This short film opens with the peaceful urban environment of a Spanish village. It's faithful and devoted locals are forced to leave their own sites. The heart of the village loses life. Souls full of memories join a long journey together. A forced and suffered separation. A journey from which, maybe, they won’t come back. What is left of the village is jealousy kept by those who lived in. A decorative drape is left in the church as a sign of gratitude and reverence despite an inexorable fate awaits them. The spirituality will be kept in mind of each of them.
Hi Antonio thank you for talking to TNC, how are you holding up during these very strange times?
Thanks to you for this interview!
All definitely seems strange these days. Beyond the virus itself and the uncertainty in which we are all, this situation that we’re living in is helping the logic of the system in which we live to become more explicit and visible, it is boosting greatly.
Control, security, misinformation, precariousness ... the usual is there, but now is more open.
But, I'm fine.
Has this time offered you any creative inspiration?
During the first months of the pandemic, while we were locked up at home, I kind of refused to let the situation have to inspire me creatively, in a direct way. There were a strange few months, although we were at home, and supposedly had stopped, we still had the demand to produce something in that situation, that it was useful for something.
But a good thing in that context happened. There was an online edition of a film festival which I care a lot about, The Joaquin Film Festival. In this online edition, the only rule was that the short films sent had to be filmed during the confinement but couldn’t talk about the quarantine or the virus. I made a short film with my couple, which we called 'A sunny Sunday afternoon, but not enough' in which we selected images from security cameras of public spaces during the quarantine, and a voice recounted memories of his life while observing those inhospitable spaces, without people, dead, as if they were images from his memory.
I, also, wrote a diary in which I tried not to write anything relevant or directly related to the news about the virus, at most I wrote about the noises made by the neighbours on the other side of the wall, or about the few noises that could be heard on the street.
At the end of the day, like in any situation, it is influencing me creatively, especially when I'm thinking about the aesthetics of health, protection, safety ... that are emerging. How daily spaces are transforming, both private and public, the physical distance between people, the covered faces, the segmented and segregated spaces (even more than before) or, for example, how the sound or movement in the city has changed … In all these things, there is something powerful when thinking about reality and to use in your creativity. It is also very stimulating to work on my own projects again or watch the films of other people, from the present, from what is happening now. All the images have changed a bit, also those of the past.
"...I feared it would be hard to make, but luckily, I found the incredible producer..."
Congratulations on having Romance Del Robo Sel Sacramento selected for this year's Ca' Foscari Short Film Festival, what does it mean to you to be part of such an amazing lineup of films?
It is really a big joy to me, the rest of the team and to all the people who have participated in this project. That there are spaces for exposure, communication, exhibition of films, short films, etc., is very important. It is very rewarding.What's more, Venice is a beautiful city to screen the film. I have only been once but I have strong memories of this city. I arrived at dawn, alone, and I had to look for some friends who were already there. I tried looking at google maps on my cell phone, but I kept arriving at alleys that ended in the water, and it took me an hour to find them.
We stayed all night in the streets of Venice and when the sunrise came I finally could see the city properly, with light. A beautiful city, really.
Romance Del Robo Sel Sacramento is in the International Competition, does this add any additional pressure on you?
Honestly I don't feel pressure, in any case the joy is greater because the exposure that comes with the screening of the short film is higher, as it is in international competition. I don't feel any additional pressure because, once the film is done, everything that happens, everywhere it goes, always is going to be positive, and that it can be in the CaFoscari International Competition, showing in Venice, along with other films by colleagues, is something very good, it is something only positive, whatever happens.
Can you tell me a little bit about Romance Del Robo Sel Sacramento, how did this film come about?
The initial idea or image of all was a church that is being dismantled, evicted, that is undergoing a kind of change. Churches are always represented as pristine, neat and timeless places, so being able to turn that around was very invigorating. Thinking about that situation was very powerful, also very enlightening, and it pushed me in a very fluid and organic way to the film itself and to the themes that are in it, the people who inhabit it and the situation they are experiencing.
What inspired the screenplay?
The film, its script, is highly influenced by the personal and private world and, at the same time, is influenced by a more political and global thinking.
On one hand, in the script there is something about looking from the present at a world that I associate a lot with childhood and innocence. The village, those isolated places in the town that seem to be fading but persist, the rhythms of those places, its timings, the gestures of its inhabitants...We shot this short film in a village near my maternal grandparents hometown, where I used to spend summer holidays, and, during the development of the script, I was always certain that it had to happen in that area, that I had known since childhood.
On the other hand, and probably for the same reason, in rural areas there is a sign and a trace of the ancient that never ends up disappearing, a trace of a different relationship with time, with work, with the other next to you…I don't want to mythicise the rural world, by turning it into a souvenir or something totally positive, there is simply something for me there, which explains the other side of the same coin in which we all live.
