Despite Argentina’s present socio-political and economic situation being shrouded in uncertainty and instability, its film industry is robust, consistently producing remarkable works. Contemporary Argentine cinema is renowned for its skilful manipulation of viewer expectations, delivering movies that captivate audiences with their innovative narratives and distinct perspectives.

An outstanding illustration is Los delincuentes (The Delinquents), directed by Rodrigo Moreno. Premiering in the esteemed Un Certain Regard section at the Cannes Film Festival 2023, the film has swiftly garnered international acclaim. Its impact is underscored by its impressive rankings in prominent film polls: it recently secured the 26th position in the Sight and Sound 2023 Poll and claimed the 13th spot in IndieWire‘s top 25 films of 2023. This widespread recognition not only attests to the film’s exceptional reception but also underscores its significant contribution to enriching the global cinematic landscape.

Moreno’s direction in The Delinquents exemplifies a unique style that frequently challenges storytelling conventions. Imagine anticipating a classic heist film, only to find yourself immersed in a narrative where the main characters, instead of executing a complex bank heist for $650,000, unexpectedly fall in love, become engrossed in watching Robert Bresson’s L’Argent from 1983, engage in dance, and ultimately end up in prison, where one of them partakes in poetic recitals with fellow inmates. This unforeseen twist is a defining moment in The Delinquents, encapsulating the essence of the film.

One of film’s most captivating scenes occurs when the story takes such an unexpected detour, shifting focus from the intense excitement of a bank heist to the quiet reflections of the character Ramón (Javier Zoro) in a serene meadow. This transition demonstrates Moreno’s skill in navigating his plots along unexpected paths. In this tranquil setting, Daniel Elías, portraying Morán, the mastermind of the bank robbery, encounters Ramón, becoming involved in his documentary project celebrating the natural world. The depiction of Ramón’s approach to capturing nature’s essence is portrayed as exceptionally fluid, influenced by the gentlest forces, be it a soft breeze, a ray of sunlight, or the mere presence of a plant. This scene poignantly mirrors Moreno’s dynamic and perceptive approach to filmmaking.

To grasp the essence of The Delinquents and Moreno’s broader cinematic portfolio, it is essential to examine his earlier works. One such example is Un mundo misterioso (A Mysterious World, 2011), a testament to Moreno’s penchant for unconventional narrative structures. In A Mysterious World, the story unfolds with the protagonist experiencing rejection from his partner. What follows is a portrayal of his daily life but presented in an extraordinary manner. In a particularly striking narrative twist, the camera breaks away from its traditional role of following the protagonist and embarks on a solitary exploration through the city, observing the world from its unique perspective. Eventually, the camera reconnects with the narrative, finding its way back to the protagonist’s partner.

In his documentary Una ciudad de provincia (A Provincial Town, 2017), the narrative begins by intimately portraying the daily life of a fisherman. As the film progresses, it gracefully shifts its focus to capture the everyday moments of other inhabitants in the provincial city of Colon. Viewers are given glimpses into the lives of shopkeepers, engaging with their customers in the cozy confines of their stores. Civil servants are observed in their routines, moving in and out of offices with water bottles in hand, symbolising their day-to-day mundanity. The camera then wanders through the city streets, where stray dogs roam freely, adding an unscripted element to the urban landscape. Additionally, the documentary features scenes of a rugby team deeply engrossed in their training on the field, highlighting the spirit of community sports. Throughout the film, seemingly mundane aspects of everyday life in Colon are portrayed with reverence and attention to detail. The documentary’s focus on these ordinary moments and characters, from fishermen to athletes, underscores the diverse tapestry of life in a provincial town, inviting viewers to find beauty and significance in the ordinary.

Moreno’s works like El custodio (2006) and Reimon (2014) provide insight into his thematic vision. In these films, the lives of a politician’s bodyguard and a maid are portrayed, establishing a thematic thread that runs through Moreno’s filmography. His characters consistently embody a quest for freedom, a motif that resurfaces in The Delinquents.

This recurring theme in Moreno’s storytelling underscores his exploration of his characters’ internal conflicts and aspirations, juxtaposed against unconventional narrative frameworks. In these films, his characters are often portrayed as trapped by their work environments, hindering their ability to fully embrace life.

In El custodio, the bodyguard character ultimately seeks an undefined destiny through a dramatic act, symbolising a break from his confining routine. Similarly, in Reimon, the maid finds solace in brief moments of escape, like listening to music, providing respite from her monotonous and frustrating daily tasks. Moreno’s latest character, Ramón, in The Delinquents, plans a bank robbery with the hope of securing a peaceful life, even if it means enduring a prison sentence. These narratives highlight Moreno’s focus on characters deeply entangled in their environments yet driven by an unwavering pursuit of liberation and personal fulfilment.

In a compelling interview conducted just before the new year, I conversed with a visionary 51-year-old Argentine filmmaker, a graduate of the Universidad del Cine in Buenos Aires. Our discussion centred on his latest work, The Delinquents, a genre-defying film inspired by Hugo Fregonese’s 1949 noir, Apenas un delincuente (Hardly a Criminal). The director creatively transformed this inspiration into a three-hour epic, reimagining and expanding the original story.

The Delinquents

The Delinquents skilfully weaves humour, tension, and philosophical depth, inviting viewers to embark on a journey of personal interpretation. This storytelling technique mirrors the director’s vision of cinema as a tool for societal introspection, a daring stance against the prevailing tide of consumerism. Within the film, there is a resounding celebration of art and creativity as potent vehicles of defiance against the relentless march of capitalist conformity, inspiring viewers to engage in introspection rather than seek refuge in escapism.

Our conversation also touched on the broader challenges facing the Argentine independent film industry, particularly in the context of socio-political changes. The director discussed the complexities of balancing work and leisure within his narratives, highlighting the impact of governmental policy shifts on the cultural sector, especially cinema. Despite potential funding cuts, he remains dedicated to his craft, drawing inspiration from the French film funding model. His films critically examine societal norms and delve into themes of freedom and personal struggle, reflecting his belief that cinema should transcend conventional boundaries.

Throughout our discussion, Moreno’s passion for storytelling and his commitment to pushing cinematic boundaries were evident. He has maintained a flexible and daring approach to filmmaking, successfully navigating the uncertainties of production and continuously challenging the status quo through his art.


Considering the evident impact of the economic crisis on people’s lives, which is directly and indirectly addressed in your movies and Argentine independent cinema as a whole, and also taking into account the current economic conditions, the new elections, and everything else happening in Argentina, I’m curious to know what your thoughts are about the future of Argentina. More specifically, what do you think is the fate of culture and cinema, especially independent cinema, in the context of the current economic and political situation? 

