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“I’m a virgin of the cinema world”

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Carlos Vermut • Director


- Golden Shell for Best Film and Silver Shell for Best Director in San Sebastian for the second film by Spanish director Carlos Vermut, Magical Girl, following its debut in Toronto

Carlos Vermut • Director

Following his high-flying first feature, Diamond Flash, released online, 34 year old Madrid director Carlos Vermut jumps to the top division with Magical Girl [+see also:
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interview: Carlos Vermut
film profile
, a film that has positioned itself among the most impressive films of the 2014 San Sebastian International Film Festival, following its global premiere at the Toronto Film Festival.

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Cineuropa: Your first movie, Diamond Flash, released online, became a cult film. Did that success come as a surprise to you?
Carlos Vermut: I never thought of making movies as a career. I had filmed a few shorts and I considered making a movie: I figured I could upload it to YouTube or show it in a friend’s bar, but it grew thanks to the reaction of those who saw it. Since I’ve never been to San Sebastian, I’m not worried about the festival: I’m going to take it like a holiday, I don’t have the pressure of someone who has been working in the industry for a long time; I’m really new to the cinema world.

So Toronto, where you were a few days ago, was your first festival?
No, before that I was at the Austin festival, where you spend the day eating nachos and firing shotguns, it’s quite festive. And I thought that they were all like that, but they’re not: in Toronto you get lost, with so many movies. Magical Girl did really well there and the critiques were good. But I’d be surprised if everyone liked it, because it’s quite a radical film.

What has it been like to jump from working on a €20,000 movie to one with a budget of half a million?
Rather than in the finished work, you notice it when it comes to being able to focus on direction and when you don’t have to spend your time making sandwiches. But the guerrilla production of Diamond Flash benefitted Magical Girl: we were very practical in production and that’s why the movie seems like it’s more expensive than it actually is. 

Do you like that you’ve been labelled the champion of low cost cinema?
I support the desire of creative people to do things with a camera. I encourage everyone to film; the dangerous thing I think is that producers might use that to lower salaries or to avoid paying people. I prefer to have just a few people in filming and for everyone to get paid, rather than having lots of people who don’t get paid.

Even though you released your first film online... do you prefer that movies be seen in a cinema theatre?
The relationship that exists between the viewer and the movie in the cinema is different to the relationship that exists with the computer: in the latter case, you decide when the movie begins, you can pause it or turn it off, and you’re not surrounded by people in silence. This means that the movies must be interesting enough that you can’t pause them. That’s what’s happening with TV series, with the best screenplays. Whereas cinema movies are doomed to be visual spectacles, because you have to take advantage of the big screen, but it’s different at home: we’re in the era of Transformers and of the Marvel heroes. Nowadays, it’s the digital effects studios that reign in Hollywood.

In Magical Girl we’re struck by a wonderful cast, did the actors bring you to write the stories that they play?
Totally! I started writing the script in August 2012 and I sat down with Sara Bilbatúa to work on the casting. And like that, we continuously changed the characters: Bárbara Lennie’s character was going to be a 50 year old woman, and José Sacristán’s was going to be younger than her. You move your markers around and the screenplay is like a Rubik cube: in order for one side to look good, you have to mess around with the others first.

Economic problems also appear in your movie, with that character who sells his books by weight...
Without wanting to be a social film, reality goes hand in hand with my characters, but I don’t want to be a moralist. The fact is that nowadays content is bought by weight, in television for example. We want flat-rate tariffs to see lots of content, even if it’s bad: we’re not interested in quality, rather quantity. We’re doomed to that. 

People compare you to Tarantino, Kaurismaki, Haneke...
We need references and we’re educated with them. I fear that the more you get involved in cinema, the more you distance yourself from reality, but reality is so interesting that you can’t just live in a world of cinema. I don’t want to lose contact with reality and with my world. You have to fight to ensure that that doesn’t happen. Tarantino has lost contact with reality, but Almodóvar hasn’t, recently he spoke about his favourite YouTube videos and I refer to that in my movie.

(Translated from Spanish)

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