Dec 28, 2007
Dec 8, 2007
Conocí a Francisco Vargas Quevedo -escritor, director, co-editor y productor de El Violín (2005)- hace pocos días, cuando vino a New York a presentar su película de la mano de Cinema Tropical y Film Movement. Salí de la proyección emocionado, feliz de comprender que no es necesaria una super producción para comunicar una idea profunda sino todo lo contrario, y por sobre todas las cosas dejé la sala con muchas preguntas. Tuve la suerte de lograr el acceso a este gran nuevo cineasta, quien no sólo me resultó un artista muy interesante para dialogar y descubrir, sino que también mostró un gran sentido del humor, cosa que me hizo conectar automáticamente.
De lo que trata la película no puedo avanzar mucho, sólo decir que lo que comentan la mayoría de las críticas es verdad: hay que verla. Pare tener una idea de la recibida que está teniendo en los Estados Unidos, la publicación online Rotten Tomatoes, que arma un ranking porcentual en base a un conjunto de críticas independientes, le adjudica hasta el momento un 100%.
Nos encontramos en uno de los primeros días nevados del inminente invierno Neoyorquino, aunque técnicamente es aún Otoño. Tanto Francisco como yo nos miramos con cara de susto y ganas de estar en nuestras tibias primaveras latinas y ancestrales. Sin embargo, comenzamos una deliciosa charla sobre cine y algo más, y nos olvidamos del frío hasta las últimas preguntas, que como tributo al cine de guerrilla, terminaron caminando apurados bajo la nieve, casi sin prestarle atención a los semáforos.
Francisco Vargas Quevedo: ¿Son difíciles tus preguntas?
Pablo Goldbarg: Creo que algunas sí.
F.V.Q.: Espero saberme las respuestas.
P.G.: Espero que algunas no. La primera es la siguiente: el violín en sí aparece como un dispositivo para ir llevando la historia adelante. De alguna manera se convierte en un personaje importante por si mismo. ¿Cómo es esto de trabajar con un objeto que toma tanto valor?
F.V.Q.: Fíjate que en algún momento alguien me preguntaba cuál era el papel que jugaba el violín, y yo decía que, por supuesto están los personajes de la película, que son de carne y hueso, que son Don Plutarco (Angel Tavira), el Capitán (Dagoberto Gama), el hijo (Gerardo Taracena), y el nieto (Mario Garibaldi) y todos. Pero en realidad, el eje central, la médula que va haciendo que todo suceda, y por tanto es, y como bien dices un personaje más - y a veces yo creo que es "el" protagonista de la película -, es el violín. ¿Por qué? Por que no sólo es el objeto a partir del cual van sucediendo y se van desenredando las situaciones en la historia, sino que simboliza mucho más. El violín, además del objeto y el instrumento, es la música. Y a partir de la música es que sucede todo esto. Y el eje central también de la película, es la música. La música como este elemento que queda, a pesar de todo lo que pueda suceder. A pesar de que puedan aparecer o desaparecer los personajes, o morir, o perderse, lo que queda es la música, como símbolo de tradición oral, memoria, cultura y espíritu libertario de los pueblos. Todo lo que tenga que ver con esto y lo que sucede en la película, está dicho y tratado a partir de la música del violín. La herencia que tiene el nieto hacia el final de la película, además de otras cosas es la música, lo que le queda. Con todo lo que significa, y lo que vivió y sufrió. Entonces el violín es como un personaje más, y así fue tratado y concebido desde siempre.
P.G.: ¿Cómo se elige la banda de sonido de una película así?
F.V.Q.: Mira, es complicado. En la película hay muchas cosas que me duelen, o preguntas que no encuentro respuesta, o que no han tenido respuesta por décadas en México, el asunto político... todo esto está ahí. Pero también está el asunto de la música, porque es una de las cosas que amo y me apasionan: la música tradicional, la popular, no sólo de México sino de muchos lugares, pero específicamente en esta película de México. Entonces fue muy complicado porque también trabajé muchos años en la música desde la radio y otros lugares. Digo que es difícil porque hay en México una riqueza musical sorprendente e impresionante. Afuera se conoce muy poco; hay apenas dos o tres estilos conocidos como la música mexicana. Pero cada rincón y cada lugar está lleno de música y músicos de una diversidad que sorprende: indígena, campesina, rural, de las montañas, de las sierras, del mar, de los llanos. Entonces, yo trataba de hacer paralelamente un mosaico musical de México, cosa que fue muy difícil, porque hay tanto... La película está contada como un "corrido". El corrido es un género musical que fue muy usado en la revolución Mexicana como un medio de llevar noticias, de informar a la gente, de comunicarse, como hacían los viejos juglares medievales. Fue difícil escoger, aunque por otro lado tuve la ventaja de que el protagonista es un músico real, y ha sido un músico toda su vida. Entonces él podía interpretar cualquier cosa que yo le pidiera. La regla principal siempre era que la música no tenía que acompañar como algo aditivo y sobrepuesto a la secuencias: tenía que significar; un elemento igual de importante que cualquier otra cosa.
P.G.: ¿Cómo hiciste para lograr desde el guión la complejidad de los personajes, quienes por momentos parecen estar divididos entre los buenos y los malos, pero luego vamos descubriendo que tienen mucho más que eso?
F.V.Q.: Bueno, es que eso fue algo que nos planteamos desde un principio. Y era como una premisa, una regla, un mandamiento, un recordatorio constante que no había que perder de vista en ningún instante. De lo que trata la película, además de muchas otras cosas, y de contar una historia dramatúrgicamente conmovedora y poderosa - aquella historia del viejo - está hablando de un problema que en México nunca se había tocado en el cine de ficción que va dirigido a las salas comerciales - si en el documental, en otros medios y otros ámbitos. Entonces estábamos tocando un tema complicado: la violación de los derechos humanos, la represión, la injusticia, la pobreza y la miseria. El ejército como brazo armado de un Estado y gobierno que, en lugar de cambiar las condiciones de vida de la gente, son los que provocan muchas veces - y sin que yo lo justifique, pero es así - que muchos pueblos o comunidades lleguen incluso al extremo de tomar las armas para tratar de cambiar sus condiciones de vida... y el ejército está ahí para sofocarlo. Al ser un tema muy complicado que nunca había sido tocado, era muy fácil caer en un panfleto, en una visión maniquea de "los buenos y los malos". Nosotros queríamos alejarnos de eso, siempre, desde el guión. Y el trabajo con los actores siempre fue hablar de "seres humanos", de las contradicciones y los conflictos de estos seres humanos. Claro, ahora están en este contexto y en esta realidad inmediata y cercana a ellos, que los pone de un lado u otro, pero en realidad estamos hablando de seres humanos que incluso no quisieran vivir la realidad que viven. Y eso los hace complejos y contradictorios. Porque resultan carne de la misma carne, y sangre de la misma sangre. El militar que está destinado a sofocar ese movimiento y desaparecer a toda esa comunidad podría ser nieto de ese viejo, sin duda... quisimos tener mucho cuidado de eso.
P.G.: ¿Creés que esta historia trata, además de este tema específico de México, un tema universal?
