Adinah Dancyger

Adinah Dancyger is a Korean/Polish-American filmmaker from New York City who currently resides in Brooklyn. She graduated with a film degree from Bard College. After graduation, Dancyger made a short film called Chopping Onions, a multilingual portrait based on her relationship with her Korean grandmother which has circulated throughout international film festivals. Dancyger also makes music videos, directs videos for Dazed and Confused Magazine, and has even found herself on the opposite side of the camera. Dancyger is currently in post-production for Girl Props, a feature film that she co-wrote and co-directed with her friends Victoria Cronin and India Salvor Menuez. 

On what drives her to communicate through filmmaking: 
I definitely think with each film, I am trying to answer a question in relationship to a female experience. It’s so difficult to encapsulate too many ideas into one film, so I think it’s an ongoing process of being extremely critical about how to communicate ideas and emotions. From what I can tell, I creatively lean toward the personal and the seemingly mundane in the filmmaking process, so in this way, I hope to imply and invite the dialogue to speak to larger ideas I’m thinking through and how I can communicate and relate to others who may be feeling the same way. 

On her childhood and filmmaking origins: 
I grew up with my parents, my brother, my sister and my grandmother. My parents own grocery stores, and when I was a kid, they were all on the Lower East Side, so I ran around food aisles a lot. I was a pretty active kid, going from ice skating practice, which was a big chunk of my adolescence, to dance, and to Korean and Hebrew school. I stopped most of my extracurriculars as a preteen because it was all pretty intense and I wanted to have a life. I became more interested in art and wanting to be a “real” kid. 

Technically, I started making films when I was five if you count trying to be the star of home videos. I made movies with my friends in middle school, then I got more invested in video and photography in high school when my friends and I took art more seriously and invested our free time into creating that community for ourselves and our friends. My friends and I still make videos that sometimes make it to iMovie.

photo by india salvor menuez.jpg

On the source of her ideas:
I tend to write and think about ideas at times where I’m feeling confused, lost, anxious, and all other sorts of discomforting emotions. It’s really important for me to look back at past experiences—most of the the time this involves guilt, humiliation, and regret, but also positive experiences, the ones that were so memorable and weird that there wasn’t any way you could make them up, and then I flesh them out in a format (filmmaking) to reevaluate them. It’s more therapeutic than anything…. Through making my first short, I recalled that so much of my childhood was listening to my parents tell amazing stories about their lives and their parents’ lives. A majority of of our conversations were about what happened within the family. I think this had a huge effect on me to turn inwards and think about how to create stories from what I know and go from there. It feels like the only way I know how to do make something.

On other creative women she admires: 
There are so many talented people I have the pleasure to know. For starters, India, Victoria, and I have been working together for so long on this project and I am definitely learning something new each time we get together, whether it is for the project or just hanging out. There are too many women I admire: filmmakers Kelly Reichardt, Josephine Decker, Celia Rowlson-Hall, So Yong Kim, and Zia Anger for their distinct film languages; photographers Petra Collins and Amber Mahoney; rapper Princess Nokia; punk band Palberta—the list goes on and on, I am just doing some sort of justice here. 

Still from Chopping Onions. Courtesy of Adinah Dancyger.

Still from Chopping Onions. Courtesy of Adinah Dancyger.

Her advice to young women just beginning their film careers: 
There are tons of smart, outspoken, and highly influential women and female-centric communities that are broadening the outlet to find empowerment and to make work. There’s so much to learn and develop and think about, that it’s just about constantly pushing through, working with others who feel the same, and having a lot of conversations. I think any young women feeling doubt about their place should only follow their gut and filter out the nonsense that is telling them otherwise…. It’s also about taking all that negative energy that creeps in and letting that be a catalyst to be productive and undefeated. ★

Portraits by India Salvor Meneuz.