Latin American Competition

3 questions for Sofía Velázquez Núñez

The director of De todas las cosas que se han de saber talks in detail about the film, featured in the Latin American Competition.
3 questions for Sofía Velázquez Núñez

What was your first experience approaching the figure of César Vallejo?
The house where I grew up was a very stimulating space in many ways. My dad received constant visits from friends who spent long hours conversing about art, literature, and philosophy. At the same time, at the dining room table, on a small lectern, there was always an open book of Vallejo's complete poetry. From that lectern, my father read his poetry to me and my sisters, from a very young age. It was something particular, since Vallejo is commonly related to melancholy, with the difficulty or darkness and complexity of his readings. For us, they were stories, they were words filled with captivating images from other times, yet in no way dense, but rather tender and profound. As an adult, I read him a bit more, understood other aspects, connected with other sides of his poetry, more political and very human. But I’ve always thought his figure had been misunderstood. The film sort of arose, among other things, from wanting to play with the readings of that poetry; de-formalize, perhaps, bring poetry back to everyday life, where I think it belongs.

How was the selection process for the inhabitants of Santiago de Chuco who appear in the film?
It was an opening rather than a selection. We were inviting the people we got to know as we inhabited that place. People who seemed interesting to us either because of their activities, their faces or their relationship with Vallejo's universe. But, finally, the locals spread the word and a lot of people began to arrive, from curious children to people who wanted to say something and we, of course, gave them the space to do it. Some even walked into the theater just to be there and spend time watching. So, it was a collective work. Within the team, we were telling each other if we knew someone, if we saw something that seemed particular to us… Everything seemed interesting. I think the real selection process was in the editing room. I had to do an exercise in distancing myself –which I don't know if I have succeeded at all– in order to decide who was left in the film and who was not. Obviously, I would have wanted them all to be in the film, but at the same time I knew that, as the film was taking shape, not all of them were connected to what was being woven. Still, few were left out.

At what point did you notice that the film could afford this alteration between reality and fiction?
That idea was there from the beginning. Perhaps the first versions were basically fiction, and they happened in Lima and Callao, which is the port where I grew up. I thought that some characters from poetry could come to life through people who allowed me to build them in an almost ethereal way. But on the first trip to Santiago de Chuco we realized that everything had to be told there. Then, we began to build the fiction from Elder and what he was telling us. And the real challenge / problem was making that crossover work. In the first versions of the editing, that crossroads between reality and fiction did not flow. I was very scared, but I was trying to remember what it was that had made me think, before shooting, that yes, that it was indeed a good idea. At that time, I thought of the theater as the space from which, precisely, stories come from, and I was thinking of poetry itself, which mixes these two entities without any problem. I also thought that the most "real" moments were actually the most prepared ones. And the moments that seemed to be totally documentary –the casting in the theater, for example– were a complete performance or staging of themselves, of the people themselves, assuming a role in such a space. Playing themselves.