Laura CitarellaA Cinematic Sojourn to the Land of Awe and Astonishment: Interview with Laura Citarella about El Pampero Cine and Trenque Lauquen Hamed Sarrafi August 2023 Interviews Issue 106 In the enigmatic realm of Trenque Lauquen, Laura Citarella brings to fruition the very essence of El Pampero Cine’s bold cinematic vision. This latest opus stands as the epitome of everything the Argentinian production company has diligently cultivated, refined, and strived towards. Following in the footsteps of most El Pampero Cine movies, Trenque Lauquen reveals itself as an epic that eschews flashy aesthetics in favour of subtle, introspective storytelling, captivating viewers completely. Rather than appealing superficially to the senses, it chooses to delve deep into the human psyche and soul. The outstanding artistry reflects the dedicated efforts of a creative team willing to push boundaries. With one foot planted in Latin American literary tradition and the other in cinematic history, this film effortlessly straddles both worlds – exhibiting a harmonious blend of light-heartedness and gravitas, with multifaceted characters and themes that cover substantial narrative ground. Instead of chasing trends or favoured subjects and styles in film festivals, it charts its own unique course. As a paragon of Argentina’s independent cinema scene, known for delivering pleasant surprises, this movie offers a refreshing, insightful viewing experience – one that refuses predictability, perpetually astonishing audiences by subverting expectations and pioneering new creative frontiers. Citarella’s cinema cultivates an aura of ingenious mystery by unearthing the extraordinary hidden within the seeming mundanity of daily life. Her elliptical narratives shimmer with cryptic connections and tacit meanings. In Ostende (2011) a young woman becomes enmeshed in the opaque designs of two women and an elderly man, hinting at the enigmatic ties that bind their relationships. Almost a decade later in Trenque Lauquen, Citarella once again follows a woman named Laura (presumably the same character, portrayed by the actress Laura Paredes), now middle-aged and eager to explore the enigmatic past and present of a town (Trenque Lauquen) through a series of puzzling events before mysteriously vanishing, becoming part of the town’s unsolvable mysteries herself. Now, she entangles others, including her boyfriend and another lover, in her enigmatic persona. This beguiling and mysterious atmosphere pervades Citarella’s other collaborations as well. In La mujer de los perros (Dog Lady, 2015), co-directed with Verónica Llinás, the film depicts the daily life of a woman who lives unconventionally with dogs, distancing herself from society for opaque reasons. Additionally, in the documentary Las Poetas Visitan A Juana Bignozzi (The Poets Visit Juana Bignozzi, 2019), co-directed with Mercedes Halfon, Citarella and her team sought to illuminate the obscure life of a poet by investigating her story. Ostende Throughout these works, Citarella reveals her enduring fascination with eccentric characters and relationships that defy straightforward explanation. Her patient observational style fosters ambiguity, drawing viewers into the search to uncover hidden truths. For Citarella, the mundane harbours the mysterious, and daily life presents opportunities for revelation to those discerning enough to penetrate its opaque surfaces. Reality’s riddles await those with an ingenious gaze. The sweeping 250-minute Trenque Lauquen, divided into two parts, indeed offers a delightful journey. By the end of each part, two characters depart from the town with a sense of bewilderment, each stepping into a valley of awe in their own unique way. Rafa (portrayed by Rafael Spregelburd) is still filled with unanswered questions and unable to recognise his partner, leading to the shattering of his assumptions. On the other hand, Laura, after immersing herself in mysteries and solving them, finds a sense of liberation and fully embraces the realm of awe. As the film unfolds, it initially brims with an abundance of dialogue, gradually transitioning into moments of profound silence. The characters embark on a transformative journey, and we, as observers, are equally enriched as we traverse the wilderness of their experiences. Initially, Trenque Lauquen unfolds like a captivating novel, with each chapter providing clues, elliptical and missing data, akin to a compelling detective story where the audience connects the dots to unravel the true meaning behind Laura’s disappearance – if such a meaning even exists. However, the movie also fearlessly ventures through various cinematic genres, seamlessly shifting its tone to capture the essence of science fiction, romance, road movie, erotica, mystery, and more. Within its epic structure, the film invites the audience to experience a similar sense of awe that the characters encounter by the end of both parts. Indeed, this opulent tapestry intertwines the allure of mystery, the tenderness of romance, the enigma of science fiction, and the echoes of history. At its core lies the gripping enigma of Laura, whose vanishing in a quaint Pampas town sets the stage for a captivating exploration of the human spirit. Much like other films from the El Pampero Cine group, such as Mariano Llinás’ La flor (The Flower, 2018), Trenque Lauquen offers a liberating and awe-inspiring experience, drawing viewers into an enchanting world of intrigue and revelation. Citarella’s and her collaborators’ ambitious efforts in directing and producing such inventive films serve as an inspiration not only for Argentine filmmakers but also for young directors worldwide who struggle with funding. In the hands of this group, cinema transcends the ordinary and dares to venture into unexplored territories. Their storytelling prowess defies convention, inviting audiences on a voyage of imagination and introspection, where artistic innovation knows no bounds. They, indeed, stand as a true vanguard of cinematic brilliance, forever pushing the boundaries of what is thought possible in the realm of filmmaking. Despite some of their films taking up to eight years to complete, the results offer hope that creative storytelling, character development, and flexible and respectful collaboration can lead to the creation of thrilling and enthusiastic cinematic art. Trenque Lauquen has left an indelible mark on the film festival circuit, making a significant impact at prestigious events like the Venice Film Festival and generating anticipation for its upcoming screening at the Melbourne International Film Festival. The film’s accomplishments are indeed noteworthy, with awards and recognition flowing in from esteemed organisations such as the International Cinephile Society, where it received accolades for Best Ensemble, Best Original Screenplay, Best Picture, and Best Director. Additionally, the film garnered major acclaim at the Mar del Plata Film Festival and secured a nomination as the 3rd best undistributed movie in last year’s Film Comment magazine poll. Despite these achievements, the full potential of El Pampero Cine’s works remains