Zoe Berriatúa • Director
by Alfonso Rivera
- Cineuropa talks to actor-director Zoe Berriatúa, who is taking his first steps in the world of feature films with Los héroes del mal, in competition at the Málaga Film Festival
Zoe Berriatúa, who so far has been an actor, short-filmmaker and comic-book author, is making his debut in the world of feature films, self-producing, together with Álex de la Iglesia, Los héroes del mal, a brutal, unrestrained and daring movie about rites of passage and violence among children. The film is part of the official competition of the 18th Málaga Film Festival (17-26 April). Cineuropa spoke to him.
Cineuropa: As the viewer watches your film, they are glued to their seat, unable to move...
Zoe Berriatúa: Of course, because it’s a disturbing film: I’m a little bit kamikaze and I like my movies to make the audience think because I don’t believe there are smart or stupid viewers, but rather that films appeal to the more intelligent or more stupid part of them.
What drove you to tell such a – to put it mildly – “special” story?
Los héroes del mal is based on autobiographical situations, which have been exaggerated, of course: we all had crazy, eccentric friends when we were teenagers. I remember the feeling of having no legal protection when a person is threatening you and you don’t know if they’re mentally unstable. Because... what can you do against a juvenile criminal if they’re going to get out onto the streets again when they turn 18? Nothing: this feeling spawned this film ever since my teenage years, because I used to hang around with some unsavoury characters.
When you presented your film, you said it was an uncompromising movie.
There are two routes you can go down: either you shoot something commercial, in order to make money, where you’re more of a producer than a director, or you make an in-depth, personal film. I think a good film is always commercial; unfortunately, the good movies in Spain pass by unnoticed, but I have had the good fortune to have Álex de la Iglesia as a sponsor, and he’s just as crazy as me, if not more, and he’s among the very few producers who want to make a film that they like, not one that they can sell. And that’s pretty unique. My producers (Álex, Carolina Bang and Kiko Martínez) have tended to be respectful and let me shoot what I wanted – they restricted themselves to only making suggestions, and the final decision was always down to me.
Before you made your first feature, you acted, directed short films and wrote comics...
Ever since I was a child, I always wanted to direct, draw and tell my own stories. Being an actor was a way to skip school and get paid for it: I was very happy because it was all just playing around. I really enjoyed being an actor, but I’m not in love with that profession: my calling is to construct stories. I had to wait ten years to shoot this film, but in eight you can improve a script quite a lot, and even synchronise that script with the classical music you’re interested in. The script is written to match up and harmonise with the moments in the pieces of music.
Do you choreograph the scenes?
I gradually measure the tempos in order to plan the choreography. It’s like making a musical, but with a specific rhythm and tone. That is the director’s job – he or she has to keep an eye on that: if not, he or she can leave, and the crew can shoot the movie. I’ve acted with some influential directors who could have just gone away and left the crew to do their jobs without him bothering them: it’s not about “say it more loudly or more quietly” or seeing whether in this take the shadow of this actor doesn’t line up with that other actor’s. I’m fed up of seeing people who just make films – but not real directors.
What does your father, that great figure of cinema Luciano Berriatúa, think?
We are very alike. When I lack perspective and am unable to take a step back, I show it to him, because he is like me but with more experience and film culture, and he’s more intelligent. I got my love of music from him. This film is like a personal vengeance: I’ve seen my father begin more than ten movies without finishing them. He taught me everything I know, but I didn’t want to get into guerrilla filmmaking, like him, but rather work with more resources.
(Translated from Spanish)