Aug 6, 2007

Interview: Jorge Gaggero

While Live-In Maid (original title Cama Adentro) was released in the U.S. I met Jorge Gaggero, its writer and director, thanks to Cinema Tropical. We had a very long conversation in a traditional American diner on 9th Ave & 33rd St to talk about Argentine traditions.

Wednesday, July 18th, 2007

Pablo Goldbarg: This is your first feature. Tell me please how the story came up, and how did you get the funds and actors.

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.

P.G.: Thank you very much, you were very kind.

J.G.: Thank you.

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