The Berlinale Film Festival just wrapped this past weekend. Amongst the several Latin American films playing the fest was La tercera orilla (The Third Side of the River), Celina Murga‘s fourth film. In her coming-of-age family drama Murga sticks to what she knows best, writing young characters. Seventeen year old Nicolas lives with his mom and younger siblings in a small town in Argentina. His father, a well-respected doctor, leads a double life. He has two wives and two sets of children. One wife is accepted as legitimate. The other, Jorge’s mother, is not publicly acknowledged. Nicolas watches his mother suffer and the resentment against his father, who is rarely around, begins to grow.
Straight off the premiere of her film at Berlinale, we caught up with the Argentine director. Murga shared her inspiration for the movie, why Martin Scorsese ended up producing it, and how watching E.T. made her want to be a filmmaker.
Where are you from?
I’m from a town called Parana, in Entre Rios province. It is 500 km from Buenos Aires.
What city do you call home?
Parana and Buenos Aires. Parana is more like my hometown but I’ve lived in Buenos Aires since 1991 so I also feel like it is my home.
When did you know you wanted to be a filmmaker?
I wanted to be a filmmaker since I was very young, around 15 years old. That was around the time that I discovered Steven Spielberg’s E.T.
What’s a movie you are embarrassed to admit you really like?
I remember around that same time I saw a film called Flash Gordon. I was fascinated by it. I didn’t see it ever again and I really never heard much about it either.
What’s the experience of this year’s Berlinale like? How does it compare to your previous experiences at that festival?
It’s very different because we all feel more exposed and this film is going to be seen by more people.
What was your inspiration for this story?
I was inspired by some real stories that I heard about men that run parallel lives. Also I wanted to tell the story about a young boy turning into a man in this particular environment.
Your films tend to depict young people. Can you explain why you like writing young characters?
I find young people very inspiring. They are the protagonists of their lives but at the same time they can reflect the adult world that surrounds them with its particular rules that many times do not include them.
Can you talk about your experience being mentored by Martin Scorsese and his involvement in La tercera orilla?
I met Martin Scorsese thanks to the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative. He was an amazing mentor. Thanks to Scorsese choosing me as his protégé, we were able to create a relationship that has outlasted the program. He actually asked to be executive producer of The Third Side of the River. I was writing the movie during the time of the Rolex program. I spent a lot of time with Scorsese during the shooting and editing of Shutter Island. At that time I was writing the script and it was so enriching to speak with him about the characters and the story. We talked a lot about the bond between a son and his father. We discussed developing the character of the father with the necessary ambiguity to make him more complex and human. He also helped me a lot with the masculine point of view. We talked about how Scorsese manages to give volume to his male characters, how he gets the spectator to empathize with them even though most of the time their actions could be socially questionable. I traveled to New York and watched a rough cut of The Third Side of the River with Scorsese. I was pleased to hear his compliments about leading actor Alian’s performance and the mise-en-scene.
What do you hope to achieve with your film?
I would like the film to make people think about the relationships they build inside a family and also about social relations. Also about the importance of individuality, to be able to value each person’s particular feelings and thoughts.