From Argentina, Pablo Aguero brings his project “Salamandra” to The Atelier, where as a first-time filmmaker his project will be among the few given priority. Described as a “conjunction of opposites”, the story is of a mother struggling to raise her son in Patagonia and uses much of the director’s upbringing as an inspiration.
About the program: The Atelier de la Cinefondation was created by the Cannes Film Festival to nurture specific projects from emerging filmmakers. In its third year, the program has selected fifteen projects looking for development or completion funding. Meetings and events between filmmakers and film professionals will be arranged during the Festival, May 18-25. Click here for more information on the program and projects.
Where you were born and how did you become a filmmaker?
I grew up in a small town in Patagonia, Argentina. I lived in a shack without electricity, so I grew up without TV or music. At the age of 6 years old, I began to experiment making a kind of comic. That was just a way to survive emotionally in a hard place, by telling stories and drawing, by giving to my imaginary plans an objective existence. When I was 15, I made a short film in my high school for a competition. With that, I won money to buy a video camera.
Until today, I’m always filming to survive. I do reality checks: Why and how do we stay alive? I asked myself these questions not looking for a philosophical explanation, but for practical sense.
How did your previous work lead you to “Salamandra”?
All my work was shot in Patagonia. My last two short films were exercises in preparation of “Salamandra“. “Lejos del Sol” (“Far from the Sun“) won the Buenos Aires International Film Festival and the Cork Festival in 2005. And “Primera nieve” (“First Snow“) (a scene from “Salamandra”), won the Gijon Festival and the 2006 Grand Jury Price in Cannes.
What is “Salamandra” about and what inspired you to pursue it?
My town is in the mythical valley of Argentinean Patagonia. It is a land of fugitives from all around the world. Butch Cassidy was here, the hippies came here in the seventies, Nazis also. For me, this valley represents the apocalypse of beliefs, the meeting point of all kind of faith’s crisis. “Salamandra” is about the experience of a little child who is plunged by his mother into this maelstrom, as both as a victim and an apprentice.
What do you hope to accomplish while you are in Cannes?
I have been working for years on this project. “Salamandra”‘s screenplay has had already three of the most important international residences (Cinefondation – Cannes, Centre d’Ecritures Cinemathographiques and Casa de America), some prizes (National Price for First Film in Argentine, Opening Shot Price – GAN Foundation, Amiens Festival’s Development Fund) and selections in many festivals.
I believe I have the best producers for this project: JBA Production (Jacques Bidou and Marianne Dumoulin) in France and Rizoma Films (Hernan Musaluppi) in Argentina, both are focused on new talents and have produced many films at international level. We have been working for the last six months (casting and scouting in Patagonia) with very good results. I’m working with Dolores Fonzi who is, in my view, the greatest Argentinean actress of her generation.
Now, we just need to meet the right partners and get the rest of the funding to make “Salamandra” a reality.
What are some of your creative inspirations and influences?
The observation of human experience, paradoxes of time, weather effects, and real sounds inspire me more than musical or cinematographic products. I lived my childhood without cinema or TV, but I grew up in a storm of social confrontations, emotional clashes, “moving” landscapes. Like a painter, I’m just trying to catch the reality as I feel it and to share those feelings.
I’m always looking for non-cinematographic influences. Proust, Borges, Dostoyevsky, Van Gogh, De La Tour, Schiele, Bach, Gismonti, Janis Joplin… They are still teaching me a vision of the world and a way to express it.
Pornography could be an interesting influence, just for its effects. Pornography is the only kind of cinema which produces “organic effects” in the spectator. Even though pornography is also a simulation, the actors have a physical experience and the spectator is an actor himself. I feel cinema needs that kind of real experience. We need real action. We don’t need to be spectators but main characters. In the Hollywood movies called “action” films, there’s no real action, there’s just a reproduction of the same scenes each time and a lot of moral propaganda. I have a dream of a film like a miraculous place (like a sanctuary) where people can project their own despair and experience a physical transformation.
Which films are you most interested in seeing at this year’s Festival?
In Cannes, is always too hard to make a choice. There’s a lot of great filmmakers. I just will try to learn something from them.
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