13/08/2014 Cristián Jiménez raises his “Voice over” to the World

With a double international premiere recently announced and happening simultaneously in two continents, Cristian Jimenez’ third film (“Ilusiones Ópticas”, “Bonsái”) will screen at TIFF and will be part of the official selection of the prestigious San Sebastian Film Festival during this month. The film starred by Ingrid Isensee shows the fractions and reencounters of a Valdivian family in the south of Chile. Paulina Garcia, Cristián Campos and María José Seibald are also part of the cast, with the special appearance of French-Canadian actor, Niels Schneider (“L’age atomique”, “Les Amours imaginaires”).

Cristián, “La voz en off” is your third film and once again is set in Valdivia, is Valdivia your main inspiration?

Not really. I seldom visited Valdivia before making films, it was always on vacation or to visit my family, but since “El Tesoro de los Caracoles”, little by little I reconnected with the city; more than a source of inspiration, I think I experimented a return to the same places but with a new perspective, like a discovery that happens through film. In any case, I’m not opposed to shooting in other places and I have several ideas on file that don’t take place in Valdivia.

Is a fact that the character played by Ingrid Isensee, just like her in real life, works as an announcer and voice-actor for advertising. Was the script written for her?

At some point it was, but I’m not sure if it was before or after Sofía (the character) began announcing. The point is, I knew early on and we did most of the writing with her in mind. The first thing I had was the title and the idea of making a film a bout a family, where what’s at stake is linked to a tale in crisis, the real story unfolds later. Giving María José Seibald the role of Ana was also an early idea in the scriptwriting stage.

There’s something very present in your films, is that adulthood is always portrayed as a kind of failure, although viewed as somewhat ironical… is this was happens to you personally? The feeling that as you grow you loose things.

I think I’m a pessimist by nature; I always tend to think that things will turn out bad and sometimes I can overcome this. I’m not scared by the idea of failing however, nor am I obsessed or fascinated with the idea of winning. I guess we always win and loose something during life’s journey. We always sacrifice or loose something, even when you win. We always detach ourselves from something we appreciated, on the road to becoming something else or simply choosing a road, independently from having had many options or almost none.

With years I believe we become more tolerant against failure or even victories. Things gain perspective and humor becomes more acid. Maybe it’s a family thing; my grandma’s jokes become more acid as years go by.

I like the Narrative lines on the film, there are many and they intertwine in smart ways. Is it fundamental for you to be the scriptwriter of your films? Would you write for other directors? Would you direct other’s scripts?

Generally speaking, even if I’m not trying, I don’t find it easy to create simple scripts…the kind that has one character, one conflict, one antagonist, one obstacle, turn, turn, and resolution; unless it’s a script that I have been hired to write.

I usually begin with common fragments that I link together until the storyline appears by trial and error. The links can be dramatic but also more intellectual or concrete. On principle, I would say that I only direct my own scripts, but I used to direct other’s scripts for TV and it was a good experience. I have a film project (with Alicia Scherson and Alejandro Zambra) in which I’m not the scriptwriter. I am an active part of the writing process and contribute with more or less precise indications, but I haven’t written a line and we know that writing is not giving ideas or supervising, but actually sitting down to write. To use your hands or use dictation on the phone, but finally it’s a concrete and material task.

Coming back to your question, I don’t have to write it if I have some control over the story. For example, I started working on films by writing for Andrés Waissbluth, since then, I have written and consulted in a variety of projects, from art-house short films or features to sitcoms and commercial films, such as Kramer.

Despite the fact that “Voz en Off” is not a literary adaptation such as “Bonsái” was, do you still worry about the narrative reflections on fiction…Is there a certain literary taste that manifests in you as director?

I have always been very attracted to stories in which the tale itself is an issue or a problem…not only as director but also as a viewer. I don’t know if it has to do with a literary taste, but it’s possible. When I was a boy I loved telling jokes and within my family there’s a lot of talent for story-telling around the table, remembering episodes with that special spark that either adds or removes elements, or placing emphasis thus making an anecdote become a compelling plot.

I’m very interested in the power of the narrative and the need we have for fiction, which usually comes out when some of these fictions crumble. Sometimes they are plain fantasies, fiction plays many roles in society.

I’m also attracted to incoherence and contradictions that happen within fiction. Sometime ago someone wrote that my films had sort of a cosmopolitan-provincialism, I would have never thought of saying something like that and I’m not sure I fully understand it, but I do identify with the bipolar fiction that it suggests.

If that Voice-Over were real, what story would it tell about you? How would it introduce you?

I feel a little self-conscious putting words in that fictional voice-over mouth to talk about myself, but I suppose that we are several things at once and undoubtedly the contradictions would arise.

Lets talk about the camera. The way you tell the story seems more relaxed, it’s looser… as if you had prioritized action over the framing, which was not the case in “Ilusiones Ópticas” and “Bonsái”

Yes, the camera work doesn’t fixate on precise frames as in other films, it focuses on the breath and vitality, at times even on chaos. For me, the main shift of focus has to do with the sound, starting with the dialog and the place it has in the movie, because that loose image format is accompanied by a very controlled and artificial sound. It’s a narrative form that is very linked to sound.

This is a more “oral” film. Actions are built and experienced from the echo and that echo has a place within the family’s dialogs.

You will premiere simultaneously in two continents. How did that happen and what do you expect will happen with the film in the future?

These were the first two festivals we showed the movie to. They both liked it and they are compatible, so I’m a little anxious and with the adrenaline that comes from knowing that we will finish everything just a couple of days prior to the first screening.

From there on, everything is welcome. It has been an incredible project, but also very hard, so for now I just want to enjoy having made it this far. I feel fortunate and that is a good sensation.

Thanks Cris, good luck in Toronto and San Sebastián.

BY Roberto Doveris

Patners