IDFA 2010 - portrait of Sarah Mathilde Domogala, director of 'All We Ever Wanted'

Article published on Nov. 21, 2010
Article published on Nov. 21, 2010
See the video of the full interview here Sarah Mathilde Domogala could be seen as an ambassador of our generation. Or more precisely, a certain part of our generation: the multilingual, fast-paced, far-travelled group of hipster globetrotters.
The trendy young designers, filmmakers and scriptwriters who spend their days working and their nights partying, keeping their futures open and their pasts bursting with experiences. All We Ever Wanted, the director’s latest film, explores this group of people and their quest to find fulfilment, happiness and self-worth, in a society where individuality means everything, and nothing. Under the constant pressure to perform and excel, the protagonists of her film are all confronted with fears of failing that lead to anxiety and panic behind a façade of hip- and happiness.

The idea for the film came on a Friday night three years ago. Domogala was at home and, having received several invitations to go on Facebook, she decided to have a look at her friends’ profiles. They were people with lives like hers, with interests like hers. But looking at their pictures and profiles, their happy faces at parties and on holiday, she thought: “They do a lot better than I do”. It made her realise that we spend a lot of time comparing ourselves to other people. “Many journalists tell me that only weak people do that. But it’s normal”, she affirms.

What have changed though are the circumstances. In a society where a virtual social network has 350 million members and people are as mobile and flexible as never before, the old concepts don’t work anymore. In the course of the last 15 years, our global society has changed so much that, emotionally, we are dealing with a brand new set of questions to which we don’t have the answers. So we use old answers for new problems. “Our parents tend to say that they went through the same phase when they were young. But today, young is from 18 to 38.” explains Domogala. We stay young for longer, but we seem to have less time. For we want to go far, and as fast as possible. We grow up with the idea that the world is ours, that we can be on top. But according to the filmmaker, we don’t learn to deal with emotional problems or failure. Instead, we believe that “We have more rights than duties. The right to be happy, the right to a good job, the right to the love of our life, the right to children, the right to look good. These are the promises we grew up with, and if one of these promises is unfulfilled, a lot of people feel like a victim.”

Whereas young adults used to ask themselves, “Who am I?”, we now ask, “What should my image look like?” And this image allows no room for doubt and fear. We are so busy with constructing that we forget to introspect for fear of getting found out. Found out that we are not only strong, sexy and suave, but that we have doubts and worries and questions.

The director knows what she is talking about. In her early twenties, she was just like the protagonists in her film. Life offered her everything and she wanted to take a huge bite of this glorious piece of cake. “I loved everything that I did, but I loved it too much.” Too much work, too much partying, too much travelling. At 26, she had a burn-out that it took her two years to recover from. No more fireworks, but brutal introspection, and questions about what she really wanted. So she “changed everything”, and mostly, her rhythm.

When we ask her for a solution, she shrugs and says, “There are as many solutions as there are people.” And maybe this is where, in our striving for individuality, we can truly find our uniqueness: in finding our own solution, to our own personal self. Because finding what you really need might be a trend, but it is not one that we can all follow in the same way.

Maybe we should stop putting ourselves down for feeling bad. Along with the right to be happy and the right to find the love of our life, maybe we should also accord ourselves the right to feel down. The Africa argument (that we should pull ourselves together, for people are starving in Africa) is probably not going to help anyone. According to Domogala: “It’s part of human life to have struggles, and that struggle feels bad. It doesn’t mean that your struggle feels less than that of someone who is struggling for food. Just because we are very comfortable and very safe, that doesn’t mean that we’re emotionally rich.

So maybe, instead of tirelessly covering up what we consider to be our weaknesses, we should make room for other people in our lives. Instead of working on our façade, we should work on the interior design. And maybe put in an extra sofa.

Interview and photo by Mara Klein