AZOR, Whatever My Grandpa Didn’t Write


For Andreas Fontana’s full-length feature debut as a director, Azor, he’s chosen to plunge straight into a time of dirty politics and the dictatorship in 1980 Argentina, where wealth insulates the elite. Talking in-depth with Hamed Sarrafi, the Argentine writer-director says he loves collaborating with friends like co-writer Mariano Llinas and using a mix of seasoned and non-professional actors – and he was pragmatic enough to get Swiss funding and place a Geneva banker at the center of the plot – but he also admits he’s something of a control freak. He deliberately interviewed some of the worst people imaginable when building the characters, and says the research process was very disturbing. For Fontana, the characters and locations are more important than the plot of his thriller, and every location is a character in itself, as he aims to create something holistic. The audience is the final, vital part of this creation in working out the deliberate labyrinth of Azor. “It is for you to decide what your relationship with different parts of it is. Some parts are obvious; some need to be decoded. You are the detective that needs to solve the mystery, by any means necessary.”

Hamed Sasafi: Where does your interest in cinema come from? Take us back to the beginning, please.
Andreas Fontana: My interest and connection with cinema started before I began making movies. I’m part of a generation that has a special connection with the moving image because of the way we grew up with Television and films. My parents also played a big role in my infatuation with cinema. I remember my mother would take me to the cinema to watch Hitchcock’s films. My father also loved to watch the 70’s New Hollywood movies and he was a big fan of Sam Peckinpah. Even my stepfather was very much into cinema and he took me to films like the Seven Samurai when was 16. Undoubtfully, my family environment set me up to become a filmmaker. Just like if you live in a household with a lot of books, you are more likely to read more.

Even though I’m a cinephile, at my core the love comes from literature. I started by studying comparative literature. Then I was going back and forth between literature and cinema. I did my master’s in literature and the history of cinema at the same time in Lausanne. I also studied the New Argentine cinema. I did a lot of research work in that field before I made any films.

HS: Your interest in cinematic history and literature is visible in your work. There are a lot of references to The Third Man, Salvador, Citizen Kane, and Journey to The Heart of Darkness.  Thematically also, you can see the investigations, political themes, and, the character’s journey. You can see cinematic and literary references.
AF: I completely agree with you. I loved to investigate from a very early age. I loved to find things that are not apparent. I was like an unofficial detective. I’m naturally drawn to telling those types of stories.

However, I believe that Azor is completely different from Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness because it just focuses on the travel aspect. I was thinking about this today. Initially, I was investigating the Swiss banking system and how it functioned in Argentina and other countries. Then I realized that it was closely related to Joseph Conrad’s book and the relationship between colonization, travel, and conquest of territory. Through my research, I came across Conrad’s book and recognized the similarity in concepts but I didn’t want to adapt his book.

HS: What about Macbeth? Macbeth is a tragedy about power and you had mentioned this film is also about power. The relationship between Ivan (Fabrizio Rongione) and Ines (Stephanie Cleau) reminds me of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. Did you think about Macbeth from the beginning or was this also something you discovered during the writing process?
AF: Michel Simon who is a great actor and was working with Jean Renoir once said that life is an imitation of art. Regarding the relationship between Ivan and Ines, I was meeting with the wives of bankers as part of my research. There was one person, in particular, that was very interesting to me. I asked her a lot of questions about her relationship with her husband, how she helped him, and how she influenced him. She was very strong and had an interesting character. Later on, I realized that their relationship was similar to Macbeth’s. The banker was like a king and his wife was like a queen. She was an advisor to him. I realized that the story could be a modern interpretation of Macbeth.

HS: Why did you choose this particular time in Argentinean history? It was a dark and brutal moment in which a lot of people disappeared. Perhaps investigating what happened to these people stimulated your detective side?
AF: Yes, it’s a mixture of two different things. First of all, my grandfather was a Swiss banker and I found a notebook he had which a lot of descriptions of his trip to Argentina in December of 1980. He visited high-class people and venues on that trip. It was interesting for me to read those descriptions from that period but it was also disturbing to know that he was on holiday there during the time when it was a dictatorship. I also discovered that he didn’t talk about the repression even though he was aware of it because as a banker he needed to keep his political connections. In that way, his notebook was not very useful to me. On the other hand, it was clear that something was omitted from his notebook. Why would somebody like my grandfather who was very much in touch with the political situation, not even mention it? I thought to myself, it would be interesting to tell the story of what my grandfather’s diary is missing — to tell the story that he didn’t tell.

