DOWNTOWN DIVAS – A chat with directors Loral Amir and Gigi Ben Artzi

Interview by Barbara Laneve
“Downtown Divas” is a 7 minute 16mm film created, produced and directed by Loral Amir and Gigi Ben Artzi. Shot on 16mm, all the women participating are drug addicts, mostly coming from eastern Europe and are living off the proceeds of street prostitution. Even though these characters are “chained” to an infinite loop of self-destruction without the ability to stop hurting themselves, and are physically, but mainly mentally broken due to their dependency on narcotics, they  still are very sensitive and are full of emotions.

Like any other women, they want to look pretty, they admire Britney Spears, they have hopes and dreams. When filming, directors did not talk to them about their addiction , instead, they talked about music, dreams, colors while they danced, shared their dreams…

“What drew us to this project is the ex-territorial status of these women as part of a group that exists outside society yet it is in fact society’s own product. Beyond the aesthetic challenge, we wanted to integrate these women back into society and ignore that “drug addict” tag that they carry around.”

“Heroin Chic” may look glamorous in fashion editorials. But when you take real heroin addicts who have the same characteristics as these models and photograph them in top fashion (Alexander Wang, Miu Miu, Acne, Kenzo, Louis Vuitton, Miista…), the contrast is absolutely astounding.

Not at any point did we wish to glamorise drugs, only to highlight reality.”


Where did you get the idea for the script?

Gigi:I came across one of the girls we have filmed one night.I thought it could be interesting to photograph her or/and other women with drug addiction. Later on we have decided to film everything as well and that’s how the project came about.

How did the characters react when they were asked to be part of the project?

Gigi:They where completely into it. like anybody else and probably even more, they wanted to be recognised. to be accepted, to reveal their pain, thoughts and state.

How fashion can be related to social discomfort and why?

Loral: Fashion sometimes refer to a position, classes, and mood- but fashion is also about masks, fake personality, hiding from or trying to be like. I was curious to see what fashion means when you impose it on the unpredictable ones.

What reaction are you trying to gain?

Loral: Creating a discussion and interest in the objects or fragments that I’m dealing with. Communication. Isn’t it what it’s all about?

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