F.V.Q.: Mira, tal vez, y sin duda es universal. Pero inicialmente hay como tres niveles que a mi me interesaba tocar en la película: primero, y por supuesto porque yo vivo ahí, y ahí crecí, y me desenvuelvo, y es lo que primero me duele, es lo que sucede en México. Luego Latinoamérica. Es una cosa que me importa, me preocupa, me significa y me duele. Y que era un objetivo de esta película. Y luego está el asunto universal, pero en realidad nosotros siempre partimos de lo particular a lo general, y no al revés. No intentábamos hacer una película preconcebida como universal. Queríamos hablar de realidades muy cercanas a México y a América Latina. Y por eso la película no tiene un tiempo y un espacio definido. Lo que yo no quería que sucediera es ubicarla en un momento histórico específico - en Guerrero, Chiapas o Huaxaca, Guatemala, Salvador, Honduras, tal década, tal año, tal comunidad -, porque entonces sería muy triste que la gente después de ver esta película pudiera pensar: "Si eso se ubica en el pasado, es que ya no sucede." Los discursos oficiales son tan poderosos y tan dominantes que bien pueden hacernos creer que ese tipo de cosas ya no suceden, que están en el pasado, y que nuestros países han sido pobres, pero están ahora en vías de desarrollo y en camino hacia... por eso no hay tiempo y espacio definido. Cada quien lo puede ubicar y acomodar en el referente más cercano. En muchos países de América Latina piensan y dicen que la película es de ahí, es local. Cada uno se la ha ido apropiando. Yo tengo una anécdota super linda que me sucedió en Grecia y me hizo "click" en la cabeza. Terminando de presentar la película en Tesalónica vino un viejo conmovido y llorando, y me pregunto "¿tu eres Griego?", le dije que no. "¿Pero tu has venido antes a Grecia". No. "Pero entonces tu familia es Griega". No. "¿Te han contado historias de aquí?". "No", le dije. "Es la primera vez que vengo a esta tierra y estoy encantado, y me da mucho gusto poder presentar esta película aquí". Entonces el concluyó: "Esta historia que tu estás contando... mira, voltea hacia atrás, fíjate las montañas, allá hay un pueblo donde esta historia sucedió hace cincuenta años". Me contó toda la historia. El había acercado su referente, lo que él conocía. ¿Qué la hace universal? Pues una cosa muy sencilla, hermano, y muy triste: vivimos un mundo cada vez más injusto, más desigual, más polarizado, con muchas más dificultades para la gente común y corriente, como tu y yo, que las vivimos cotidianamente. Entonces, en cualquier situación donde uno pisa, sofoca u oprima a otro, uno dice "quisiera hacer algo por cambiarlo". Y cada vez tenemos menos oportunidad de cambiar las cosas y de incidir en ellas. Eso es lo que hace que se conecte. Entonces este "uno" que pisa u oprime, puede ser una persona, un pueblo, un gobierno, un país, y ese es el pan nuestro de cada día. De eso habla la película. Cuando eso sucede, uno busca algo de que agarrarse, para tratar de hacer algo, y esa palabra es dignidad. El personaje del viejo se llama Don Plutarco, pero yo también le puse un nombre: dignidad. Por eso el "nos puede" tanto. Eso simboliza... lo que deseamos.
P.G.: ¿Pensas que existe un secreto para resistir pacíficamente?
F.V.Q.: Sí, cada quién desde su lugar... de hecho la película es un "no" a la guerra. Nos parece una estupidez la guerra. Las guerras son innecesarias. ¿Por qué tienen que suceder este tipo de cosas? No deberían suceder, no sólo en términos de bien y mal. Es inentendible, insostenible. Cada quién desde su pequeñita trinchera, desde lo que hacemos, y desde lo que nos dedicamos y vivimos podemos ir poniendo algo, no sólo para tratar de resistir, sino para tratar de pensar, y de hecho está dicho ahí en la película: siempre vendrán tiempos mejores. Yo lo creo. Yo lo espero. Si no, yo no estaría aquí. Si no, no tendría sentido vivir ni hacer nada. Pero para hacer que vengan, hay que trabajar mucho, y para que vengan también desde lo que uno hace hay que intentarlo.
P.G. ¿Cuál fue tu motivación para usar el blanco y negro, y por qué creés que se ve tan apropiado en tu película?
F.V.Q.: Bueno, por un lado, es por el asunto del tiempo y del espacio. El blanco y negro nos permitía desubicarla. Por otro lado queríamos que tuviese una apariencia documental. Junto con la cámara en mano, el blanco y negro, los actores profesionales y no profesionales, y la gente de las comunidades. La idea fue un poco buscar que la gente, cuando saliera de ver la película, tuviera la sensación de haber visto algo documental, que es una sensación diferente a la que uno tiene al ver ficción - reacciones como "bueno, es una película, ya está, se acabó". Cuando uno termina de ver un documental, y abre la puerta para salir a la calle, uno sabe que eso ha sucedido, o está sucediendo, o viene. Y por otro lado, por una razón estética era ideal, nos permitía hablar de blanco y negro como dos opuestos que se enfrentan y chocan, pero en medio hay una gama de grises que hacen que uno entienda la complejidad. Y eso te da unas atmósferas y unos estados de ánimo que no hubiéramos tenido o encontrado en otra cosa más que en el blanco y negro. Y por último, es también un homenaje a toda esta escuela visual, fotográfica, muralista, artística, de décadas importantes en México, que en el cine tuvieron que ver con el blanco y negro de Figueroa y toda una serie de aportes técnicos, que incluso hizo al blanco y negro a nivel mundial y se conocen muy poco. Entonces nosotros queríamos, no emplazar o parecer estéticamente igual, pero si retomar muchas cosas de las películas que este hombre hizo, y cuatro décadas después son tan difíciles o más, y que uno no se explica cómo lo hacían.
P.G.: El cine Latino parece cada vez más puro cuando usa actores amateurs. ¿Cómo se hace para balancear entre amateurs y profesionales?
F.V.Q.: Yo creo que depende de cada proyecto. Se está empezando a poner de moda, y no me parece que exista una fórmula. Cada proyecto tiene sus propias necesidades, y sus propias características y requerimientos. Entonces yo no creo que haya una única fórmula. Yo soy de formación actoral. Lo primero que yo estudié antes que cine fue teatro. Trabajé de actor, tengo un gran respeto por los actores, por su formación, disciplina y por todo lo que un actor profesional puede aportar. No creo que sea una receta que se pueda aplicar siempre, ni que sea un camino para llegar a una película más realista, o más impactante o más vendible. A nosotros, en El Violín nos funcionaba mucho. Hay un personaje como Don Plutarco, quien es amateur, tan fuerte, poderoso y tan logrado, porque en realidad a un lado hay un capitán, que es un actor profesional, y un hijo, otro actor sorprendente, que aportaron y ayudaron a que lográramos que Don Plutarco fuera tan fuerte. Y ellos son profesionales.
P.G.: La violencia está muy presente pero no se ve: se percibe. ¿Cómo hacés para resistir la tentación de mostrar?
F.V.Q.: Nos planteamos algunas premisas. La primera es que fuera una película sencilla en todos los sentidos. Narrativa, visualmente, con cortes directos, sin efectos. Y eso lo llevamos hasta el extremo, lo cuál aparentemente es más fácil, pero... (risas), al hacerlo resulta un reto. Buscar la sencillez absoluta es más difícul, y ahora lo creo, que cualquier otra cosa. Junto con eso tuvimos otra premisa: la ausencia como presencia absoluta. No hay violencia visual ni gráfica. Está sugerida, dicha y puesta de otra manera. No hay balas, armas, sangre, enfrentamientos, no hay guerra. No se ve. Sin embargo hay una carga de suspenso y peligro constante, creo que por ausencia absoluta, y además porque queríamos hacer una especie de metáfora de como muchas de estas comunidades, a veces lo que más viven y más las destruye, separa, acorrala y les hace una existencia terrible es la "violencia silenciosa". Usualmente es así. Entonces nosotros queríamos también poner eso conceptualmente en la historia.