First and foremost, my film doesn’t specifically talk about the present times. It’s more about our relationship with work, leisure, and the use of free time. This is a universal theme about capitalism, not exclusively about Argentina. Although my films are from Argentina and set in an Argentine context, it doesn’t aim to be strictly realistic. I’m more focused on cinema as an art form than directly linking it to social reality.

Regarding Argentina’s situation, it’s quite complicated and worsening due to the victory of the ultra-right candidate. The policies he intends to implement are aggressive towards the working class. It’s a government for companies, supported by companies whose primary goal is profit, often disregarding social consequences. This is a significant mistake, as evidenced by the immediate public protests following the announcement of these policies.

As for the future of culture and cinema, these are not priorities in the current scenario. We’re more concerned about survival, given the crises in public health and education and the government’s decision to cut funding in these sectors. New labour laws are also expected to be harsh on workers. Therefore, culture and cinema take a back seat as we navigate these challenges as citizens.

Argentine cinema largely depends on public financing, following a model similar to the French film law, where cinema generates its own taxes. This means we don’t rely on the state’s general budget but on revenue from cinema tickets. However, if my cinema, meaning my work as Rodrigo Moreno, depends on state funding, it would be problematic. Regardless of who governs or their cultural policies, I will continue to make films, even if I have to do so without public financing.

It’s unfortunate because 2023 was an excellent year for Argentine cinema, with notable films like Martín Rejtman’s La práctica (The Practice), Laura Citarella’s Trenque Lauquen, Lisandro Alonso’s Eureka which was at Cannes, and Eduardo Williams’s The Human Surge 3, and several impactful documentaries. The new government’s policies, based on hate towards intellectuals, artists, and workers, are detrimental. Anything founded on hate cannot ultimately be successful…

The current situation brings to mind René Clair’s film Le dernier milliardaire (The Last Billionaire, 1934), where a fictional country grapples with an economic crisis, leading to a devaluation of money. People resort to bartering, exchanging items like hens as notes and receiving eggs as coins. The film portrays a leader who employs unconventional governing strategies, like mandating citizens to toss their hats into the city to boost the hat industry! Recently, there was news about a radical policy by the new president in Argentina, stating companies can pay workers in commodities like meat, milk, or even Bitcoin instead of money. This shows the president’s radical decision-making approach. In my recent conversations with your colleagues in the film industry, everyone has their unique perspective on the future, but there’s an overarching sense of uncertainty and concern. It’s clear that no one truly knows what lies ahead, and there are questions about whether radical shifts in power will lead to systemic changes.

Exactly. Yes. You know, that’s the uncertainty we are all involved in. But there’s a point to it. Okay, nobody can stop people from thinking, from making or trying to realise their own dreams, ideas, or whatever it is. It’s really foolish to think that you can silence people. You just can’t.

The recent announcement about eliminating film financing in Argentina has raised serious concerns. It appears the new government harbours a profound dislike for artists and filmmakers, operating under the false belief that all filmmakers are affiliated with either the Communist or Peronist parties. Their policies seem to be fuelled by hatred and a desire for revenge, especially considering the more or less progressive governments we’ve experienced over the past 15 to 20 years.

While my views aren’t exactly in favour of those progressive governments due to their populist nature and not being truly progressive from my perspective, what we’re facing now is far worse. It’s like a nightmare. The future of Argentine cinema looks bleak if the new administration’s proposals continue to gain traction and if they persist in their battle against intellectuals and artists. The prospect of financing films in the coming months seems incredibly challenging if these proposed laws pass through Congress.

There’s a great deal of uncertainty at the moment. Many people are voicing their opposition on social media and in the streets, but I fear that these announcements might actually be popular. There seems to be a substantial number of people opposed to state support for the arts, culture, films, public television, radio, and assistance for painters, writers, and publishers. It’s a sad reality driven by a thirst for revenge.

We need to stay vigilant and prepared for whatever may come. As I mentioned previously, I’m committed to continuing to make films regardless of state financing. However, it’s undeniably a worrisome and stressful situation for us in the artistic community. Despite this, I hold onto some hope in our political traditions and trust that most deputies and senators will not endorse this detrimental package of laws.

Based on what I observed in your movie, although you mention wanting to disconnect somewhat from reality, and your film doesn’t feel entirely real but…

No, they are real. Let me clarify something. There’s an Argentine writer who said something I totally agree with: “I don’t believe in realism. I believe in real,” which are two entirely different things

El custodio

…So, I’d like to express my belief that, based on my observations in your films, you possess a critical perspective on the situations you depict. For instance, in El custodio, you examine the life of a politician and his interactions with his bodyguard, portraying a mocking and exploitative dynamic. It appears as if you’re highlighting the direct and indirect humiliation of the bodyguard in front of others. Also, I distinctly recall a scene where the bodyguard falls asleep while the politician discusses Argentina’s substantial budget allocation on television. However, it becomes evident that this budget allocation doesn’t significantly impact the character’s life. 

In your other film, Reimon, and in various works of yours, you delve into the lives of the middle and working classes. For instance, you portray a lady who migrates from a rural area to the city and starts working for them. In contrast, there are characters who do nothing but read Karl Marx’s “Capital.” However, it’s the maid who embodies the struggles depicted in Marx’s work. It’s as if you emphasise the idea that we often become consumed by work and lack time for intellectual activities like watching movies or listening to music… Can you confirm whether my interpretation aligns with your viewpoint and insights?

Your observation is indeed accurate. I draw inspiration from reality in all my work, and I resonate with Pier Paolo Pasolini’s notion that “Everything is real.” This perspective extends to actors portraying roles, as it is still a form of reality, albeit one where individuals take on characters.

I’ve embraced this approach, influenced not only by Pasolini but also by other filmmakers whom I greatly appreciate. When I watch a film that profoundly impacts me, its influence becomes apparent in my own work. If you were to analyse all my films, you would unmistakably recognise the strong imprint of certain directors whom I deeply admire.

So, whether I’m creating fiction or documentaries, I consider them as part of the same reality…

In essence, your films appear to offer a critical perspective on contemporary society, drawing inspiration from real-life observations… in your latest film, The Delinquents, you explore the consequences of individuals with good intentions trying to steal money rather than working. This action leads to repercussions for their co-workers and the entire banking system. The bank itself opts not to report the incident, in an attempt to avoid facing the insurance company and protect its own image. It seems like you’re suggesting a broader societal issue of fraud and self-interest.

Regarding the criticism you mentioned, it stems from my perspective on the world and how it operates, especially in the context of modern life.

I’m naturally critical of various aspects of our society, and I often use humour to highlight and critique the rigid rules that govern our world. Whether it’s a bank, a cleaning woman, a bodyguard, or any other aspect of life, I find that humour is a powerful tool to expose these norms.

