HFF 2015 Interview: Many Beautiful Things Director/Producer Laura Waters Hinson


From Executive Producer Hisao Kurosawa (Dreams, Ran), comes the untold story of one of the world’s greatest women artists and why her name was nearly lost to history. Many Beautiful Things plunges viewers into the complex age of Victorian England to meet Lilias Trotter, a daring young woman who defied all norms by winning the favor of England’s top art critic, John Ruskin. But with her legacy on the line, Lilias made a stunning decision that forces us to question the limits of sacrifice. As Lilia’s journeys to French Algeria in the late 1800s to pioneer work with women and children, viewers are left to wonder, “Could you abandon a dream to pursue your true calling?” Many Beautiful Things is a 2015 Heartland Film Festival Official Selection, Documentary Feature, U.S. Premiere.

We spoke with Director/Producer Laura Waters Hinson about her film:

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

LWH: Many Beautiful Things is the life story of Lilias Trotter, an incredible female artist from the Victorian era in England whose name was almost lost to history. The film explores Lilias’ life and her ultimate, radical decision to move to Algeria as a single woman in the late 1800s.  We journey into Lilias’ world through the eyes of Miriam Rockness, the biographer and world expert on Lilias Trotter, as she hunts down the journals and lost letters between Lilias and John Ruskin, one of England’s most famous art critics.

The project was born as a result of our Executive Producers, Brian and Sally Oxley, meeting Miriam after reading one of her books about Lilias.  Miriam’s dream had always been to see a documentary produced about Lilias’ life, but I don’t think she realized that she would become such a pivotal part of the story herself.  An advisory board was put together to oversee the production of a documentary on her life, and that’s when I was approached about directing the film.

HF: What was your role in the production?

LWH: I directed and produced the film, as well as served as co-editor.

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

LWH: I submitted to Heartland because I’d had an incredible experience at the festival in 2008 with my first film, As We Forgive.  I had always hoped to return to the festival, and believed that Many Beautiful Things was a perfect fit for Heartland’s audience and mission.

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

LWH: I really do think that Many Beautiful Things will stay with the viewer for several reasons.  First, I think that no one has likely ever seen a documentary quite like this before, which is a synthesis of traditional documentary elements mixed with incredible animation sequences of Lilias’ artwork as well as symbolic re-enactments with actors who represent the memories of Lilias.  It really doesn’t fit any one genre.  The film has a very dreamlike quality and our hope was to inspire people with the sense of beauty and wonder that Lilias experienced in her own life and through her art.  I’ve been told that the film has a strangely healing quality to it, sort of like a healing balm.  If you’re stressed out or uncertain about life choices facing you – come see our film!  Also, I think the film will really encourage women viewers who don’t often see stories about strong historical women or women of faith.

HF: What has inspired you to become a filmmaker?

LWH: I became a filmmaker because I think stories have the power to change the world. Films help us make meaning out of the brokenness and randomness of life, which is why they are so powerful.  Filmmaking is also the confluence of all my favorite things – photography, journalism/writing, people, music, beauty, rhythm/movement, etc.  It’s an art form that brings together so many other art forms, and it’s a never ending challenge which you never feel you’ve fully mastered.

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

LWH: I did not know how hard it would be to get films financed and for films to find the right audiences.  There’s so much work that happens before and after production – most of my life is spent on a computer rather than behind a camera!

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

LWH: This is our US premiere, and we had our international premiere at the Manchester International Film Festival in England in July 2015.  We’ll also be showing at the Kansas Film Fest in November.

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?

LWH: “I noticed that there are only a few archival photographs of Lilias and obviously no video footage since she lived in the 1800s.  How did you guys create visuals for a documentary to tell the story of Lilias Trotter without using all talking heads?”

See Many Beautiful Things at the 2015 Heartland Film Festival

* Premiere Pavilion Special Event Screening (no passes)

Purchase Tickets



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