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Mauro Herce • Director

"For me, cinema is a necessity"


- Spanish filmmaker Mauro Herce is showing his multi-award-winning first work, the enthralling Dead Slow Ahead, shot on a cargo ship, in Gijón

Mauro Herce  • Director

Filmmaker Mauro Herce, from Barcelona, is part of the documentary jury at the 53rd Gijón International Film Festival, at which – out of competition – his multi-award-winning first work, Dead Slow Ahead [+see also:
film review
interview: Mauro Herce
film profile
, a captivating film shot on a cargo ship, is also being shown.

Cineuropa: Your film is a total immersion in a unique atmosphere. How and with what team did you achieve such a great feat?
Mauro Herce:
The team was made up of a sound technician and me, with the camera. I thought about taking an actor to create situations, but it would have been impossible for them to accept three of us on a boat. When I'm filming, I like to have freedom to reinvent the film according to my intuition, to be able to take things in one direction or the other, to know that by stirring things up I can lead the film towards a place that interests me; everything’s very open. 

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Doesn't that break the "commandments of the perfect documentary maker”?
I break them ceaselessly: I'm not interested in things that are very pure or strict; I think that real documentary and real fiction don't exist: they are defining labels. In essence, fiction always has something of the truth and the documentary a structure based on fiction: they both cross over with one another. And there is always a point of view: without that there's no film, and therefore everything is an artifice. 

How long did the shoot last on board the cargo ship?
It was extremely hard to find a boat that would let us aboard: we did it in Ukraine, in Odessa, we crossed the Bosphorus, the Mediterranean, the Suez Canal, the Red Sea, and we arrived in Jordan on a ship carrying wheat. Then, once the ship had unloaded, we went around all the Mediterranean, Gibraltar, we crossed the Atlantic and we went up through New Orleans to Mississippi: where we loaded up with coal… two-and-a-half months in total.

Was there a script for your film?
I had to write a kind of script to get funding, although I always left it very open, with situations that could unfold, but knowing what I wanted to convey with the film. That said, I didn't know very well what would happen during the shoot. But I wanted to have enough time: I am confident that if I spend time in a place, I'm going to find out how it works, and I'm going to find the connection between my outlook on the world and what the place itself offers. 

And did that previous idea you had change much?
Yes, it always changes. For me, that's essential: cinema is more than a profession; it's almost a necessity. I spend the day filming; I live through the camera. If in the process I don't learn something about myself or about the world I'm filming, shooting doesn't hold any interest for me. To spark emotion, I have to change myself in the process. And to convey emotion to the viewer, that has to be apparent.

Did you have any cinematic references before filming?
I really like literature and films about boats, but when I work I try to forget all of that. Moreover, when I start to recognise trends that have already been covered in cinema, it seems like a bad path to follow and I get as far away from it as I can because I already know where they go, and they don't make me feel anything or surprise me: I need to look for the element of surprise. Sometimes I don't know how to get it; it's like an emptying process: I don't know what I want, but I know what I don't want. So it's a case of liberating myself from references and ideas… Sometimes, in the mornings, I would write myself a script of things that I wanted to film, and I would often abandon it during the day because much more authentic things would start to happen.

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(Translated from Spanish)

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