As a director and artist, my philosophy is that art should be more than just an aesthetic experience; it must also carry a layer of critique. If I don’t detect criticism in an artwork, it feels incomplete to me. This criticism can manifest in various ways, and humour is one of those avenues.

So, the directors I admire share this suspicion about the world we inhabit. If you’re not suspicious, I believe there’s something amiss.

At what point in your life did you develop such a strong interest in pursuing cinema and what was the pivotal moment that inspired you to become a filmmaker and transform your critical thinking into visual storytelling?

It’s not easy to pinpoint the exact moment, but my journey into becoming a filmmaker had its roots in my upbringing. My parents were theatre actors, and I grew up surrounded by the world of representation and fiction. They were constantly acting out scenarios, even in their daily lives. For instance, if my father had to visit a public office for official documents, he would turn the experience into a kind of theatrical performance, recounting every detail.

I was already familiar with storytelling from a young age. However, I didn’t want to follow the same path as my parents! [laughs] so I sought a different way to express myself. I found the medium of film to be a distinct and unique way to tell stories and convey my thoughts and feelings through art.

Creating films was a departure from acting, and it allowed me to explore storytelling in a different manner. It was a way to think about scripts, analyse narratives, and portray stories visually, distinct from the role of an actor.

In addition to film, I had an interest in graphic novels, even though I was not a talented drawer / illustrator myself…

Unlike the character of the bodyguard in your film El Custodio… 

[laughs]… I enjoyed creating my own comic stories and writing from a very early age. With friends, I recorded stories on tape, including fake radio programs. All of these creative outlets converged during my high school years.

Towards the end of high school, I made the decision to attend film school. I didn’t have a clear vision of my future at the time, but I considered the possibility of becoming a screenwriter. As time passed, I began making short films and was fortunate enough to have one of my screenplays selected for financing by the film school. This opportunity led to the creation of my first film, Mala época (Bad Times, 1998), which consisted of four episodes. I directed the last episode and the overture of the film.

Luck played a significant role in my journey. Without that stroke of luck and the chance to receive funding for my first film, things might have turned out differently. It’s a combination of one’s determination, desires, and the fortuitous events that occur along the way. Filmmaking, in many ways, is shaped by both your will and chance.

So, my path to becoming a filmmaker was not a straightforward one, but a series of fortunate events and choices that led me to where I am today.

In your interview with Slant magazine, you mentioned that apart from Hugo Fregonese’s Apenas un delincuente (Hardly a Criminal, 1949), a classic Argentine movie, you drew inspiration from a series of filmmakers such as Melville, Chabrol, Jean Renoir, and even Jacques Rozier while making The Delinquents. Additionally, your character in the film goes to the cinema to watch Bresson’s L’Argent (1983). You’ve also shared comments about films like Roma (2018) by Alfonso Cuarón, Dog Day Afternoon (Sidney Lumet, 1975) and the works of Jean-Luc Godard in other interviews including the one you had with Film Comment. It’s evident that you’re a cinephile who appreciates a wide range of films, and I consider you to be one of the passionate film enthusiasts.

Before attending film school, my knowledge of cinema was rather limited. I was a member of a film club associated with the Communist Party, which allowed me to discover Eastern European cinema from the 1950s and 1960s when I was just 15 years old, still in high school. This was quite unique because most of my schoolmates didn’t even know where Czechoslovakia was. However, I was naturally curious and sought to explore different cinematic perspectives beyond the mainstream American films.

Being part of this film club exposed me to Eastern European filmmakers from the New Wave, particularly Czech filmmakers. It was a crucial influence on me before film school. I was also drawn to Polish and Hungarian cinema during this time, absorbing different languages, accents, and stories.

As for American cinema, there was one independent film that significantly changed my perspective: Stranger Than Paradise (Jim Jarmusch, 1984). I watched it multiple times, but I distinctly remember the first time I saw it in a cinema. Watching that film made me realise that making a film was possible. The way it used long takes separated by black screens, with dry humour and minimal dialogue, showed me that filmmaking could be attainable on a certain scale. It wasn’t beyond reach.

Stranger than Paradise

However, what struck me most was the film’s simplicity, which allowed me to contemplate the filmmaker’s personality. It was the first time I truly grasped the concept of a personal filmmaking style. Even though I had seen the works of directors like Tarkovsky and Soviet cinema, I didn’t fully understand the notion of a personal filmmaking style until I encountered Stranger Than Paradise.

This film became a turning point for me, shaping the way I viewed the rest of film history. From that moment on, I saw cinema with a different perspective, appreciating the individuality and unique voices of filmmakers.

When I watch your film, I discern the prominent themes of “freedom” and an “individualistic/ personal” approach to filmmaking interwoven in them. I’ve observed a unique storytelling technique in your works, where you initiate with a singular point and then allow the narrative to unfold in a mysterious and unforeseen manner. It’s akin to the game you presented in A Mysterious World, where you start with a simple word like “Martin” and by adding another word it transforms into something entirely unanticipated, such as “Henry James” and then “James Dean.” It commences at a single point, yet the destination remains unpredictable. it seemed as though the entire structure of that film was founded on this notion of commencing with a breakup and then following the protagonist’s daily life, which takes unexpected twists and turns. The subsequent scene could delve into a phone call, an unresolved love story, or something entirely distinct. Eventually, it comes full circle to the beginning, reintroducing characters from the opening scene, thus creating a sense of cyclic storytelling. 

I noticed a similar approach in The Delinquents. After leaving the theatre, someone inquired about the ending, and I found it intriguing. The film initiates in a contemporary heist setting but evolves into a quest for treasure or a quasi-Western genre, leaving us uncertain about the outcome. Amidst this transformation, there are love stories, captivating moments, and various subplots that resemble intricate and multifaceted narratives. Did you intentionally conceive this storytelling method from the outset, or did it evolve organically as a means to craft unforeseen narratives? Is it influenced by filmmakers like Jarmusch, or has it perpetually been your aspiration to incorporate multiple genres and storylines within a single film?

No, I believe every case is unique. It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. My first film, El custodio, was technically my first independent film, and I admit I had fears about making a film. So I took a more programmatic approach to ensure I could proceed step by step in a safe manner. Fortunately, as I gained experience, I felt more liberated as a director. A Mysterious World and subsequently The Delinquents were the results of this evolution. A Mysterious World represented my journey towards freedom and The Delinquents allowed me to be even more liberated and discover the film during the filmmaking process, rather than having everything predetermined from the beginning.

During the four and a half years it took to make The Delinquents, I had initially written a script that ended in a certain way. However, as the process unfolded, the film’s form evolved. This journey of discovery was rich and fulfilling for me as a filmmaker. The central point in this discussion is the distinction between predictability and unpredictability in contemporary cinema. Many films today are highly predictable, and audiences often know what will happen from the very beginning. This predictability arises from formulaic storytelling and the influence of financial considerations over artistic creativity.

