How many young film directors do you know? Not many, right? What about young filmmakers, who raise political and cultural problems in their works? These people are like unicorns: you think they exist, but you have never seen any of them! So, today is a lucky day! We’ve found one of them.


This unicorn’s name is Maya Gimaeva. She’s created a documentary about Jordan Frye – American actress, who have decided to come to Russia because of her love to the theater.

Maya made the movie when she was 19. She didn’t have any sponsors. Maya has to work in a bar to earn enough money to rent a camera and buy a ticket to New York. “I think I was quite brave to show geopolitical situation between the USA and Russia through theatre actress”, – Maya says. What made Maya to create such a provocative documentary? Let’s find out!

Maya Gimaeva. “It's A Shame Not To Be Happy”

Why have you chosen Jordan Frye as the main character of the film?

Well, Jo is a very open-mind and sincere person, connected with the world of Art. Don’t you think that this combination is ideal for the hero of a documentary? Though she is from the opposite side of the planet, her singing of folk songs leaves no doubt that her soul is truly Russian. I was just amazed by her story and I still truly believe that documentaries should be about such people.

Maya Gimaeva. “It's A Shame Not To Be Happy”


The name of the film “It’s A Shame Not To Be Happy”, but the film itself is not about happiness as I see it. Why have you chosen this title?

In fact, the film is about happiness to be young. About the youth of beautiful, talented actors and actresses of ‘Julyensemble’ theatre (which is a part of Masterskaya Viktora Ryzhakova in The Moscow Art Theater), about Jordan’s life in Russia and just happiness the way we all understand it.

Maybe later Jo will move somewhere else and remember her ‘Russian holidays’, which lasted for almost 10 years, the way I showed in my film. I guess, for her it was a happy time to be Russian.

Maya Gimaeva. “It's A Shame Not To Be Happy”


Also, in each theatre there is a tradition: before the performance to gather together and “do hands.” And each theatre troupe does it in its own way. So you can notice that at the end of the trailer, Jo with the other guys repeats as a mantra “It’s A Shame Not To Be Happy” before performances.

When I firstly came to shoot them, I did not know what phrase they are saying all the time. And I was impressed how all these beautiful, young, talented people shout “It’s A Shame Not To Be Happy”. Involuntarily, I believed them and understood that it’s really a SHAME NOT TO BE HAPPY when you are young.

Maya Gimaeva. “It's A Shame Not To Be Happy”


In the film you show American and Russian culture from different sides. Why is it important for you?

Because each culture does deserve to be shown honestly!

It is believed, that people from these two countries think oppositely and don’t have anything in common. But after being almost everywhere in the world, I understood that USA is much more alike Russia, than any other country. Russians’ and Americans’ views of the other country are more negative today than any time in the past, but normal people themselves don’t really understand why. And I think the main reason of such unlikeness is misunderstanding. In fact we don’t really know anything about peoples’ lives in Delaware or Iowa, so why should Americans know where Chelyabinsk and Khabarovsk are situated?

And by Jordan’s life I wanted to show not just Moscow and New York routine, but the reality of our countries, above the politics boundaries.

What was the most difficult part of creating the film?

To become invisible. Even professional actors react to the camera: they start to act themselves, not to be themselves. And so the first few months I shot every day, so that people got used to me and didn’t pay any attention to me. Half of the troupe didn’t even know my name! (laughs)

Maya Gimaeva. “It's A Shame Not To Be Happy”


You know, I made this film with a zero budget and 60% of the material was shot on the iPhone, because people did not notice it at all. They quarrelled, reconciled, kissed and cried. And all this I could shoot only on the phone, because I was afraid to destroy the moment by camera. Then I got very personal valuable shots.

What was the most exciting during creating process?

To become a part of the inside life of ‘Julyensemble’ theatre  and dissolve in this life. To earn the confidence of Jordan and to have such honest conversations with her. She trusted me! And THIS is the most exciting thing ever.

Maya Gimaeva. “It's A Shame Not To Be Happy”


I really fall in love with all these people, who are in the film, and now I could hardly imagine my life without them. But, honestly, half of the time it was incredible hard to continue shooting. Especially when I realized how much I depend on people. And that they continued to move on, while I was just watching them moving and lived their lives. I could not even have my private life while filming this movie. But now we all are good friends and at any time I can come to help them or just enjoy.

Do you have some ideas for your future films?

Of course! (laughs) Right now I’m finishing a short documentary about one courtyard in Hong Kong. It is about the life of a small courtyard in the mountains in the New Territories. Cause it’s a living organism in which everything is dear and calm for locals, thought for strangers it seems chaotically.

Accidently, 3 months ago I went to Hong Kong Mountains and got lost. So a nice local girl found me and offered to live in her house as much time as I wanted. She showed me the life of common people with their fears and believes. I lived in a small room 3×4 meters and if I wanted to open the door to go out I needed to lay on the bed and to take all the staff on the floor in my hands. And the courtyard, about which is my future film, became their place to exist. But it is another story!


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