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Interview with Spanish director Alfonso Diaz

We put some questions to Spanish director Alfonso Diaz, winner with the short film "El Atraco," of the first Seventh Short Film Festival.

Here's what he told us.

The theme of El Atraco is serious, but it has a comedy tone. Why did you choose this mode?

First of all, I want to thank the Festival again for the warm reception of my short El Atraco, this award helps us to continue with our creations!

Santiago Pajares, the screenwriter of the short always says that comedy helps him talk about serious issues. I think this is a good example and I agree with him. I always like to shoot something different from my previous work and this story was perfect for me.

From my point of view, since I chose the subject to develop for the project, I always envisioned the short film permeated with comedy of the absurd, but not excessive; I didn't want to make just a funny ten-minute short film or shoot exaggerated, over-the-top scenes. I also needed to find the right dramatic tone, and we had to rehearse a lot before shooting. The final confrontation is a crucial point where a more dramatic register veiledly creeps in.

I loved working with actors Juanma Lara and Aitor Merino so much, I think they are enormously talented! I just had to make sure we were all on the same page in terms of tone and intensity.

Interestingly, Spanish director Alex De La Iglesia also made the film "El Bar," a comedy thriller about the deterioration of human relationships.

Yes, I remember De La Iglesia's El Bar, a curious coincidence but the film has a more extreme approach, while I found more similarities with Nacho Vigatondo's black and white short "7:35 in the Morning."

The use of steadycam, with almost invisible editing cuts, is striking. Were you inspired by any models?

Thank you for noticing the editing style, I wanted to differentiate myself from my previous works and I had never worked with steadycam before. I wanted to shoot this short film in a single sequence plan, in fact, we shot only three sequences joined by as many rapid horizontal pans, so as to mask the cuts in post-production. Of course, to accomplish this, we had to take several takes in just two days of shooting. Given the result, I think it was worth it and it worked. Without a doubt, using this technique was quite a challenge.

Do you have a favorite movie or genre?

One of my favorite films is Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia, the camera movement is something exceptional. Every time I see it again I think the filming and the audiovisual language is really wonderful.

It seems that an agreement between different generations is needed to solve the social crisis. What do you think about this?

Yes, the screenwriter expressed it like this:

"I cannot help but think of the two different types of thieves. Da una parte abbiamo il ladro di professione, un uomo che compie misfatti perché non sa fare altro nella vita. Cresciuto nella malavita sa come fare il suo lavoro, rapina negozi, veloce e senza rischi non necessari. Dall’altra parte abbiamo il nuovo tipo di ladro, un uomo con un’alta istruzione che si è lanciato nel mondo criminale spinto dalla pressione, dalla necessità di sfamare la sua famiglia. Un tipo molto nervoso che ha visto troppi film. Cosa succederebbe se i due mondi venissero a scontrarsi?”. In El Atraco they must both find a way to resolve their situation, finally realizing that they are in the same crisis: that of all Spaniards.

Have you had any funding from the government? Is it difficult to find funding for young filmmakers in Spain?

Yes, we got 30% of the budget from ICAA (Spanish Film Institute) which made this project possible. It was the first time we applied for it and we were lucky! There are also regional grants but it is very difficult and complicated to get them because many of them do not give you the funds before you have accounted for all the expenses to be incurred. With ICAA it is easier and you work better. If they decide to support you, they transfer the money before the shoot. And that is pure oxygen for the producer.

 

How do you see the future of Spanish cinema?

A very broad question. I think we have a lot of talent. Spanish short films participate in festivals all over the world, and feature films and documentaries are also appreciated in festivals and by audiences. But with regard to feature films we will always have the same problem: your film will go unnoticed at the box office if you don't have a distribution channel that promotes and supports you properly.

How did your passion for directing begin?

I have always loved writing since I was little. I remember when I was 10 years old and spent weekend nights alone watching a large number of video cassettes. Films of all genres and qualities, both good and not so good! One fine day, when I was 14 years old, I went with my father to the center of Madrid to see a film in the original language (which is very rare in Spain, except for the big cities) and I began to understand how powerful the audiovisual language was when associated to storytelling. After finishing compulsory school I started working in video clubs to pay for film school. I was only 19, I was very young.

Would you like to get to tell your stories in a feature film?

Absolutely!!! A feature film is always a director's ultimate goal, but first you have to work hard on a great script and then try to find the right producers to make it. It's really complicated! But for sure, I feel more and more ready to face this test....

What will your next project be about?

I am now working on a new short film called "Acto Reflejo" [Reflected Act] and I am confident, and convinced, that we will receive the right institutional support to make it....