An Interview with Octubre’s Diego Vega
Octubre, the first feature film by filmmaking brothers, David and Diego Vega Vidal was the winner at Un Certain Regard at Cannes in 2010. Their darkly comic humanism falls into Latin American film traditions, but is informed by their unique vision and beautifully crafted film style, opening up a window on an under-represented (at least in the USA) film culture – that of Peru. I had a little email chat with DIego about influences, the present and the future of Peruvian cinema, and a few other things.
Octubre plays at NWFF from Friday, October 21 to Thursday, October 22. Click here for more information and to buy tickets.
NV – Octubre has been compared to Aki Kurismaki and Jim Jarmusch films. Do these or other international directors inspire your work?
DV – We like movies that they both make. Both handle the humor in a very particular manner and point of view. For sure if we follow their references they’ll lead us to the same well. But from them we managed to create our own style. I think that Bresson is between us and their models and there was one of his movies in particular, L’Argent, that gave us the first idea to start writing October. Eventually that first idea changed a lot and I think (hope) we’ve managed to create something of our own. In general, speaking of references is complicated because all the movies you see help you as you write or prepare a film.
NV – Regarding film from Latin America, I see a similarity with Arturo Ripstein – or even to Bunuel or Berlanga. Are they influences? Are there other Latin American or Spanish filmmakerswho have influenced your work and ideas?
DV – I have in mind some films by Ripstein, others by Buñuel, but only one or two by Berlanga that I barely remember. I think Octubre has nothing to do with those movies that I remember by Berlanga, and maybe I could find some similarities with some of the atmosphere of Ripstein – but with a different tone – and, although I fail to see it, some people have told us that Octubre reminds them Buñuel’s films, which pleases and honors us. But in this sense, neither Ripstein, nor Buñuel nor Berlanga were direct or conscious references. When thinking about directing actors we have to mention Argentine films we like El Otro, Whisky and El Custodio, and also Lumet’s The Pawnbroker.
NV – Regarding Peruvian cinema, are there filmmakers that have inspired you?
DV – There are good movies, but what has inspired us is seeing people making them more than one film in particular.
NV – From your short film, Interior Baja Izquierda to Octubre, you main characters seem to be people who lead marginal lives. Could you comment on your attraction to this side of life?
DV – I don’t think that all our main characters live marginal lives. In the case of Don Fico in Octubre and the elderly couple in Interior Baja Izquierda, I think his condition has more to do with age – the end of their lives and how they got to that point. Don Fico, for example, has a pension – not a big pension but the state hasn’t forgotten about him completely. He knows how to navigate the rapids and even manages to save some money for a trip. I think what’s marginal is not having done so well in life and “doing time” while you think of how to get your girlfriend out of the hospital to leave Lima and die. As for the short, the elderly couple have reached the end of life as they did and have been closing in on themselves. I believe this is related to the marginality to which you refer I think. Clement and Sofia live a modest but not insignificant, each has his home, which is not luxurious, but it’s neat, clean, and they can say that they live with dignity. Our intention in both cases, now looking at it in a dispassionate way, was always to look into the fact of being alone. In the end we’ve constructed stories of people who are lonely for different reasons, and are looking for ways to no longer be [lonely] or to feel better.
NV – Are the characters in your film related to real people in your lives?
DV – We’ve unconsciously borrowed very close experiences and feelings from reality. So we started writing and in the process we understood where those ideas came from. With the film already made, and as we talked with people who had seen it, made interviews and read some reviews, we understood much better the origin of the central themes of the film and also understood that feeling that remains after watching it. Because for a long time we were working and searching to reproduce a feeling rather than create a plot. When we started writing Octubre we did it in part with the idea of describing what we felt. I think, somewhere between disappointment, unease and disillusion.
NV – There seems to be a renaissance in Latin American film making now. Can you comment on why you think this is happening? And how you fit in?
DV – I think this renaissance is most noticeable in contrast with what happened between the 80s and 90s when governments of different countries coincided in eliminating laws for film or didn’t comply with or even have laws. Countries that now have functioning cinema laws (for better or worse) at the time had no laws or if they did they weren’t much use. Thus, there was a time between the 80s and 90s in which you didn’t hear much about good movies unless they were from Argentina, Brazil, Mexico or Cuba. Today, countries that previously didn’t do anything or very little, are producing a lot – Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Chile, Uruguay – and besides, the long-time greats – Brazil, Argentina, Mexico – have revitalized their laws and are producing more films. Even in countries where there are no film laws or where the laws don’t function like everyone would like, there are filmmakers beginning to make movies – for example, Guatemala, Paraguay and Costa Rica. There is a huge need for expression and film laws are helping. This unfortunately isn’t always synonymous with good movies but they are very good things. Cinema in Latin America, like it or not, is almost a genre and major festivals are connected with it, so it’s normal to hear about Latin American cinema, so many movies are premiered at major festivals. The interesting thing also, I think, is that there’s a cinema that’s produced and exhibited independent of these film laws that still have no access to the big festivals, that the world still doesn’t know about. But I’m sure that in time great works will will come out. As for us in the midst of this revival, we’re two filmmakers with our first work which fortunately went well and will allow us to prepare – with hope and optimism – our next movie.
NV – Is there a movement of new Peruvian filmmakers?
DV – I don’t know if there’s movement, but there are definitely many people who want to make films and are making movies, with better and worse results.
NV – Are there other filmmakers that you collaborate with that the world should know about?
DV – We haven’t worked directly with anyone but we’re good friends of with some, we read scripts at times and we show short films. We’re aware of what everybody’s doing. Héctor Gálvez, for example, director of the great film Paradise, is a very good fiction and documentary director.
NV – Can you tell us a little about your next project?
DV – It’s tentatively titled The Mute. It’s the story of an honest and anonymous public official, who after being shot, begins to believe he’s more important than he actually is. So he begins to make sense of his little fight against corruption that until then was inconsequential. We’re thinking of it like a black comedy and hope to shoot it next year.
Originally published in Hot Splice, October 18, 2011.