"We created a parallel universe"
Sebastián Borensztein has just returned from Mexico, where he was shooting his second movie -Sin memoria (No memories), a psychological thriller that will be released next year –with first-world production requirements. Clarín leaves a couple of messages on his voicemail. The response is a little bit later, including apologies. “I’m really sorry: I didn’t hear the phone ring, I was working out.” His kindness, without any demagogy, unusual in the show business world, will last for the whole conversation. How did you get to shoot in Mexico, with a cast from that country?
It was really crazy. In 2000, we had an idea for a Tiempo Final ‘s chapter (series created with his brother Alejandro) which I felt could be more explored. We started developing this project, but ended up as a draft. Five years later, producer Ben Odell (La mujer de mi hermano) watched my opera prima, La suerte está echada, at the Latin Cinema International Festival in Los Angeles and called me. We started a phone relation and, later on, we came up with the idea of making a movie. This is how I got that idea back. Now it’s being post-produced.
Was it significantly modified along the way?
Yes. There were several flaws on the script. We worked on it with Ben, long distance, for a year: we wrote 21 versions. The modifications had to do with providing it with more American cinema features. In 2007, Ben was awarded the Grand Jury Prize in Sundance, and that placed him on the top of the film industry. He got Televisa’s and Lionsgate’s production. Moreover, there’s an associated Argentinean producer: Verónica Tirone.
Which was the work method? I guess there were more conditioning factors for you than in the film "La suerte..."
I had to go through lots of stages and filters, which are typical of an industrialized system. I was strongly demanded: they asked me every single why for each shot. The idea was to create a commercial movie, without losing the experimental spirit. We did it: the narration has little of conventional, it’s not lineal, with some sort of subjectivity that bring back the memories to the main character. We created a parallel universe, a story that’s placed within a police framework, with known spaces or times. Ben spent hundreds of thousands dollars studying in Columbia; I, by just staying at a hotel, gained all that knowledge.
What’s the story like?
It starts with a man that awakens in a destroyed place and doesn’t understand what he’s doing there. He has to start facing a nightmare he himself created: go over a story in which he, basically, intended to run away with a woman. Characters have a strange morale. No one is good. The movie doesn’t have twists or any implications. Maybe we like the main character, as we “walk together” with him along the story. But he committed terrible actions.
Did you have the freedom to choose actors?
Yes. The decision was to get the best actors in Mexico. I didn’t know the actors from that country very well, but the ones selected persuaded me in the auction. Guillermo Iván Dueñas, who worked in La milagrosa; Martha Higareda, the actress in Amar te duele; Emilio Echevarría, "The goat" in Amores perros. There were also other acclaimed actors, like Pedro Armendáriz.
Armendáriz said: "This movie is a great opportunity to put in a lot of effort together and defend ourselves from the cinema the Americans are bringing to us.” Do you agree?
I consider this movie to be the opportunity to make film grow. We have different visions. Bordering on the States, Mexicans feel a stronger influence from the American industry, which takes away their best talents. In this movie, we worked with Titanic’s technicians; on the set we all spoke English… for an Argentinean director who comes from a country with a small cinematographic industry, the opportunity is unique.
I know you had a detailed pre-production, also actors had to be trained for action…
Iván Dueñas learned everything about ballistics and driving a high-speed bike. Higareda learned to dive really deeply, in difficult situations. I know that as I am a diver. The underwater scenes were shot in Cozumel, in the Caribbean. The interiors were shot in DF, the location shots, in León.
When you made "La suerte...", about a guy considered to be a jinx, they asked you if you were afraid of that bringing you bad luck. You said you didn’t believe in that. It seems now that you were right.
My first movie was highly recognized abroad. It was seen in different festivals, in Toulouse and Trieste. It had a Latin premiere in Paris. Now that I think about my film career as something that doesn’t have a turning back, and you mention this anecdote about my opera prima, I feel it brought me luck indeed. The truth is… lots of luck.