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19th ÉCU Film Festival, Paris

"The way we approached this experiment was by putting together a kind of dreamscape with some harmonious and some darker moments."

Festival Screening:


April 3, 2024  

SOMA is an experimental short film employing movement and dance as its primary medium for story-telling. A contemporary myth on the genesis of the human body, the piece oscillates between two distinct dimensions: an infinite black hole, in which bodies exist outside linear space and time; and a labyrinthine house, where a strange decadent gathering is taking place. As the free-associative, dreamlike narrative unfolds, different characters go through visceral bodily experiences of love, enchantment, pain and death.

Hi KWAM Collective, thank you for taking the time to talk with The New Current. Is everyone looking forward to screening SOMA at ÉCU this year?

We are incredibly excited to have SOMA at ÉCU this year. We have been to the festival before and seen the amazing programs ÉCU puts together, so we are delighted to have our film amongst so many inspiring independent films!

Arturo: Your pervious short film Viscera: Autopsy of a (non)human body had amazing festival run collecting multiple awards. What did it mean to you to get this type of recognition for your films?

When you complete a film project and you send it out into the world, it is always a strange moment: it establishes a radical severance between author and work. The film begins a life of its own, you have little agency over it, and it is up to others to decide whether it is worth something. This is both exciting and terrifying. Awards are certainly an important recognition, but the aspect that I find most thrilling is that the film is being watched by people you don’t know in places that are foreign to your daily life.

Will there be any nerves ahead of your screening in Paris?

The team is very excited about the upcoming screening. ÉCU has a special place in my (Arturo’s) heart, it has always been incredibly supportive of my work over the years - from my very first participation as a student filmmaker in 2014, till now with our latest work SOMA.

How important are festivals like ÉCU in continuing to champion and supporting independent films and filmmakers?

It is crucial, independent filmmaking needs festivals such as ÉCU in order to thrive. It is a way not only to support and disseminate important artistic creations, but also to connect to the wider filmmaking community.

Can you tell me a little bit about how SOMA what can your audiences expect?

SOMA is an experiment to address the question of what a body is. The way we approached this experiment was by putting together a kind of dreamscape with some harmonious and some darker moments. We hope that the film takes audiences on their own journey of dreaming and asking questions.

SOMA is an experimental short film that is also made by the KWAM Collective, what was it about the genesis of the human body that inspired the collective to make this short?

KWAM collective and I (Arturo) worked together from the very inception of the idea all the way to the fine tuning of the edit. It was a collaborative effort from start to end. The genesis of the human body was a question that KWAM (Esme Benjamin, Ana Beatriz Meireles and Klaudia Wittmann) and I were all interested in from different perspectives. We realised that the only way to pose this question was to draw on our differences and at the same time find a common ground that had enough room for flexibility.


When working on a short like this how much flexibility with the screenplay and the visual you have for the film do you give the dancers once you start shooting?

We worked with quite a clear visual treatment before we began shooting. The dancers knew the screenplay well because we wanted them to feel they could find their place within it and contribute to making and inhabiting their own characters. At the same time, many things changed once we were on set, particularly because we shot on film. So, in the end, the film came out differently, but we really liked it, it showed us some paths we hadn’t necessarily anticipated and brought new artistic options to the editing room.

Does your background as an editor allow you to form a different perspective of how a film will come together once you are in the editing room?

When directing a film, being an editor as well is both an advantage and a potential limitation. Every form of knowledge or expertise can both propel and restrict creativity. One has to be able to forget what one knows in order to experiment with new ideas and techniques. But there is a crucial caveat, to forget something one knows is not the same as not knowing something in the first place. The latter simply means being clueless about what one is doing, whilst the former implies a much richer dialectical process.

What was the biggest challenge you faced making SOMA and looking back is there anything you would have done differently on this film?

As with all independent films, funding is always one of the greatest challenges. It’s tricky to decide which aspects to prioritise and allocate resources, and which aspects bring less into focus, particularly when those decisions are made collaboratively. Another big challenge is to trust the unknown of the project, giving space to keeping things open and flexible in order to find out about that which you hadn’t considered.

How much did your previous experiences prepare you for making SOMA?

Past experiences and projects were crucial in developing the film, in some sense, SOMA encompasses aspects the experimental films I’ve made in previous years, I can see traits both of Walls of Limerick and Viscera embedded in SOMA. At the same time, the collaboration with KWAM Collective brought a whole new perspective to the table, enriching the creative process massively.

Where did your passion for filmmaking come from?

Film and photography were part of my family discourse. As a child, I (Arturo) used to spend a lot of time on film and photography sets. As far as I can remember, I was always intrigued by lenses, cameras, lighting etc.


Was there any one film that you saw growing up that sparked the filmmaker inside you?

Arturo: I will give three films which correspond to three formative moments in my life. Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times when I was 12, just before starting high school. Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Conformist when I was 18, just before starting university. Leos Carax’s Holy Motors when I was 23, just before starting my professional career.

Has the KWAM Collectives approach to directing style changed a lot since you started out?

Yes definitively. Our work is in constant flux and there is always a process of learning, especially because we work with different artistic mediums. SOMA was an exciting project to explore dance through film language; in recent projects, we are now interested in experimenting with film language in dance and live performance itself.

What does your work say about you and the way you see the world?

Arturo: That’s a difficult question, with some irony, I would say that I see the world as a big question mark.

Is there any advice you would offer a fellow filmmaker?

Find the points of resistance within yourself and probe them.

Looking back at your career so far what would you say you’re most proud of?

Arturo: I am proud of the connections and relations I have constructed over the years, at the end of the day, that’s what matters most.

And finally, what is the message you would like your audiences to take from SOMA?

There is no message as such that we want them to take home, we would be happy to know that the filmed elicited some questions, ideas, associations, criticism. That it provoked something in the audience, put their minds and hearts to work, even if for just a few minutes.

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