«Lack of empathy is one of the main subjects of the film»

Eugenio Canevari presents Paula in the Argentine Competition

Paula is the story of a young woman lost in a sea of people. Working as a maid in a house of middle-class employers, the cry of help reverberates in deaf ears and plunges her even more in a reality that can only have her as victim. With remarkable performances and a sensitive script, Paula is an accurate, cruel and silent portrayal of today’s society.

Where does the idea of Paula come from?

Paula was born out of a research I did on abortion, though back then I wasn’t interested in making a film about it but to understand the situation the country was going through. Short after I got my degree in Direction in Barcelona, I received a call from my father telling me about my grandparent’s desire to sell the country house they had in Pergamino, where most of my family comes from. I thought it would be a shame not to shoot anything in that place where I had spent most of my childhood, so I spent all the money I had on a one-way ticket to Buenos Aires with the intention of shooting something there. Since I had a brief story in mind about Paula, I decided to adapt it to this new space, and the omnipresence of the soy crop finished shaping the script.

Silence and everything that is not said are even more important than the information exchanges between the characters. How important were they during shooting?

We worked with silences so that they worked both on an expressive and narrative level. Suggestions also allow the audience to actively participate by adding the information that is not provided by words, and I think that’s a way of engaging the audience and making them draw their own conclusions. In the script there were only two dialogues crucial for the story. The rest appeared during shooting in relation to the needs of the scenes. I improved the dialogues and expressions in order to take away the artifice, searching for an experience closer to cinema as a visual and sound media.

 

The performances, especially the kids’, are very natural, which is something difficult to achieve. How did you work with the direction of actors?

This is not only my first film but the entire cast as well. They are all from Pergamino, and some of them are my relatives. I was lucky to find very talented and generous people. Working with kids was different in each case, but if I were to mention something in common for all of them, I’d say I gave as few instructions as possible and I was patient so that they’d perform spontaneously forgetting about the presence of the camera and the technical crew. What was hard for them was to be patient with me; I even got to negotiate with them the number of shots before shooting some scenes.

That indifference of all the characters works as a very powerful message of a more general situation. How did you work that from the script?

The idea was to create a hostile environment around Paula, even beyond class differences. I guess that comes from feelings I have based on my own experience. Lack of solidarity and empathy in a crucial situation such as Paula’s are, of course, one of the main subjects of the film.

Atmospheres are claustrophobic, oppressive, lacking in words, but filled with very symbolic gestures. What technical decisions did you make in order to achieve that?

I think they are ideas that are deduced from the formal harshness with which we tried to work. Framing, for example, is crucial for creating that atmosphere. The characters with their back towards, the off-camera, the static camera, the lights… it all responds to the need to create an oppressive and suffocating atmosphere.

 

 

WED 4, 1.10 pm, ALD 5
WED 4, 9.40 pm, ALD 5
THU 5, 1.10 pm, ALD 5

 

 

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