This period of Argentinean history is a particularly brutal part of the dictatorship. Those in power dealt with their opposition very violently. Also, the military was using its power and oppressive nature to produce wealth. At the beginning of the 80s, the government’s focus shifted toward stealing wealth.

HS: Apart from your grandfather, did anyone else inspire you for this screenplay? Have you spoken with other family members to see how they feel about your grandfather? Perhaps, see it through their eyes?
AF: My family were Swiss residents and had nothing to do with Argentina. My grandfather was a private banker. I did talk to my parents and both my aunts. They also all watched Azor. First of all, this film isn’t based on my grandfather. My grandfather was a much more interesting character. He was a failed writer. I’m not saying this to save his reputation. He was a banker who has done these terrible things but not in Argentina.

My aim was not to make a biographical film. Instead, I wanted to portray the moral ambiguity of a private banker. My mother was a bit in shock the first time she saw the film but we talked about it a lot and she told me that her father’s clients were exactly the same as the characters portrayed in the film. My aunt also agreed and told me that the character reminded her of her father. I think their reactions are quite natural because the screenplay is based on documented facts. It’s not written impulsively. I knew it was risky to work with material that is close to home. I had to deal with my own experiences but I’m okay with that risk.

HS: In one of your interviews, you mentioned that you traveled to Argentina and spent more than two years interviewing and speaking with lawyers and clients of different banks. Did you also interview any members of the military or the political elite at the time and get their perspectives?
AF: Our research process was very disturbing actually. I had a meeting with one of the former Economic Ministers of the Junta, whose name I cannot reveal here.

He was a representative of UBS Swiss Bank in Argentina. He was very integrated with the high society of Buenos Aires and the government in 1979 in the southern part of the dictatorship. I was surprised to see that he was a fanatic follower of fascism. His interpretation of history was very disturbing and violent.

HS: Maybe he was talking like the character in your film, Bishop. He talked about eradicating parasites and cleaning the streets. Or like the hotel concierge who said we are doing very well and it’s about time we need purification.
AF: I think you are right. That minister was using the same vocabulary as Bishop. I used that meeting to construct Bishop as a character and used the same vocabulary in writing the dialogue — the same offensive words.

HS: Apart from the bankers, lawyers, and the minister, have you interviewed any victims as well, to gain more knowledge about what happened to them? It seems Azor is a story about the people who disappear, but through the eyes of those who were mainly ignorant of it.
AF: I’m not fascinated with dark things. This part of the history of Argentina is very difficult, and of course, it was important for me to go into this, but I didn’t want to just be curious about something very sad and difficult. So of course, I read books but I didn’t want to ask, interview and record the point of view of victims because the movie was about those who were on the outside, so it wouldn’t make sense.

When you’re living in Argentina you inevitably meet the family of the victims, as so many people lost somebody, either a member of their family or a friend. I have spoken with them but it doesn’t make sense for this movie.

HS: You follow two strategies that are unique for the time. First of all, you narrate history, not from the point of view of the victims, but from the point of view of a group that isn’t yet affected. From the beginning, they believed that they are untouchable because they are rich, but as time went on they feared the situation more. The second point/strategy is that you didn’t even show their fear. It was just something in the atmosphere. I feel like the way you portray fear is the way I feel it. Even though you don’t directly show it, we could sense it in their gestures, in their words, and their loneliness. You create that feeling for the audience. You feel the violence even though we don’t see it. Although, we did see the passport search by the army. I heard you like action movies.
AF: From the beginning, I knew that I didn’t want to show violence. I felt like it would be obscene to portray the violence in the film like it is in action movies. I feel like it might be okay if your goal is purely entertainment, but if you’re trying to add a bit of political sensibility, you can very quickly cross the line into obscenity. I also do not believe in reconstructing history like a museum. I believe you have to tell a story. I wanted to tell the story from today’s perspective. The same things are happening today. I think it allows us to make projections about what is happening today. It’s for all these reasons that I thought it’s better not to show the violence.

