Argentine writer and director Julia Solomonoff released her feature film El Ultimo Verano de la Boyita (The Last Summer of La Boyita) on November 5th. We sat down with her over a mate and asked her a few questions about her new film, her experience in filmmaking, and asked her to reflect on the state of Argentine cinema in 2009.
This is the second feature film you have written and directed, tell us what else you have done.
I worked in film for many years as an assistant director. I was 1st assistant director of Motorcycle Diaries. I directed 5 short films, some of them have won important awards from DGA and FIPRESCI. In 2004, I directed my first feature, Hermanas (Sisters) that opened at Toronto International Film Festival, and in 2007 I produced a documentary, Cocalero, that opened at Sundance and won an award from the Argentine Academy of Cinema.
Before getting started with questions about the film, what is a boyita?
Well, I guess you have to see it [the film]. Basically, la boyita (little buoy) was an egg-shaped trailer home made of fibra de vidrio [fiberglass] that had the ability to float. You could add an off shore motor and just go fishing in a lake, with all the comfort of a small house, or so did the catalog say.
My parents bought one when I was a kid, but despite my dreams of adventures in lakes, roads and woods, la boyita never left our backyard. It became a perfect hiding place, a private spaceship for me and my sisters.
You’ve said that El Ultimo Verano de la Boyita was intended to be a small film. What do you mean by that? How was this shoot different from your other films?
I knew this film needed a certain intimacy, a small crew with light equipment and, whenever possible, just available light. To me it was essential to create an atmosphere where there was room for exploration, play, improvisation. Although there was a script and this is a fiction, I wanted to incorporate a documentary approach in order to capture life without much intervention. In a film with kids, animals, nature, you know that if you are open to the unexpected, it is bound to pay off.
I was very aware of the danger of intimidating Tuto. Tuto is one of the leads, a young boy from the countryside who’s never been in front of a camera, never even been to a cinema before.
It seems that you discovered an actor who has the making of a true star?
I think so, Tuto is a very shy but also proud country boy. He never dreamed of being in a movie, yet he seems a natural. He is very photogenic, has a strong, intriguing way of looking and when he rides his horse, he is one with it, you can feel the energy of that connection.
How did you get such beautiful photography and wonderful images of the country life? Are you from the country?
I spent many summers in Entre Rios, when I was a child. But for the film, I had the valuable collaboration of Lucio Bonelli (the DP) Mariela Ripodas (the art director) and John Harris (still photographer and husband). Finding the images, with such a good team in such a beautiful place, was not difficult.
Some people have compared your film to other recent films by female argentine directors? How much of that comparison is accurate? How much is a cultural phenomenon? and how much is it just lazy writers and critics?
A bit of everything, but I do notice that critics tend to do that, compare female directors as an isolated phenomena. They wouldn’t do that with male directors. I once participated in a project with 4 other women directors and in every interview the same question came out: why all women? I imagine, if the group was, let’s say Burman, Trapero, Caetano, Rotter, Fendrik no one would ask why are they all men. They would have asked about a generation, maybe, like I don’t imagine anyone asking the Beatles or the Stones or even more numerous, Los Fabulosos Cadillacs why there were no women in the band. But I am sure, if you have an all-girls band, the question would come up.
Much has been made of this idea of a “new argentine cinema.” What exactly is that and is it a valid description of what is going on in Argentine cinema?
I guess it was mostly a label that helped group different filmmakers in the mid 90s. It was a generational renovation, due to over a decade of democracy (in our country that was rather remarkable). New technologies made independent production more available, film schools opened that were closed during the dictatorship, and [also at that time] democratization across gender, social and generational lines. Of course, when I say social, it is fairly restricted. The democratization does not go too far in class terms. Filmmakers are mostly middle to upper-middle class and urban still.
For our readers who are new to Argentina, who are some directors and films to get to know?
A quick guide of those films you should not miss: La Cienaga, by Lucrecia Martel; Nueve reinas by Fabian Bielinsky; Garage Olimpo by Marco Bechis; Historias Minimas by Carlos Sorin; El Otro by Ariel Rotter; and Silvia Prieto by Martin Rejtman. Of the older ones, just to name a few: Camila or Yo la peor de todas by Maria Luisa Bemberg; El dependiente by Leonardo Favio; Boquitas Pintadas or Fin de Fiesta by Leopoldo Torre Nilson and La Cifra Impar by Manuel Antin.
You went to grad school the US. What do you like about American cinema vs Argentine cinema?
I believe Americans are unbeatable at comedies (ok, maybe the Brits are better, at least with The Office). I feel they are more rigorous in the construction of the films (the writing, the editing, the pacing) but also, I feel that sometimes they become too predictable, too buy the rules. Of course, making a generalization is not fair because probably there is more in common between an American independent filmmaker and an Argentine one than between Hollywood director and an American indie filmmaker.
Even if your’s is small budget movie, its still costs thousands and thousands to make. It must be very hard to make a profit when you (in Argentina anyway) earn in pesos? What’s up with that?
We have INCAA, the Argentine Film Institute that subsidizes film production. Without that, it would be almost impossible to make a film. We also search for funds abroad, we all apply for funds from France, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands.
Lastly, isnt the photography and LandingpadBA.com awesome? How much do you love our site?
Yes, I love the photo essays! As a local, I guess I enjoy them even more, because they revisit what was for me so familiar it became invisible. Thanks to LPBA, I sometimes feel like a tourist in my own city (and that is a nice feeling, that of discovery!)
EL ULTIMO VERANO DE LA BOYITA
Estreno en BA 12 de noviembre
“Imperdible!” (Nora Lafon, Radio Del Plata)
“Solomonoff pone el acento en el poder reparador del amor” (Catalina Dlugi – TN)
“Excelente. Consagratoria película. De lo mejor del nuevo Cine Argentino. (R. Quirno RADIO 10)
Muy Buena “Inusual sutileza” (Clarin)
Muy buena “Emocion genuina” (La Nacion)
“Sutil, inteligente, auténtica” (Página 12)
“…sensibilidad y belleza enorme” (Crítica)