untapped, presenting an opportunity for even greater recognition and acclaim. While movie critics have shown their appreciation for the enthralling narratives and innovative approach consistently showcased by El Pampero Cine, there is still ample room for the world to fully embrace and celebrate their cinematic brilliance. This interview explores the creative spirit of Laura Citarella, a vital member of El Pampero Cine. It will be followed up in a future issue with interviews with other members of El Pampero Cine, learning from their diverse outlooks and uncovering the essence of their singular artistic expressions. Through this exploration, I hope to shed light on the creative ingenuity that defines El Pampero Cine’s cinematic pursuits. – HS Trenque Lauquen I genuinely admire El Pampero Cine’s innovative contributions to cinema in recent years. The collaborative effort displayed by you and your colleagues in creating captivating films is truly inspiring. I’m interested in learning more about your filmmaking process. Could you share how your group formed and how you seamlessly collaborate in various roles, such as acting, directing, and producing? Additionally, as a distinctive filmmaking group, how do you perceive your standing within the Argentine cinema industry? El Pampero Cine is more like a rock band than a typical production company. We have been friends for over two decades, and during this time, we have developed a strong bond that has been instrumental in the success of our films. Our approach to filmmaking is highly independent, and we are always looking for inventive ways to produce films. We value the collective spirit and maintain a horizontal way of working, which is a crucial aspect of our group. The idea of working collectively started with Mariano Llinás, who was initially my teacher at university. He wanted to explore a new way of working, one that involved a group of individuals with different skill sets coming together to produce films. I found this approach intriguing and joined Mariano in this venture. Before joining Mariano, I had worked in the industry and experienced a different way of working. However, the production of the film Extraordinary Stories (Mariano Llinás, 2008) was a turning point for our group. It was during this project that we finally found our footing as a team of four: Mariano Llinás, Alejo Moguillansky, Agustín Mendilaharzu, and myself. Each of us had a unique skill set that we brought to the table, and this collaboration resulted in a film that we were all proud of. Our group excels in its seamless collaboration, adaptability, and frequent role swapping. Each of us possesses unique skills and expertise that contribute to the team’s success. For instance, I specialise in directing and producing, while Mariano’s talents lie in producing and scriptwriting. Alejo Moguillansky is a skilled editor, and Agustín Mendilaharzu showcases his expertise as a cinematographer. What sets us apart is our versatility in managing different technical aspects of filmmaking, a rarity in most production companies. This flexibility allows us to smoothly transition between roles as needed, enabling us to contribute to various facets of the filmmaking process. As a result, our final product is more comprehensive and cohesive. Overall, our group’s unique approach to filmmaking has made us stand out in the Argentine cinema industry. We are proud to be a part of a team that values collective effort, is highly independent, and constantly strives to push the boundaries of filmmaking. Mariano Llinás, as your teacher, clearly played a crucial part in forming your group. But could you elaborate on the initial manifesto or concept that brought all of you together? What shared cinematic perspective forged such a strong bond? Were your views on the art of cinema mostly aligned, or did you have notable differences among your colleagues? That’s a difficult question because I’m not sure what the answer is. I know that we can work in a very economical way. We all prefer to produce an image or shoot something specifically. We don’t want to deal with irrelevant and stupid things in the middle because when we go for a film, we try to make the film possible. We try to make a film that we want to make, and we don’t spend time on pointless things. We go and shoot and just think, and then we show the film to the other partners, they give their feedback, and then we work on the film. So, there’s a passionate way of working, but also a direct and concrete way of working. I think that’s the key. We prioritise making the film possible rather than all the things that usually surround a film, such as going to festivals, labs, getting investors, and making expensive films. I think we all naturally share this belief that we don’t need these kinds of structures. That’s one of the reasons we work well together. Of course, we also have a shared interest in certain narratives and cinema, and we started to exchange and contaminate each other’s ideas. That exchange is possible when you have things in common or a similar way of looking at cinema. It happened naturally, but we were all looking for a way of working that was free and possible. The idea of making films possible is like a slogan of Nike or Adidas. We like to think that films are possible, even if they’re difficult to make, because we like to invent. We find a kind of adrenaline in the idea of producing in an ambitious yet small way. I think that’s something we all have in common. Trenque Lauquen The uniqueness of your filmmaking approach shines through in the creation of your movies. The collective sense of freedom among all four of you is evident, particularly when discussing your latest film. In Trenque Lauquen, your movies embark on a journey that begins mysteriously, evolves into a detective story, transforms into a love story, incorporates elements of science fiction, and ultimately culminates in a captivating exploration of nature. El Pampero Cine films exhibit a delightful playfulness, showcasing your shared enjoyment of artistic liberty. While each of you possesses a distinct style, it is apparent that none of you limit yourselves to a singular filmmaking approach. Even when delving into the realm of the unusual, this strangeness undergoes a metamorphosis, seamlessly amalgamating diverse. elements into a cohesive whole. I like the idea of the word “playful” that you brought up. It’s like a childish attitude, but maybe I’m the least childish of all of us since I’m also a producer and I have to think seriously about how to make things work. Sometimes I’m more practical than my partners <laughs>. As a result, I often approach things with a serious mindset, carefully considering the logistical aspects. While my partners may be more carefree, I believe there is still an element of playfulness in our collective work. One fundamental aspect for us is our aversion to having a hierarchical structure or external influence dictating our creative decisions, such as the selection of actors or artistic choices. We value our independence. Moreover, we are deeply focused on crafting films that offer not only a cinematic