P.G.: ¿Qué dificultades encuentra una película de este tipo en la distribución?
F.V.Q.: Ese es un tema super complejo. El lugar donde más difícil la tiene el cine Mexicano es en México. Paradójica y tristemente es así. Es complicado distribuir las películas Mexicanas y Latinoamericanas en Mexico porque el mercado está acotado totalmente por los monopolios de distribución sobre todo norteamericanos, y no hay una puerta abierta al cine local, ni unas posibilidades para que las cinematografías locales se desarrollen, y México es uno de esos casos. El cine local ha surgido en donde han hecho todo lo contrario, como en Francia, España, Argentina y muchos otros lugares en los que el Estado se responsabiliza de la cultura, y además se entiende que el cine no sólo es un negocio sino también un bien cultural importante. Ahí se protege al cine local para que la competencia no sea tan desleal, despiadada y desigual contra Hollywood. En donde no sucede o no se ha implementado, es muy difícil. Pues eso es lo que complica absolutamente el asunto de la distribución, y en México todavía no pasa eso.
P.G.: El Violín es la película más premiada en la historia del cine Mexicano. ¿Y ahora que pasa?
F.V.Q.: Bueno, en mi vida no pasa absolutamente nada (risas). Sigo siendo el mismo, por fortuna, y más feliz y contento porque la película ha podido ser vista por mucha gente, y los premios y reconocimientos no sirven de nada más que para el ego, o cuando traen dinero. Aunque también sirven para abrir puertas, para que una película pueda llegar a lugares a donde difícilmente llegaría, o no te hubieras imaginado que es posible llegar. Eso me tiene muy contento a mi, y a todo el equipo.
Nos decimos adiós con un abrazo. Francisco Vargas Quevedo sabe todas las respuestas. También sabe cómo inspirar. El Violín es, como diría el escritor Rodrigo Fresán sobre los cuentos de John Cheever, "de esos que dan ganas de terminar de leer y ponerse a escribir". Personalmente, él inspira de una manera más directa: "No dejes de escribir, cabrón!", me dice al despedirse. Y yo no puedo hacer otra cosa que tomar la posta.
Nov 29, 2007
"I’m here at the WGA rally in Washington Square Park on November 27th, and I’m very excited to support the writer’s guild. Without the fantastic writers we have in our show I wouldn’t have anything of quality to say--much like right now. I’m very proud to be here, and hopefully this gets resolved very soon, so we can all get back to work."
- Jack McBrayer, actor (30 Rock, Arrested Development)
"We’re like mannequins without writers. It’s like Tim Robbins was saying, we wouldn’t have jobs. My brother –Bradford Winters- was one of the writers on Oz, and Tom Fontana who created Oz-one of my closest friend… so anything I can do to support… Our guild is thinking about striking on June. We’ll gonna need all the support in the world. I just think it’s important for everyone to get behind this. It’s the oldest union in the world, people want this fairness and they’re not asking for outrageous demands, I’m basically here to lend my support."
- Dean Winters, actor (Oz, Rescue Me, Law & Order: SVU, 30 Rock)
"The reason I’m here is because I’m a union member. I started off in laborer’s unions, and I worked in the docks, and I’m a member of SAG, AFTRA, Equity, but the other thing is I’m a great believer in the word. The Bible says, which is great fiction… in the beginning was the word, and the word became flesh… that’s where all the f’ trouble started. Anyway, these wonderful writers gave us the word, and it gets “bollocksed up”. And so many writers are deprived of the rights. Tim Robbins said today: “they are simply asking for fare share”. Nice and soft: fair share. That’s easy enough to say. For these greedy producers, to give up even 10 cents extra, you would think you’re asking for one of their testicles. So, if that’s the way it is… we will take two testicles. No we won’t. Fair share is enough."
- Malachy McCourt, writer/actor (Oz, Ryan's Hope, A Monk Swimming)
"I think today was amazing, because, all these unions came in support of the writer’s guild, and they all understand our fight, and as Tim Robbins said so articulated, this is about people trying to pay the dental bill, pay the rent, put gas in the car, which is something everyone can understand, it’s not about a bunch of millionaires running around, trying to get bigger pools. And managements, it’s easy for them to dismiss us, but I think we’ve actually made them pay attention. They really do understand this is a righteous fight and we’ll gonna stick with it to the end. So, it’s exciting to be here."
- Tom Fontana, writer/creator/producer (Oz, The Jury, Homicide:Life on the Street, St. Elsewhere)
"Today, we’re optimistic that the greedy “mofos” in Los Angeles will give us a fair deal. We want this ended. We wanna ended within a week."
- Tina Fey, actor/writer/creator/producer (Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock, Mean Girls)
"This is Jennifer Jason Leigh."
- Jack McBrayer, actor (30 Rock, Arrested Development)
Note: Tina Fey laughs
"This is a good rally. It was good to see people from other unions, especially the Teacher’s union. It’s the first time a teacher approves what the hell I was doing, so I was very happy. It’s an important moment. It’s important that the union movement stays invigorated."
- David Chase, writer/creator/producer (The Sopranos, The Rockford Files, Kolchak: The Night Stalker)
"I’m a WGA East member, I’m a writer and performer in The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on Comedy Central, and I’m right now walking and talking to a tape recorder in front of the Time Warner Center. I’m in a very slow moving but motivated picket line. As you probably know, if you’re listening to the Internet, the WGA is on strike. The primary issue is residual payments on DVDs and especially Internet downloads of television episodes and movies. I think as we go into a new era of distribution of intellectual property, we need to make sure writers are compensated for the work they create, in a reasonable way. For example, you’re now listening to audio on the Internet that I’ve created, and the gentleman who’s holding the recorder in front of me, I expect he’s gonna give me a hundred dollars for creating this content for you. I look forward for the hundred dollars, then I probably go inside the Time Warner Center, and go to WholeFoods and buy myself a loaf of very nice bread and then everybody will be happy. So, continue to support the writers if you can, going to the United Hollywood blog, which is a good writer’s guild blog and visit this blog over and over again."
- John Hodgman, writer/actor (The Daily Show)
Note: We are in negotiation right now. I’m asking for a hundred dollars to promote his creativity in my blog. He’s asking for a hundred dollars as rights for his creativity, plus twenty bucks because I lost the audio. Probably I will end up paying him $50-$75, so I will start collecting money for the cause in the next picket line.
"I don’t know if this is an important moment in the history of writing, but for business of writing it is. The content on the Internet is a brave new world for the companies and for writers, and we need to figure out a way to get compensated for the content that companies make money on by streaming it on the Internet. That’s what this is all about. It’s something that has never happened before in this industry. Yesterday we had a nice rally. Many of the big unions in NY came out to support us. It was heartening to see them out there backing us up."