Platforms and producers prioritise safe and effective storytelling, resulting in films that leave little room for the audience’s imagination. They become passive recipients of predefined effects, akin to consuming a product like Coca-Cola. This pattern is mirrored in the world of television series and platform content. Initially, people praised these for their resemblance to cinema, but now films are increasingly emulating TV series.

These platform series rely on a simplistic and addictive structure where viewers are constantly driven to want to see what happens next. It’s almost like a drug, and audiences are conditioned to crave the next episode. This predictability has become pervasive in both film and TV, creating a sense of familiarity and sameness. When a film breaks this predictability and introduces unpredictability, it is often deemed strange or special.

However, to me, it’s not about being special; it’s about embracing unpredictability. Unpredictability is what keeps curiosity alive, as it is rooted in the element of surprise and the unknown. So, in essence, The Delinquents is not necessarily special; it is simply structured to be unpredictable because surprise is essential for fostering curiosity. That’s my perspective on it.

To be honest, I believe that in a way, if you’re a filmmaker within a single field, you might tend to expect certain predictability in your cinema. Actually, let me explain it this way. Last year, when I watched Laura’s Trenque Lauquen, I had this funny feeling that I’ve also experienced with your films. Both of your movies share a certain quality, and it seems like they’ve evolved over a similar time frame. You spent about five years working on your film, while Laura’s took around six years. In both cases, you’ve rewritten the screenplay, re-rolled or changed the chronological structure during editing. So, it appears that this approach is ideal for the way you handle your material.

When I watched Laura’s movie, it started as a story about two men involved with the same woman, then it ventured into the realm of science fiction, only to return to a love story. Each moment felt distinct, providing an overall unique experience.

I couldn’t help but notice the similarities, not in terms of content but in the way you both navigate your narratives. It’s as if you start with one subject, then delve into another, and the cycle continues. As you mentioned, it’s like moving from one chapter to another. In your movie, the money becomes like a McGuffin, and you shift your focus to people’s relationships. And then, once again, it changes into something entirely different.

Do you think other filmmakers might be inspired to follow a similar path as you gain more success?

Absolutely, there are several points to consider on this subject. First and foremost, I believe that storytelling in film often adheres to a particular set of conventions, almost like a collective belief in the “right” way to tell a story on screen. It’s as if there’s a widely held belief that there’s only one formula for narrative structure in cinema.

I recall an interesting interview with Quentin Tarantino, and in his own unique way, he highlighted this issue. Tarantino mentioned that he didn’t have a strong background in literature; his cultural upbringing was primarily through the medium of film. He spent a significant amount of time working at a video rental store, immersing himself in movies. However, when he eventually explored literature, he stumbled upon a fascinating realisation. Tarantino found that in literature, stories have the freedom to unfold in non-linear, unconventional ways. When you read a compelling novel, you often encounter narrative shifts, with time moving fluidly between the past and the future. The management of time in literature is subjective, driven by emotion, and often mirrors the workings of the human mind, thoughts streaming or drifting, or even resembling a dream, rather than adhering to a strict chronological order. Tarantino’s observation was both humorous and profound because he felt that film storytelling usually follows a more linear and structured approach.

In my own films, I haven’t incorporated numerous temporal jumps, except for a significant one in The Delinquents, where I experimented with my first flashback, and it proved effective. However, I believe that embracing a more literary approach to storytelling in cinema is like opening a gateway. It allows secondary characters to take centre stage, carrying their own experiences and stories or introducing entirely new dimensions and worlds into the film, offering viewers fresh and diverse perspectives within the narrative…

This is exactly what you accomplished with the character of Norma in The Delinquents. Her arrival in the movie marks a turning point, and everything undergoes a transformation. Norma infuses the film with a breath of fresh air, a unique atmosphere, and a vibrant energy that permeates the entire narrative. Her presence not only revitalises the story but also influences the dynamics between the characters in a significant way

That’s absolutely true. But at the same time, you also have the Ramon character, the filmmaker who’s making the documentary within the film, and he brings a unique gift to the story. Ramon’s contribution is fascinating because he’s creating a film without knowing what kind of film it will ultimately be. This approach to storytelling is of paramount importance to me. It’s the very reason I’m driven to make films. I want each new film to serve as an opening, like a Matryoshka doll, but a poor example because it keeps going inward. Instead, it’s more like opening a river with many branches, much like the branches of a tree. Yes, the tree analogy works well. I’ve always been drawn to filming trees, and if you examine all my films, you’ll find that I’ve often found reasons to incorporate trees into the visuals….

Much like Abbas Kiarostami, who consistently framed trees in his movies and had a deep fascination with capturing images of trees in nature.

Kiarostami is one of my favourite directors, and I have tremendous admiration for his work. Godard used to say that cinema history began with Griffith and ended with Kiarostami. He was our last great filmmaker. But that has to do with the idea of creating tools. It’s not just about being unpredictable, but about opening new doors that the film may not necessarily need to open. The funny thing is, I create a film that doesn’t necessarily require opening that door, but I’ll open it anyway because I have faith that doing so will either make the film flourish or make it better. But, of course, there’s a risk involved. Opening those gates can be risky because they might not align with the core of the film, and they could distract the audience too much. So, yes, it’s a risky endeavour, but I’m willing to take that risk.

Back to your point about Trenque Lauquen, I believe it’s a wonderful film. Of course, there are analogies, especially for someone like you as a foreigner. There are indeed many similarities because it’s a four-hour film from Argentina made around the same time. Some of the actors and actresses in my film also appear in Trenque Lauquen. However, there is a significant difference between both films and mine.

Trenque Laquen

I genuinely love Trenque Lauquen, but what I find to be a strong difference is that Laura and all the El Pampero Films work with a dual level of storytelling. There are the scenes that you are watching, and there’s another level, which serves as a commentary on what you are watching. This commentary reflects on the scenes and what is happening, creating a kind of distance between the viewer and the events. This approach is rooted in modernism.

In my case, I don’t have that additional level of commentary. My scenes stand on their own, like they exist in an open-air situation. Consequently, they can be either weaker or stronger depending solely on themselves. These different systems result in very distinct approaches to our work. When I’m shooting a scene, I know that only the scene itself can defend itself, and there’s no additional layer of commentary.

The concept of being free is a recurring theme in your films. In The Delinquents, the main character seeks freedom from work and embarks on new experiences, such as robbing a bank and getting involved with a girl who introduces him to dancing. This theme of seeking freedom is evident in your other films as well. Even in El custodio, the protagonist strives for freedom, ultimately going to the sea to escape and be free. It appears that this quest for freedom is something you often explore in your movies, going beyond the structure of the narrative and becoming an inherent intention of the characters. Could you elaborate on this recurring theme of freedom in your work?

