Screening at BFI Flare later this year, Silver Haze reunites Dutch writer/director Sacha Polak with British actor Vicky Knight. Having worked together on Dirty God in 2019, Sacha Polak’s new film is loosely based on Knight’s own experiences as a child, and explores the confrontation of trauma, the juxtaposition socioeconomic status, and the concept of a chosen family. We spoke to Sacha Polak to discuss this powerful new project, and what viewers can expect.  

 “It’s a film based loosely on the life of Vicky Knight who I previously made a film about called Dirty God. It’s a love story but also a story about finding your own family or tribe and overcoming trauma.” 

Sacha Polak © Geert Snoeijer 

 

What do you hope that viewers will take from the film? 

When I started this film, it came off the back of Dirty God and Vicky and me, we travelled all over the world with the film and I met her family and everybody around her and we got to know each other really well and we really wanted to do another film with each other. Then I saw the impact that Vicky had on the audiences – talking to them and comforting them after the screening. I was so impressed with her, and so I really hope this film is comforting for people. I think that’s the highest achievable goal. 

 

What drew you to tell this story? 

I wanted to make a film that told Vicky’s story in the way I saw her and her family, and I saw that she had a tough life but there’s also a lot of love and warmth in it, so much resilience in her as a person so that was something that I wanted to show.  

 

I understand that the film draws inspiration from Vicky’s own childhood experiences. How did you approach the challenges of authentically capturing the nuances and the struggles of this like socioeconomic class and what aspects were important for you to highlight? 

I wrote the script, and we improvised around it a lot. It was important that we shot it with Vicky’s real sister and brother and that we shot it where Vicky really lives so that we get into her world basically. Bringing Florence and Esme in there of course highlights the difference in their upbringing but that’s not the reason their relationship is not working, it’s more that they are both experiencing/have experienced a lot of trauma in their life and for Frankie’s character she’s fighting all the time through life because that’s the way she was raised but Florence’s character had already given up on life at the beginning of the film. That was something I wanted to demonstrate.  

@Viking Film

 

You’ve perfectly illustrated how you not only need the right time to approach your trauma, but also the right place. 

It’s also finding your own family in a way and searching for that. That was an aspect which was quite personal to me, I don’t have a father or a mother anymore, so I’ve always searched for that, but I think also for Vicky it’s personal in the sense that she experienced a big love like that and ran away from home, so she’s now very close to her family again but in the past, it wasn’t like that.  

 

What would you say is the main way your collaboration with Vicky had to evolve from Dirty God to Silver Haze? 

Well Vicky was like so much stronger and so much more professional than Dirty God, she had grown so much and learnt so much and loved acting. On Dirty God, she sometimes had a breakdown or felt really emotional and during Silver Haze that wasn’t the case anymore at all and she was even coaching her brother and sister – she was so much stronger.  

 

How do you hope this film contributes to the conversation around queer stories in cinema 

What I’ve heard around me is that particularly within the environment of Vicky, there are not many queer stories that are being told and I don’t know if that’s true but at least I hope that it touches people, and that it tells something new in that sense.  

 

In your opinion, what ways can the film industry continue to improve that representation both in front of the camera and behind? 

Tell more diverse stories – that’s the only thing you can do. I was talking to my editor, and she was saying, “okay this film has to be good because when I was growing up, you had like one or two queer stories”. There was nothing I could watch, and see that representation, and while that has changed a lot and there are film festivals like BFI Flare, I hope that it evolves and changes more and more.  

@Viking Film

It’s also the fact that the main topic isn’t the queer relationship it’s just a relationship that exists within a bigger story.  

Yes, and I mean it is based upon Vicky’s life and Vicky is queer so naturally it’s her love story but it’s not the main topic at all, no. 

 

What are you optimistic about for the rest of 2024? 

I’m writing a horror right now with my best friend. It’s a horror that contains the topic of divorce – my personal divorce – so that’s something I’m really excited about for 2024, I hope to make that film.  

 

Silver Haze screens as part of BFI Flare: London LGBTQIA+ Film Festival (13-24 March) and is released in cinemas 29 March. 

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