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Interview: Daniel Sánchez Arévalo • Director

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“For me, cinema is a form of therapy”


- The 39-year-old Madrid-born director is generating high expectations with Gordos (“Fat People”), following the success of his multiple award-winning debut work

Interview: Daniel  Sánchez Arévalo  • Director

Cineuropa: Did you feel a sense of pressure and responsibility after the success of DarkBlueAlmostBlack [+see also:
film review
film profile

Daniel Sánchez Arévalo : I found it difficult to get down to writing, but once I have the screenplay and a cast I’m happy with, I shake off the tension. However, when I reach the end, before the release, the feelings of insecurity, pressure and nervousness return…especially as I’m no longer treated so gently: the wonderful warmth with which DarkBlueAlmostBlack was received has disappeared. Now the question is: "Let’s see… What have you done?" And I’ve noticed that more emphasis is placed on the mistakes people see. I don’t sense any hostility, I feel loved by press and audiences alike, but of course they’re waiting to see what the second film will be like...

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I imagine that presenting the project Gordos [+see also:
film review
film focus
interview: Daniel Sánchez Arévalo
Interview with Daniel Sánchez-Arévalo,…
film profile
– a film of and about fat people – to the producer was strange, to say the least.

Not at all, and I did it in several stages, over dinners. From the start, José Antonio Félez (Tesela P.C.) liked the idea. Although it got complicated when I told him that an actor would have to gain 30kg. This meant shooting in different phases, with additional costs and the risk that the body wouldn’t respond. Félez said: "Ok, but only one actor: Antonio de la Torre". But at the following dinner, I told him: "It’s about group therapy: people who are being treated for obesity; there can’t just be one person losing weight".

In the end, besides Antonio, several actors underwent a physical transformation: Verónica Sánchez, Leticia Herrero and María Morales. They were monitored by dieticians and endocrinologists. Antonio had to go from fat to thin and back again in eight months. Halfway through the process, his transaminase (enzyme) levels increased dramatically, which can leave you with after-effects for life. And we’d only shot the start of the film….But he stopped for two weeks and then carried on gaining weight without any problems.

Did the 10-month extension to filming add a great deal to the budget?
It increased by approximately half a million euros. The total budget was €3.5m.

Was it easy, with those temporal leaps in filming, to maintain the film’s tone and intention?
That was one of my concerns: preserving the narrative style in a coherent way. The script enables you to follow the thread, as it was a non-chronological shoot, like a collage. One of the good things about this lengthy shoot was that it gave me time to gradually grow and mature as a director: the scenes I shot at the end are much better, as is the direction of the actors.
During those months, we tried things out. It was like a pregnancy, with unruly hormones, there was something disordered and chaotic about editing and looking for locations at the same time. It was a disconcerting experience but one which enhanced the film, because when you see the material you’ve shot, it helps you to decide how to proceed, correct mistakes and build on what works well. I feel very privileged because it’s difficult to get a producer to have such confidence in a project. There was also the mental exhaustion and the constant feeling, over ten months, that we still didn’t have a film – it was difficult to relax.

With which character in Gordos do you most identify?
I put a bit of myself in all my characters, in order to believe in them and feel that they’re flesh and blood. But if I have to choose, it would be the therapist (Roberto Enríquez). I try to be good and show concern for others, but this creates a great deal of tension. Trying to never put a foot wrong is horrible, because when you do, you make much bigger mistakes. I think there’s a nasty person inside me, that I always try to keep hidden, but when this monster emerges, it’s terrible. I consider myself a good person, but I know what’s inside me…and I’ve tried to gradually rid myself of it so that it doesn’t burst out like in the therapist: he’s the character in whom I’ve expressed my fears.

Why are you so interested in human relations: needs, personal therapy, etc?
It’s the only subject I really know something about, I don’t feel qualified to talk about anything else. And it’s also a form of therapy, to continue examining my problems through other characters and writing about situations in order to fully understand myself: all this helps me.


main awards/selection

Venice 2009 Venice Days - Giornate degli Autori

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