experience but also a journey and an adventure. For example, our experience in Trenque Lauquen, where we spent six years, even though the script was written beforehand. During the filmmaking process, we continually evolved and adapted, travelled far away from Buenos Aires to shoot the film, and our whole families including our kids and parents were fully engaged. Ezequiel Pierri, who plays a key character named Ezequiel ‘Chicho’, is my husband and Verónica, who plays Romina, is Mariano’s wife. Our children are friends, and we involved our extended family, including grandparents, in taking care of the kids. This aspect of shared experience was an integral part of our filmmaking process, extending beyond mere conceptualisation and encompassing our daily lives. It is this atmosphere that infuses our films with a distinct quality. Without this ambiance, a film like Trenque Lauquen would not have been possible. We are drawn to creating films in a particular mood. By mood, I don’t mean constantly laughing or being in a cheerful state all day. It’s more about capturing an atmosphere that feels familiar and is deeply connected to our lives. This is why our films have a unique quality to them. I believe that the mood you aim for in your films, which is adventurous and playful, is evident and reflected in the editing process. It’s fascinating to observe how your editor, Alejo Moguillansky, approaches the editing of your movies in a similar fashion to how he edits his own and Mariano’s films, such as El escarabajo de oro (The Gold Bug, 2014), Castro (2009), La flor. He employs techniques like cutting at unexpected points, allowing scenes to continue unexpectedly, and utilising dissolve or superimposition effects. These creative editing choices reflect collaborative nature of your filmmaking process. It’s a unique experience that I thoroughly enjoy witnessing and believe ads to the overall charm of your movies. In the case of Alejo, I believe he was one of the pioneers in this approach. He began by creating small films with his wife and then incorporated their daughter as well. It was through this inclusion of family dynamics that he discovered a path to continue our tradition of adventurous filmmaking. When we were in our 30s, without children, everything seemed more straightforward. However, as we started to have kids, it naturally became more challenging. Alejo’s contribution has been invaluable in navigating this aspect and ensuring that our films remain grounded in familial experiences and adventures. Another significant contributor to this project is Miguel de Zuviría, a talented editor in Trenque Lauquen who played a vital role. He has been working closely with me for about four years, even before Alejo joined the team. He is typically the first person I show my films to, as he possesses a keen ability to diagnose the strengths and weaknesses. Working alongside him at that stage allows me to refine the film further. Subsequently, I seek Mariano’s input, which is always precise and demanding in the best possible way. He provides invaluable assistance in shaping the film’s structure. And finally, Agustín Mendilaharzu, who comes from a theatre background and is both a director and actor, also steps in and contributes his insights into the dramatic structure. These are the final stages of the filmmaking process for me, and each collaborator brings their expertise and personal artistic baggage from their own films to enrich the work. While it doesn’t always result in a perfect match, their contributions often prove to be instrumental. By nurturing an environment of collaboration and drawing from our collective experiences, we aim to create films that encapsulate a sense of depth and authenticity. La Flor In addition to their playful nature, El Pampero Cine seems to have a fondness for incorporating improvisation into their storytelling. I can recall a scene from Trenque Lauquen where Rafael and Ezequiel are searching for something on a phone and, accidentally, Rafael drops a piece of paper with an address. The quick reaction to pick it up felt like an improvised moment, adding a natural and spontaneous quality to the scene. I also remember a scene in Mariano’s La flor, where a group of people is waiting, and a banana becomes involved. The scene continues indefinitely in a humorous and improvised manner, showcasing a playful approach. Similar instances can be seen in The Gold Bug and Ostende, where characters exude a carefree and free-spirited nature. For example, in Ostende, people run around on the beach, and in The Gold Bug, there’s a scene where individuals play with objects found on the set. It feels as if improvisation is encouraged, and some scenes unfold spontaneously with minimal scripted direction. I’m intrigued to know more about your approach to shooting these scenes. Despite the extended production periods of your films, do you often require multiple takes, or are some scenes captured in one go? How do you foster improvisation during those moments? During our filmmaking process, we have the flexibility to create a scene, but if upon reviewing the footage, we feel that something isn’t working, we have the freedom to return to the location and reshoot the scene if necessary. (The final scene of Trenque Lauquen, was filmed and edited ten days before the film’s premiere at the Venice Festival). Generally, I don’t rely on improvisation in my approach to filmmaking. Regarding the incident with the paper that you mentioned, it was an unplanned moment where the actor had a mishap, but he managed to handle it gracefully. Surprisingly, it turned out to be the best take in terms of the actors’ performances. For me, the accidental drop of the paper wasn’t a problem because the rest of the scene was captured perfectly in multiple takes. The particular shot you’re referring to was quite challenging since it was a continuous shot without any cuts. Additionally, we had two camera operators and had to ensure precise focus. Working under such technical constraints can present difficulties. Furthermore, the actors have specific dialogue that I’ve written, and I prefer them not to deviate from the script. It’s a demanding approach, especially considering this particular scene was scheduled for early morning when we needed specific lighting conditions. Typically, you only have a limited window of about half an hour to capture a scene during that time of day before the lighting changes. Therefore, it was a highly challenging shot. That’s why I emphasise to the actors the importance of thoroughly knowing their lines and discourage improvisation. If they were to improvise, it could potentially disrupt the continuity, such as with wardrobe choices. While there may be some instances where improvisation is allowed, such as during a sequence where the characters read letters in various locations, like a track, a bar, or the countryside, and have a picnic, in general, improvisation is not a common practice. For instance, if you watch films by Alejo Moguillansky, you might perceive them as spontaneous and unplanned, but in reality, everything is meticulously scripted, planned, and