- Richard Sweren, writer/producer (Law & Order)
"I’m here to support my union brothers and sisters. I wrote for David (Letterman) 25 years, and I’m delighted to be here. This is an important moment in history. If we don’t win this one … We gave up too much in 1988. As a result, from a 20$ DVD we get pennies. It’s not fair. Why people watch DVDs? For the story, the direction and the stars. We’re a big element in that. We should have more than a few pennies. Internet was not a problem in 1988, but now I go in the Internet, and I see ads in the websites, so –laughs- somebody says they are not making money, or they don’t know how much they make… obviously they’re making money, because they wouldn’t do it if they wouldn’t be making money. They don’t have a tradition of doing things if they don’t do any money, so obviously they’re making money, and obviously we need to get a fair share. We’re not getting that now."
Q: Do you miss writing?
"Yes I do. I just write letter to friends now."
- Gerard Mulligan, retired writer (Late Show with David Letterman)
"I’m a writer in The Shield, I just directed my first movie called “.45”, with Milla Jovovich, Stephen Dorff and Angus Macfayden, and we’re on strike so there is no work right now. It’s disappointing for all of us. But I hope that there is a resolution very soon. We all want to come back to work. I think this is a big time. All of us who are striking are doing it for the people that are coming after us. Those writers will benefit from us holding out, so we can get new rights for new media, the DVD’s costs and all the things we are striking for. As we all know, the Internet is the future, it’s gonna be money made on there, and we should be making money there as well."
- Gary Lennon, writer/director (The Shield, .45)
Oct 22, 2007
Andrei B. Severny was born in Russia in 1913. According to the New York Times, he was a "leader in Soviet astronomy and an authority on the physics of the sun and the stars". The second Andrei in this story, Mr. Tarkovsky, was born in Russia in 1932. He is remembered as one of the most influential Russian filmmakers of the history. In 1952, Andrei the astronomer won the Stalin Prize for his study of solar flares. In 1972 Andrei the filmmaker made Solaris - the same day I was born. Five years later, in 1977, the third Andrei in this story was born, also in Russia: he is Severny's grandson. Although he had no idea at that time that he could have any kind of relation with his grandfather's solar flares or with Tarkovsky's Solaris, the connections are particularly close.
Andrei Severny, the photographer and filmmaker, spent most of his career in the business world. In 2004 his life changed and he moved from Moscow to New York. This prolific and talented artist who used to take pictures for the world wide renowned Moscow-based magazine Monitor, had also a prolific beginning of his new career with five short films in two years. All of them have different perspectives and tell different stories, but they share something in common: its unique defiant cinematography. Notably influenced by Andrei Tarkovsky's Solaris, and in some way also under the inheritance of Andrei B. Severny, this third man brings textures and moods that automatically make us travel to a new atmosphere, as if we were floating against gravity.
The audience becomes Tom, Tom becomes Andrei, and Andrei depicts a magic tale of astronomy and suspense beyond imagination, crossing limits one more time with his hidden but active camera: third eye; third Andrei. Probably Tom On Mars is his most engaging film, although the experimental way in which he tells the story of Frames, mixing a beautiful 16mm film with the digital "making of" provokes us the need to watch more. Growing and walking on the experimental path we find Ocean Whisper: reality, fiction and metaphors are melted into a very old look and feel; reminiscence of a projector from the childhood, traveling back to a melancholic present. His last but not least film, Disparait, v, are the best example of what mixed media fundamentally tries: it is not about having and mixing, but multiplying different layers. All these sensations invite us to imagine, to reflect about solitude and vanishing into the city movements, and especially to co-create.
From sun flares to other planets, and from past thoughts to present consciousness, I also feel connected to them - actually 2004 was the same year I also switched careers and moved from Buenos Aires to New York. This mystically shared experience make me believe I'm a sun king too. Little Bay Blues cries, probably because it's not a comic anymore. The transformation is a fact, and everybody is naturally scared about the unknown; us and them. The bad thing is that the unknown is unavoidable. The good thing is that in Andrei Severny's hands there is nothing to fear... except about ourselves.
Andrei Severny's filmography:
Little Bay Blues (trailer)
3', 16mm, 2004
5', 16mm, 2004
12', 16mm/digital, 2005
Tom On Mars
7', 16mm, 2005
Writer/Director and Cinematographer
5', mixed media, 2005
Writer/Director and Cinematographer
Milano Film Festival 2005, Italy (official selection)
* Picture above copyrighted by Andrei Severny
Oct 17, 2007
It's Monday and I'm arriving at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. I feel similar sensations that I had back in 1999, when I first came to the city and the Museum. Eight years later, the same smell captivate me - nice, clean and particularly recognizable in a few New York buildings. The whole experience of walking into the MoMA reminds me of those days as a tourist, and make me realize again that I'm in New York; I'm at the MoMA. After a conversation with Sally Berger (Curator, MoMA) I understand that the Museum has a strong commitment with its mission, and a constant pursuance for new challenging materials. There is one goal that I believe it specially represents its main soul:
"...these forms of visual expression are an open-ended series of arguments and counter arguments that can be explored through exhibitions and installations and that are reflected in the Museum's varied collection..."
This goal is directly interwoven with the Modern Mondays series. The organizers of the film exhibitions asked themselves: where is the cutting edge of the motion picture? Following the Museum's long tradition of exploring cinematic experimentation, these screenings salute "innovation on screen" and invite us to meet new and old filmmakers, to enjoy not only their films but also to engage in dialog with them. This series developed from a program that commenced in 1968 entitled Cineprobe. In the mid '70s, a complementary program of new video work was screened in Video Viewpoints. Both of these programs were combined into a new program entitled MediaScope in 2002 and from there, Modern Mondays was born, bringing today thought-provoking questions with more than one answer.This Monday - inaugurating the 2007 cycle - presented Michael Haneke's Funny Games (1997), a film that has been remade ten years later, marking an unusual chapter in cinema history: the filmmaker is the same, what changed are actors (Tim Roth and Naomi Watts) and country (U.S.A.). A remake that remains exactly the same, according to Haneke, except that unfortunately in today's world, violence is even worse. Feeling the subway rumbling beneath my feet in the Roy and Niuta Titus 1 Theater, I was ready to be delighted for first time by Haneke's original version of Funny Games, here in the Museum of Movement and Art.
After the film ended, Joshua Siegel (Assistant Curator, Department of Film at MoMA) introduced writer and director Michael Haneke as one of the best examples of what represents Modern Mondays. After a small conversation, they opened to Q&A with the audience that filled the theater:
- "The rules had become boring. We had to break them." I believe him: in this disturbing film, an animal and a child are killed, and both the characters and the filmmaker play with the audience. Haneke was asked why he needed to show this extreme violence in a film. He shot back: - "Why did you stay? Probably you needed it." There is a particular scene where part of the audience applauds a murder... but Haneke stops and rewinds, making everybody realize that in this parody of adults playing funny and kids behaving seriously, there are more things to question down beneath the surface.
Toward the end of this great night, I was lucky enough to ask Michael Haneke one of the last questions: - "I wonder what would you do if you have to define the word real for the dictionary..." He replied masterfully, summarizing the very essence of these Mondays: -"I had a philosophy professor who told me once that, if you are forced to define something, you're going into a slippery path, so it's better to avoid it..."
He laughed - another funny game around the permanent quest for meaning. It was probably the best answer I could obtain.
Modern Mondays full schedule
Organized by Sally Berger, Assistant Curator; Jytte Jensen, Curator; Laurence Kardish, Senior Curator; Rajendra Roy, Celeste Bartos Chief Curator; and Joshua Siegel, Assistant Curator, Department of Film; and Klaus Biesenbach, Chief Curator; and Barbara London, Associate Curator, Department of Media. Modern Mondays is supported by The Contemporary Arts Council of The Museum of Modern Art. Media sponsorship is provided by Artforum.
The Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53 Street,
between Fifth and Sixth avenues
New York, NY 10019-5497
Getting to MoMA
MoMA is located at 11 West Fifty-third Street, between Fifth and Sixth avenues. Subway: E or V to Fifth Avenue/53 Street; B, D, or F to 47-50 Streets/Rockefeller Center. Bus: M1, 2, 3, 4, 5 to 53 Street.
* Picture above: Arno Frisch has Stefan Clapczynski under control in Michael Haneke's Funny Games (1997)
Oct 7, 2007
Una historia de amor en diez pasos, caminando entre los límites de la realidad y la imaginación. A love story in ten steps, walking the limits between reality and imagination.
Ten Steps, my first 16mm Short Film, will be screened at the 11th annual Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival. The festival commitments are:
To promote awareness and distribution of Latin cinema by bringing our Latin cultures to the public's awareness through film, the most influential audiovisual medium of our time.
To showcase and nurture existing and emerging creative talent while serving as a springboard and catalyst for the promotion of Latin films and filmmakers.
Comencé la pre-producción de Ten Steps en Septiembre 2004 y la filmé en Nueva York durante el primer fin de semana de Diciembre, en el mismo año. Lalo Molina fue el cinematógrafo, gaffer y el único miembro del equipo! Lo ayudé como grip, asistente de cámara y todo lo demás. Los actores hicieron más que actuar: también creyeron en el proyecto. Me hice muy amigo de Ivan, y lo mismo pasó con Lalo. Finalicé la edición en Steenbecks durante el verano de 2005, y finalmente un BetaSP estuvo listo para ser proyectado en el showcase de estudiantes de New School en Noviembre de 2005. El film fue mostrado en el programa Cortos I-Sat en desde entonces en diferentes países de Latinoamérica. Es grandioso y gratificante ver gente aún interesada en mostrarlo, y espero que le guste a más gente. Ten Steps es mi primer bebé, y espero tener muchos más.
I shot started the pre-production of Ten Steps in September 2004 and I shot it in New York during the first weekend of December, the same year. Lalo Molina was cinematographer-gaffer and the only crew member! I helped him as grip, assistant camera and everything else. The actors played more than a role: they believed in the project too. I became a good friend with Ivan, and the same happened with Lalo. I finished editing the project in Steenbecks during the summer of 2005, and finally a BetaSP was ready to be screened in the New School students showcase in November 2005. The film was broadcasted since then in a television program called Cortos I-Sat for Latin American countries. It's still great and rewarding to see people interested in showing it, and I hope more people like it. Ten Steps is my first baby, and I hope to have many more.
USA / 2005 / 7:07
Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA
October 13th, 2007
Director: Pablo Goldbarg
Producer: Pablo Goldbarg
Screenwriter: Pablo Goldbarg
Executive Producer: Pablo Goldbarg
Cinematographer: Lalo Molina
Editor: Pablo Goldbarg
Art Director: Pablo Goldbarg
Sound Design: Pablo Goldbarg
Music: “Preludio Nueve” (Astor Piazzolla)
Cast: Ivan Magrin-Chagnolleau, Carole Agostini
Sep 28, 2007
Everything explodes. All is shredded and reconstructed again. I lose neurons, I lose sweat, I lose my memory, the sense, and I give up to the new owner that takes my body.
Everything fits. All is joined but always could be disarmed again. Or wear down. I constantly look for harmony, and when I find it I almost don’t enjoy it because I am afraid of lose it. Me, and just me, floating in my balanced place. The warm liquid remember me another life, and it is mixed with my owns.
Everything explodes. Again and again I become in other and that gives me more credits. I win joy, I win laughs around me, I win crying (cries), sensations, and this occasion transients surrender to me.
Everything fits. I found the style and that brings me peace, although I am worried about the moment when I have no more credits. Me, and someone else that when we are together the equilibrium is sustained. The fresh air makes me travel, and it is mixed with my breath.
How can they live so monotonously? Sometimes they seem desirous to do what I do. ¿How can I live so dizzily? Sometimes I wish the pacific calm in their quiet souls.
How can they live so agitated? Sometimes their faces ask for a rope to land on earth. ¿How can I live so calmed? Sometimes my face makes evident that I need a shake.
¿To born or to die? ¿To give or to receive? I intend to be someone but they sabotage me. My own doubts keep me in the stamped limit. All of us want to be other for a while. Nonconformism and desire of improvement can keep us alive. Or sabotaged.
¿To live or to survive? ¿To pass or to endure? In spite of sabotage I am someone. I frighten the doubts and I move away from the limit. o. Although all of us want to be another, I choose one side. Nonconformism and desire of improvement can keep us dead. Or harmonics.
Sep 19, 2007
A big minority. Those who are not singled out. Those who do everything all right. Those who give the example. Those who outstand. Those who deserve to be different and adored. Those who enjoy their condition without moving from their places. Those who are free, without conviction.
I want to cry like a baby. To leave this sick shell. To leave this world that doesn’t understand me. But I can’t.
A big mob. Ideals, advertisements, policies, societies. They carry me. I try to scream but they cover my mouth and nobody understands what I say. I have always been different. And now I receive my scold. I go down to the basement looking for pleasure, psychedelic lights and indulgence. But I only find a line of orthopedic beds.
A big minority. Those who don’t single out. Those who don’t think if that is good or bad. Those who don’t look for examples. Those who outstand but don’t boast about it. Those who feel equal to others. Those who open their arms without disgust. Those who give freedom, and those who don’t condemn.
I want to go up and leave this hell. I want to see the sun again. I want to be part of the world again. But it’s too late.
Sep 10, 2007
I paint. My life. Yours. Everyone’s life. Anguish... the first thing that disappears. Pencils give their colored bodies as to remain in eternity. Today the suffer is extinguished, and everything makes sense. My world and everyone’s world get together, and all my senses become alive, and they are transformed inside me. And I can throw up emotion, and create more life. If I draw fast, time accelerates. If I draw softly, the breeze caresses me. If I draw strong, death wipes out. If I draw slowly, time stops. The earth may break in two, and someone will fall, but not me.
I paint. My life. Yours. Everyone’s life. Oblation... to that who could appreciate it, or simply for me. And if somebody deprives me off the paper, I will paint on a tablecloth, the table, on the floor or walls. And if somebody takes the pencils from me, I will use my own saliva, the oldest wine, or even the trace of a furrower stone. And if somebody deprives me off my hands, I will use my feet or mouth. And if somebody covers my eyes, I will paint by memory. The earth can explode, and I will paint in the moon.
Sep 1, 2007
Always the same way home. Always the same people. Always the same thoughts. Why do I not react? My destiny is almost invariable. The fluid covers my body. I open my mouth letting it fill my lungs, but I do not die; I am even more alive. My arms relax. I float... I had the opportunity in my hands, but I always played other people’s game. Today I want to use my own rules, but it is too late in the night, and the darkness doesn’t scare me anymore. So I sleep in the most beautiful liquid that has ever caressed me.
Always the same movements. Always the same arguments. Always the same thoughts. Will I ever wake up? When the day begins, and the sun shines giving life to the dirtiest and most dead places in the city, I know that it is one more day where I will not see the flowers grow, or my children play. The usual strangers will be the most important thing of the day, although inside of me it will always be about my family. Some day I would like it to be about me. Laughs, shouts, talk about sex and sports. I resist... it will be over soon. Everything is a dense farce. I try to be happy, but it is too late. And the night is coming.
