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LAFF ’10 | Director Hilda Hidalgo Tackles Taboo Subject Matter in “Of Love and Other Demons”

LAFF '10 | Director Hilda Hidalgo Tackles Taboo Subject Matter in "Of Love and Other Demons"

Based on Gabríel García Marquez’s novel, “Of Love and Other Demons” is set during the colonial era in a South American seaport—the home of bishops and viceroys, enlightened thinkers and inquisitors, lepers, and pirates. After being bitten by a rabid dog and subsequently believed to be possessed, 13-year-old noble Sierva Maria is imprisoned in a convent, where Father Delaura, a young protégé of the local bishop, is sent to oversee her exorcism. But instead of spirits, he must grapple with the unexpected passion that Sierva Maria awakes in his soul and a love that is at once improbable, deeply moving, and straining at the constraints of tradition and faith.

Costa Rican director Hilda Hidalgo’s debut feature is a masterful blend of understated performances infused with the dreamlike atmosphere created by the chiaroscuro cinematography. As Sierva Maria’s mother, famed Columbian actress Margarita Rosa de Francisco may be the most recognizable name in the cast, but the film truly belongs to its young leads. Eliza Triana’s Maria smolders onscreen, her stunning beauty drawing Pablo Derqui’s young priest into the depths of hopeless devotion. [Synopsis provided by LAFF]

Of Love and Other Demons
Narrative Competition
(Colombia, Costa Rica, 2009, 97 mins, 35mm)
Directed By: Hilda Hidalgo
Producers: Laura Imperiale, Clara María Ochoa, Laura Pacheco, Hilda Hidalgo
Screenwriter: Hilda Hidalgo
Cinematographer: Marcelo Camorino
Editor: Mariana Rodríguez
Cast: Pablo Derqui, Eliza Triana, Jordi Dauder, Joaquin Climent, Margarita Rosa de Francisco, Damián Alcázar, Martha Leal

[EDITOR’S NOTE: indieWIRE is profiling the Narrative and Documentary Competition filmmakers who are screening their films at the Los Angeles Film Festival as world premieres.]

Director Hilda Hidalgo on the road that led him to become a filmmaker…

I am a 39 year-old Costa Rican screenwriter, director and film producer. I studied film at the International Film and Television School (EICTV) of San Antonio de los Baños, Cuba. However, I didn’t always know I wanted to be a filmmaker. When I graduated from high school I actually wanted to be a poet. But since that wasn’t a career you can really major at, I ended up studying journalism and modern dance. I also bought a camcorder and started filming everything around me. I became fascinated with the possibility of going from admiring art to actually creating my own work. To me, films are the closest you can get to dreams and to documenting life at the same time.

Hidalgo on how “Of Love and Other Demons” came to be, and on the intimate approach she took to directing the film…

Love is the answer to our mystical desire of absolute fulfillment and of two existing forever as one. Stories of forbidden love have always seduced me, as they usually give us a glimpse of what pure and mystical love is, of a passion that defies beliefs and age differences, and that might transcend time, space or even death. My fiction work up to now revolves around this subject.

“Of Love and Other Demons” by Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez, the novel our film is based on, tells a captivating story of forbidden love. A few years ago, during a workshop at the EICTV, I told García Márquez that this was one of his most cinematic works to date and I wondered why no one had made a film based on the book. He then told me that he had actually experimented with several screenwriting techniques while creating the novel and challenged me: “Would you like to make the movie?” I immediately said yes.

During the process of creating the movie’s screenplay, I decided to focus on the love story and tell it through Sierva María’s eyes (the novel’s main female character). The movie, with its intimate approach, focuses on the characters’ inner battles and contradictions. On the one hand, a 13 year-old girl living in Cartagena de Indias (Colombia) during colonial times wonders what kisses taste like. On the other hand, Cayetano, a Spanish priest, reads poetry by Garcilaso de la Vega (who never wrote any religious poems and instead depicted pagan and mythological worlds) and is desperately trying to come to terms with his passion for scientific truth and his deep religious beliefs. I decided to delve into a world of senses and sensuality instead of focusing on the novel’s anecdotal twists.

To achieve this goal we had to create a unique production structure, which would allow us to make a movie combining technical mastery with artistic and creative freedom. With Mexican producer Laura Imperiale leading the way, our company, Alicia Films (Costa Rica), coproduced the film alongside CMO Producciones (Colombia) and aasociate producer Cacerola Films (Mexico).

Hidalgo on tackling challenging subject matter, and on who will enjoy the film…

One of the biggest challenges was portraying this story of forbidden love in a tactful manner, as it involves a 13 year-old girl and a 36 year-old priest. I wanted to achieve a balance between passion and naiveté. Cayetano and Sierva María are unique characters; their innocence makes them terribly vulnerable but they are also unrelentingly brave. I wanted to get to know them, to understand their innermost desires and fears. Pablo Derqui and Eliza Triana poured their hearts and souls into this movie and made these characters exist on film. Thanks to them, the love scenes have a subtle intensity.

I would like to think that those who have loved with the certainty that it will last forever will enjoy the film. It portrays characters in a realistic and sensual light, underlining their innermost fears and desires. Thanks to strong yet delicate performances and great visual beauty, the film could become a lush and subtle journey.

Hidalgo on films that continue to inspire her and on future plans…

Several movies fascinate me and are constantly on my mind. For example, “The Scent of Green Papaya” (Anh Hung Tran, Vietnam), “In the Mood for Love” (Wong Kar Wai, Hong Kong) and “Andrey Rublyov” (Andrei Tarkovsky, Russia).

I’m currently working on this film’s distribution and writing a screenplay about a 70 year-old woman who decides to rebel against social conventions.

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