tightly controlled. The involvement of your husband as one of the actors, and the presence of Rafael Spregelburd in multiple films, including The Gold Bug and La flor is intriguing. Moreover, the strong connection among the female cast members, such as Laura Paredes and Elisa Carricajo, who portrayed the scientist with the unusual child, is notable. I’m curious to know if these actors and actresses are affiliated with the Piel de Lava Company theatre group, given their consistent involvement in your projects, like La flor. Could you provide some insights into this collaboration and the distinct contributions they bring to your films? In La flor, all four girls (Laura Paredes, Elisa Carricajo, Valeria Correa and Pilar Gamboa) featured in the movie come from a shared background in the theatre group: Piel de Lava Company. Their experience and training in theatre provide a unique foundation for their performances in the film. However, in Trenque Lauquen it is worth noting that only Laura and Elisa, two members of the theatre group, are involved. Some of the actors and actresses we collaborate with have personal connections to us. For instance, one of them is my uncle, who works in a radio station (the person works in radio station and always delays). Additionally, as my family has roots in the Trenque Lauquen town, it’s interesting to see that many of them are non-professional actors or teachers from the local school. In a unique twist, I also had the opportunity to portray Carmen, the pregnant woman, in the first part of Trenque Lauquen. The connection and collaboration among the team members add a personal touch and authenticity to our cinematic endeavours. Almost all the actors who appear in our films are part of a close-knit group. Take Rafael Spregelburd, for example, who is featured in the first part of La flor and also in The Gold Bug. He consistently collaborates with us across our projects. Rafael Spregelburd is not only an actor but also a highly respected theatre director, known for his ambitious independent productions with limited budgets. His theatre group “El Patrón Vázquez” operates on a similar principle to our filmmaking approach. There is a sense of collective creativity and ambitious storytelling despite resource constraints. Sometimes, Rafael’s group even separately participates in El Pampero Cine ‘s films. This interconnectedness creates a larger family of artists who embrace this collaborative way of working, both in cinema and theatre. This spirit of collaboration extends beyond the four of us. It encompasses all the people involved in our projects… Laura Paredes This approach can be seen in the way you collaborate with Laura Paredes … This way of working has become ingrained in everyone’s approach. It’s a non-hierarchical structure where ideas flow freely and exchange of information is vital. For example, in the case of Trenque Lauquen, I co-wrote the film with Laura Perez, who is not only an actress but also a skilled dramaturge. It was crucial to have her active participation in the writing process, as she brought a deep understanding of her character and her craft. I should emphasise that, initially, I outlined a linear narrative but as we developed the script, Laura and I gravitated toward a more nonlinear approach. Though we had filmed some linear scenes already, the prospect of the story and characters unfolding gradually over time resonated more. Consequently, we restructured the entire film, rearranging events nonchronologically. We considered incorporating two men searching for an elusive woman as a short ending, but instead used that perspective to introduce Laura’s escape upfront, broadening the film’s scope. This reshaping required writing additional scenes to flesh out those characters. Laura was instrumental in scripting these new scenes and reshaping the nonlinear narrative. Throughout the process, even off-set, I frequently consulted Laura, valuing her creative partnership. Together, by embracing a nonlinear approach, we actualised our vision of a story that unfolds unpredictably over time. Laura’s contributions were integral, elevating her role beyond writer or actress into true creative partner in shaping the narrative. This collaborative approach extends beyond the core team and includes actors, musicians, and other collaborators with whom we work closely…. The music featured in the end credits of the first part of Trenque Lauquen is undeniably captivating and exquisite. Since watching the film, I have found myself repeatedly drawn to this mesmerising piece, a testament to Gabriel Chwojnik’s remarkable talent in creating such a wonderful composition. Your choices and tastes in music are evidently diverse and unconventional, as demonstrated by the playful selection of Elvis Presley’s “Suspicious Minds” as Laura’s ringtone. The way you incorporate music into the film is intriguing, with sudden and unexpected starts and even fading out unexpectedly. In Trenque Lauquen, we incorporated a significant amount of music composed by Gabriel Chwojnik, as well as music contributed by our friends from La Plata. La Plata is known for its vibrant music scene, with many talented bands that embrace a similar approach to artistry. Moreover, the idea of each character having a favourite song intrigued me. For Laura, setting “Suspicious Minds” as her ringtone served as a way to confirm her continuity from Ostende. Interestingly, “Suspicious Minds” was my personal ringtone as well, as I have always been a devoted Elvis Presley fan. The song holds significant emotional value for me making it a deeply nostalgic and meaningful tune. On the other hand, for Ezequiel, the choice of “Los Caminos” resonated deeply with the essence of his character and the emotional journey he undergoes… Anyway, working in this way and collaborating with our composer, without a traditional hierarchical structure, comes naturally to all of us. It allows for a dynamic and creative environment where everyone’s contributions are valued and respected. In your first feature film, Ostende, there was a scene where Laura is seen reading a book by John le Carré, known for his mystery and espionage stories. It seems that in all of your movies, you have a penchant for stories involving something missing or in need of discovery. Even in Dog Lady, we are intrigued by the wandering woman and her mysterious actions. It appears that you enjoy uncovering mysteries within everyday life. Could you elaborate on the origin of this approach? Is it a conscious preference for hidden stories and mysteries? And how did the idea for your latest film specifically come about? I have a strong fascination with the concept of mystery. I believe that a mystery retains its allure as long as it remains undefined. Once a mystery is named or explained, it loses its enigmatic quality. In my films, such as Ostende, the protagonist attempts to articulate and comprehend the events and relationships she encounters. She seeks to bring order to the inexplicable elements she witnesses, unveiling the mystery in the process. In Dog Lady, we intentionally worked with a character who has no past and remains