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Meet Damián Szifrón, Director of Oscar-Nominated ‘Wild Tales’ (Exclusive Video)

Meet Damián Szifrón, Director of Oscar-Nominated 'Wild Tales' (Exclusive Video)

From writer-director Damián Szifrón, 39, “Wild Tales” was scooped up by Sony Pictures Classics out of the Cannes 2014 competition, played Sundance this year, among other fests, and opens in limited release this Friday, February 20.

Among all the dark explorations of the human spirit on display on the festival circuit, this tour-de-force collection of six insane, utterly identifiable tales of human beings pushed to extreme “primal instinctive behavior” (per the director)–from road rage-gone-wrong and a righteously precise explosive expert who fights a corrupt towing company, to the ultimate disastrous wedding–had universal appeal and was hugely entertaining. 

Each carefully wrought jewel of story is more delicious and outrageous and hilarious than the last. Think Almodóvar on Tarantino steroids. With a Gustavo Santaolalla score. (Almodóvar’s Spanish company El Deseo produced.) 

Sure enough, this hilarious movie hit big at Telluride and Toronto, where I interviewed him on my iPhone–first on video, then audio Q &A–below. He admits that he’s being courted by agencies and for many projects–duh–but intends to hang onto as much control over his next film as possible.  

Anne Thompson: It was a big deal to accepted into competition at Cannes. 

Damián Szifrón: 
When I received the call that Thierry Fremaux loved “Wild Tales,” that was like a plot point. I remember at that moment I could see that the things I had been doing were going international. I felt that change in a physical way.
Everybody can relate to these stories! In one, you set up this anal precise by-the-numbers guy who sets bombs and winds up using that skill in a gratifying way to fight parking tickets and towing companies: you up the stakes. 
We all know that the system is not made for us, that we are not the ones who get the benefit from it. He has nothing to lose and he enjoys it. That’s the important element to show. The moment the characters go wild and cross the line and feel good about it, even when things have bad or catastrophic endings, the moment they decide to be themselves and react to what is happening to them, I wanted to show the enjoyment in these characters. I always give the example of killing animals: I don’t like to hunt or kill anything, fish or deer– but when a mosquito is bothering you, when you finally catch it, you enjoy that, because it is messing with you. 

We are pacific, with a tendency to be good to each other, but when somebody bothers you, that changes your nature. Your nature is to want to defend or react. Sometimes you measure the cost or benefit of everything with each step you take. Animals don’t, they have the instinct. We have the instinct but we have the ability to not follow it. But the cost of repression is huge. You keep somethings inside you for years. Some crazy people are yelling and acting out, living in a fight that happened 20 years ago.

You’re a huge hit in Argentina? 

It was the biggest opening in Argentinian film history, ever, the biggest film of the year including “Frozen.”

You are being chased by Hollywood. Have you shown anyone your material? 

I am interested in making something in English as the next step, I don’t know exactly what.  I have received a huge amount of offerings and scripts, and am meeting people.  I will take the time, a few months, to really think about it. I have scripts already written and could do them now. They all include humor in some form, but they are not comedies, including the western–it has a lot of humor too. I have not yet presented for financing. I think I could get it. I also want to write new scripts. I am interested in creating shows for TV, which I have done in Argentina, I have beautiful ideas for TV shows. It’s a wonderful dilemma, I can live with it.

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