Why Leah Meyerhoff Believes in Unicorns

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American indie director Leah Meyerhoff visits Edinburgh this week with the International Premiere of I Believe in Unicorns. We met up with her to hear more about the film.

I Believe in Unicorns is a sensitive and poetic road movie that introduces Davina, a young woman tasked with caring for her disabled mother and her various attempts to escape from her difficult life.

Director Leah Meyerhoff’s films have screened in over 200 festivals, and Edinburgh International Film Festival will present the first screening outside of the US: her first feature film brought across the pond.

“I’ve been to tons of festivals with Unicorns, but all in America,” Meyerhoff told us ahead of the second screening of her film tomorrow. “It’s been really fun to be here. Monday night was our premiere here and I think the audiences here are quite intelligent. They have real kind of academic sense of cinema and the history of cinema. Some of the more in-depth questions I’ve gotten at a Q&A – and I’ve been to, you know, 20 festivals in the past two months.”

If you have been around at EIFF during the past 10 days, you will probably have seen some of the director’s personalised posters, postcards and polaroids hidden in corners and tucked into the traffic light crossing buttons.

“I made the film with an audience of younger women in mind, and at least in America it’s often hard to get particularly teenaged girls out to the cinema. Everyone seems to be watching everything at home now,” explained Meyerhoff. “So part of the reason I do all this hand-crafted marketing is to try and catch the eye of that 16 year-old girl who maybe isn’t part of the festival and will think it looks interesting. It has worked! So I keep doing it.”

These quirky touches help raise awareness for the film and absolutely reflect the look and feel of the film itself. The film melds stop-motion animation and creative touches with a deeper human drama. I asked her about finding that balance.

“I knew that I wanted to tell a story about a teenaged girl who was artistic and creative and imaginative and a bit different,” said Meyerhoff, “and I knew that I then wanted to show the film largely from her perspective. So all of the visual aesthetic decisions that went into the filmmaking were made with that in mind.

“I really wanted the film to have this hand-crafted feel and look like a word that this teenaged girl could have created. I think that’s what sets this film apart from some other coming of age films about teenagers.”

The film also has some important messages for young people about the nature of relationships.

“I hope that young women and men watch the film and recognise something of themselves on screen,” explained Meyerhoff. “Enough to realise that whatever they’re going through in their relationships that they’re not alone in that.

“That was not only the motivation of making this film but the reason why I became a filmmaker in the first place.”


I Believe in Unicorns has its final screening tomorrow, Sunday 29 June at 3.40pm.

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