Toronto International Film Festival 2021
When Luisa, 45, returns from a psychiatric clinic after a bout with severe postpartum depression, she enters a new confinement in her dazzling home, surrounded by family members and a brigade of servants who expect her struggles to remain invisible.
Hi Javier thank you for talking to The New Current, how are you held up during these very strange times?
Hello, and thanks for the interest in my film. COVID hit Ecuador pretty hard, as the government was really not prepared to handle an emergency of this magnitude; the first months were quite hard, particularly for the underprivileged who had a tough time receiving medical attention and those who got sick and had to experience a shortage of medicine due to corruption scandals – some including overpriced body bags – that would make a great documentary on human greed and lack of empathy. I, on the other hand, was fortunate to have work as a film teacher and be finishing the editing and sound design of “Lo Invisible”, and also won a grant to write my new fiction film. So my family and me had health and work during these times, and that is really all one could hope for.
Has this time provided you with any new creative inspiration or opportunities?
As I mentioned in the first question, as was lucky to have a writing grant from the Ecuadorian Film Institute to work on my next fiction script, so I spent most of lockdown taking care of my then 3-year-old son and writing a strange kind of body-horror movie about heartbreak during his naps in the afternoons.
Lo Invisible is the first film from Ecuador to play at TIFF for nearly 20 years; does this add any extra pressure on you?
I try not to think about it, frankly. For us, TIFF is a wonderful launching pad for the film, and we hope its many mysteries connect with audiences and critics alike.
What does it mean for you to be able to premiere in the Discovery section at TIFF?
It feels like quite the right fit for a film like this one, that I feel will subvert the expectations many people have about Ecuadorian films and they kind of stories we tell. We are thrilled to be in this particular section.
Can you tell me a little bit about how Lo Invisible came about, what was the inspiration behind your screenplay?
Several things sparked the original idea. I really wanted to make a film that would feel different than my first fiction film (“Porcelain Horse”) in that I wanted a female protagonist, I wanted to shoot in the highlands of Ecuador instead of the coast, and I wanted to create a rather internal, subjective narrative. I also was interested in collaborating with Anahí Hoeneisen, who I think is one of the great actresses in our country, and wanted her help in shaping a narrative that would be as feminine as possible in tone and mood. Finally, I really wanted to talk about depression, and the inescapable prison our mind sometimes is.
You co-wrote Lo Invisible with Anahí Hoeneisen who also plays Luisa, when working on a film like this how important is the collaborative nature between writer/director and actors?
Well, it can only be a collaboration, cinema. But in this case even more so given that the main actress was also the co-writer. I found it liberating as it gave me security and freedom to explore a character that would have seem inaccessible to me otherwise. It was also great fun a lot of the time, despite the grim subject matter, as we kept finding interesting ways to visually render the emotions and build an accumulation of repressed feelings that burst at the end of the narrative.
What was the biggest challenge you faced bringing Lo Invisible to the screen?
Down here, it is always financing, particularly for a project like this one. We ended up making it for a very low amount of money but, paradoxically, that gave us freedom to shoot it and cut it at our own pace, letting the material speak to us slowly and transforming the film continuously until the final day of the sound mix. It was a lovely enterprise, and a pleasure, if by pleasure one understands attempting the impossible over and over again.
"...I now realize I always end up putting the camera as close to the subjective experience of the protagonist..."
Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?
Since the day my dad took me to see “Die Hard” in a theatre when I was 9.
Has your style and the approach to your projects changed much since your debut film?
It varies a lot, depending on the subject matter and theme of each project. However, I now realize I always end up putting the camera as close to the subjective experience of the protagonist, that is the one thing that happens in all my films. I want the audience to connect to the protagonist; it’s the only thing that matters to me in film narrative.
Is there any advice you would offer someone about making their first film?
I would offer the same advice I once heard the brilliant Mike Leigh give: Make a film only you can make.
And finally, what do you hope audiences will take away from Lo Invisible?
My hope is that they are deeply moved by the story and the visual and sonic language we employ. It is a mysterious, painful and beautiful journey, one we hope the audience feels and is affected by at every moment during the film, and especially afterwards, as that is what the films I love do: they keep touching your heart long after the screen has gone black.