HFF 2015 Interview: Citizen Teklit Director/Producer Tim Taylor


When Teklit Guzay turned 15 he faced a horrifying choice: join the Eritrean army or risk being shot while fleeing his country. He fled. His destination? A fabled land he had heard of but never seen: America. And so his quest for US citizenship began.

Citizen Teklit is a 2015 Heartland Film Festival Official Selection, Indiana Spotlight Competition, Documentary Short.


We spoke with Director/Producer Tim Taylor about his film:

HF: What is your film about, and how did the project come to be?

TT: I have a profile series on Facebook called “Real people. Real moments.,” and last fall I wanted to do a piece on a modern day pilgrim. A friend introduced me to Teklit Guzay, an Eritrean refugee. Over coffee he casually mentioned he hoped to become a US citizen in the few months. How often do you see that happen? We started filming!

HF: What was your role in the production?

TT: Director. But I’ve got a great team from here in Indy who jumped in.  First is Lindsay Mitchell my director of photography and frequent collaborator. Local jazz brothers, Nick and Joel Tucker perform the soundtrack. Also Greg Malone of Road Pictures, was always supplying equipment and lending studio time.

HF: Why did you submit to the Heartland Film Festival? Have you been to the Festival before?

TT: I’ve been attending the Heartland Film Festival for years and to now have a film of my own included is humbling beyond words.

HF: This year’s tagline is “Movies That Stay with You” – what lasting effect will your film have on moviegoers?

TT: I hope that what people take away from Citizen Teklit is a piece of what makes Teklit himself so wonderful to be around, and that is just an unending gratefulness for life itself. It’s infectious.

HF: What has inspired you to become a filmmaker?

TT: Not what, but whom. Three years ago at Heartland I met Mohamed Diab, director of that year’s grand prize winner, Cairo 678. We really connected. He helped me see there were things I wanted to say in film, and that really, I had no excuse.

HF: What is something that you know about filmmaking now, but you weren’t told when you started your career?

TT: Don’t skip lunch while you’re filming. Everyone needs to eat.

HF: What are some of your favorite movies? What’s your favorite worst movie (you know it’s bad, but still love it)?

TT: My favorite of all time? Apollo 13. If it’s playing on a screen anywhere in the room, I have to stand there and watch it to the end.

Favorite worst movie? Caddy Shack. Bill Murray. Rodney Dangerfield . Cheesy script. It never gets better at being really bad.

HF: How many film festivals has your film been a part of? What do you like the most about the festival experience?

TT: Heartland is the premiere of Citizen Teklit so it hasn’t been shown at any other festivals yet. So far, I just like the build up and excitement.

HF: Heartland Film Festival moviegoers love filmmaker Q&As. Let’s say a Festival attendee wants to earn some brownie points—what is a question that you’d love to answer, but haven’t yet been asked?

TT: An interesting question, other than “Are you available to film a documentary for a large commission?” might be, “What did you learn from making Citizen Teklit?” And my answer, without getting too cheesy, is that for all its problems and troubles, the US is still an incredibly special place, one that we should cherish.

See Citizen Teklit in Shorts Program 8: The Good, The Bad and The Government

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