largely silent throughout the film. By withholding her voice, we aimed to preserve the mystery surrounding her. If we had given her dialogue, we would have had to decide on her accent and background, thereby limiting the intrigue we wanted to create. Instead, she exists solely in the present, devoid of explanations, past, future, or even words. This approach allowed the mystery to endure throughout the film. The Poets Visit Juana Bignozzi Continuing to explore this theme, I came to realise its profound significance in my subsequent film, The Poets Visit Juana Bignozzi, which I co-directed with Mercedes Halfon. This film about the poet was a serendipitous discovery in my life while I was embarking on my own creative journey. Initially, I was unfamiliar with this particular poet and her work. However, as I delved into her writings, poems, and the stories surrounding her, I began to form an intimate connection with her essence. I discovered her through her poems and the stories surrounding her, which allowed me to form an impression of her without fully defining her character. It was an intriguing process of getting to know her without truly knowing her as a person. This concept of working with the mystery and the enigmatic nature of a character became a central theme in my approach. It’s like surrounding someone with an aura of intrigue, where their identity cannot be easily defined or confined to specific labels. I find great interest in exploring characters and situations that are surrounded by an aura of mystery. It intrigued me to work with this idea of surrounding a character with mystery, creating an atmosphere where she remains enigmatic and indefinable. And I decided this could be the core for my next movie: Trenque Lauquen. In Trenque Lauquen, the protagonist leaves everything in her life without explanation, and all the people around her attempt hard to provide meaning and understanding to her disappearance. I often use the example of psychoanalysis to illustrate this concept. When we assign a specific interpretation to an image or symbol, we potentially destroy the mystery and fantasy associated with it. If you dream about a horse and then discuss it during therapy, there is a possibility that you might come to a realisation, such as identifying the horse as representing your father. However, it’s important to note that the act of assigning a specific name or meaning to the horse can also diminish and kill the element of fantasy that is present in the dream. By giving a definitive interpretation, the mysterious and open-ended nature of the dream can be altered or even lost. That example serves as a personal definition of mystery and fantasy for me as well. Fantasy, in this context, refers to something that eludes precise definition or labelling. It encompasses elements that exist beyond our ability to fully comprehend or explain. Similarly Trenque Lauquen’s structure is deliberately divided into two distinct parts to explore different approaches to understanding and interpretation. In the first part, various characters try to understand and interpret the protagonist’s actions; we witness a multitude of characters actively engaging in the process of comprehension. They are driven by the desire to unravel the mysteries surrounding Laura’s situation, and one avenue they explore is The Autobiography of a Sexually Emancipated Woman written by Alexandra Kollontai. This book becomes a source of insight and potential connection to Laura’s experiences. The characters, including Ezequiel, also perceive a link between Laura’s disappearance and the letters they have been deciphering and maybe something about their relationship. They believe that understanding the meaning behind these letters holds the key to unlocking the truth about Laura’s circumstances. Their quest for understanding intertwines with their personal narratives and adds layers of complexity to the overall story. In the second part, you can observe that women have an understanding that a woman has the ability to leave simply because she desires to. She can choose to disappear without offering any explanation, almost in a spiritual manner. For me, this aspect is the key essence of the film. It begins by gradually losing its reliance on language. If you observe the second part closely, initially there is a multitude of conversations resembling a radio broadcast, with people contemplating various thoughts. However, it progressively slows down until it reaches complete silence. The words dissolve, similar to the lyrics of a song that become unintelligible. It symbolises the film’s gradual journey into obscurity, mirroring the experience of the woman herself. As the movie nears its conclusion, it becomes obvious that the narrative centres around a woman embarking on a quest for a mystery, only to find herself entangled within the very enigma she seeks. The absence of something, in this case, becomes a powerful form of intrigue. Throughout your movies, the life of Laura and the mysteries surrounding her have been an ongoing theme, extending from Ostende to Trenque Lauquen. However, when considering your films from a non-chronological perspective, one might speculate that Dog Lady could serve as a representation of Laura’s future. It is plausible to view Dog Lady as offering a potential glimpse into Laura’s future, although it remains uncertain and open to interpretation. While it is an intriguing and interesting interpretation to consider Dog Lady as a potential future for Laura, the protagonist of Trenque Lauquen, there are notable distinctions between the two characters. The character of Dog Lady demonstrates a strong sense of purpose, making deliberate choices that challenge societal norms. She actively designs her life and aspires to create a beautiful home, reflecting a purposeful and almost political stance. This sets her apart from Laura. Conversely, Laura’s experiences in Trenque Lauquen lean more towards the idea of surrendering to the unknown and embracing a life without material possessions. Unlike Dog Lady, who continuously develops resourceful systems for survival and enjoyment, Laura’s journey seems to revolve around the possibility of getting lost and existing without the accumulation of belongings. These differences highlight contrasting paths and perspectives between the two characters. Dog Lady In Trenque Lauquen it is unclear where Laura might be headed after the events of the film, considering she appears towards the end. It seems she is attempting to embrace a state of lightness, devoid of material attachments. This concept resonates with an essay I found influential for Trenque Lauquen called Walking by the writer Henry David Thoreau. (I previously read Thoreau’s Walden for Dog Lady) In Walking the author explores the idea of losing oneself, continuous exploration, and the labour involved in this pursuit. In brief, there is a dual operation at play in the film. Firstly, it revolves around the notion of a person getting lost without any discernible reason. Secondly, the film itself refrains from attempting to decipher what has happened to the woman. While the male characters