HS: Your co-writer Mariano Llinas’ films are very powerful, radical, full of experimental ideas, fragmented pieces like weaving a carpet, and deeply connected to literature like the works of Jorge Luis Borges and books like Arabian Nights. However, he has a different approach when he writes screenplays for other people. In those films, he has a very critical political viewpoint and he expresses them vividly in films like Summit and Student. He is very clever in the way he writes his politics into his films. How and why did you choose to collaborate with him?
AF: Yes, I met him because I was interested in his universe. It’s very stimulating for me. I was very fascinated by his movie Extraordinary Stories. I have to say, even though I am a cinephile, there are very few films that I watch that inspire me to make films. I see a lot of impressive work but I always think to myself, I can never make anything like that which is a depressing thought for a filmmaker. However, Mariano’s work is different because he works with very few effects and lots of emotions. I believe that we can make simplistic films when it comes to production and effects that are very impactful.

Anyway, I am interested in his universe. So I approached him with the backing of my Argentinian production company and told him that I want to work with him. That’s how we started working together. Mariano wasn’t writing the movie. I wrote the screenplay and he was like a mentor to me.

As you said, Mariano, like Jorge Luis Borges is very good at managing narrative structures. He is in full control of the narrative and makes suggestions on how to use different storytelling models. I am currently working with him on another movie and I really believe he is a genius. The way he uses narrative models is impressive.

HS: What about the dialogue? How much of it was you and how much of it was him? I think he writes very good dialogue. I believe he also comes from a world of literature. The world you created is without a doubt rooted in literature.
AF: Yeah, I have to say that we are very similar in that way. We have now become close friends and use the same references and types of jokes. We have a very similar viewpoint on different subjects.

Regarding Azor, I wrote the whole script and most of the dialogue. He helped me with some of the dialogue. After we read them together, we made them better. He is a great influence on me.

HS: Azor and other terms that are used in the film are actual banking terms or did you create them?
AF: I didn’t create those.They actually use those terms.

HS: I believe there is a connection between “Azor” and “Lazur.” Azor means be quiet in the world of banking and Lazur, which could come from Lazarus of Bethany, a Biblical figure described as being raised from the dead, was the name of a military camp. Maybe we can interpret the movie as going from Azur to Lazur, a bridge between the world of banking and the military — a link between somebody who is using Azor and who becomes Lazur at the end.
AF: I mean at this point; you are the detective and I am the killer. I think critics are the detectives and the filmmakers are the killers.

The movie is like a labyrinth. It is for you to decide what your relationship with different parts of it is like. Some parts are obvious, some need to be decoded. You are the detective that needs to solve the mystery by any means necessary.

HS: There is also the metaphor of the swimming pool which shows up a couple of times in the movie. Some characters are obsessed with it in a way that is related to their identity. Also, many characters in your movie are defined by their thoughts and images of objects like books, sculptures, decorations, location, etc. I understand what you mean by we are the detective because we have to put all these clues together to figure out the fate of the character.  In the end, we find out that all these objects were collected by the army. As you had said before, it’s the parts of your grandfather’s notebook that is missing but we can see them if we look carefully.
AF: I think my job as a filmmaker is to play some possibility of interpretation and do it very seriously. Every possibility needs to have a consequence.

For example, swimming pools were important, of course. I found out that in that area if you don’t have a swimming pool, you’re a loser. In my research, I came across a photographer that worked a lot in European and American high society and told me it was very easy to take photos of those people by their swimming pools because they see it as a sign of power.

It was important for me to not portray it as a luxury or an eye-catching location. A swimming pool in Azor is a sign. You know they really use it. That’s why it’s important for the swimming pools to be in the movie.

On top of that, every location in the movie is a character. The idea is similar to watching a ghost movie. You can feel people in places that aren’t actually there. In Azor, the ghosts are not dangerous creatures but living people.

