Photo: Luis Iparraguirre (Terra Perú)

What’s Love Got to Do With It: An Interview with Pablo Giorgelli

By | 29 November, 2011

Every once in a while, a film appears which seems to come out of nowhere, but which touches everyone who sees it. The way it happens is that usually the film festival circuit see it first: programmers, critics and those few lucky discerning members of the public who might rave about it to their friends without ever knowing if the film will see the light of day again. Las Acacias is one of these films.

This intimate, quiet and beautiful little road-movie about a lonely truck driver and what happens when he unwillingly agrees to give a ride to a young single mother, and her five-month baby as he makes the journey from Asunción de Paraguay to Buenos Aires, has been one of the most widely praised films of this year. It won the prestigious Camara D’Or prize at Cannes film festival earlier in the year, and then went on to take a host of other prizes including the New Horizons Prize at San Sebastian and the Silver Mirror at Oslo’s Films from the South Festival, before winning the Sutherland Award for Best First Feature at London Film Festival last month. Luckily the film has been bought for distribution in the UK and is out this Friday December 2nd.

Sofia Serbin de Skalon caught up with Argentine director Pablo Giorgelli whilst he was in London and talked to him about what the prizes mean to him, the filmmaking process, casting for real people and crafting a story without outside distractions:

Las Acacias has been winning prizes everywhere. Congratulations! How does it feel?

Thank you. To be honest, I feel as if the film appeared in exactly the right place at exactly the right time. You could go to a festival with the same film another year and have a different jury or other films in the competition, and maybe not get so lucky.

You might say that if you were talking about just one prize, but there have been quite a few!

It’s true. There have been a lot of prizes. I guess that says that a few people have liked the film [he smiles]. And that’s been really amazing for me. If you’d asked me what my greatest ambition was before making the film, I would have said… for people to like it. That’s what I wanted. To make a film that people liked.

I understand the film took 10 years to make?

In reality, the 10 years were part of a personal process of things that were happening to me that ended up becoming tied up with the film. But the film itself took me 5 years to make. I started writing the script in 2005 and finished the post-production just a few months before Cannes.

What happened to me in the time before I started work on the film, became the origins of the film. I had a moment of intense personal crisis: a lot of things happened to me in my life at the same time. Much of it had to do with the situation in Argentina and the economic crisis of 2001. I was out of work for a long time and for me it was very hard. I never imagined something like that would happen to me. It’s like seeing someone on the street and you wonder how it is they got there. And you realise that you yourself are not that far away from that. My father got ill, I went through a divorce – all these things happened within a short space of time and I didn’t know how to handle it. So when people began to ask me where the story had come from I realised that it was the result of the things that I had been through. The film is about the loneliness and alienation of one man – which is what I myself had been through – and the possibility of regeneration, of rebuilding your life anew. It’s a positive, hopeful film.

There’s a moment close to the beginning of the film when Ruben is driving and you can’t help asking yourself if you’ll be able to watch an entire film that takes place inside a truck, and then the next minute you’re completely absorbed in the story. Tell me a little about your decision to set the film inside Ruben’s truck.

When I started to think about the setting I wanted I realised that what I was interested in was the story of this alienated truck driver and his internal conflict, and the relationship that develops between him and the young woman. So I started to have this idea of being close to them all the time, and it began to seem strange to me to see them from afar. I fell in love with the idea of telling the film from their point of view and showing only the things that they see and not the point of view of the director outside. So that’s why there’s no music and you see the landscapes through the windscreen of the truck, because that’s how they see them. It was like creating a little box that they could breathe in. Inside everything counted, outside it was irrelevant.

I have to admit that in the beginning I was a little scared that the film might be a bit monotonous or claustrophobic but I did a few tests and it worked and I became convinced that this was the way to tell the story.

Nayra Calle Mamani, who plays the baby girl Anahi is so charming, she completely steals the show. How did you find her?

We saw a lot of babies but it was a miracle to find her. She wasn’t an actress. At first we were looking for twins and triplets as we thought it might be easier but none of them were right. Then her parents heard about the casting and brought her in and the baby just stared at me with these enormous eyes. I lowered my gaze and she was still looking at me and it was a little intimidating but I realised then that there was something right there.

I also spent a year looking for real truck drivers because I thought that would be better for the story but when I realised it wasn’t working I found Germán de Silva (who plays Ruben) and everyone thought he was a real truck driver. With the character of Jacinta, Hebe Duarte was actually the casting assistant in Paraguay – she was helping out and I had her near to me for a long time before it dawned on me that she was exactly what I was looking for.

Are you excited about the forthcoming release?

To me it is very important for the film to have a proper release in good commercial cinemas. It’s great to be invited to festivals, I enjoy it and it gives you the opportunity to promote your film but I think the cycle is completed once the film is released. That’s why I’m here, because the film is coming out in the UK, which I’m really happy about, and then it is being released in France and Norway. It’s absolutely incredible. Then I’m going home for the release in Argentina.

What’s your next project?

I have an idea, which I’d already had before I started working on this film. It’s about my grandmother Julia and I started working on it before the crisis but had to stop and do other things. It’s a story I want to tell about a family in La Boca. La Boca is my neighbourhood, it’s where I was born and where I’ve lived my whole life. So when I go back to Buenos Aires and some of this craziness is over, I want to go back to that story and see what comes out.

Las Acacias is being released nationwide by Verve Pictures on December 2nd. For a comprehensive list of cinemas screening the film click here.

You can also read our review of Las Acacias here.


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