in the film strive to understand her circumstances, the film avoids providing any conclusive answers about Laura and her experiences. Furthermore, the film encompasses various genres, including romance, detective story, and science fiction. As the narrative unfolds, it reaches a point where it becomes necessary to shift the focus away from intricate plotlines and intricate dramas. Instead, the film embraces the idea of embracing the emptiness, the absence of intricate plots and characters. It embraces the natural world, the sun, and a woman engaged in meaningful work within that environment. This approach serves as the only fitting conclusion for the film, considering the multitude of events and themes explored throughout. I’ve also noticed an intriguing connection between your previous film, which is a documentary The Poets Visit Juana Bignozzi, and your latest project. In The Poets Visit Juana Bignozzi, there was a distinct focus on a text (The Autobiography of a Sexually Emancipated Woman) that substituted “I” with “we.” It seems that you have carried this theme over to your current movie, infusing it with a detective-like narrative. It’s fascinating to witness how you have expanded upon the original plot and added layers to the story over the course of six years. Can you discuss the multitude of ideas that have influenced your creative process during this time? Additionally, you mentioned co-writing the screenplay with Laura Paredes, your lead actress. Could you elaborate on how this collaborative approach has enriched the screenplay? Absolutely. The intertwining of personal life and the filmmaking process is a recurrent occurrence in our films. It forms a reciprocal relationship where events from our lives naturally seep into the film, and, in turn, the ideas and concepts within the film impact our own experiences. This ongoing dialogue between cinema and personal life generates a perpetual flow of inspiration and mutual influence. In Trenque Lauquen, the six-year journey of making the film coincided with significant personal milestones, such as my pregnancy and the presence of my daughter. It’s interesting to note that the core elements and themes of the film were present from the very beginning. However, as time passed, the structure and scope of the project evolved and expanded. For instance, during our trip to Italy, we captured numerous scenes with the camera unsure of whether they would be used or discarded, and later we realised that they could be incorporated into the segment involving Carmen and Palo. This collaborative and fluid approach allowed us to adapt and incorporate new ideas, images, and scenes into the screenplay as the project unfolded. I should say during the initial stages of developing the film, I began reading Alexandra Kollontai and, to my surprise, I discovered various writings and markings inside the book, indicating that my friend, or someone else had interacted with it. This discovery sparked an idea within me. I became fascinated with the concept of a book that transcends time and passes through different individuals, each leaving their mark. Personally, I have always been drawn to the experience of finding notes and writings within old books, and it greatly appeals to me. As a result, I was determined to incorporate this expansive concept of books and their hidden stories into the film. Additionally, I found a particular aspect in the book that deeply resonated with me – the notion of replacing “I” with “we.” I find this concept highly relevant to our collaborative approach in making the film within our team. Trenque Lauquen When considering the contrast between the first and second parts of the movie in terms of the portrayal of men and women, I made an early observation. Towards the end of the first part, the male characters seemed to drift apart from each other, whereas in the second part, the female characters appeared to be united. An example that exemplifies this unity in the second part is the radio presenter who initially attempted to hide something from Ezekiel but later explained it to him, assisting him in uncovering at least a portion of the true reason behind Laura’s disappearance. Another instance is when we encounter the scientist lady and her friend/partner, whom Laura assisted, and witnessed the mutual support they provided each other. However, when comparing this to the first part, it seemed that the men were rivals, both vying for the affection of the same woman. They worked independently and diverged from each other. On the other hand, the women in the second part stood together, displaying unity despite challenges. This interpretation of how men and women solve problems differently is intriguing. I recall from your previous interviews that you aimed to avoid a direct feminist perspective or approach in your storytelling or characterisation. Could you kindly share your perspective on the portrayal of these diverse dynamics between male and female characters? I appreciate your viewpoint. It’s not that I shy away from exploring feminism in the film, but rather I dislike when some male critics try to reduce it to solely a female narrative. My intention is to approach the film without narrowing it down to that perspective. However, I do acknowledge that feminism naturally manifests within the context of the film. The examination of how men and women approach problem-solving is an intriguing aspect. As an example, in Argentina, there was a significant feminist movement advocating for the legalisation of abortion. It was a powerful demonstration of women coming together, regardless of their political affiliations, to fight for women’s rights. The movement saw numerous women actively working on the streets, emphasising the importance of unity in their cause. I strongly perceive this dynamic in the film. It becomes evident that the men are actively searching for reasons to define and compete with each other, aiming to come out victorious. They desire to win, whether it’s winning Laura as a trophy or winning against each other. They constantly strive to be present, attempting to unravel and resolve the problem. While Ezekiel may not explicitly embody patriarchal traits, there is a subtle influence ingrained in him, albeit unknowingly, due to the cultural context he is a part of. In contrast, the female characters in the film demonstrate a contrasting demeanour. They do not strive to exert control over every facet of the situation. Rather, they possess a profound appreciation for the significance of embracing the natural course of events. They understand that not everything requires strict control or manipulation. They are comfortable with letting go and allowing things to unfold freely. This divergence in their approach to control provides a valuable insight into the feminist themes embedded within the film, highlighting the empowerment found in relinquishing unnecessary control and embracing a more organic perspective. It’s truly captivating to explore the recurring theme in your films, where a profound connection to Latin American literature is evident in your storytelling. This literary influence not