HS: I remember swimming pools having a similar meaning in Lucrecia Martel’s The Swamp. The other thing I wanted to ask you about is Rene Keys. I believe we first see him in the first scene of the movie. Also, in the last scene, a man was laughing in the background. There was also a picture of a tree. As a detective I deduced that he is probably a character that disappeared during the movie, it must be Rene Keys. The strategy of revealing small details about all the characters gradually is very engaging. It’s exactly like weaving a carpet.
AF: For me, the plot is not the main part of a movie. The characters and locations mean the most. I spent a lot of time meeting with different people and I used those meetings a lot while I wrote the script. For example, I didn’t know the people that own the way horse race place, the club, the sequel, or the outermost club arms circle. I was invited there and I observed their behavior and mannerisms. Some of those places were so inspiring that chose them to be actual locations for the film.

My research for this film was very in-depth and precise. I took a lot of detailed notes to remember everything I had observed and heard.

The details of the plot, locations, and characters all developed during my research. The movie came from my research and interest in creating a unique universe and landscape. I’m more interested in creating a landscape than a simple plot. I wanted to create something holistic.

HS: Can you please tell us about the casting process? I remember the face of Fabrizio Rongione from the movie of Eugene green like The Son of Joseph, La Sapienza with his calm face and manner of speaking with zero emotion, just like Ivan de Wiel in your film represses his fear, anxiety, frustration, pride, and satisfaction.

I can also remember your actress, Stephanie Cleau from Mathieu Amalric’s The Blue Room. She is also very mysterious and wise as I told you like Lady Macbeth. Both of them achieved the complicated essence of your complicated characters.
AF: Yeah. I have been working with two casting directors. Maria Laura Berch for the Argentinian part, and Alexandre Nazarian who is very important in France and working with Arnaud Desplechin and friend of Mathieu Amalric. They were working with other people.

I may not be as much of a cinephile as you are. I am very selective about movies. I just remember general feelings from movies and never remember actors. But it’s very different when I meet people during the casting process. My mind is very focused and I’m a different person. I think I have a good understanding of whether this person is good for character or not.

When I met Stephanie, I realized that she was a great match because she was both mysterious and had charisma. You could also see how clever she is from the first time you meet her. The first impression in casting is really important to me. I was very impressed in that first meeting.

It was the same for Fabrizio Rongione. From the first impression, I realized that he was a great match for the role. The rest was just the normal process of casting.

HS: In another interview, you mentioned that besides the main characters, the other actors were all non-professionals. It must make your job as a director difficult to work with professional and non-professional actors at the same time. Why did you decide to cast the film this way?
AF: I come from a background of, let’s say “cinema du réel”, which blurs the line between fiction and documentary. I’m more interested in real people acting. But of course, sometimes you need professional actors with certain technical abilities.

It was important for me that the banker be a professional actor because I wasn’t interested in casting a real banker but for a rich Argentinian character, I wanted to cast a non-professional because people that are rich in Argentina have certain impunity and it shows in the way they behave. They act differently from other people. Even if you go to see a football match with them, you can see that everything is different around them. They feel like nothing can happen to them because of their money. I thought it was important to bring that reality to the set.

HS: Was it difficult to direct non-professional actors in a movie that contains so much historical detail?
AF: It would be strange if I said no. I’m very interested in directing professional and non-professional actors at the same time. I believe it goes to the heart of my job as a director. Even if you are making a documentary, you have to form a relationship with real people that are in your film. You have to accept that something artificial is happening with their presence in front of the camera. You have to create mise-en-scene. You inevitably have to form your story.

Direction is very important. You have to know where you want to go. I, fortunately, knew where I needed to end up. I just needed to observe them and how they are as normal people, what kind of skills they had, what kind of fears and desires, and what kind of vocabulary, and incorporate those on set. For example, I could see that this person is slower after about 5 takes. Maybe that’s better performance or maybe it’s not good. It was very important for me to learn these things. There are tools that I could use on set.

