Mariana Sanguinetti On How Chantal Akerman and ‘Girls’ Inspired Her Buenos Aires-Set Short Film

'All Over the Place' Courtesy of IFFR

We’ve all been there. There are things we’ve wanted to say to our ex-boyfriend, preferably to his answering machine so you wouldn’t actually have to talk to him. All you want is to vent, after all. To talk at him. It’s easier to think you’re not making a fool out of yourself if no one’s on the other line. Some of us (sometimes) know better. That’s not the case for Jimena (Agostina Luz López) who not only decides to make just that type of call but does so while inside the apartment she used to share with her ex. In a short denim skirt, brown boots, and a yellow mustard knitted top, Jimena could very well be an Argentinean Hannah Horvath. Which would make the short film she’s in, All Over the Place (Antes de irme), Mariana Sanguinetti‘s version of Girls.

Mining the same kind of awkward-inducing humor which characterized Lena Dunham’s HBO show, All Over the Place plays like a stream-of-consciousness monologue where Jimena tries to seem as okay with the breakup as she can, even as she wistfully walks around the home she’d made with her ex. All the while, of course, hearing her own voice being recorded in the answering machine in the living room. She would’ve called his cell, but she really didn’t want to see him looking at a notification of a call from Jimena and have him ignore it.

Sanguinetti’s spare short film—all shot in the one location in less than 3 days in Buenos Aires—first premiered at the International Film Festival Rotterdam. Which is in itself impressive for a debut short, let alone one coming from a director who’s still in film school! Ahead of the film’s North American premiere, Remezcla caught up with Sanguinetti to talk about why she’s drawn to representing unruly women on screen, what female directors she takes after, and why a question about Gabriel García Márquez and Pedro Almodóvar stumped her while showing her film in Europe. Check out our chat below.

Tell me how this short film came about.

The short film has a lot to do with my acting studio. That thing where we improvise. It’s got a lot to do with improvisation—so I wrote the short film in that way of working. That monologue was something that I had in my mind that I may have wanted to say to an ex-boyfriend.

So not autobiographical at all…

It’s a bit autobiographical! [laughs] But I have, of course, not done anything like that.

So much of the film falls on your lead actress. How did you find Agostina?

Well I’ve known for many years now. I’ve been in acting class with her for a long time. I love what she does. She’s worked a lot as an actress but it’s not her main thing. She’s a writer. I like that because she doesn’t have this thing—I don’t know how to say it, “prolija”? It’s like, tidy. She’s very relaxed. I really like that about her. I was always sure that I wanted her to do this.

You showed the film at the International Film Festival Rotterdam and elsewhere. How did come about?

Well, since it was a short film in just my second year of University, I wasn’t very sure about showing it in festivals. I was really happy to have done it because it was my first short film. To me, that alone was great. But at University I had a professor who’s a friend of mine. And he asked me—he’s a production professor—and he asked me for the link. I’d sent it to him. When he watched it, he said, “You have to send this short film to Rotterdam.” And I was like: of course not. That’s not gonna happen. Then I went to their site and I saw it was 60 Euros to submit the film (because it was a late submission). So I said, “No way! I’m not spending 60 Euros on something that’s not going to happen.” I had a brief discussion with him again and he told me that I was an idiot if I didn’t do that. Just to show him that I wasn’t an idiot, I submitted the film. And well, he was right. I was very lucky but I owe him a lot. So that gave me the motivation to send it to other festivals. But, it doesn’t get into a lot of festivals. It was in Rotterdam, and there they selected it to a branch that they have in Curacao, and then here, and it’s also now screening in Buenos Aires in something called Biennale, a two-year festival.

‘All Over the Place’ Courtesy of IFFR
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What kind of reactions have you gotten at these various screenings?

Well, they asked some very interesting questions in the Q&A. I was surprised because I think that there are several things that happen in the film that are very subtle. I had this idea that the audience wouldn’t or couldn’t catch them. But they did! So I was really surprised about that. There were also other questions about the Latin American aspect of the short. One person asked me if it was something related to García Márquez or Almodóvar. Things that I didn’t see in the short film. But I think some European audiences may have this idea of “Latin American cinema” in their minds. I mean, it’s nice. I really like García Márquez!

But it’s a weird frame of reference in this case.

And it’s weird because the short actually hasn’t gotten into that many Latin American film festivals, which is an audience who would be able to relate more with what I do. It did really well in Europe and here.

‘All Over the Place’ Courtesy of IFFR
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What kind of references or influences did you have in mind?

Since I knew Agostina and I’d written the part for her, it’s not like I had another character in mind. But I really love the cinema of Mia Hansen-Løve; she’s a French filmmaker that I really love. I think she has this way of shooting so intimately and so close to her characters. Then there’s a movie I saw later, but that I really loved: Toni Erdmann—I mean, everybody loves that movie! I really love that way of filming so close to the actors. There must be a lot of movies I had in mind at that time. But I also, obviously had in mind, Girls, the TV show. Because I really love these unruly women. And then I had Chantal Akerman in mind, because of where she places the camera to shoot these characters that are feminine, in a way, but they are not this “idea” of what a woman is supposed to be. You know, beautiful, and like that.

There’s a rawness to it, yes. Are you hoping to continue exploring that? What’s next?

Well, I’m writing right now with a friend of mine who was also the assistant director in this film—and she’s also an actor, and my best friend, so we are really close. We have a lot of stuff in common, especially in terms of taste. And he’s made short films himself, he even got into BAFICI. We’re writing a movie about a family with again this idea of being really uncomfortably close to the characters. You’ll see some fake footage, but it’s at a very early stage. Before that, when I return to Buenos Aires, I think I’m going to film another short film really quickly—this one was a two-and-a-half day of shooting. I like it that way.

All Over the Place screens as part of Shorts Program 1: Narrative at the New York Film Festival.