Raul de la Fuente • Director
"We wanted to emphasise the truth of this story"
by Aurore Engelen
- CANNES 2018: We met one half of the directing duo behind Another Day of Life, Raul de la Fuente, after the Special Screening of his new film
Another Day of Life [+see also:
interview: Raul de la Fuente
film profile], the film adapted from the cult book by Polish war reporter Ryszard Kapuściński, takes the viewer on an exhilarating visual journey, courtesy of Raul de la Fuente and Damian Nenow. This is a hybrid project which crosses the divide between documentary and literary adaptation, marrying animation and real-life photography. It pulls the audience right to the heart of the story and to the time when this history was unfolding and being written. We met one half of the directing duo, Raul de la Fuente, during the presentation of his film in a Special Screening at the 71st Cannes Film Festival.
Cineuropa: How did this project come about?
Raul de la Fuente: I’ve been making documentary films for years and I’ve always been a fan of Ryszard Kapuściński’s work. I’ve spent a lot of time in Africa myself, I’ve been going there since I was young, and I’ve always tried to retrace his steps to some extent. In my eyes, he was a real hero. His books were like films to me. And then, one day, I said to myself, why not turn his book into a film? My producer, co-writer and I then said to ourselves, even better, why don’t we turn it into an animated film? His universe is so poetic, so fantastical, so surrealist, and the story is so romantic; and the period, the 1970s, opened up so many incredible aesthetic possibilities. Using animated sequences also allowed us to get inside Kapuściński’s head, to get closer to his fears, his poetry. Animation allowed us to dream.
To dream, against the backdrop of a fascinating episode in Cold War history?
The drama at work in the book is an incredible resource for a filmmaker! There’s the 1970s, the Cold War, the US and the USSR fighting for world domination with Africa and Angola as the battleground; the chessboard across which they’d move their pieces. And then suddenly, South Africa and Cuba make their entrance. We had all the ingredients of a war and spy film. But I didn’t want to use animation alone, because we wanted to emphasise the truth of this story. There are real characters and real witnesses in the film and we wanted the audience to see them.
On that note, the film does have a hybrid form to it, with its mix of animated sequences, moving between historical reconstruction and dreamlike scenes, testimonials, modern-day shots of Angola …
Kapuściński said that the purpose of life is to cross frontiers, to tread new paths. Our idea was to create a new cinematographic approach. Whenever Kapuściński was in the field, covering a story, the soldiers he came across in the trenches would beg him to take their photo, so as to leave a trace of themselves. He wanted to write legends about the nameless; to shine a light on humanity by revealing the fates of individuals. Carlotta, one of the key characters in the film and the story, entrusts her fate and her memory to Kapuściński. "Make sure we’re not forgotten ". It’s a memorial, a project of commemoration.
The animation has been directed beautifully…
We created these scenes using motion capture, we filmed them with actors, and there were a lot of takes. For the opening scene, we were looking to imitate the style of 1970s war films: it begins with an aerial view, with leaflets being thrown out of an aeroplane and landing in the hand of Kapuściński, whom the camera is following as he makes his way through the city streets, jostling against a tide of people who are trying to escape the country.
The documentary scenes firmly anchor the film in history, but also in the here and now.
The testimonials are the heart and soul of the film. I could never have made it without them, and the same goes for the images we shot when retracing Kapuściński’s steps: History is at the heart of everything, after all. The first step for us was to meet eyewitnesses - those who were there the time. We found one of Kapuściński’s colleagues who was still a journalist in Angola, 40 years later. On returning home from Angola, we got to work on recreating the animated alter-egos of our witnesses, based on our meetings with them and on the photos of their younger selves which they’d entrusted to us.
How did you decide to broach the gap between Kapuściński’s state of mind in 1975 and the reality of the situation in Angola 40 years later?
It was a glorious period in history. Kapuściński was convinced he was witnessing events which would change the face of humanity. An entire continent was awakening before his very eyes. There was a lot of hope, but we then had to juxtapose this hope with the situation 40 years later, after more than 30 long years of war. What became of the humanist dreams from that time? The various modern-day testimonials that we’ve heard all attest to this great gap; the chasm between the wild expectations that once existed, and the disillusionment that has since come to replace it.
(Translated from French)
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