This recurring theme of freedom is like my old, familiar song. It’s a melody I keep playing with different instruments. Whether it’s Ruben in El custodio, Reimon, or the new characters like Moran, Roman, and Boris in my films, the desire for freedom is always present. My films often explore the tension between work and leisure and how time is used, both in terms of the narrative and the cinematic language itself. So, the central focus is on the utilisation of time, and that’s what I continue to explore in my work.

It’s intriguing that in your films, the theme of the stifling work environment often appears to limit freedom and creativity. However, in El custodio, the protagonist’s personal life, such as his birthday celebration, seems to carry more tension compared to his role as a political bodyguard. Could you please provide more insight into this contrast and its significance in the film?

In the case of El custodio, the protagonist’s experience is markedly different from my other films. He faces constant humiliation, not only in his professional life but also in his personal life. He leads a challenging life, with a sister who practically lives in a psychiatric hospital. He also has to endure a life of following the minister everywhere, almost as if he were just another piece of furniture.

The freedom that he ultimately attains at the film’s end is tied to his entire existence, transcending beyond the confines of his job. However, it’s crucial to note that his work dominates and centralises his life, essentially becoming a prison for him. Reflecting on it now, I realise I may have been a bit harsh in depicting Ruben, the main character.

With time, my approach to the protagonists or characters in my films has evolved. I now prefer to establish a different kind of relationship with them, perhaps a more empathetic one. This shift might be attributed to the realisations and changes in my perspective over the years.

Do you believe that capitalism or the pursuit of profit is a form of imprisonment that prevents us from being truly free? Is it something that traps us and hinders our freedom? Do you think that money often creates more problems than it solves and leads to dependency on it?

Yes, dependencies definitely limit your freedom. I’m not sure if I would call it a jail, but it certainly restricts your freedom.

Again, it’s very interesting that the main reason for the story in The Delinquents is money. But in the end, it seems like the least important thing of all because the guy is waiting for his friend who didn’t show up. The guy is waiting for his girlfriend, or something, which didn’t turn out as expected. It seems that all of the characters in the story find their aim in life, but then they become aimless. I mean, they forget about the money. That’s what I’m saying – the money is the starting point of all their problems or concerns. But in the end, they forget about the money, which is more fiction than real. Because in real life, we are still struggling to earn money because we need it. We cannot make a movie without it.

You’re right; we still need money. But the film is a fable. It starts as if money is the most important thing, but rapidly, you realise that the most important thing is time. So money works somehow as a McGuffin. Finally, because the main point, the deep search, is about time – what I do with my time, with the time I have, what I do in my life. Do I have to dedicate my time to work for someone else, or can I use my time for the things I want to do in my life? That’s the main point.

When you discuss the concept of personal filmmaking, does A Mysterious World fall into the category of a personal film? I’d like to inquire whether it draws from any personal experiences you may have had…

Somehow, but not particularly…

Because what I notice about A Mysterious World is that when I watched the whole movie, apart from that game you explained to me and they open the door and everything, I asked myself: What is this movie about? What is exactly this movie trying to tell me? One thing was interesting: it’s a story of a man who I don’t know how he earns money, but he is spending time in a hotel and living, I mean, it’s kind of endless living. The second thing, which came to my mind, is a story of a man who is in the kind of phase of breaking up with his girlfriend, with his partner. So is he going through some kind of crisis, looking at the world differently, aimlessly? His heart is somewhere else, but he tries to distract himself from the breakup by going through this kind of journey. He goes to the party, he buys the car, he does something, and then in some parts, I find out how alone this guy is. For example, the part where he went to that island, nobody came to pick him up. Then he came back to his mechanic, and then at that point, you tell us it’s New Year. I didn’t know it’s New Year, and they celebrate the New Year before midnight, and they start eating with each other. I thought, “Okay, this could be a story of a man who became alone.” So these things, when they came to my mind, I thought that the reason you made the movie is a kind of projecting some kind of personal experiences. That’s the reason I asked you. I’m not sure how A Mysterious World even formed. Is it based on some personal experiences?

No, there are two small stories. One had to do with a car. With my first car, the car I bought, an old Japanese car from the ‘80s that didn’t work at all. On the first day I got the car, it broke down just four blocks away. A week later, the car stopped, and I had to deal with that car for a whole year. It was a nightmare, funny, and absurd. I was separated from my first wife at the time, so I was alone, searching for new experiences, which somehow opened me up to something new.

These situations, both the car trouble and the separation, inspired me to start writing. But as soon as I began writing, I moved away from my own biography and created a completely different world with characters, situations, and dialogues. This separation at that time had nothing to do with the one depicted in the beginning of the film A Mysterious World. However, it helped me think about such situations.

Frequently, real-life situations I experience or hear about trigger scenes, stories, dialogue lines, characters, scenarios, landscapes, buildings, or things that I want to incorporate into a story or film.

The feeling I got from the movie is that it’s depicted in a very impressionist way, telling many unfinished stories or settings of unfinished stories. For example, the party scene, which I really liked, is more severe. You see the characters kissing, and that’s it. We might expect this will come back to their lives, but it doesn’t. The guy is left wondering, and nothing concludes. It’s kind of a motionless character sitting on a bus, looking at other girls, and nothing happens.

To be honest with you, I was expecting to think about how you can make something personal when you mentioned it’s a personal movie. I understand it might not be directly from your personal life, but I can see elements of experiences, maybe something someone told you or something you experienced that you were able to combine into this unusual way of storytelling. It starts at one point and has these two scenes of driving at night, and it may sound personal, like something you wanted to include in your movie.

So, it’s very interesting. May I ask you, how were your unpredictable and unexpected movies received by the Argentinian audience overall? How do they perceive your movie? Positively, or with criticism: “Why are you telling a story about a bank robbery in such an unfinished, usual way?”

Yeah. Well, The Delinquents has been released in many cities in Argentina in the last two months. Of course, it’s a three-hour film, so it wasn’t a big success, but it was okay. Now the film is available on the Mubi platform, and it’s currently at the top of the stats with the most views. So, I mean, it’s not hugely popular, but it’s doing okay. It works. It has been working, and of course, it has received great reviews. In general, my films are very well-received by critics. However, A Mysterious World was a relatively unknown film in Argentina. Not many people knew about it. Now that it’s on Mubi, and because the director of The Delinquents made it before, more people want to see it. Also, The Delinquents was, until yesterday, the pre-candidate from Argentina for the Oscars, which has drawn more attention to the film.

