Interview with Ariadna Relea

Kristina Zorita
Kristina Zorita

Mariona Guiu and Ariadna Relea

Singled Out, an intimate documentary about single life for women over thirty

Singled [Out] tells the story of five women who are coming to terms with being single, and who are finding their place in the modern world. Shot in Australia, China, Turkey and Spain, the film is an intimate and personal four-year journey exploring what it means to be a single woman in a time of increasing independence and choice. This film was conceived by Ariadna Relea and Mariona Guiu, independent Spanish-born film-makers. Mariona is based in Melbourne, Australia; Ariadna in Barcelona. EWA's blogger Kristina Zorita sat down with Ariadna Relea, one of the film's directors, in a warm evening in Barcelona.

EWA helped documentary  "Singled (Out)" in its early stages of development, and now it is released in Spanish cinemas after its opening in Australian movie theatres. Directors (also EWA members) Ariadna Relea and Mariona Guiu focused their film on what it means to search for conventional romanticism. They followed five women of childbearing age in four cities around the world. Five women under pressure to get a partner.

What sparked your interest in this project? Was it out of personal interest?

It was indeed for Mariona, while as for me It sprung from social interest. We started about four years ago when Mariona was living in Melbourne. She started to feel a discomfort because she was still worried about being single. She asked herself why it was bothering her so much when she felt she had accomplished all of her dreams–wondering about the source of this discomfort. During then, I was living in China. Seeing what happens to Chinese women who are called “leftovers” when they are unmarried at the age of 27. There is always a self-stigma when we ask ourselves if we're odd or too demanding. We want to find what is underneath. Is it a real desire to have a partner or a desire to be “normal” according to societal standards?

 You have chosen five women from Barcelona, Istanbul, Melbourne and Shanghai. Why those four cities?

Our idea was to compare this stigma mentioned above in different cities where women live and also aim to empower themselves. But in those cities, women have achieved economic independence. Some of them are searching for a partner which they can't find or are not looking for–and yet they still face societal pressure to be in a relationship. We therefore followed the stories of five women and interviewed relationship experts.

They are cities of different cultures. Why?

There are four different cultures but the stigma is more or less the same. Melbourne is an Anglo-Saxon model, more American, with online dating, huge distances, with less interaction, very modern but at the same time very lonely. Barcelona is a place where the family is still at the centre. So maternity is highly valued. And Istanbul and Shanghai was a little bit about everything. Social pressure in China where you are a leftover woman or in Turkey where president Erdogan calls you half woman if you are not a mother. In Istanbul, we want to raise awareness. Not everything is gained and even we can lose ground. A great deal of freedom for women has been lost in Istanbul. Our protagonist from that city had to wear a bigger coat and male shoes when she went out, simply for protection. But still different, those four cultures have similarities where empowered women decided not to stay with any man at whatever price.

Some of the girls are looking for a partner, others not so much. Question missing?

We want to talk about romantic love. It's often thought that a woman can have a job outside but a man's objective regardless is to protect, pamper, and take care of her. That a woman is able to protect herself is not always well understood by men. We didn't want to make an ode to single state. More or less everybody is looking for love. But we want to change the narrative. If you aren't with somebody right now, it might be because you want to be like this. You should enjoy being by yourself too. We have to understand where this desire comes from. It is our desire or is it a desire born from social pressure? If we understand the reason we're going to be freer when loving someone. We're still under pressure to meet the father of our children, the ideal man, the one who is going to be our partner for the rest of our life. In the end we should learn to relax.

While Mariona lives in Melbourne, you were in China and then moved to Barcelona. How easy has it been working together?

We started researching, then filming some interviews. It's only when we received TV3's (the Catalan public televisión) financial backing and signed a coproduction deal with Turkey that I realised I had to move to Melbourne. Skype has been a useful tool I can tell you! Apart from that, I usually do the camera work, she occasionally takes care of the sound but she is mainly in charge of having our interviewees feel comfortable when interviewed.

You mentioned a coproduction with Turkey and if I am not wrong EWA Network helped with that. How?

Yes. We spoke with Alexia Muiños (EWA's Barcelona liaison officer) and she helped us get in contact with Turkish filmmakers. Through their network we found our Turkish co-producer who works as a 2nd unit director in Istanbul. This helped us to get an Eurimages fund. In China, we hired a freelance producer.

How has been the release of the film?

The premiere was last October at the Seminci (the Valladolid Film Festival) and then in Melbourne in May at the Spanish Film Festival. After that Australian premiere, it was released in Australia cinemas. In Spain it has been commercially released in June. We hope to have more screenings late in autumn. The film has been sold for television in Japan, Israel, Poland, Korea, Belgium and in Hong Kong, but not in Mainland China. They told us that they don't like “foreigners criticising them”. In Turkey, it is going to be difficult too. There were screenings in an alternative festival there, but no television will dare to broadcast it.