Latin American Competition

3 questions for Francina Carbonell

The director of El cielo está rojo talks about her film that is participating in the Latin American Competition.
3 questions for Francina Carbonell

Why did you decide to tell this story and do it solely through the montage of the archival material of the judicial process?

I think the question started to come up the same day the fire happened and I saw the news, ten years ago. That day the country was silent before the images that were showing on television: they were unbearable, dark, infernal images that hovered in the air, an episode that was inscribed like a wound with no elaboration. That feeling haunted me for many years, like those impressions that come back after you’ve seen something that is difficult for you to grasp its significance. I wondered about the value of those images, who had filmed them, what they wanted to show, what other images were missing. As we began to work, we discovered all the remnants: the objects, the memories, the files, and especially the holes that they carried with them. When we dug through those remains, the marks of a deeply unequal country were still burning. There was no need to film more: those marks were there, and perhaps the urgency was to be able to reverse them.

How was the process of organizing and selecting the archive material?

It was a difficult process. I spent many days hovering over the timeline with a real uncertainty as to whether it was possible to make sense of such painful images. The amount of material that existed was also overwhelming: audios of three years of trial, hours and hours of material from the PDI (the police), endless documents. We dived into an infinite sea where everything was possible and therefore nothing was possible. It took time to start sorting through, rearranging, putting together, and cutting. One would like to produce more efficiently, but I rely on time, on the back-and-forth, the conversations. I think this is where one sculpts a critical place to work, not in a functional way, but with a true search. In that sense, I believe that, thanks to a very committed collective work, we were able not only to understand the cause-effect, but also to deeply understand what had happened, and then the endless materials and diverse formats that existed were actually allies that helped us to express ourselves with precision.
It is in the relationship of the materials that a critical perspective on the facts (and on the lack of consequences) emerges. How did you think about and work on the structure of the film and the montage to shape this point of view?

We had a lot of difficulty in finding the structure of the film, to the point that we thought that perhaps it was outright inarticulable. But at some point, the need to find the perfect structure and the ideal glue that was going to unite everything was cleared up, and we began to connect more with the emotions, the censorship, the manipulation that we were able to read in the details of each of those images. In that sense, we stopped trying to force the materials into a structure and we worked with the images from their particularities, joining small signs with others, without having the true north very clear and wagering on the world of the miniscule. I think that made the movie mostly about the details and not the big story that is actually made explicit from the beginning. From those little details, the court archives have slowly shifted to a more poetic dimension, building a plot that immerses us not only in this particular tragedy, but also in the fragility of our country's prison system.