Always the same movements. Always the same arguments. Always the same thoughts. Will it be different sometime? Bills pass through my hands. Luxury cars pass through my eyes. I will never accomplish my big dream, but I cannot complain. I have the hope that my children will live a better life, and do every thing I could not do. I see them dedicating their triumphs to me. I smile... Suddenly a hand moves my leg and I open my eyes. It is an old woman with only one arm that can barely stammer some words. There is always someone in worse condition than us. The train pulls up at my station. I give her my last coin, and I go home.
Aug 20, 2007
The light is justified in this first shot by that candle in the middle of the scene, even when we know that there is more light in the ambient that a candle can give. Kurosawa repeats the use of a magic source masterfully. He never shows ceilings, and especially in those Japanese scenarios, we never know if the characters are in a closed or open space. Every kind of houses and castles have the possibility of rooms without ceilings, gardens or courtyards. Thus, the director can play with the idea of a light coming from a lantern, a high lamp, a streetlight, or the moon. The fire is another resource that is used aesthetically powerful--and also appropriate for that age. There is a beautiful shot with the soldiers waiting outside the castle at night, near a tall old wall and some mountains, where big bonfires allow the hit of huge orange key lights mixed with soft blue fill lights justified by the moon's presence.
Maybe the most amazing -and famous- shot in the film is where the soldiers march under the sunlight in the dawn, where due to a sun just becoming visible, different kind of shadows are created and converted into giant soldiers. One more time the importance and detail in the cinematography and lighting generate new meanings. The shadow of an emperor, the shadow of the soldiers, the shadow of natural resources, are all over there unavoidably. In this specific shot the soldiers carry on big flags, most of them perpendicular to the sunlight, maybe used as reflection sources. The shadows are also used to emphasize the power of the character and his oratory. A great example is a discourse told by the Takeda's leader Shingen (brilliantly interpreted by Tatsuya Nakadai). While he talks under a light coming from a mysterious ceiling and some candles, the rest of the clan is seated in rows confronting him scarcely illuminated in the darkness. The shadows of the clan members are big enough to show that even when a fundamental figure is recognized as a leader, all of them are crouching tigers ready to emerge at any given moment.
The final battle arrives, in an open space during the day. Some shots are illuminated by the natural sun, others are opaque due to the presence of clouds, but all of them are like wonderful paintings--as most of the original Kurosawa's storyboards. Like any other Kurosawa's film, this story converges ambiguity, different layers, aesthetic splendor and powerful meanings: beneath the shadows lies the light.
Aug 13, 2007
Aug 6, 2007
Wednesday, July 18th, 2007
Jorge Gaggero: In August of 2000. I studied in the U.S. at the American Film Institute. I was coming back to Argentina, and it really came just before this big economical collapse. And I was coming back to make mi first film. I realized that I couldn’t afford to make a very complex and it would be the one I would be making next (laughs). I remember I thought about this relationship for a while. I was at a party and the whole story appeared in my head, and I started writing it and checking if my idea would be possible to become a movie. I was always interested in this kind of relationship, because in my house there was a maid, and in my best friend’s house also, and it was a very strong figure for us as kids; they were very important. Our parents were professionals working outside the house, and we spend a lot of time with them. Also it was a way to learn about another world, another culture. They came from other provinces or countries. I thought there wasn’t a place in cinema for them, and there weren’t many movies thinking about this theme or relationship, at least these particularities in Latin America. I started writing the script and it took me two years. When I finished it we sent it to Norma Aleandro. I thought about making a smaller movie, because Norma Aleandro at that time was the biggest actress in Argentina, but she read the script and she loved it, and she wanted to be part of it. That helped in a way to get some finance. Then the other challenge was to find Dora, the other character. My idea was to look for real maids. I wouldn’t find in an actress all the things that I wanted. Perhaps you could do it if you have a few years to train an actress, but it was impossible with our budget in Argentina. We casted like a thousand women all around the country—maids and housekeepers. We were lucky to find her in San Luis. She was a real maid just coming from work, and it was great. I think both women made the film.
P.G.: So, tell me about the experience of working with a non-professional together with one of the most professional actresses in Argentina.
J.G: In my short films I worked many times with non-actors and I was confident about it: if you cast well, it will gonna happen. And if you go slowly too, because with an actress you go through it in the set and you do the thing. I took like a year to know her (Norma Argentina). One month before the first day of shooting we met every day and worked. For me it’s one of the most interesting things about movies: the power to understand the uniqueness of each person and try to find the way to work with them, in a way that helps them for better. It was completely different the way I worked with Aleandro and Argentina. Aleandro is an actress, writer and she directs theatre. It was more like an intellectual work with the text and finding coincidences and other things. With Argentina was more instinctual and more aware of sensations, bodies, and making her confidence about her capabilities to spread things. Aso I worked with her to understand Dora’s different facets and moods. But she was such an intelligent woman, at the age of 66 to have that challenge it was really great. It would be fascinating f I would make a movie about all the changes that she had since I met her as a maid and now.
P.G.: What can you say about going to Sundance and Tolousse, two of the film festivals that Live-In Maid participated and even received awards?
J.G.: I couldn’t go to Tolousse but I was able to go to Sundance, which was very supportive of the film since early stages. I sent the script to the Screenwriters Lab (Sundance/NHK), it was finalist, and then when I had the movie ready they also wanted to screen it. It was the first year it was an international competition in Sundance, and it won the Special Jury award. In a way it helped the movie to come to the US today. I never expected that. It’s getting a lot of reactions in the US. Sundance is a nice place. It still has some kind of warm about the real thing of making movies. I hope it never lose the spirit.
P.G.: Talking about the experience in the U.S., your movie was picked up by Film Forum, and then it had an amazing review in the New York Times. I wonder if that’s a kind of flattery and pride for you. Can you tell me a little more about this current trip to New York?
J.G.: Yes, it’s really overwhelming. You make a film and you never expect this kind of reaction. I like the greetings and the things that happened. At the end, well, I deserved a little part of that. You have a great team, great actresses, I worked so hard… the film was possible for so many persons: people who worked, who saw it, who recommended it…To be here right now is amazing. It’s probably the most interesting thing. The critics are really useful to get the film known, and the film is still alive in some people. It’s about communication. When you feel that the critique is different and it catches some of the emotions in the film it helps people to find the movie, or the critic has the talent to express some of the things that shocked them it’s very important, because it’s the only way for these small films to reach its audience. I feel blessed. Also this city… New York always responds to these movies very nice.
P.G.: You said in another interview that you need to live a dialogue with the audience to finish the process-- with the film. How was the reception of the film in Argentina?
J.G.: In Argentina it was very well, it was kind of strange, because it was an opening with only ten copies and all the theaters were packed. The interesting thing is that it was a movie that people went to the bars and kept on talking about it in a way. I squeezed in some bars and it was amazing. Also it was a movie that in Argentina some people segregated, because if you have a big actress for some people it’s not an independent film anymore. There is a pre-judgment in it. But the people that really saw it got a nice energy. You have to get into the movie. I wanted to work this very thin path of the complexity of this relationship without being too “teacher”. I wanted to leave it with no conclusion, to leave it to the people to talk about how they see both characters, how much they see about their friendship, how much exploitation they see (laughs). In a way I wanted the audience to feel the movie, to get emotions, and reflect about these two women and their conditions. It was a challenge and I think I afford to make it. That’s the best thing… then, who knows? Now it’s public…
P.G.: What can you say about arts in general –in this case, film—as a response to social crisis?