HS: I couldn’t tell that they were non-professional actors from watching your movie. I was just watching the scene where the guy plays guitar and how you framed the faces of people listening. It’s a beautiful shot and you can see that something is going on in their minds watching them. You can see the expression on their faces. I would love to learn more about how you directed non-professional actors in this scene. Another funny thing about the acting was the cameo of Mariano Llinas in the club. He is your mentor in writing and in that scene, he speaks with your main character and tells him that the most important person is coming and to be careful about your words. The exchange that he has with the bishop in the next scene is the most frightening moment of the movie. Who’s idea was it for Mariano to be in that scene? I know he had acted in his films and his friends’ films before.
AF: Interestingly, you say that. I think you’re right. He just points the main character toward the bishop and tells him to be careful and that he is very important which of course I was aware of during the writing process.

Actually, when I talked to Mariano about it at first, it was just a joke.

Mariano is famous but there are a lot of my friends in the film that you didn’t recognize because they are not well known.

I think when you’re making a film with such a dark subject matter, you still have to make the process fun. It’s sort of a game. If we are too serious, I think it can kill the movie. There are a lot of movies that I would like to love but they are too serious and too heavy to enjoy and grasp the idea. These cameos made it more fun for us.

HS: I would like to ask you about the three people you worked with and their roles in the movie. I’ll start with your director of photography Gabriel Sandru. This was his first major film. He hadn’t done such a movie before, but he did such a great job. How did you choose him for this movie?
AF: He had done a Swiss movie called “La idea de un lago” (The Idea of a Lake), presented in Locarno, and much more. I don’t remember the name in English but it was an important movie. Swiss cinema doesn’t get much international attention. What is happening with Azor is quite exceptional. I’m very happy about it.

First I decided to work with him because it’s a Swiss production, and we need to work with Swiss crew members. But then I knew it was a great decision. Gabriel is confident and very precise. I needed precision. That’s the most important thing to me with technicians — not to be shiny or charismatic, but to be very precise, discreet, and low profile. It’s easier to work with them that way.

HS: Did he have any suggestions about the look of the film, the color, or the lighting? Did you have all this in mind from the beginning?
AF: About the decoupage and framing, I worked with Gabriel Sandru and also with a friend, Gabriel Azorin, who’s credited as a directing consultant. We worked on all the frames ahead of time. It was a lot to prepare for but we came up with all the shots and how they were going to be framed. We sometimes had references to shots from different movies. It was like working together as film students and studying different shots.

With Gabriel Sandru, we talked a lot about lighting and lens choices. Very quickly we concluded that we want to do things the old-fashioned way on set and not in post-production. We wanted to capture the look of the movie on set. With these new cameras, you can shoot the movie in a flat way and create the look in post-production but we didn’t want to do that.

What I had in my mind was low-key lighting. Similar to Gordon Willis’ style — a classical shape to avoid looking trendy and superficial. I wanted to movie to be clear in the narrative and not show off with the imagery.

HS: Another person that is influential in creating the unique feel of your movie is your composer Paul Courlet. His music and the way you used it in the movie reminds me of Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut in an indirect way, even though it is electronic music. The level of tension is impressive. The guitar scene is very sad and melancholic as well as the music for the end credits. It appears to me that this is also the first time that he composed for a movie.
AF: The comparison to Kubrick’s music is completely unintentional and it definitely happened unintentionally. I didn’t have that as a reference in mind.

I knew Paul and I think he is a very good musician but nobody knew him in Geneva. He was living alone in the mountains out of the city. I had heard his music in Geneva when I was younger and I always thought he is a great composer. I wasn’t sure how to use his music but I need some music after shooting Azor and I had the idea of asking Paul. I hadn’t seen him in years but I had the idea of writing to him. In my letter, I asked him if he had something he had not used just sitting on his hard drive. He sent me about 5 or 6 different tracks. When I heard one of them, I said this is perfect for Azor. I was sure about my decision.

Then we worked on that track. I would say it was more of an adaptation of his work than a composition for the movie.

HS: So, he hadn’t read the screenplay or seen the movie? You just asked him to send you some tracks and you adapted them for the movie?
AF: I completely reconstructed his composition by myself off of his original music. I mean, I actually stole his music. [laugh]

HS: Again, it is very interesting to me the way you use music and sound in your movie. Who was in charge of sound design for the movie? Were you in charge of everything including the soundtrack and music?
AF: I was a musician before I was a director so I was very particular about the music. That’s why I didn’t ask anyone to work with me because I’m completely sure it wouldn’t have worked. The music is so important because it can change the whole movie. I didn’t want the music to kidnap the emotions of the movie. I’m also a control freak. I know this is not a modest thing to say but if I could, I would have made my music for the movie because I think it’s that important.

