Alamar, released in the U.S. by Film Movement, opens for a one-week-only run in New York City at Film Forum. You can find other playdates here (click and scroll down). Once word gets out about this remarkable movie, I should think there will be many more venues added.
Rubio…? I don’t know…
It happens on the boat, I think…
Oh! Yes, Rubia! They are talking about a fish. That is how they name a fish. A Rubia is like a “snapper”.
Ah. Now I get it. So, how many hours of film did you actually shoot for this movie?
About 35 hours.
That’s not that much? Is it?
Not compared to previous work. I remember that I did one where I shot 200 hours. It was The Making of Babel.
The Brad Pitt movie. You did the “making of” part?
Yes, and it was feature-length: one hour and a half. So there were 200 hours because we had to be on the set every day.
Yes, because my grandfather was a filmmaker. He even worked here in the States and directed Anthony Perkins. It is not easy to get hold of that film – it is called The Fool Killer. More than a western. It was sort of a… Midwestern.
Do you remember the young woman who was in it?
I just remember it about the guy and the boy. This was when Anthony Perkins was really … it was after he had done Psycho.
He was really on top of his career back then. What was your grandfather’s name?
Servando González. Gonzales-Rubio is from my father‘s sirname. My grandfather had done his first feature film, Yanco, about an old man who plays the violin, which he passes on to a kid. The townspeople have never heard this sound before, and when they do, they hear it in the night, so they think it is the devil.
This was his first film?
Yes, his first, and it was very difficult for him to get the film out, for people to see it, and he had very few resources. At that time there were very strong syndicates – one for the film making crew -- and the director’s syndicate. Because he did not belong to the director’s syndicate, they did not want him to show this film. They wanted to burn it. It is similar to what happened to the boy in the film.
No, but my grandfather did not speak English.
Then how did he get to make the film?
His Amercian producer has seen Yanco. He was from New York. He said, "I want this director to do this film."
So things like that happened way back then, too.
Yes! It’s crazy but his producer insisted that he do it, even though he did not speak English. But now his grandson does speak English!
And is making movies -- and very well, too! Where are you actually from?
(We talk a bit about Margot Benacerraf's Araya with its stunning photography – which González-Rubio has not seen -- and I Am Cuba – which he says has the most stunning photography ever -- from the same director of photography, Sergei Urusevsky, who did The Cranes Are Flying. I have not seen that one, and so we both agree to watch each film.)
Your leading man is one of the most beautiful, strange, stunning and interesting men I have seen on film. Like a force of nature. Almost otherworldy, at least from a different world that any of us here in the city would have seen.
And your film, which almost seems like a documentary, it not at all a doc. But rather a narrative film. It seems to constantly fudge the line between the two. Where did you get the idea for this film? And does a situation like we see here actually exist wthin a couple – where the two people are SO very different?
The racial mix might be a little unusual, but these two people: How did they meet, how did they bond? We don’t see any of that.
They met because she was a tourist there, and then she stayed to live there. This often happens in this area. She still lives there in Playa del Campo, but they separated and so she lives further down in the south.
Is that where we see her with the boy at the end?
No, we see her in Rome.
Ah… So he may never see his father again. So this is important for the father to pass on his knowledge, like a blueprint for the kid so he will know who he is when he grows up.
There are different levels. With the father it is not like he lives in that location, but he comes there sometimes. So this is voyage for the young man to remember, the kid to learn and the older man, the grandfather, to pass it on. It is like the three generations, three stages of man.
You give us almost no expostion, and you must have done this deliberately, so we must watch and learn as we go along.
Yes, it is a utopia. Kind of.
I wanted to do something that would transport us back to the senations that we had, the sense of discovery, when we were younger.
And you succeeded in that, I think. What else have you done before this?
I did a documentary called Toro Negro. It was screened here in NYC at the Two Boots Pioneer Theater.
Yes! Which is not here anymore.
Too bad. And I also did The Making of Babel – which took two years to complete. I co-directed both of the other two, but this one is all my direction. So here in this one I also did the editing, as I did in the other ones.
So you did the writing, directing, editing and cinematography?!
Yes – except the underwater cinematography. The crew was just two of us: boom operation and myself and that was it. It was a very organic film, and we did all the activites with the characters. I did the cooking; we were like a family. The location you see in the movie was also our five-star hotrel. And it was our catering facility, too!
What did this whole thing cost?
Very little to film. I could finance it myself. But for post-production, that is whre the cost comes – like any film. To do the color correction, sound design, music and then bring it up to 35mm, We shot it on HDV and then blew it up to 35.
Where did you find the actor who plays the father?
Does this guy want to act again, to do another film?
I don't know, but he should!
Did you pay your actors?
Yes. We paid some while we were filming, then something when we finished, but I still have more to pay them.
What festivals have you been to?
The Rotterdam and the Berlinale -- in the Generation Section – which is for children's films. So this movie seems very universal and with a broad range of audience.
I would not call it just a children's film because it makes such as impression on adults, too. Has it been picked up for release by other countries?
Martin Karmitz?! That means France picked it up.
Yes and the UK and Poland and Spain...
Well, your movie does not compare closely to anything else I can think of. It fuses documentary style and narrative, and it does this in such a way that it honors both formats. And it doesn't make you feel queasy, uneasy, about the truthfulness there. The way that some filmmakers handle their subjects.
They're going in and interfereing and not being respectful. That was the trouble with my first film, Toro Negro. it was about a young 21-year-old, alcoholoic bullfight who has no success at all. He comes from the streets and was abandonded at age 11.
Yes, and it is not like anything that has been seen about bullfighting.
Maybe. This is what happened with Toro Negro, my first film: It was a very harsh documentary. Too harsh.. Not like what you know from the usual bullfighting movie. No big arena, where the bullfighters are considered like rock stars. This is the real, harsh, ramshackle bullfighting. It takes place in very poor area. And the documentary explored the inner life of the protagonist, with all the domestic violence – and not talking heads but the real thing. For me as a filmmaker, I did not feel any identification with my subject. So this time I wanted to explore the other side of the coin – love.
Oh-- you look so much younger than that! Are you married? Family?
Is there anything else you’d like to talk about that you have not covered here today?
It’s amazing: You really have packed so much into this 73 minute film. Oh—I do have a last question: What are you doing next?
I know it is going to be a combination of both universes: the good and the devil, the loving and hating – and then this purifying voyage of self-discovery.
Do you have a title yet?
No, but my leading character is Russian. So he is very intense.
Yes, very intense and troubled, I'll bet. Russia is such a strange country. I've never been there -- but just looking at its history. Constantly being under the thumb of, first the Czars, and then the Commusnists, and now the Captialists.
And the Mafia. It is crazy!