We met for our conversation in Toronto, in September, where In the Rearview screened fresh off its Grand Jury Award win at Sheffield DocFest, having earlier premiered at Cannes, and before traveling further afield to festivals like Hamburg, Mumbai and, this month, DOC NYC. Passengers from his journeys have joined him along the way—a testament to the bonds between driver-documentarian and evacuees.
Hamela is an upbeat person, happy to chat about his love of Abbas Kiarostami and Krzysztof Kieślowski. He says he cried only once at the outset of this project, on that frosty morning, looking out his father’s window, knowing what was coming. Later, in the edit suite, when the full recognition of the task came into view, the tears really fell. “I cried a lot during editing.”
In between, Hamela says, he really didn’t have time to feel too much. “I knew that if I did it, our work would be impossible. You enter in this kind of task mode where you concentrate on just the three next steps ahead. What’s behind this road? Is there a broken bridge or maybe a Russian checkpoint? Who do I need to call to verify if it’s a safe zone or not? Where do we get these people to so that they have accommodation and something to eat? Where do I get the gas when there is no gas available? Where do I organize the next safe house?” So many basic things to worry about—and then they threw a camera into the mix.