J.G.: Always it’s inspiring. You reflect some things you try to live and happen next to you. In my case is “ten blows away”. I made two movies and they happened--God bless-- where I used to live, but I think in the film the crisis is an excuse. We always live in some kind of crisis. That pushes you forward, and that’s a good thing. At least something it’s common. The most important thing is that you have this external situation, and everybody thinks it’s external and how we could be as a country in this situation. In the film, what I wanted to achieve was to think about how much of that crisis are us. How much of Beba is the crisis? It’s not because the crisis, it’s because of Beba! (laughs), or something that Beba does… the crisis always pushes you a little bit further. You can’t hold it anymore and something breaks, and that’s good. It’s the consequences of something you built, in a way, or you let people build. My cinema tries to explore how everyday life affects us --the good and the bad ones (laughs). In everybody there is racism, in everybody there is violence. We are constantly fighting and trying to understand. I like character-driven stories; my cinema is very intimate.
P.G.: This story, as you say, is very character-oriented. Probably the screenplay and the acting are the most important elements you have in this film. Did you imagine that since the beginning or did you suffer some kind of transformation during shooting?
J.G.: Of course it suffered transformation, thanks God, because otherwise it would be so boring to make a film if you know from the beginning what you want to have. Yes, you have intuition, and you want some things aesthetically. But the good thing it’s that the process of filmmaking is so open until you finish the movie. And it still is after, depending of how you see it (laughs). I imagined this kind of energy, this mix of drama and humor. I tried to not have any pre-judgment about how the movie should be. First feature, two women touching the 60’s, an apartment, it was hard to me… the critics saying “what is this young guy doing with these themes?”. It was a strange first film, but I really believed in it. It’s that: to not have pre-judgments and enjoy it, and let all the energy and life get into it, and try things, and make new things. I’m really happy and proud. It was better than the ambition I had about it, probably because I let everybody contribute to it.
P.G.: Why did you decide to not use music?
J.G.: It was one of the most difficult decisions. I haven’t heard it, and that’s it. Even the producers wanted to put music at one point, but I refused it. Also when I tried music in some scenes I realized –perhaps because I didn’t find the right piece—that if I put music in this film I cut a lot of layers beneath this complex one-to-one. Music could drive me to a comedy or a drama or something else, and I didn’t want to drive to any secure place. Music is art in itself, and sometimes it could be misunderstood. Instead of complementing a moment or making it more interesting, it could suppress it. It was happening with this film. I love some films with music, and I love music itself. But you have to hear it or you have to find some work that really goes with the spirit of the movie and it’s very difficult.
P.G.: The storyline has a particular slow transformation. How did you work with the rhythm and tell me about some influences that you think may affect this?
J.G.: Rhythm is everything for this movie, because the plot is so small, and it’s built with even smaller things. In the editing we found the final rhythm. It was thought in the shooting. The screenplay was really careful about it, with all the speeches and silences. It creates all these moments and these pauses. Even with no music, I have a better ear than a good eye (laughter). Part of this was produced in the editing… About the influences, I always thought in John Cassavetes for this movie, in the way relationships happen in his films. I love that intensity and they way he understood relationships and human beings. Perhaps other influence and his humor is Roman Polanski, like in The Tenant. I have in mind these directors but I didn’t pretend to make similar films. Also I watched Joseph Losey’s The Servant, and I had to see all these films related with the film, but I never wanted to go there, and the references are more intellectual, and how you understand things. Aesthetically I wanted to find my own way.
P.G.: Tell me about the lessons you learned in your first feature, and your next project.
J.G.: Perhaps the only lesson is that filmmaking has no rules. To work hard on an idea, trying ideas as deep as you can. Let the shooting surprise you anyway (laughs). In a way, again and again with my shorts, things started to feel less fearful about the whole thing. It’s about digging and persisting, and if you do that it could be good or bad but you make it, and you finish the process, and it’s about that process. Each film has its own process. Then, be ready for the next one, although it’s not easy either. The next project is called La Seguridad de los Perros (Dog Security), and it’s a very challenging and different movie. It has eight leads and different stories. It happens in one neighborhood--close to where I live. It’s a very different film from Live-In Maid. I’m looking forward to try some different films.
Jul 30, 2007
Wednesday, July 18th, 2007
Pablo Goldbarg: Tell me about the experience of making an autobiographic piece
Camila Guzmán Urzúa: I think it’s common that the first film is a very personal film. Actually, before I wanted to make the film I had an obsession trying to recuperate my childhood’s country. Then, when I decided to make a film about it, I just didn’t find any other way to make it. It was about my life, so it would have been too weird not to talk about myself, because finally I’m part of that experience too. When the subject is maybe further away from your life, or not related in a direct way, you have no need to put you on the film. But to me, it didn’t work in another way. That makes it more difficult, because at the same time you are exposed… it wasn’t easy.
P.G.: You had a challenge working in all the stages of the film. You were the writer, director, editor, cinematographer and producer…
C.G.U.: I didn’t have a choice. All the way through making the film, I always wanted to have a producer and I wanted to have somebody with me on the boat. But it wasn’t the case. I made the film completely independent. That has a lot of advantages, but also disadvantages. At some point I was on my own, just doing it. If I had known what it meant, I’m not sure I would have done it. Once I started, especially after the shooting I just couldn’t give up. The only way to go forward was doing it on my own, in my own computer at home, in my free time. So, I wouldn’t recommend it (laughs). I would definitely have a producer, at least… I hope. At some point an editor is very important. Those were the members of the crew that I missed the most: the producer and the editor. I was lucky enough to finish the film with an editor. I’m sure that helped a lot for the final structure of the film. Because at some point you’re so inside the film, and this one even more because it’s your own story that you lose perspective. Sometimes I had to stop for a few months, and then carry on, and that gives you some perspective with your head out, and then you start again. But it’s never as good as having an editor next to you. At the end of the film I worked three to four weeks with an editor. The film owes a lot to that final editing work.
P.G.: Can you please tell me about the research process to find the whereabouts of your friends in school?
C.G.U.: Almost all the people in my film are my real friends from childhood and teenager years, and I never lost contact with them. When I left Cuba, my mom and my sister were still living there for a while. So, I kept going back for holidays whenever I could, to see family and friends. I was always in touch with them. In 1999 it was the first time I went to Cuba with the idea of making the film. I spent four or five months over there. At that time I reached all the people that I usually see. There was one friend that I did look for her but I couldn’t be in touch with her. Since then I knew who would gonna be in the film, and since then I told them about it, and they liked the idea. They were my friends from life. When you make a documentary you must have people in front of the camera, you need people that express themselves in a right way. People that aren’t worried by the presence of the camera and people that aren’t shy. I had that in mind when I started deciding who would gonna be in the film and who would gonna get involved. I had some friends that were extremely shy and would never be in a film. I kind of chose those that would like to be filmed. I don’t like it (laughs). There was also one friend that was on the project and by the time I started shooting he wasn’t there anymore. And with my friend from Miami, I started filming her sister because she was already gone by the time I went to Cuba.
P.G.: When did you feel the need to make this film?
