Having passed through September’s San Sebastian Co-Production Forum and been selected for Jerusalem’s Sam Spiegel Lab, “The Other Son,” the debut feature of Juan Sebastián Quebrada, has just won Colombia’s FDC Prize, alongside “Horizonte,” from “Land and Shade’s” Cesar Acevedo.
That alone would make “The Other Son” a noteworthy 2020 Latin American project. The feature is also produced by Franco Lolli – who opened 2019 Critics’ Week as a director with the well-received “Litigante” – via Lolli’s Evidencia Films, in co-production with Les Films du Worso and Srab Films.
Set in a social background which has only recently been explored with some frequency, the debut follows teen Federico who’s about to graduate from a posh Colombian high school where he doesn’t truly belong. Suddenly, he faces the death of his younger brother who falls from a balcony at a party. Drawing from his own experience of loss, Quebrada’s film tackles adolescence, trauma and finding one’s place in the midst of Colombian’s bourgeoisie.
The Colombian filmmaker caught international attention after competing with his film school title “Strange Days” at BAFICI, a 68-minute film about a pair of Colombian immigrants in Buenos Aires that was hailed by critic Sergio Wolf as the best Colombian film of the last decades.
Whether true or not, Quebrada belongs to a new generation of filmmakers that have had the opportunity to study abroad and are slowly coming back to the country, bringing with themselves a more enriched and uniquely personal film language.
Variety talked with Quebrada and Lolli as the production looks forward to shooting next year and is still on the lookout for new money.
In an interview about “Strange Days,” Juan Sebastian, you mention how the reality of the context of Colombia seeps into its cinema and how sometimes it is very difficult to be able to read it from other perspectives. For you as a director, what is it that interests you most in this search for new narratives?
Quebrada: I once heard that Colombian cinema is an orphan cinema, which has little local tradition, in which there is no reference or an auteur who has created a school. Faced with this orphanhood, many Colombian filmmakers have dispersed around the world to try to appropriate other traditions, to find a way to represent our world. This attempt at appropriation, which for me is almost the equivalent of trying to appropriate a foreign language, is what has generated these new narratives, where strange, imperfect but very rich images are created, of us, as orphan,s and then, through us, of Colombia. By not being burdened by a film history that is too rich, we can make our world dialogue with the foreign world, and create a new miscegenation.
Colombian society has faced a year filled with moments of collective pain and mourning – reminders of how transversal violence is still, even if it’s lived daily or seen on the news. Your new film clearly wants to confront these themes, perhaps observing them from another perspective. Could you comment on that?
Quebrada: Although my new film focuses on personal and family mourning, in some way it establishes a dialog with the collective mourning that we live today; more so now as this, through different manifestations of fear and violence, has intensified in the context of the pandemic. For me, pain is impossible to represent, it will always be a bad copy what one puts in a movie. Rather, I seek to approach the sensation of grief, which is like a suspended state where the perception of the world is modified.
In appearance, everything remains the same, but there is something that no longer fits: the familiar and the everyday become strange. I think this feeling of estrangement is a way of denaturalizing the known world, in order to be able to see it again in another way. In these moments, when so many things have to be rethought, I think that this change in perception is more important than ever.
Franco, what are your thoughts on Juan Sebastián’s cinema and how the generation of filmmakers to which he belongs is shaping up’
Lolli: Juan Sebastián’s cinema appears at a moment of freedom in Colombian production, in which there’s no longer that kind of obligation of yesteryear, which made almost all films deal with issues of public order. Today, many other stories are being told, in very diverse and interesting ways. But the roads that he travels are not traveled by anyone else, so much so that Buenos Aires, in his graduate film “Strange Days”, and Bogotá, in his short film” La Casa del Arbol”, seem like cities which have never before been filmed. I think that’s because his staging is just that: His, nobody else’s. He is a director with a very particular tone and a very fine humor, who manages to approach existential issues without loading his stories with unnecessary gravity. That is why, among many other things, we are so impatient to be able to shoot “The Other Son” soon.
In terms of selecting projects, Evidencia has been emerging as a producer, showing an interest in other types of stories in Colombia. How do you see yourself as a producer, looking to the future?
Lolli: Unlike many production companies for which producing a lot is the priority, for us the most important thing is to produce well. That means paying particular attention to every detail of the process, especially writing, without losing sight of the essence of each project: What goes through it, deeply, and makes it unique. We always start from what an author has to express, and we need that, whatever it is, to really touch us, to be able to accompany him along the way. Although we like to go to Cannes and fill theaters, we are not interested in achieving success, but rather that success reaches us. It’s first and foremost about creating a film that we can be proud of when looking back. And that is only possible through creative integrity, regardless of whether we are producing a short, a feature or a series.
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