Moze Mossanen - Writer/Director/Producer

Moze is one of Canada's foremost directors of performance-based films whose work has encompassed striking adaptations of classic novels ("Year of the Lion") and original screenplays ("The Rings of Saturn") each marked by his distinctive directorial hand. His films include "Dance for Modern Times" (nominated for a Genie Award and winner of the Chris Award at the Columbus International Film Festival); "Year of the Lion" (winner of three Gemini Awards and the Jury Prize at the Yorkton Film Festival); "Roxana" (winner of two Golden Sheaf awards, the CSC Award for Cinematography and two Gemini Awards); and "Nureyev", winner of the Golden Sheaf and two Geminis, including one for Best Director for Moze. Most recently, he directed the television presentation of "Love Lies Bleeding", a celebration of the life and music of Elton John as performed by the Alberta Ballet. His upcoming film, "Romeos & Juliets" will air on the CBC in June 2012.

Production Notes

I was thrilled when the CBC commissioned me to create a documentary that would not only celebrate the National Ballet of Canada's 60th anniversary but explore the dramatic creation of the re-imagining of "Romeo and Juliet" by choreographer Alexei Ratmansky, one of the most sought-after choreographers in the world. I've had a long history with the CBC creating original dance dramas like Year of the Lion and Roxana, but this project gave me an opportunity to make a documentary again, my first in 25 years, since I made my first feature film Dance for Modern Times in 1987.

When we started filming Romeos & Juliets in the summer of 2011, I had no idea what shape the film would take. It was a daunting prospect at first, given that I'd be dealing with a major ballet company and one of the most significant works ever created in its history. After all, what angle or point of view would one take? The answer came surprisingly quickly for me when I realized that Alexei Ratmansky, the choreographer, had selected five couples to begin rehearsing in the Romeo and Juliet roles but had not decided which couples would eventually be cast. Moreover, it was still unknown which of these couples would be given the opening night position, a highly coveted role as it would attract most of the press and publicity. It occurred to me that these questions would provide the dramatic tension I needed to make a film that audiences could appreciate and relate to.

As such, the film explores the creation of the ballet from early rehearsals, to the casting decisions, through to opening night. I also wanted the camera to be as non-intrusive as possible - to simply watch and record all that happened during the three months of the ballet's creation and first performance on stage. Moreover, in making the film, I wanted to provide the audience with a privileged position while watching the rehearsals. In order to accomplish this, I used a jib crane that was able to hover above and alongside the dancers to capture intimate viewpoints not usually possible in such settings. There were challenges, of course - particularly in getting the dancers to trust us and be comfortable enough to allow certain moments to happen on camera, as well as sifting through the 70 hours of footage that would be pared down to a 45-minute TV program. It was exhausting at times but always exhilarating, and I'm grateful to all the dancers, particularly choreographer Alexei, for making room for me and my crew in a situation fraught with tension and stress.

Speaking of the choreographer, I was always awed by the remarkable focus of Alexei. With enormous responsibilities and expectations laid upon his shoulders, he never once wavered from the task at hand. Always pleasant, congenial and accommodating, he redefined for me what an artist must do without losing sight of the humanity that surrounds us.

Romeos & Juliets gave me the chance to not only return to the documentary genre but to observe even more closely the enormous physical and emotional challenges dancers experience in their lives. The professional life of a dancer is short, and pain is a constant companion; yet the chance to enthrall an audience with a vision of perfection is what makes ballet so great. My thanks to the National Ballet of Canada, Karen Kain and all the Romeos and Juliets of this world who sacrifice so much for love.