Music adds a different layer to your final work and for that reason, I couldn’t ask someone to compose music for my movie and I think it will be impossible to do it for my next movie as well. Maybe I would call Paul again or ask someone else to send me something that I can use in my own way.

HS: How do you go about designing your soundtrack and asking your sound designer to create the atmosphere for these characters? It seems as if they are very isolated and always distant from the city, you create a feeling that they are living in their world.
AF: These people are living completely out of reality. It was important to me that this song give this impression. They live in their private mansions which are completely separated. Actually in Argentina, it is something called the country in English, and in Spanish, it is called a private neighborhood, or close neighborhood. It is American style. Five or six or eight blocks with a border, a gate, and security. For reality exists within the confines of this community and that’s it.

It was very strange because we were shooting in these houses and then next to the perimeter wall of the garden, where there is a very poor neighborhood, we could hear a lot of noise coming from a party, and of course, I asked, but it’s impossible, to have an active music concert in the scene. We would have to ask them to be quieter. However, the producer said we could not go into this neighborhood because it is too dangerous. So it was really interesting because in Argentina you can see this contrast.

HS: What about your collaboration with your editor Nicolas Desmaison? The rhythm and pacing of your movie, every detail was balanced, from beginning to end. The role of your editor can be very important as well in the creation of the world of your movie. Were you involved in the editing process or did you leave everything to him?
AF: I’m not the kind of director who left the editing room and editor alone!

Nicolas is an incredibly fast and intuitive editor. When we’re working with each other, we try and try. I would say let’s try that and then he tried it, and sometimes I was so upset I left the editing room. He would then try to convince me and say “Let me make a new version” to reflect our decisions.  He tried until everything became acceptable, like what I had envisioned in my mind. But I was there with him all the time.

I’m an intellectual and Nicolas also is, and we understood each other very well. But we didn’t work in a theoretic or academic way, I hate to be theoretic. I aim to be concrete and intuitive.

This is the only way to work. Of course, intuition comes from intellect.

I think it was interesting to work with him because we have quite the same subject of interest, so sometimes we talk about literature or even comics. But when we work, it is always concrete. Editing is like writing, and if you use this word and not this one, you can change the entire sentence. It was interesting not to talk and talk and talk about possibilities, to just be able to say, okay let’s try to see what’s going on and if it is working or not. And if it is not working let’s look for another solution.

HS: For the last three or four years, three movies Roja, Common Crime, and your latest film have touched on traumatic histories for your audiences.

I was wondering if you could tell us a little about the new Argentinean cinema for us from your point of view?
AF: I was living in Argentina in 2007 and studied new Argentina cinema, a bit more of the first wave like Lucrecia Martel and Pablo Trapero, etc. When I left Mariano Llinas and Matias Piñeiro and the rest of their generation started their career.

I should say that I’m much more of a fan of this generation, of the new wave of Argentinean cinema.

Their approach to the cinema is completely different. For example, Matias Piñeiro is not in the circle of Mariano Llinas, he is independent and goes for Shakespeare. These directors narrate their ideas in inventive ways.

There is a school called La Fuc. It’s a private school in Buenos Aires. They succeed in bringing in a lot of new directors.

This school is really the factory for New Argentinian Cinema. However, it is a private school, which means that it’s not free, and it’s quite expensive. In Latin America and Argentina, to become a director or to enter the cinema you need to be from the middle class or high class. If you’re from a low class of society it’s very difficult.

I am very enthusiastic about Argentina cinema as it is very dynamic.

HS: How does Switzerland compare to Argentina?
AF: I’m conflicted. Switzerland is a challenging country for cinema. We have two different markets, we have one in French and one in German, so we have two different industries and two different cultures of cinema. Because the markets are so little, it is difficult to have an audience. This makes it difficult for Swiss cinema to gain recognition within the country itself. In contrast, Switzerland has a reputation for having a very good tradition of design and architecture, which are sectors whose quality is internationally recognized. This is not yet the case for the film, although it is beginning to happen.

