PERCEIVING CINEMA WITH DIEGO FANDOS

What films do I select? It´s a mix of entertainment, humanity, and innovation, I guess. For «entertainment», I don´t mean «stupid fun» or «stupid action», I mean that I don´t want to get bored. Nobody wants…


Diego Fandos is a Spanish writer and filmmaker. He studied in the University of Navarra and FAMU International and is the recipient of a number of literary awards based on his shorts. Diego has written and directed shorts, TV commercials, documentaries and the feature «Cosmos», that competed in the Festival of San Sebastian (2007) and was commercially released in 2008. That year, Diego moved to Prague where he started to work in the screenwriting department of Prague Film School. He has been a jury member at various international film events. His first book (El libro de los amores limón / Lemon loves, a collection of fifteen short stories) was published in Spain on 2015. -2002 “The star” (short) -2006 “In the house of the Jesuits” (documentary) -2007 “Cosmos” (feature) -2014 “Under pressure” (short) -2017 «Aurora» (short)


Why do we select this film, not another? What film will select a cat fancier? A bad film about kitty or good drama that is not related to kitty at all. What films would select Godard? Tarkovsky? Diego Fandos? Really, Diego, what criteria do you use?

Diego: What films do I select? It´s a mix of entertainment, humanity, and innovation, I guess. For «entertainment», I don´t mean «stupid fun» or «stupid action», I mean that I don´t want to get bored. Nobody wants. So, 3 minutes of a static shot of a man walking in a landscape moving away from his village («Uzak», Nuri Bilge Ceylan´s), because it´s telling me that something is changing — how a proper story works -, for me is entertainment.

On the other hand, for instance, the last film of Sergei Loznitsa, «A gentle creature» was -for me- neither entertainment or human, I felt it as parody. Or «Bal/Honey» (it won Berlinale) for me was pure boredom. Why was it boredom? Because in spite that it was a beautiful forest and the child had beautiful eyes, the story was not saying anything to me, was not transmitting any human values (or I was not able to get them), nothing was changing, no movement… Or «Neon demon», or «Jupiter ascending»… they lack humanity… So, I don´t care about a film being a blockbuster or arty… as mentioned, I like entertainment and humanity… being both very broad concepts.

Nuri Bilge Ceylan is for me the most interesting director nowadays. But I also like movies like «Pacific Rim» or «The fifth element». They give me. They provide.

And innovation… making something in a different way, it´s not usual, it´s not easy. Kieslowski did it. Wong Kar Wai did it. Also Lanthimos…

Talking about the kitty fan… maybe my kitty is «isolation» (or trying to break it), I connect very well with movies like «Three colours: Blue», «Dracula», «Uzak», «Naked», «Somewhere», «Manchester by the sea»… they talk about isolation. I grew up in a village and I felt like the character of Woody Allen in «Love and death», I guess that I digested some kilograms of isolation in my early years. I was surrounded by great people, but sometimes -for any reason- it´s hard to find a connection. But I also found the library in the village. That was beautiful.


Image of «AURORA» (Gran-Prix, Short Movie Club Film Festival).


What are your most satisfaction and most disappointment related to filmmaking?

— Two layers, the personal and the artistic.

In the personal layer, the most satisfactory elements are that you meet people with your same sickness and that you are able to connect with them. Last month I met with a 17 year old girl from my village. She wants to be a filmmaker. Or… she´s already a filmmaker, she wants to study something in order to polish her craft. It was the first time we met, and the click was immediate. You meet people that understand you, speak your same language and care about making people connect, entertain and change the world for better. That´s what I like.

The disappointment is that sometimes -in order to achieve this- you have to talk with people that speak a different language, and I don´t mean Italian, or Russian, or these kinds of languages.

In the artistic layer, when you see that your film is felt by the audience, that´s gold for the soul. When you realize that the connection hasn´t bee made, then, you feel frustrated or -directly- depressed.

— And it is very interesting who are students of the cinema school? Can you share some main points of your experience in teaching?

-It´s like football, you have to make them enjoy what they are doing and not making them to feel under the pressure of making the best short film ever. But at the same time, you have to be demanding, I try to direct them in a way that the energy goes in a right direction. I want all of us to discuss the objective principles of drama, I want them to know when stories work and when they don´t (this applies for Spielberg, David Lynch, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, etc..). And I want them to have free space to bring their own originality and style.

And what I really want is that they actually do work. When I hear that they get lost in the forest of temptations, I get frustrated, basically because I can feel it in the results. Around filmmaking could be fun, no doubt, but no more fun than work.

For me, as a teacher, is a pleasure to see the growing of some students through the year. I like giving them my hand, not pushing, and then the results usually come. It´s about passion, work, and some grams of talent, of course.

The answer could be much longer. I could write a book about it. Actually, I´m writing a book about it and hopefully will be in the e-stores this year.


Workshop with Diego Fandos at BelarusFilm Studio.


-What was a trigger of your creativeness?

-Good question. I hear something and this surprises me, then, I want to write about it; or two different topics are put together, etc…

Maybe «the fish out of the water» is a strong trigger. In my feature «Cosmos» somehow it was like that… 1992, a Spanish business man is kidnapped for nine months, for nine months he is out of the game, and when he comes back, the world has changed: her mother has died, her daughter is pregnant and the Soviet Union (the country where he was born) has disappeared. I felt that the protagonist was a fish out of the water. Actually, I wrote the script in 1997, and then «Good bye Lenin» came in 2003 that is somehow similar because the Berlin Wall fell while the protagonist´s mother was in coma; another fish…

Last month I found the story of the beguines, a group of women that were kind of feminists in the Middle Ages… I never heard about them… I´d like to write about that. More fishes.

For «Aurora», the creativity came from the contemplation of a sunrise, it felt as a sacred moment… and I needed to do something with it.

Creativeness… Who knows? Somehow we have to be able to feel that a story has possibilities… When I was in the university, a professor asked for ideas… I came with a very unlikely romance: a nowadays man feels in love with a woman who lives in the times of the Roman Empire. It was the first idea that the professor rejected. It was crazy, no doubt… Some years later I was at home, watching TV in a lazy Sunday afternoon… and my idea was there -a very similar version- in an American film… and it worked, it worked!!!… I felt that my idea it was correct, crazy but human… This is one of my obsessions as an instructor: not being the guy who sends a good idea to the garbage. But then, I also have to warn the students when I think that an idea for sure won´t work… they also pay me for this…

Another trigger is some theme, something that obsesses me, like lately, for instance, the sentence «¿y si los malos somos nosotros? / what if the bad guys it´s US?» I´m reading about Heydrich, and I´m looking forward to consult the book written by his wife, where -30 years later- she still felt that she married a lovely man. It is easy to see the Heydrichs of 80 years ago. It´s not so easy to see the Heydrichs around us.

-Some weird, strange or maybe fun story related to your experience in art?

-More than related to art is what the stories around me, that I have experienced in my life, has made me «vomit» in my art. For instance, in 1997, I was going to take a train, to start a trip through Europe that it was going to take me to Prague: I wanted to see FAMU (the film school where later I studied). In the last moment, I didn´t take that train. It had an accident and around 12 people died. That was the period where I saw signs in many aspects of my life, and of course, this was an important one. But, as a good story, it was metaphorical, with different meanings and explanations. I knew that going to Prague (I went later by plane) was going to change me. Prague meant cinema, art, a new approach to life… Has art saved my life or has art destroyed my life? Or both? Who knows? My new story talks about this, who we are and who we could had been.



Columnist
Aliaksandr Martyniuk