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SAN SEBASTIÁN 2018 Zabaltegi-Tabakalera

Xacio Baño • Director

"I didn't want to do things I'd already done with the shorts"

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- SAN SEBASTIÁN 2018: Galician director Xacio Baño, one of the most respected voices in the Spanish short filmmaking scene, talks about his first feature, Trot

Xacio Baño • Director
(© Lorenzo Pascasio)

Over the last few years, Xacio Baño has become a name to be reckoned with on the short film festival circuit. We took advantage of his appearance in the Zabaltegi-Tabakalera Section at the 66th San Sebastián International Film Festival to talk to him about Trot [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Xacio Baño
film profile
]
, his first full-length film — an exhilarating work in which he tries out new formal and thematic registers.

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Cineuropa: You’re making your full-length debut with a film in Galician, with a somewhat unconventional narrative format. How do you get a film like that off the ground?
Xacio Baño: With confidence, and, I think, making a good job of the short films first, which helped get people to take notice of me. For example, in this case with Frida Films, it was them who approached me. They asked me what I had on paper, I told them about the project and they liked it. There’s also the fact that it’s a modest film that could be made quickly and without much funding, and so it got bumped to the top of the queue.

In the film, you keep the camera right on the actors at all times. How did that affect your working dynamic?
The first thing I had to do was create the necessary level of trust. That involves opening yourself up as a filmmaker, as a person, and explaining why you want to make the film in a certain way. It’s telling them, this is who I am, maybe it’s different from what you’re used to, but this is the way we’re going. They trusted me and everything worked out fine. In the course of filming I decided to cut out all the looks, all the pathos, anything that created a direct emotional connection — cutting shots off at the nose or the head, leaving only the body. I wanted to focus on the body’s movement, the rhythm of skin and bone in motion.

The film is about a family going through a very tough time, but it doesn’t let us see the most intense moments. Why did you decide to hold those scenes back?
Because I think all of that is a distraction from what the film is actually saying. Back at the writing stage, we decided not to show certain parts of the drama, but to have the film start in the middle of the story and concentrate on the characters rather than the events. Anything potentially dramatic we kept off-screen, focusing on the character’s animal natures, the moments where they connect with their instincts. The point of having these gaps was so viewers who were willing to play ball with us would stay awake.

The film has been on an impressive world tour already. How do you feel about that?
I’m very happy with the film, and I’m very happy that I was allowed to push my own boundaries. Very often with first films the most rational thing to do is play it safe and stick to what you know, but I knew that wasn’t the way I wanted to go. I didn’t want to do things I’d already done with the shorts; that would have been letting myself down. Now that the film’s going to Locarno, to San Sebastián... In a way, it reaffirms the fact that you have to trust your own vision; you can’t be afraid to let it show.

What about the future — what projects are you working on now?
Firstly, I’m working on a short film about letters from the Civil War. I had a great-great-uncle who fought for a month at the age of seventeen and died in action in Teruel. During that time, he sent six letters that are now part of his legacy. It’s an exploration of my favourite theme, which is memory. I’ll shortly be visiting Teruel to see the place where he died, because it’s all very hazy. The idea is also to compare the reality with the heroic image that came to be established in my family. There’s something mythic about the story that really appeals to me — how a legend is created.

Besides that, I’m also working on a full-length fiction film, Ana y el futuro, which hones in on the emotions. It’s a more ambitious film in terms of budget. It tells the story of a woman who returns to the city where she grew up after eight years, to confront her past and her mistakes. The central theme is forgiveness and the right to make mistakes. Right now, we’re looking for funding and trying to lock down the script. After Trot, I feel like making a film that aims for a more direct connection with the audience — something that goes a bit easier on people.

(Translated from Spanish)

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