For example, Swiss cinema is well known for documentaries. For fiction, there is a kind of complexity. On the part of the directors as well as on the part of the public. I think that there are directors who are pushing Swiss fiction cinema forward at the moment – Cyril Schäublin, Ramon and Silvan Zürcher, and Ursula Meier. But let’s say, I think the problem is a lack of tradition.

You know, I think it has to do with poetry. Poetry is not highly esteemed by most people in Switzerland. I was in Iran, years ago, and I was completely amazed by the love people have for poetry. Iran has great poets like Hafez.

But in Switzerland, it’s exactly the opposite. Poets are considered useless, and because of this, it is difficult to make fiction cinema.

HS: What you are saying is that you feel that you have more of a creatively generative environment in Argentina than in Switzerland, is that correct?
AF: Look at the literary tradition in Argentina! You have Cortazar, Borges, Juan José Saer, you also have Rodolfo Walsh, Ricardo Piglia… It’s infinite. Their tradition of narration and passionate debate, maybe it is because of the cultural significance of narrative in Argentina.

In Switzerland, there is a paradox: we are historically highly educated, with a high level of education, but debate, and particularly social or literary debate, is very rare. There is a lethargy rather than a sense of urgency. It is certainly not energy conducive to creation.

HS: How much do you know about Iranian cinema?
AF: Yeah, of course, I like Iranian cinema. I know the work of Kiarostami, Makhmalbaf, Farhadi, Panahi, and Rasuloff, not very well, but for me, Iranian cinema is one of the best.

Iranian Cinema traditions seem to blend traditions of poetry, and the vision of filmmakers themselves, such as with the work of Kiarostami or Makhmalbaf. Their work is creative in representing culture and is well received in Europe at festivals like Cannes.

HS: Can you tell us about what you are working on next and when it will be ready to be seen?
AF: Yeah, the next movie I am working on is about a diplomat. I’m interested in the power of the shadow and how the histories remain in the margins. I think diplomacy is not necessarily about high-profile diplomats but the normal life of diplomats. I find this very interesting because of the opportunities I have on set because actors are like diplomats. The stakes are high, if they are wrong it’s very problematic, and if, it could be that a diplomat’s decision leads to huge conflicts. Yes, I am very interested in creating a profile of a diplomat.

HS: t’s very interesting because, as I told you again, there is another movie from Argentina, The Summit, whose main character is a diplomat.
AF: Yes, Mariano wrote the screenplay for that movie. The Summit is a psychological drama about a president, more of a thriller. This movie is not about high-profile diplomats like them and has nothing to do with the mood and atmosphere of the Summit. I am not interested in high-profile diplomats and psychology either.

HS: What was your expectation after the movie had been shown to an audience and film festivals? Did you expect that your movie would be so well received?  and how it changed to the film festival.
AF: I mean I was like a virgin and I was completely new to that kind of universe and now I am a little bit less new. I think the most important thing is that I will be able to follow my work and just be able to concentrate and focus on what I want to do, and just read more possibilities and not try to think about success because I don’t control it.

I mean the same way I’ve been making Azor and found success with it. I had no idea what it means to try to make a movie. I followed what I found interesting, I think I will continue to work that way.

Maybe expectations will be higher for the next one, and I might disappoint some people. But it’s not a problem, I mean, I cannot control it, you know I can control a lot of things, but I cannot control this. So I am going to be modest and say let’s see what happens in the future.


About Author

Hamed Sarrafi

Hamed Sarrafi is a London-based freelance film critic and journalist a. He used to be a member ‎of the International Federation of Journalists and over a span of 16 years, have ‎been covering many acclaimed global film festivals such as ‎London ‎Film Festival, along with interviewing prominent filmmakers such as ‎Mike Leigh, Walter Murch, László Nemes, Ken Loach, Ben Sharrock, and Cristi Puiu, through self-produced weekly podcasts ‎and feature articles (‎). ‎His ‎articles has appeared ‎in numerous acclaimed Iranian magazines and newspapers ‎for the past 19 years. He is also the writer of ‎a film blog in Farsi, ‎

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