A Mysterious World

My first movie, El custodio, was a very successful film here in Argentina. Everybody saw it. Before I started making films as a co-director, El custodio was made in 2006. But after that, many people were wondering what I had been doing since 2006. Hey, I’ve been making films that you didn’t see. However, people from the film industry know who I am and the films I’ve made, but beyond that, not many people knew my work, unfortunately. But things are changing now. Many people know and appreciate The Delinquents. So, you know, when you have these open endings, it’s something that the audience, in general, doesn’t want to digest. They want something more conclusive. It’s not easy in that way.

I personally believe, and I am hoping that the international success of The Delinquents and Citarella’s Trenque Lauquen movie will bring more attention to independent cinema. Argentina has many pioneers, and every five years, it seems to introduce a new author to world cinema. I’m really thankful for that, and your cinema consistently gives birth to new talent. People like you and Alejo Moguillansky, and Mariano Llinás, have been working since 2002, two decades of work. I was surprised to discover your first movie, El custodio, and wonder why it hasn’t been introduced to film festivals like London or others. When I watch your work, I can see how your first film was solid and understand the pressure to make everything work perfectly. But now, I can see you’ve become freer in telling stories, exploring, and experimenting with narrative.

So, regarding The Delinquents, I know you wanted to create a dialogue between new and old Argentine cinema, but could you tell me what prompted this? Did you always want to make a film that addressed the relationship between the new and the old in Argentina, or did something specific happen that made you feel now was the right time for this dialogue to occur and for a new movie to converse with the old one?

Regarding Apenas un delincuente (Hardly a Criminal) from 1949, it was the theme of this film that triggered the idea for my movie The Delinquents. While there is a dialogue between the two films, it’s not a direct conversation but a way to revisit the old history. It’s enjoyable and interesting to create these links between similar stories remade after more than 70 or 80 years. I’m even thinking about doing it again, taking another old film, revisiting it, and rewriting it. It’s not exactly a remake because it involves taking some parts of the old film to create something new, like using samples in music.

So, at what point did I start thinking about revisiting this film? It wasn’t necessarily one night after watching it, but it was always in the back of my mind. I wanted to make films that are more free, unpredictable, full of detours, characters, and generosity. I didn’t want them to be too functional. In the case of Hardly a Criminal, it was amusing to me to take a film noir from 1949 and make it completely unfunctional. It’s an aesthetic operation, similar to how people undergo aesthetic surgery to change their appearance. In this case, it’s transforming a classic story into something unfunctional, and that’s the essence of it.

Inspired by the essence of Hugo Fregonese’s 1949 masterpiece, my film reimagines the journey of Morán, a character etched in the annals of classic cinema. This reinterpretation transforms the original narrative, where Morán’s quest for wealth echoed the post-World War II capitalist surge. In my vision, Morán symbolises the modern individual’s struggle against the relentless demands of capitalism, seeking liberation from the relentless cycle of labour.

This cinematic endeavour weaves through genres, beginning as a light-hearted comedy that subtly morphs into a gripping thriller, before finally settling into an introspective exploration of existence. It’s an artistic tapestry that challenges and transcends traditional genre boundaries.

Central to this narrative is the recurring theme from my previous works: the portrayal of employment as a metaphorical prison dictating life’s path. Morán, played compellingly by Daniel Eliás, embodies this conflict. His story poses a fundamental question of human existence: ‘Is our destiny merely to toil, or is there more beyond the horizons of labour?’

Despite its philosophical undertones, the film retains a playful spirit. This is exemplified in the whimsical use of anagrams for character names, a nod to the lighter side of storytelling. While philosophical insights may emerge, they are the blossoms of a playful seed, not its root.

Thus, my film is not just a tribute to Argentine cinema of the ‘40s and ‘50s but a conversation across generations, exploring how our understanding of work, destiny, and life itself has evolved. It’s a dialogue that transcends time, genres, and the very fabric of cinematic storytelling.

In the movie, I found something quite intriguing regarding its aesthetics. I’ve noticed a difference in tone, colour, and texture between certain parts of the film. Could you please elaborate on this? Was it a deliberate stylistic choice, or did it happen by chance? I’ve read a bit about it, but I’d appreciate it if you could clarify what led to these distinct differences in the two parts of the movie.

I didn’t have a preconceived plan for the aesthetics of the film. I didn’t know how the film should look before making it. In fact, I initially started working with a director of photography, but she became pregnant during the process, and I had to change to another director of photography. So, in many ways, things happened somewhat accidentally. What I did know was that the first part of the film needed to have a colder and more geometrical aesthetic. The idea of splitting the film into two parts, the first being stricter in style, came about during the editing process.

When I was shooting, there were no distinct parts labelled as “part one” and “part two.” It was simply Buenos Aires/ the urban setting, and the rural countryside. For the countryside scenes, I deliberately didn’t want to have any preconceived ideas about how to shoot them. I wanted to approach it with a sense of not knowing, and the discovery happened during the filming process. This was something I had in mind from the beginning, although it was a challenging and risky approach, especially when dealing with producers who typically expect certainties that I couldn’t provide at that stage of production.

As I reflect on this journey, the film stands as a testament to adaptability and faith in the creative process. Despite the disjointed nature of its production, it emerged as a unified piece, a seamless tapestry of visual storytelling that belies the fragmented reality of its creation. This experience has taught me a profound lesson in the unpredictability of filmmaking and the necessity of being able to adapt quickly to bring a vision to life, even under the most challenging circumstances.

In 2018, we embarked on this adventure with a specific vision, only to have it upended as we were forced to navigate the tumultuous waters of 2020. The pandemic brought everything to a halt, fragmenting our workflow and testing our resilience. The following year added another layer of complexity when our lead, Esteban, departed for a nine-month commitment in Spain, leaving us in a holding pattern. It wasn’t until 2022 that we could capture the film’s concluding scenes, with the bank sequence being the final piece of this intricate puzzle. This drawn-out process, spanning years and faced with constant upheaval, demanded a steadfast belief in our project.

Reflecting on the journey of creating this film, it strikes me as surreal. What began in 2018 as a standard cinematic endeavour, with a set art director and DP, morphed into something far more complex. The four-and-a-half-year odyssey, punctuated by the unforeseen challenges of a global pandemic and scheduling conflicts, reshaped our approach at every turn.

In addition to themes like freedom, a personal approach to filmmaking, and unpredictability, you also delve into the concept of time in The Delinquents. Regarding time, your film seems to adopt a timeless pattern. For example, we see people wearing masks, which suggests a contemporary setting. Yet, at the same time, the movie references elements like Bresson’s L’Argent shown in a cinema and Godard’s Book of Image posters, alongside more dated elements like manual calculator in the bank, rather than computers. Also, the rural setting appears somewhat indistinct in time. It’s not clearly present-day. This decision to create a timeless narrative, even though the movie is centrally about time, intrigues me. Could you explain your thought process behind making your film timeless in this way?

