Thursday till Sunday

Chilean filmmaker Dominga Sotomayor talks to Chileno about her directorial debut feature Thursday Till Sunday. Lauded by critics, the film won her the 2012 Tiger Award at the Rotterdam Film Festival and is now showing in the UK.

Thursday Till Sunday is a wonderfully constructed Chilean road-trip movie with a twist, charting the gradual, insidious dissolution of a fractured Santiago family over the course of a long trip by car to Chile’s northern desert region. Sotomayor, also recruiting the expertise of cinematographer Bárbara Álvarez, creates suspense with a well crafted script, the use of long landscape shots and claustrophobic within-car scenes.

Told from the perspective of the young Lucía (Santi Ahumada), fundamental to the story is an inherent duality between the different worlds inhabited by children and adults, epitomised perhaps in a scene which sees the two children riding atop the old beaten up Mazda taking them northwards, ostensibly blissful in their innocence and enjoying the freedom of the open air ride. This is cleverly and sharply contrasted, via the eyes of Lucía, with an inverted and silent shot through the windscreen, showing the parents locked in argument in the stuffy confines of the car.

Dominga grew up in a Marxist collective outside Santiagio, relatively uninfluenced by TV and film in her chiildhood. Nevertheless the film recalls one of her later influences, Michelangelo Antonioni, (Deserto Rosso for example) with intense landscapes provoking an existential anxiety in the characters and audience.

Dominga Sotomayor

So what is Dominga Sotomayor doing when not making films or writing?

 

Dominga Sotomayor

I like being with my family and friends, traveling, reading and cooking. I do yoga, play tennis, gardening, I go to the theatre and cinema. I’m not very routine. At the moment I’m writing two different projects and I have an exhibition of videos and installations planned.

Me gusta estar con mi familia y amigos, viajar, leer y cocinar. Hago yoga, juego tennis, cuido el jardín, salgo al teatro y al cine. No soy muy rutinaria. En este momento estoy escribiendo dos proyectos diferentes y tengo planeada una exposición de videos e instalaciones.

Making the film was a very important process, I feel it was the only movie I could do at that stage…

Dominga Sotomayor

What was it like making the film and what were some of the primary motivations for doing it?

It all started with pictures of family trips, especially a photo I found where my cousin and I were riding on top of a car, tied to the roof rack. The script began as a collection of real and fictitious images, and for me the film can be seen as the capture of childhood and of a time that no longer exists, it has to do with a certain resigned sadness. Making the film was a very important and personal process, I feel it was the only movie I could do at that stage and I was lucky to have a very close and committed team.

El punto de partida fueron fotos de viajes familiares, especialmente una foto que encontré en la que estábamos mi primo y yo viajando arriba del techo de un auto, amarrados en la parrilla. El guión comenzó como una recolección de imágenes reales y ficticias, y para mi la película tiene que ver con la captura de la infancia y de un tiempo que ya no existe, tiene que ver con cierta renuncia al olvido.  Hacer la película fue un proceso muy importante y personal, siento que era la única película que podía hacer en esa etapa y tuve la suerte de tener un equipo muy cercano y comprometido.

Andrés Wood has said that there are few child actors in Chile, was this true for your young stars too?

Yes, the truth is that they are not actors. I wanted to work with children without TV, film or advertising experience I wanted them to be innocent, naive, that lack of awareness of what’s happening around them. I found the film’s three children through acquaintances or in my neighbourhood. Santi is a friend of my little sister, I met her one day when they were playing in my mum’s swimming pool. That’s what often happens in Chile, someone discovers children and later they become actors, that’s what happened to the character Machuca in the film by Andrés Wood, for example.

Si, la verdad es que no son actores. Yo quería trabajar con niños sin experiencia en TV, Cine o Publicidad, quería que tuviesen esa inocencia, esa falta de conciencia de lo que es el registro. Los tres niños de la película son niños que encontré a través de conocidos o en mi barrio. Santi es amiga de mi hermana chica, la conocí cuando estaban jugando un día en la piscina de mi mamá. En general en Chile pasa que alguien descubre a niños y luego se convierten en actores, es lo que pasó con el personaje de Machuca de Andrés Wood por ejemplo.

What do you remember of your own childood, where did you grow up?

My childhood was very special. I grew up in Peñalolen Ecological Community, a neighbourhood on the outskirts of Santiago surrounded by nature. I have very good memories, I think my childhood has influenced my work so far. I grew up surrounded by adults and children, without fixed generational boundaries, and that shaped my personality. I lived in Chiloé for a bit, and a year in Ecuador, I had a long childhood, full of details and changes.

