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Interview: Joanna Hogg & Honor Swinton Byrne – The Souvenir Part II

After premiering in the Directors’ Fortnight and landing at the New York Film Festival, The Souvenir Part II – filmmaker Joanna Hogg’s highly-anticipated follow up to The Souvenir — has finally arrived. A more-than-worthy companion piece, this sequel feels as distinctly precise and organic as its prequel. Both actor and story possess a malleable innocence, a lifelike immediacy: memories brought to life, as if you just witnessed them from across the room. As Hogg describes it, The Souvenir Part II is a film about the making of Part I. She also admits that both films are deeply personal, aka “auto fiction,” largely focused on her time as film student. “I was chasing honesty.” Given the success of both films, Hogg’s humility today is impressive. “It was strange to take a story that happened to me and let go of it. But for me, the letting go is really important.”

The casting was key. For Part I, Hogg enlisted Tilda Swinton as the mother, then persuaded Swinton’s daughter, Honor Swinton Byrne, to play the lead character Julie, despite—and because of—her lack of acting experience. In Part II, however, both Byrne and Julie are clearly older and wiser: just enough to sustain credibility … and to add subtlety to the film’s emotional undercurrents. This choice of actors—and the lapse of time between films—gave Hogg just what she needed for her dual narrative: a canvas perfectly primed for an exploration of interior spaces. Even more remarkable, both Part I and Part II were shot without a traditional script; instead, cast and crew worked from Hogg’s notes, more collaborative discussion than improvisation. The result is compelling. Intentionally spare, these two films are a dissection of grief without melodrama and an unflinching self-portrait.

I interviewed Joanna Hogg and Honor Swinton Byrne during NYFF 2021. We discuss the complexities of collaboration, their personal evolution as artists and the unorthodox process that produced two of the most celebrated indies in recent memory. Here’s my (audio) interview:

Dylan Kai Dempsey is a New York-based writer/filmmaker. His reviews have been published in Vanity Fair, Variety, No Film School, and He’s also developing a graphic novel as well as his own award-winning pilot script, #Likes4Lucas. He began as a development intern at Bonafide Productions in L.A. and Rainmark Productions in London.

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