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Byron Shire
July 4, 2022

Successful story emerges from failed film

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Mandy Nolan

Making a film is challenging at the best of times, but when you’re the daughter of one of America’s most famous directors and you’re in conflict with producers while you’re working in India, the stakes are even higher.

After a 15-year absence, Jennifer Lynch, daughter of cult-director David Lynch, had only just returned to the industry after being vilified by press and feminist groups for her debut film Boxing Helena.

Back in 2008, her second film, Surveillance, had just premiered in Cannes and was receiving accolades. Then, as fate would have it, Jennifer meets Indian producer Govind Menon and accepts his invitation to write and direct Hiss, a tale about the vengeful snake goddess Nagin.

And that is where Penny Vozniak’s extraordinary documentary Despite the Gods begins – a movie about moviemaking, with the passionate director and single mum Jennifer Lynch centre stage playing out her own Indian drama.

From day one, Lynch approached the project with enthusiasm and hope.

‘I was not one bit prepared for India,’ she says, ‘I think that I felt deeply optimistic and I think I was right to feel that way – there were things like their equipment; it’s different from what I am used to; as well as the way they work… but the love of cinema and making films was there, and for me that is the way to overcome differences and we did find our common ground… sadly it was the relationship between the producers and myself that went wrong.

‘It was a Murphy’s Law production – so many things went right, but so many went wrong.’

So why did Lynch set herself such a difficult challenge?

‘I was a single mother and coming from the success of Surveillance and really wanted to do something that hadn’t been done before.

‘Now I guess part of me knows why it hadn’t been done before. I don’t have a single regret, other than the emotional hangover from losing the film.

‘What gets me, and holds true to me, is that the greatest poison in any situation is fear and I think the producers became overwhelmed and afraid.’

After defying the odds and completing her shoot over nine months in India, Lynch returned to the States to cut her film. Then the producers stepped in and re-cut her film for release.

‘They said, “No, not what we want,” and before I knew it I didn’t get to make the film.

‘I liken it to having a child. It was nine months. I had this child in me and it was everything and I fed it and it had struggles and it was terrifying and beautiful and the minute it was born it was taken away from me and now it’s a Kardashian!’

Jennifer Lynch will present Penny Vozniak’s film Despite the Gods at The Byron Bay Film Festival, March 1–10.

For more information: www.bbff.com.au.


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