Tuve una infancia muy especial. Crecí en la Comunidad Ecológica de Peñalolén, un barrio a las afueras de Santiago en medio de la naturaleza. Tengo muy buenos recuerdos, creo que mi infancia ha marcado mi trabajo hasta ahora. Crecí rodeada de adultos y niños, no habían generaciones rígidas, y eso me determinó. Viví un tiempo en Chiloé, uno año en Ecuador, tuve una infancia larga, llena de detalles y cambios.

What are some of the pros and pitfalls of making films in Chile today?

I think it’s difficult like anywhere and there are very limited resources. However, we are fortunate to have a public fund that finances film (but it’s very competitive), we have very amazing and varied landscapes, another positive thing is that it is not yet all explored, it’s a new industry. The main downside for me is that there’s not much of a culture [in Chile] to go and see movies, it’s difficult to finance and distribute less commercial films that are looking to explore new themes.

Yo creo que es difícil como en cualquier parte y hay recursos muy limitados.  Sin embargo tenemos la suerte de tener un Fondo Público que financia el Cine (pero que es muy competitivo), tenemos paisajes variados muy alucinantes, otra cosa positiva es que todavía no todo está explorado, es una industria nueva.  El mayor contra para mi es que no hay mucha cultura de ver cine, es difícil financiar y distribuir películas menos comerciales y que tienen búsquedas nuevas.

There is a gripping tension throughout the film that accompanies its steady pace, was this difficult to achieve?

It’s something that I worked on from the script, the same trip by car creates a tension that something might happen. For me it was important to generate a balance between the tension and contentment, I think it has to do with the way children perceive things. It’s also about how memory works, the way one remembers something, a trip for example, the moments can be so happy and so tense at the same time.

Es algo que trabajé desde el guión, el viaje mismo en auto genera tensión de que algo puede pasar. Para mi era importante que se generara un balance entre esa tensión y la plenitud, creo que tiene que ver con la manera en que los niños perciben las cosas.  También tiene que ver con como funciona la memoria, con la manera en que uno recuerda algo, un viaje por ejemplo,  los momentos pueden ser tan felices y tan tensos al mismo tiempo.

The duality between the feeling of two separate worlds of children and parents, how important was it for you to communicate this?

That was the first idea I had from the photo I found of the children on the car roof. On top the children were free, innocent, and the parents below trapped in the heat and with their arguments, I had the idea of making a film of two trips within the same trip, marking the script and staging that duality. For me above all it was important to show real emotions, that discomfort associated with childhood, that distance and fragmentation with which children perceive things.

Ese fue la primera idea que tuve a partir de la foto que encontré de los niños en el techo del auto. Estaban los niños arriba libres, inocentes, y los padres abajo encerrados en el calor y sus conflictos, tenía la idea de hacer una película de dos viajes dentro de un mismo viaje, de marcar por guión y puesta en escena esa dualidad. Para mi era importante sobre todo poder registrar emociones reales, esa incomodidad que conlleva la infancia, esa distancia y fragmentación con que los niños perciben las cosas.

The story unfolds through the eyes of Lucia,  to what extent is this an autobiographical tale?

There are elements of my childhood, of my greatest trips with my little brothers and sisters and people I know, I’m interested in writing about things close to me and what I have observed. The way I wrote and filmed the movie was very organic, with my memories of what I saw and heard when I was a child. I remember those long trips in the back seat, all those things that happen in the confinement of the journeys. That’s the most autobiographical part, the perception I had of the world when I was a girl. Then I wrote a fiction that started filling the voids and it grew quickly.

Hay elementos de mi infancia, de mis viajes de más grande con mis hermanos chicos y de personas que conozco, me interesa escribir sobre lo que tengo cercano y he observado. La manera en que escribí y filmé la película tiene que ver con algo muy orgánico, con mis recuerdos de como miraba y escuchaba cuando chica. Me acordaba de esos largos viajes en el asiento de atrás, de todas esas cosas que pasan en el encierro, de los recorridos.  Eso es lo más autobiográfico, la percepción que yo tenía del mundo cuando chica.  Luego escribí una ficción que fue ocupando todos los espacios vacíos y creciendo mucho.

What is on the horizon now for you Dominga?

This year I am living in Buenos Aires writing my second movie that I hope to film in 2014 in Chile.

Este año estoy viviendo en Buenos Aires escribiendo mi segunda película que espero filmar en el 2014 en Chile.

Thursday Till Sunday (Chile/The Netherlands 2012 I 96 mins I cert. 12A)

Official website: http://www.day-for-night.org/thursday-till-sunday

Thursday Till Sunday is showing at the Broadway cinema Nottingham 31st May – 6th of June and at Riverside Studios in London on July the 1st.

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