only shines through in your own films but also in the works of Mariano Llinás and Alejo Moguillansky. Being well-versed in the rich literary traditions of the region, from the writings of Carlos Fuentes in Mexico to the profound contributions of Gabriel García Márquez, Mario Vargas Llosa, and notably Jorge Luis Borges, it becomes evident that these literary giants serve as a wellspring for your multifaceted storytelling approach. Each door you open in your films leads to another, creating a narrative tapestry deeply rooted in Latin American literature. A distinctive element in your cinematic experience is the incorporation of voiceovers, which adds a layer of literary quality. The voiceovers in your films, akin to someone narrating stories to us, possess a level of control reminiscent of music. They infuse a poetic quality that resonates deeply with the audience. In films like La vendedora de fósforos (The Little Match Girl, Alejo Moguillansky, 2017), The Gold Bug, La flor, Extraordinary Stories, and Trenque Lauquen, the characters engage in conversations that feel meticulously crafted, as if dedicated time was spent composing the text. Literature holds immense significance in your work, becoming a defining characteristic and trademark of your artistic expression. Indeed, a deep appreciation for literature and a love for reading is shared among us. Through our engagement with literature, we often encounter structures and ideas that can be translated into the realm of cinema. In this particular case, the renowned Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño has had a direct influence on the structure and concepts of my film. I must also mention the impact of Ursula K. Le Guin, which leads me to reflect on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein… As you mentioned in your previous interviews, it is fascinating to learn that a wide range of sources from diverse literary backgrounds, such as El Perjurio de la Nieve (The Perjury of the Snow) by Bioy Casares, Walking by Henry David Thoreau, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain and films like Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (Nathan Hertz, 1958) and more, have served as inspirations for writing the script of Trenque Lauquen. …The discussion we had earlier about the mysteries that arise at the beginning of stories has a profound connection to literature and the experience of reading. When you delve into a novel, you become entranced by the words, entering a realm akin to being immersed in a cloud. From there, vivid images and ideas emerge, transcending the mere words on the page. In a similar vein, cinema allows us to give voice to our characters and explore intricate plotlines. However, there exists a place where the audience can forge a direct relationship with the material, forming their own unique interpretations and engaging in a personal dialogue with the narrative. For me, this enigmatic quality is at the core of storytelling. It is an experience that frequently occurs during the act of reading. Translating this into film is not always straightforward, as movies primarily rely on visuals. Sometimes, the pressure to explain everything in a more explicit manner arises, unlike in books, which have the luxury of language. You may have noticed that some poorly written scripts feature characters essentially narrating the film to the viewer. I hope my explanation is clear, but essentially, when one becomes engrossed in the hypnotic power of visual storytelling, a similar immersive state akin to reading a novel is achieved. When reflecting on the recurring themes of mysteries and literature in your films, it becomes apparent that the majority of them are set outside of Buenos Aires, the capital city of Argentina. This departure from the urban centre appears to intensify the feeling of intrigue, fascination and mysteries. This tendency is also present in some of Alejo’s and Mariano’s films. I’m interested in understanding if this deliberate choice to portray locations beyond Buenos Aires holds a particular meaning or intention for your group. Does it serve as a manifestation of a particular message or allow for the exploration of certain aspects that you find compelling? The inclination mentioned doesn’t apply universally to all members of our team. However, both Mariano and I share a personal attachment to the province of Buenos Aires. While I currently reside in Buenos Aires, my birthplace and my family’s roots lie in the province, specifically in Trenque Lauquen. These childhood landscapes consistently manifest in our films, as they hold significant memories and experiences for us. Mariano also has a connection to the province, having spent his childhood there. Referring back to your previous question, I believe our shared fondness for this region brought us together as collaborators. The province of Buenos Aires is often seen as a transitional point en route to other destinations like Patagonia or Córdoba. It may not be considered particularly captivating by many, but for me, who grew up surrounded by its landscapes, especially the vast plains and the Pampas, it possesses a distinct beauty. Capturing the essence of this place can be challenging due to the difficulty of framing it. The vast and endless landscapes make it hard to determine where to position the camera. However, once you overcome this obstacle, you discover images that are unique to the province of Buenos Aires. The desire to depict these landscapes stems from personal reasons and the inherent cinematic quality of the region. Additionally, there are two practical aspects that make filming outside of Buenos Aires appealing. Firstly, it is refreshing to leave the city and escape from our own lives. Secondly, it is much easier to produce films in small towns and rural areas. The rhythm of life, the way of thinking, and the overall pace of these places lend themselves well to our patient and reflective filmmaking approach. In Buenos Aires, one must conform to the city’s rhythm, which can stifle creativity and freedom of thought. The freedom and atmosphere of the province make the filmmaking process more comfortable and conducive to our artistic vision. Personally, I would always choose a less ideal location if it means working with a supportive and accommodating owner or team. A pleasant working environment is crucial to me, even if it means compromising on the physical aspects of the location. Therefore, working outside the city, away from the bustling urban atmosphere, is preferable. I wouldn’t want to make a film solely within Buenos Aires. Rojo Before we conclude the interview, I have one final question. While I understand that Trenque Lauquen does not have a specific political agenda, the theme of disappearance, particularly in the context of Argentina’s history, carries political implications. I have observed a recent resurgence of this theme in various Argentine films, such as Rojo (Benjamín Naishtat, 2018), Un crimen común (A Common Crime, Francisco Márquez Matadero, 2020), Matadero (Santiago Fillol, 2022), Azor (Andreas Fontana. 