In a simpler way, I could say that, with this story I wanted to get closer to my childhood on the one hand and on the other hand to issues such as belonging, community, religion, uprooting, and the possibility of imagining a new or different world.
As a filmmaker did you face many challenges bringing this film to life?
It was a wonderful experience for me to shoot this film for several reasons. First of all, during the shooting , I finally met a large part of the colleagues with whom I share my daily life and with whom I want to continue making films. It was part of the studies plan of our Film School but we did it far beyond the pressures, limits or fears that academics sometimes imply. Since the writing of the script, to the entire location or filming process, it was always a very vivid experience. For example, with such a tight budget we knew that we needed to find a church and the participation of the inhabitants of an entire village, which means, no actors. So, we toured different towns and churches, we went to many masses, we had to scout by car through a lot of towns until we found a Bishop in Ávila who gave us his permission to shoot in the church. We made a call in Velayos, the village where the short film takes place, so that on the filming day we could have the participation of as many neighbors as possible. And, when we were travelling to the village on the first day of filming we weren't sure how many people would actually come.
It was a very free process, at all times, and that was the most important thing for me, for the rest of the team and for the film. It was also a challenge to look at that environment, close to me and my childhood, from the present, to understand how those spaces had to be looked at.
"...questions, discussions, and even doubts about the film are important and necessary for me as a filmmaker. "
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently on this film?
Is hard for me to rethink about finished projects with that perspective, not because I can't find any flaws, lacks or limitations, but because, somehow, when the film is made, it is as if it detached itself from me, as if it became independent and had its own autonomy. So I find it very hard to answer myself this question.
Actually, I think I approached the project, together with my team, with as much as freedom, thinking and enthusiasm posible. This answer might seem prefab, but it is what it is. If I had to say something that I would have done differently maybe is to don’t do it in such a rush, it should always be like that, without haste, with a lot of tension and excitement, but the less rush the better.
Where did your passion for filmmaking come from?
I think, without a doubt, that my biggest influence comes from my father sitting my sister and me, both very young, to watch movies that he had already shown us several times. I mean, we didn't watch a lot of movies, we always watched the same ones, repeatedly, and that was, in some way, important, to watch them again.
Furthermore, I think that I've always been very watchful and curious.And there are some things that have impressed me to the point of feeling that I didn’t understand them, even if they were very normal or very everyday things or events.
There is something in cinema very obvious but at the same time very important; which is that it rescues gestures and instants forever. And, when being rescued, they are always happening, even though you aren’t watching the film, they’re happening. It seems silly, but there is something very powerful in that.
What has been some of the best advice you’ve been given?
My father is always repeating, almost obsessively, “the devil lives in the detail” It is a phrase that I think about a lot, I think it is good advice in general for life, and specifically for making a movie; to give all of yourself to the details, to be alert all the time.
There is also something that my friend Javier Rebollo, artist and film director, uses to say, and that is that, when you are on the set, about to film a shot, it is always good to kick the tripod, see what happens, see what image gives you randomly.
Should filmmakers continue to push the boundaries of the films and stories they want to tell?
Cinema should always be a place of conflict, of confrontation. And, for that reason, you should always have a free but conscious positioning of what you are going to shoot, why, etcetera. Is important to films, and any other activities, artistic or not, to be in contact with the past and the present, even if you’re making a fantasy movie, a comedy, or whatever. Is important to expand the limits, rethink them, discuss them ... And I think it is also very important that there are places for discussion, confrontation, exhibition and sharing about the films that are being made, about the films that are wanted to be made, about the trends that exist, etc., because that also helps to expand those limits.
Do you have any tips or advice you would offer a fellow filmmaker?
More than advice, I like to see it as something to think about when filming, and I usually share this with colleagues and friends. There is a magic moment at the set, when, right after you say Action!, things start to happen in front of the camera. That “moment of fiction” is a kind of parallel, strange, magical time, in which reality is as if it had been unfolded, an eternal moment which lasts forever because it has been recorded. For that reason, it is very important to take care of this moment, not to cut off the action when what you expected to happen has already happened, you better wait. You should let time pass, first of all to enjoy this instant, which is so cozy and comfortable, and secondly to let things that you did not expect happen. It is something that I would almost always recommend: to stretch the time, take your time to cut the shot, even take more sometimes, because something always happens.
Also I think it is important for the director during that “moment of fiction”, in the middle of that silence, not to focus only in the scene, in what is in front of the camera, but to take advantage of that moment and take a look at what is happening around him. To look at the whole team, each with their task and their role, all sharing that moment of waiting, of tension. It’s important to look around and be amazed by the magic of what is happening, the magic of a whole team gazing at a parallel reality and making it possible. I would advise to think about that not only to the director, but to everyone else in the team; it's really good to keep the passion alive during the filming.
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from Romance Del Robo Sel Sacramento?
To enjoy it! Let them at least feel that they have been watching something that was worth watching.