There are two main reasons behind this decision: aesthetic and storytelling. Aesthetically, many contemporary elements like computers, cell phones, or even modern cars seem less cinematic to me. I find the designs of older cars with their straight lines more visually appealing than the rounded, almost anabolic-fed shapes of today’s cars. Similarly, a calculator has more cinematic value to me than a computer, and a watch is preferable to a cell phone for checking time. Modern architecture, like the boxy and personality-less design of contemporary banks, also lacks appeal to me. So, since I’m not constrained by the need for realism, I choose to shoot what I love, leading to a more timeless feel in the film.

Storytelling-wise, the goal was to create a fable. To effectively convey this, I needed to detach the story from direct realistic references. However, I didn’t want to completely isolate the film in a bubble. So, I opted for a documentary style in street scenes, using real pedestrians instead of extras. This approach helps to break away from the timeless environments created in other parts of the film, like the bank or prison, which resemble something out of an old Alcatraz movie. I embraced the realness of the streets, even if people looked at the camera or wore masks due to the pandemic. So if people look at the camera, I don’t care. Or if people were in masks because it’s a pandemic or because they’re in the middle of the lockdown, I don’t care, or I should say, I do care! This blend of timeless settings with real-life street scenes was integral to the film’s narrative structure and overall aesthetic.

The Delinquents

Another interesting aspect I noticed is the recurring theme of duality in your film. It’s been asked before, but I’d like to delve deeper into it. I noticed the emphasis on the concept of one’s signature, where two people in the world share a single signature. This is the first point where I understood you play with the idea of duality. Then, as you mentioned beside mirrors, we discover the anagrams of the characters’ names, highlighting that the alphabet can be rearranged: Morán, Román, Norma, Morna and Ramón. You also use split screens throughout the film. Additionally, the movie itself is split into two sections. Was this a deliberate concept from the beginning, or did these elements evolve over time? Given that the film underwent changes during its five-year production, were these details added gradually to the screenplay, or did you have these ideas in mind from the outset for the characters and the film as a whole?

From the very beginning, I had the idea of duality or the concept of a mirror for these two characters. In the original film, there was a character named Moran. When I started reinterpreting and adapting the film to my perspective, I created Roman as an anagram to maintain some familiarity with the original. However, I decided to create two distinct characters at a certain point. This allowed me to explore the idea of two faces of the same character, given that Moran and Roman share similar destinies, experiences, and even the same girl, job, and places but in different times. It’s as if one follows the footsteps of the other.

I then reinforced this idea by incorporating elements like split screens and having one actor play two roles – the boss in the bank and the couple in prison. This duality concept expanded to the other characters in the second part of the film. During editing, I decided to clearly separate the city from the hills, which led to the first part focusing on money and the second on love. This division into two parts allowed me to explore the theme of duality even further.

I also noticed that some events repeat themselves twice in the film, like going to the cinema twice or the music player scene. Even the character (your son) asking for water from the wife and the other character happens twice. Is this repetition intentional, and what’s the significance behind it?

The repetition you observed in the film was deliberate and had been part of the script since the beginning. I employed repetition as a storytelling tool to highlight the link between the two characters and their interconnected fates. It served as a means to demonstrate how one character was tracing the path of the other, and it played a crucial role in shaping the film’s narrative structure. The repetition was a deliberate choice to enhance the storytelling and reflect the intertwined destinies of the characters…

It’s like you follow a treasure map in your hand. But as we discussed last night, this was like a MacGuffin because it’s more about the journey these two characters took… What was the reason behind your decision to utilise preexisting music for your movie?

In my film, I often utilise pre-existing music during the editing phase to enhance the tone and mood of scenes. This approach led me to select pieces that, while not originally composed for film, perfectly resonated with our narrative. The film features a diverse array of composers, each bringing a distinct flavour to the storytelling.

Astor Piazzolla, a pivotal figure in modern Argentine music, offers a unique contribution with a piece composed for Oboe, which notably doesn’t use his signature bandoneon. This represents a significant deviation from his typical style. The film also includes works from Francis Poulenc, a French composer active in the early to mid-20th century, whose impressionist influences are evident. Classical pieces by Bach and Saint Saens, known for his harp compositions, are also integral to the film’s soundscape.

Argentine rock star Papo’s (his name is Pappo) songs, including ‘El Viejo’ and ‘Adonde esta la libertad,’ provide a unique narrative texture. Violeta Parra, a celebrated Chilean musician, enhances a dance scene with her folk music.

I consciously chose not to have an original score composed for the film, as I find contemporary film scores predictable. Instead, I wanted to recapture the playful and sophisticated use of different colours and instruments characteristic of the classical period and its modernist revisitations. This blend of varied musical influences from different eras enriches the film’s fabric, akin to having great poets and filmmakers like Bresson contribute to its depth and storytelling.

Esteban Bigliardi is one of your favourite actors; he’s worked with you in a couple of movies. He recently appeared in Rejtman’s The Practice. Could you tell me about him? How did you meet each other? It seems like you like him very much. And I know that you want to work with the same characters or actors like a family. But about this guy specifically because he’s your…

I met Bigliardi many, many years ago. I saw him in different theatre plays, but what interested me about him was not just his capabilities as an actor, which, of course, he possesses, but his humanity. My relationship with actors is not purely professional in terms of whether they can play a role or have good pronunciation for a particular speech. I don’t care much about that. What matters to me is their humanity. As I mentioned before, the camera captures the present moment, and to me, everything is a form of documentary. I don’t believe in a strict division between documentary and fiction. Even within the documentary genre, there can be elements of fiction. For example, the film Nanook of the North (Robert J. Flaherty, 1922) is considered a documentary, but many of its scenes were staged or fictionalised. So, when I work with actors, I focus on their real presence in front of the camera.

Esteban Bigliardi

What I truly appreciate about Esteban is his nobility. He’s a noble person in the sense of having a dignified character. That’s why I decided to work with him.

In general, do you believe in improvisation or do you prefer to work closely with your actors in a more scripted manner?

Before delving into my approach to working with actors, it’s essential to address my perspective on casting, which in its traditional form, strikes me as a rather harsh and impersonal process, something I’ve come to deeply dislike. I find a far greater value in the human connection that comes from more informal settings. For me, the ideal way to discover potential collaborators is not through a staged audition but through genuine, casual conversations. I prefer the ambiance of a bar or the relaxed atmosphere of a coffee shop, where dialogues unfold organically. It’s in these unguarded moments, over discussions about art, cinema, and the intricacies of life, that I truly get to know someone. This approach allows me to gauge not just their talent as actors but their perspectives, their passions, and how they view the world.