C.G.U.: It was a weird process, because when I left Cuba I didn’t know if I would come back. I left just before the crisis started. I left my childhood’s country as it was in 1990. I went back in 1991 and things haven’t changed that much. Then I went back in 1994, and I heard about the Special Period before and all that. But it’s never the same when you go there and see it personally. So in that moment was just before the crisis of “Balseros”. It was a very weird period in Habana. I was very, very shocked by the new reality at that time. And it was then when I started to have this kind of need of recuperating the country of my childhood that wasn’t there anymore and had been real. And people were beginning to forget about it, in a way. I always thought that somebody was going to make it. At that time I didn’t know that I was going to direct films. I was studying filmmaking but doing photography, and I didn’t want to direct. Time went by, and in 1999 I decided to make the film, because I realized that Cuba had completely changed. Living outside of Cuba I realized that people didn’t know about it. Everybody was surprised when I used to say that I was happy when I was in Cuba, and I had a happy childhood. For me it was important to keep that in a little box, somewhere in my heart. I had this kind of necessity. My country disappeared, and it was important not to forget it.
P.G.: Do you still think that a new type of society is possible in Cuba or in another country?
C.G.U.: Yes, yes. We lived that life for about twenty years, and it was a pretty good one. Comparing with the rest of the world, in Cuba we grew up in a… (whispers) very unique way. Especially with positive things, I think. I do believe that that society is possible. Then we had always the problem of economy. How we finance such a State. Then things became more complicated. But it’s possible.
P.G.: Was your film shown in Cuba? Tell me about the reactions or possible reactions to the film.
C.G.U.: Not yet, because I’m waiting now for it. We subscribed the film for the Habana International Film Festival for this year 2007. I’m still waiting for the reply. The idea is to have a screening in the festival. About the reactions… I don’t have a clue (laughs). I want it to happen because I’m very curious myself. There are big audience and enormous theaters in Habana.
P.G.: How did you get permits or support to shoot this kind of story in Habana? Did you get in touch with the ICAIC (Instituto Cubano de Arte e Industria Cinematográficos)?
C.G.U.: The film was supported by EICTV in San Antonio de los Baños (Escuela Internacional de Cine y TV). I was able to have all the authorizations and permits to shoot the film anywhere in Habana. Actually the only “real” permission that I needed was to film in the schools, but the rest of the times when I filmed in different neighborhoods or houses or even in a protest, but nobody ever asked me. I had all the accreditations from the film school, and we were officially authorized. But at the same time I didn’t have to show anything at all in the streets. I didn’t get in touch with the ICAIC because I didn’t have any money or production structure behind me either. I decided to approach first the film school. The ICAIC, as far as I know, and maybe I’m wrong, must co-produce or you must pay a production fee. It’s more complicated, a kind of institutional thing or co-production company and all that stuff that I didn’t have. So, I had a grant here, it was more an associative thing, and not a production company at all. I went to the film school first, they supported me, and I stayed with them.
P.G.: You have a story in your family about exile when you had to leave Chile. Then, in some way you repeat the decision of leaving your home country--this time Cuba--in search of a better condition. Can you please talk about that?
C.G.U.: I never thought about exile when I was living in Cuba. My own exile began after I left Cuba, and never before. But there is no comparison at all between how my parents left Chile, and how my generation left Cuba. There are absolutely no points in common. The experience of leaving Chile was very dramatic and violent. I didn’t have that experience when I started my own exile. I was born in Chile, even though I don’t have a very strong connection with that country. So, I see my parents’ exile and my own exile quite separately.
P.G.: How did you choose the aesthetics and form of your documentary?
C.G.U.: I don’t know. I can’t tell you. When I was in film school two persons influenced me: on one side Frederick Wiseman, the American filmmaker, who started “direct cinema” in the 60’s. On the other side was, Ken Loach, the British filmmaker. Even he make fiction films, his style is very close to documentaries. But I’m not sure if my film follows their styles. They marked me a lot, especially from an ideological and moral point of view. They are such unique and extraordinary figures. But I don’t know… I used to do photography when I was younger. My camera work is much related with intuition, especially in this film. I made it unconsciously, particularly when I was shooting. There was a lot of intuition.
P.G.: Are you working on new projects or ideas in film?
C.G.U.: I have new ideas, but actually I didn’t have the time to write yet. An old filmmaker told me once that good ideas not always make good films… (laughs). So, I prefer to write it before talking about the next one, because I’m not sure yet what is gonna be.
P.G.: Thank you very much. It was a very touching story for me. I was in the Habana Film Festival last year for first time, and I didn’t know about many things of the golden era and your generation, so congratulations with the film.
C.G.U.: Thank you very much.
Jul 27, 2007
In Ricardo Elias’ The 12 Labors (2006, original title Os 12 Trabalhos), 18-year-old Heracles (Sidney Santiago) is just out of the State foundation for the well-being of the minor juvenile, a detention system called Febem. At the beginning we see Heracles’ eyes as he realizes that he must pay the price to be reformed and adapted to the society. We also listen to his thoughts: “Depending on where you were born, your story is already written before it starts”. With a big majority of black population, Febem opposes to the situation in any given classroom in a federal university, where there is a majority of white faces. That’s probably the most important statement in this film: if you are black and poor in Brazil, you will have to go through a daily struggle and suffering almost impossible to avoid.
His cousin Jonas (Flavio Bauraqui) finds him a job as motorcycle courier. In an overpopulated São Paulo with highly congested traffic and more than a quarter million motorcycle delivery boys, Heracles must overcome 12 diligences in a parallel with his Greek demigod. The phenomenon of motor-boys exploded onto São Paulo during the last ten years due to high unemployment. Far away from having impossible tasks to accomplish, Heracles’ risks in this tale are being easily fired, or even worse, to die in a road accident (the statistics show the incredible number of twenty five motor-drivers being injured per day in the city, and at least one of them dying). These labors increase the level of difficulty as Heracles’ existential crisis and uncertain future emerges.
He has also a very interesting sensitivity and power to “fix things in mind”. In a way, he can predict others’ future. This extra-sensorial experiences merge with the 12 labors, which then turn into 12 predictions: a little kid, the pastries girl, the airport passenger, a street vendor, and his own boss are part of stories where his philosophy and personality lead him to self-respect and confidence. Here is where Ricardo Elias also succeeds, where the parallel to Greek mythology emancipates from the film to be transformed not only into a reflection about Brazilian youth in poverty, but also about art and sensitivity as probably the only way to escape from it--beyond sports. Heracles’ imagination and artistic talent may be his salvation. A powerful scene of his comics turned into film suggests it, as it also laments how many of them will remain in anonymity.
With a gorgeous cinematography (Jay Yamashita)--a common currency in today’s Brazilian cinema--, and a vivid music score (André Abujamra), this film won awards in Havana, Recife and Rio de Janeiro Film Festivals, among them Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor and Best Score. A tunnel, the death, a beach: The conscious presence of the camera makes Heracles look to us, and invite us to share his dream or fate. By the end of the Labors, Hercules was, without a doubt, Greece's greatest hero. The miracle of being a black hero in Brazil (and in many other countries) seems to be impossible. Only a few will achieve, like Hercules, fame or immortality.
The 12 Labors (original title Os 12 Trabalhos)
Director: Ricardo Elias
Writers: Claudio Yosida, Ricardo Elias
New York Latino International Film Festival (NYLIFF)
Category: International Features
Format: 35mm / Brazil
Runtime: 90 min
Friday, July 27 | 1:00 PM
Director’s Guild Theater
110 West 57th Street
Sunday, July 29 | 12:00 PM
Florence Gould Hall
55 East 59th Street