On the Couch with Claire Jager

Claire-Jager-AAR-On-the-CouchWho is Claire Jager?
The Festival Director of Castlemaine Documentary Film Festival. I always seem to take on things I haven’t done before but this feels like a very natural extension of past interests and inclinations. It’s the best excuse there is to view way more programs than I would normally – and then to experience a shape coming into the program selection is very exciting. This year – my first as festival director – we had programmed 12 wonderful films over the festival weekend. Then had to cancel. Now we’re screening a much smaller and concentrated offering – 3 films over 3 nights followed by panel discussion with the filmmakers and others. So getting the weekend evening entertainment sorted is fun. It’s invigorating to think about how to bring different and new experiences and perspectives to our audiences – and the people who come to the Castlemaine love experiencing the festival at the Theatre Royal.

What would you do differently from what you do now?
I’m happy to say very little differently – except I would return to Turkey and the Black Sea. It’s a place I’m very comfortable in and was fortunate to be able to make a film there a few years ago, when it was still possible to travel and move freely. I would return to Mexico. I would travel to Sicily that I’ve missed so far…  And so, did I say, ‘very little’?!

Who inspires you and why?
Right now, the strength of someone like Harriet Taubman – the other night I just watched a film about her life and work which is why she immediately springs to mind – though of course she was but one among so many. She was an enslaved woman who escaped and became what they called a “conductor” on the Underground Railroad. Before the Civil War in America, she led enslaved people to freedom, even as she had a bounty on her head. And she was a nurse, a Union spy and a women’s suffrage supporter. Optimism in the face of adversity when the will to not be submerged stays strong. She’s a complete inspiration across time, race and background.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
Clean up the oceans and rid us of clogging-up plastics – just because we don’t see things doesn’t mean they are not there.  And I’d have to get rid of annoying stickers on fruit! Give people shelter and enough to eat so they have a chance to rest, to dream and have a say in shaping their lives and futures.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
Anywhere to see all my beloved family and friends – preferably by the ocean with long stretches of sand to walk and explore. In any weather. And the hankering I have for friends and places in Turkey.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
A walk in the Castlemaine gardens, a visit to the Castlemaine Art Museum followed by a glass – or two – of something delicious and local at Theatre Royal’s Bistro Lola – and their pizza!

What are you currently reading?
The ever growing piles of what I’m intending to read… ploughed through Sally Rooney and Rachel Cusk, then once I’m in a concentrated work period, shorter reads tend to take over. I managed to re-read The Great Gatsby – fabulous & beautiful, and Kathryn Anne Porter’s Pale Horse, Pale Rider – a collection of short novels set during the influenza epidemic of 1918 – which still leaves such a powerful impression. For now its essays and short stories, magazines and making notes of what to read next when I have a stretch – more building up and balancing of the piles!

What are you currently listening to?
Soaring voices, fave movie soundtracks – lot of jazz with Latin American or African influences.  I have a bunch of playlists I’m forever adding to  – for exercising, or relaxing to – then thinking I must go back and give them an edit!

Happiness is?
Bathing, swimming, floating – drifting right off and out into another dimension… and being close to the best of loving company with family and friends.

What does the future hold for you?
Springtime in the garden is just round the corner and I’ll be into a mad catch up of pruning, planting and moving various things that for some reason either aren’t thriving or want to be positioned differently. And making sure to get an early start for sprouting seeds for spring vegetables – need to give them an advantage with late killer frosts. And with the seasons there’s only ever a window of opportunity before you need to wait another whole year. It’s catch it as you can! I can see the bare structure through the window – it’s a perfect time for exposing what needs doing. And the inevitable getting back into the book piles… before starting the curating for another Castlemaine Documentary Film Festival for 2021.

Claire is the Festival Director of Castlemaine Documentary Film Festival – who will be live-streaming C-Doc In The Clouds 17 – 19 July 2020. For more information and program details, visit: www.cdocff.com.au for details.

Image: Claire Jager (supplied)

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