The Way We Get By: Crystal Moselle Has Been Binge-Watching Emir Kusturica Movies With Her New Cat

The director of HBO’s new show Betty, a spin-off of her hit movie Skate Kitchen, is finally getting to catch up on her to-watch list.

Most of us are sequestered in our homes, doing our part to slow the spread of COVID-19. That includes some of our favorite artists, so we’re asking them to tell us about one thing — a book, a movie, a record, whatever — that’s helping them get through this difficult time.

All things considered, quarantine has been fine for me so far. It’s actually been nice to relax a little bit. With The Wolfpack, Skate Kitchen and then Betty, I’ve been going pretty much flat-out for the past five years. But Betty premieres on May 1, so I’m now finally done.

During the lockdown, I’ve been doing Ryan Heffington’s online dance class four times a week. The first few times I did it, I was skeptical. I thought, “I’m not sure how I feel about dancing like this alone in a room …” But then I decided, “You know what, fuck it – I’m going to just do this.” I go so hard, and it’s been the most amazing way to get myself out of everything that’s happening in the world. My friends and I will do it over Zoom, and that’s been incredible.

I’ve always wanted a cat, but before I was so busy and traveling so much and I didn’t want to leave the cat alone. A month or two ago, I thought, “I’m going to be at home for a long time and that might be lonely – I need an animal!” So I went on Facebook and asked if anybody wanted to lend me their cat. Someone wrote back and said that his girlfriend had a cat, but that he was allergic and they were quarantining together. So I fostered the cat, Isobel, who’s really cute, friendly and cuddly.

I’ve been doing a lot of cooking, and that’s been really helping me, too. I literally haven’t bought groceries in the past three years, and now I’m cooking every single meal and rediscovering how to cook. I used to cook, but it takes a lot of energy and so I stopped for a while because I was so busy. This current situation has thrown me back into it, and I just love doing it. It’s very creative. I think being creative is a really important part of isolation. You can learn that just from The Wolfpack. I’m been doing some watercolors, and I’m just trying to be inspired, writing and rearranging the house.

A shot from Emir Kusturica’s Time of the Gypsies.

All the things I was always saying I didn’t have time to do, now I have no excuse to put them off anymore. This is the time to do it. So I’ve been binge-watching different directors’ whole body of work. I went through Carlos Reygadas’ movies a couple of weeks ago; Eliza Hittman dropped off her DVD of Silent Light so I could see it. I also got to finally see Tarkovsky’s Stalker the other day, which I’ve been meaning to watch my whole life.

Right now, I’m watching (and really enjoying) Emir Kusturica’s films. I have a project I’ve been wanting to make about the Romani people for many years, and I have a long list of films related to them that I’ve been wanting to see. My project is about the Romani in America, and is based on an experience somebody in my family had with them. There have been several projects on the Romani in the U.S., but I have a unique take on the subject and I think my filmmaking style will lend itself really well to this kind of story. I’ve seen all of Tony Gatlif’s films – Korkoro, Gadjo Dilo, Latcho Drom – and he’s incredible. Probably my favorite Romani film is A Ciambra by Jonas Carpignano. I’ve hung out several times with Jonas and the people from his film in southern Italy; the Romani are fascinating group of people.

Jonas always told me to watch Emir Kusturica’s films, so I’m finally doing that. I love Time of the Gypsies; it’s perfect and so beautiful. Before watching it, I had no idea Kusturica’s work was so big and so Fellini-esque. But it’s still very gritty, and I like how quirky and depressing it is. I needed to cry, and I did that when I watched Time of the Gypsies. I’d been so immersed in my work for the past couple years and think I had become jaded, but sitting with myself for so long and watching that film was a release. I cried and felt emotion. In these times, it’s important to not hold it all in.

New York-based director Crystal Moselle is a storyteller of both documentary and fiction films. She is best known for her Sundance Grand Jury Prize-winning documentary The Wolfpack which was later distributed by Magnolia Pictures. After the success of The Wolfpack, she met a group of female skateboarders on the train, who would become her main collaborators and subjects on three projects. The first was a narrative short That One Day which premiered at the 73rd Venice International Film Festival. Shortly after that, they expanded the film into a feature, which Crystal co-wrote and directed named after the infamous group Skate Kitchen, which premiered at Sundance 2018 and was later distributed by Magnolia to critical acclaim. In the same year, Crystal was nominated for the Breakthrough Director Award at the Gotham Awards for her direction of the film. The third collaboration is the upcoming HBO series Betty, which premieres on May 1. (Picture by Brigitte Lacombe.)