers may not be able to relate to, nevertheless leaves room for associations and evocations and a personal relationship to the film.


10-Are there any upcoming projects or ideas you're excited to explore in your future filmmaking endeavors?

I am working right now on a new short film, shorter than “About to Disappear”. I will have it finished soon and I hope I get to show it at some film festivals too and hopefully the next edition of “Experimental Brasil”. As much as I love experimental and non-narrative cinema I also want to work more on films that are more narrative-driven that nonetheless also incorporate technigues and methods of experimental cinema. I also want to collaborate more with other artists, actors and filmmakers.

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