The Sundance Film Festival is in full swing. So is my annual bout of S.A.D. or what I like to call Sundance Affective Disorder — I get really depressed that I’m not at Sundance. Instead of wallowing in pain, we here at Remezcla decided to celebrate the Latino films playing the fest.
Of the more than 100 movies premiering at Sundance this year, five are Latino. In the U.S. Documentary competition are Cesar’s Last Fast on the labor leader and United Farm Workers co-founder Cesar Chavez, and Marmato, a look at gold mining in Colombia. Natalia Smirnoff’s second film Lock Charmer (El cerrajero) and the Chilean thriller To Kill a Man round out the World Cinema Dramatic section. In Frontier Films, a showcase of movies that experiment with traditional storytelling, is Living Stars a fun peek into different people’s homes in Buenos Aires as they dance to well-known pop songs.
The next best thing to being in Park City, Utah this week is a chance to chat with the filmmakers whose projects were selected for the prestigious festival. We got to sit down with Gastón Duprat, director of the Argentinian film Living Stars fresh off of its world premiere at Sundance. The Buenos Aires native shared how he ended up making films with his directing partner (almost by accident) and how they managed to make an experimental film that won’t bore you to death.
Where are you from?
What city do you call home?
When did you know you wanted to be a filmmaker?
I never made the decision to be a filmmaker, it just started happening little by little, without even meaning to. Together with Mariano we dedicated ourselves, almost twenty years ago, to making experimental videos and then television and soon after came the opportunity to make a film due to the fact that my brother Andres had written a script that we loved. Then came other films like El hombre de al lado (The Man Next Door) and Querida voy a comprar cigarrillos y vuelvo.
What’s a movie you are embarrassed to admit you really like?
I’m not embarrassed by them but I like films that obviously have nothing to do with my own style of filmmaking. For example, some of the recent ones are: Real Steel, Transformers 3, Iron Man 3 or Pacific Rim.
This is the second time you’ve had a film at Sundance. How did you find out Living Stars got accepted? Did it feel different the second time around?
Yes, it’s the second time. The first time was in 2010 with El hombre de al lado, where we won the Best Cinematography prize. Living Stars is really different. It has a different style and a different narrative dynamic. The truth is that we sent it to the festival without much hope it would be accepted since it is a very extreme idea but to our surprise and joy they programmed it in the New Frontier section.
How did the idea of this film come to you?
It is based on a concept that we developed for a television program that I made with Mariano. It was called Television Abierta (Open Television). The idea was really innovative. It had direct on-screen participation from the audience, a sort of Youtube mixed with Facebook and Big Brother but done many years before any of them. Amongst those who called in to the program were people who wanted us to film them dancing.
How did you find the dancers?
We put out an open casting call, others had called in to the TV show and we contacted them again to participate in the film. The criteria we used to select the participants was diversity. We didn’t pay too much attention to our own personal preferences but rather to the degree of “realness” in each performance.
What sort of challenges did you face in making a film that doesn’t have a traditional narrative?
For us it’s easier to make films that are experimental in nature more so than traditional narratives since we have been experimenting with very free audiovisual forms for many years — it’s our language.
What do you hope to achieve with your film? What sort of impact do you think it will have?
I think the film achieves a very rich, idiosyncratic snapshot of Argentina. It provides a sharp, singular gaze on our way of life and aspirations, and it achieves that from a fresh, powerful and very entertaining place. Experimental cinema tends to be so severe, pompous and really boring. Luckily, that isn’t true in this case. The film has already started out really well with its premiere at Sundance and we’ve gotten requests from a lot of festivals and TV channels. It will premiere in Argentina at the end of 2014.
This interview was translated by Jorge Bustos-Estefan.