2021 a co-production with Argentina), and notably Argentina, 1985 (Santiago Mitre, 2022). In Trenque Lauquen, we witness the story of a woman who vanishes, leading to a collective quest for answers. My question has two parts: Firstly, did you intend to convey a hidden political message through your film? Secondly, why do you think the concept of disappearance is reemerging in Argentine cinema, evident in Argentina, 1985‘s submission to the Oscars as a mainstream film? I would appreciate your insights into this trend. Trenque Lauquen is not driven by political motivations. Throughout the film, we deliberately incorporated subtle hints to convey the idea of someone choosing to leave voluntarily, without immediate danger. Our intention was to explore the concept of absence without peril. The first chapter, titled “L’Avventura” is a nod to Antonioni’s film, where a woman goes missing. However, our emphasis was on highlighting the woman’s choice. In Trenque Lauquen, our aim was to create a work of fiction that explores the contemporary notion of a woman’s absence, without directly delving into the grim reality of disappearances or femicides that regrettably occur in Argentina, such as cases where women are tragically killed by men. This issue is not exclusive to Argentina but is prevalent in Latin America and other parts of the world. However, I strongly believe that fiction should not always feel obliged to approach these topics in the same manner. If I wish to create a narrative about a woman who chooses to leave, it should focus on her personal decision rather than portraying her as someone who simply disappears. We deliberately avoid using the term “disappear” due to its historical weight and connotations. Our intention with this film was to present it as a story about a woman who leaves because she wants to, emphasising her deliberate and intentional personal choice. In the initial segments of the movie, by telling The Story of Carmen Zuna’s Affair, we delve into the concept that women possess the agency to simply choose to leave on their own terms. Our aim was to introduce this character to the audience and offer early hints that there is no immediate peril involved. I understand that many films address important social issues with good intentions. The challenge with closely intertwining cinema and reality is that viewers often expect films to constantly reflect and engage with real-world events, such as immigration, women’s rights, and minority issues. Our approach to cinema differs in that we don’t feel compelled to create films solely focused on social causes. We have observed an interesting response from people who have watched Trenque Lauquen. For instance, many viewers have expressed that they enjoyed the first part of the film but found the second part to be too disconnected from reality, which led them to dislike it. This reaction can be attributed to a prevalent trend over the past decade, where there is an expectation for films to constantly address social issues concerning immigrants, women, minorities, and other pertinent topics. Nowadays Cinema is often expected to align with different social perspectives and advocate for specific causes and agendas. However, we intentionally approach cinema differently. This does not mean that viewers cannot interpret Trenque Lauquen through a feminist lens or from a particular ideological standpoint. Rather, we strive to create films that do not solely seek to mirror or directly reflect reality. Personally, I am unsure how to make a film that adheres to such an approach. For instance, Dog Lady, another film I worked on, maintains a close connection with the textures of poverty but does not depict a woman who is specifically impoverished. It can be viewed as more of a fantasy than a straightforward depiction of real-life events. While working closely with Laura Paredes in writing Trenque Lauquen , we made concerted efforts to provide clues that this story was not exclusively tied to Argentina’s history or its current situation regarding women. In essence, our aim is to offer a different cinematic experience that prompts viewers to engage with the film from various perspectives, rather than adhering strictly to reflecting or confronting reality. But why is Argentine cinema currently inclined to revisit stories from the past? There is a noticeable trend of numerous films delving into historical themes. It appears that there is a recurring theme of danger or urgency that compels filmmakers to revisit and reimagine historical narratives. Is this a response to a perceived danger in the present, where people feel a sense of apprehension and a need to revisit and retell stories from the past? Could you provide some insights into this trend and shed light on why filmmakers are attracted to exploring the past in this manner? Personally, I don’t believe there is currently an obsession with telling stories about the history of the dictatorship era. There was a time in Argentina when the majority of films centred around the dictatorship, resulting in an abundance of films on the topic. However, many of these films relied on stereotypes and lacked a genuine reflection on Argentine history. That being said, I find movies like Azor and A Common Crime to be different and noteworthy. They offer a fresh perspective and a more profound exploration of the events. These films present interesting voices that approach the facts from a different angle, which I find intriguing. However, it is crucial to differentiate films like Azor and A Common Crime from Argentina, 1985. In the case of Argentina, 1985, this film is produced and distributed by Amazon. As you mentioned, it belongs to the mainstream category and is directed and produced by Santiago Mitre, with Mariano Llinás contributing as one of the co-screenwriters. This particular film has garnered positive reception from audiences. However, it is important to note that some viewers may mistakenly believe that watching this film provides them with a comprehensive understanding of Argentina’s history. They may not actively seek out other sources such as documentaries on the subject. Nevertheless, after watching this film, they may feel that they have acquired a comprehensive knowledge of Argentina’s history. This highlights the potential impact and influence of cinema on people’s perception and understanding of historical events. Moreover, companies like Amazon and Netflix have shifted their focus towards investing in and producing series like Crown or characters such as Maradona or Pablo Escobar. They capitalise on the popularity of these historical events or figures because they have proven to be commercially successful. However, it seems that these productions thrive because audiences have a preference for content that closely aligns with reality. It is unclear why viewers are less interested in a film about a fictional monster emerging in a park lagoon like Trenque Lauquen. Perhaps it is because such fantastical narratives are perceived as detached from reality. For some reason, cinema has become a platform where historical, political, and factual accounts take precedence, while the essence of fiction seems to be diminishing.