As an illustration, while scouting for talent for my film, I encountered Margarita Molfino, portraying Norma, in a unique and serendipitous way. I first saw her performing in a dance piece directed by Diana Szeinblum, whose reputation as one of South America’s great choreographers precedes her. This was my introduction to Margarita, and something about her immediately struck a chord with me. It was an intuitive feeling, a sense of trust that she was the right fit for the role, even though I couldn’t pinpoint exactly why at that moment.

Margarita’s background played a pivotal role in this intuition. Unlike the typical urban dweller of Buenos Aires, she hails from the countryside. Her upbringing there, experiences like riding horses, were integral to the character of Norma. This rural essence she carried was vital for the authenticity of the role. Casting someone with an overtly urban demeanour or a distinct Buenos Aires accent would have felt incongruent with the character I envisioned. This alignment of Margarita’s personal history with the character’s background was more than just a happy coincidence; it was a cornerstone in building the character’s authenticity. Her rural roots brought a depth and a realism to Norma that I believe could not have been achieved with an actress ingrained in city life. This decision highlights my belief in the profound impact an actor’s personal experiences and essence can have on the portrayal of a character, bringing a richness and authenticity that transcends acting skills alone.

When it comes to rehearsal, I believe rehearsing with the actors multiple times before the actual shoot was essential for us because we needed to discover and establish a harmonious tone, much like finding a shared musical note. It’s the very essence of how the film should resonate with its audience, making rehearsals a crucial part of our process. I find rehearsals to be of utmost importance for this reason. While I’m not particularly fond of on-set improvisation, I do encourage actors to explore improvisation during the rehearsal phase. Surprisingly, some moments and elements that enrich the movie emerge through this improvisational process. But then I bring those ideas back to the paper and rewrite dialogues and scenes. That’s how the process works.

But to answer your question, I strongly dislike improvisation. I believe that actors and actresses are not skilled writers, so I have more trust in my own writing than in theirs…

Is this the first time you’ve collaborated with Laura Parade on one of your films?

No, this is not the first time. Previously, in A Mysterious World, she was going to play a character that I had to cut due to budget constraints. She was originally cast as the sister of the main character played by Esteban. However, I eventually had to make that decision, so that’s why. I’ve actually wanted to work with her for a long time, and it felt like a pending project.

It’s fascinating to note that the actor Germán de Silva, who portrays both the bank’s chief and a prison thug in the film, has collaborated with you on several previous occasions as well.

Germán de Silva is one of my favourite actors. Whenever I’m working on a new script, I often think of a character for him. In fact, just this morning while I was traveling by bus, I was thinking about my next film and thinking about him. It’s natural. Germán is like an extension of my ideas. He, along with Esteban and Cecilia Rainero who plays Morna, are actors and actress who feel like a kind of cinematic family to me when making a film.

Could you please elaborate a bit more on the choice of poetry featured in the prison scene towards the end of the movie? The prisoners begin reading it, and you seem to emphasise this moment by giving extra time for the gentleman to recite from the book. How did you come to select this particular piece and could you provide some background information? I believe it might help us better understand what they are reading, as it appears to be an excerpt from a book or poem. Even though it was translated, what led you to choose this specific passage for that particular scene in the prison?

Yes, I had a specific intention behind that choice. I wanted to transition the film from conventional narration to the realm of poetry. Poetry, for me, represents the opposite of what I view as a form of slavery, namely the daily grind and labour that makes workers slaves to their existence within a capitalist world. Poetry, on the other hand, is unproductive within this capitalist framework. So, I aimed to take Moran on a journey within the prison where he discovers poetry as a path to liberation.

I selected that particular poem because it resonated with me, and it was written by a relatively lesser-known Argentine poet, Ricardo Zelarayan, who passed away many years ago. Importantly, I didn’t want the poem to serve as a direct explanation of the film’s narrative. Instead, I wanted there to be connections that viewers could discover on their own. These connections are meant to be found by the audience, not spoon-fed by me.

Now that the film has been released in various places and is available on platforms, I’m receiving feedback from viewers who are making these connections. For example, a writer recently shared a line from the poem on Twitter, which translates to “The mystery is nothing, and nothing explains itself.” This lack of explicit explanation is something I’m passionate about. Our contemporary world is saturated with explanations, where everyone, from artists to politicians, feels compelled to clarify their thoughts and feelings. What I aim to do is the opposite – not to explain, creating an empty space for interpretation and unfettered freedom.

I’ve noticed in your movies that there’s a recurring theme of art being integrated into the lives of the characters. Whether it’s drawing in El custodio, listening to music and dancing in Reimon and The Delinquents, or characters engaging with literature (most of your characters have a habit of reading books) and poetry, it seems like art plays a significant role in your films. For example, one of the characters in The Delinquents goes to the cinema to watch a Bresson movie, which is quite an intellectual activity. Norma is seen reading to Ramon from a book, and Ramon himself is introduced to poetry while in prison. His reading of poetry even influences the other prisoners. Do you believe that in a world dominated by capitalism and routine, art serves as a means of salvation or a window to bring something enriching into our lives? Is this a message you aim to convey, given how your characters often turn to art as a way of escaping or enriching their reality?

That’s an interesting question, and it gives me some food for thought. The reason I incorporate music, poetry, and art into my films isn’t necessarily about escaping reality; it’s about revealing a hidden reality within our lives. Technology has become pervasive in contemporary society, and it often serves as a tool for controlling the population and promoting consumerism within the capitalist framework. For example, if we casually mention a topic like furniture, we immediately receive targeted advertisements on our smartphones. This exemplifies how technology is used to manipulate and control people’s choices.

So, where does art fit into this landscape? Art, to me, represents a tool for freedom. It’s a means of breaking free from the chains of consumerism and capitalism. There’s a famous saying attributed to Marx that “poetry is the spark of the revolution,” and I believe in the power of art to invoke a sense of revolution, not necessarily to bring back something like the USSR, but to break the chains imposed by consumerism and capitalism.

Incorporating poetry, music, and art into my films is a way of evoking this sense of revolution and sparking critical thought. It’s a reminder that there’s more to life than what technology and consumerism offer. As we move further into the new century, I believe we need revolutionary thinking more than ever, and art can be a powerful catalyst for that change.

About The Author

Hamed Sarrafi is a UK-based cinephile, critic and translator. He has written and translated for Iranian newspapers and magazines for 20 years and more recently has established his podcast, Abadiat Va Yek Rooz (Eternity and a Day), in which he reviews movies and film festivals and also interviews filmmakers and fellow film critics. Sarrafi is particularly interested in interviewing emerging directors on their social and political views. His interviews have been published in Cineaste, Notebook (Mubi) and Cinema Without Borders.

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