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Gustavo Sánchez • Director of I Hate New York

“My film questions what is imposed on us by society”


- Gustavo Sánchez’s documentary I Hate New York, a portrait of four brave transexuals from the titular US city, has now reached Spanish movie theatres

Gustavo Sánchez  • Director of I Hate New York
(© Mahala Marcet)

After its premiere at the most recent Málaga Film Festival, I Hate New York [+see also:
film review
interview: Gustavo Sánchez
film profile
, the directorial feature debut by journalist Gustavo Sánchez, backed by brothers Carlos and Juan Antonio Bayona (A Monster Calls [+see also:
film review
interview: Juan Antonio Bayona
film profile
), did the rounds at film festivals all over the globe, from Japan to the United States, via Abycine, D’A, San Sebastián and Seminci in Spain. Now this documentary, which portrays the lives, nocturnal activities and struggles of four transexuals who have settled in a city that is in equal parts friendly and hostile, has reached Spanish cinemas.

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Cineuropa: How has the documentary been received in such different countries?
Gustavo Sánchez:
We started the international screenings in London, where it got a great reception, with all kinds of audience members who were very curious. They also gave it a huge round of applause in Italy, and in Germany they really connected with it. Not too long ago, we were in New York, which was the litmus test because it was an audience who actually knew the protagonists as well as the world it reflects. The reviews said that the film was New York through and through, and they were surprised that it could be portrayed so accurately by an outsider. And I’ve just got back from Tokyo, which was an incredible experience. All over the world, when the movie ends and the lights come on, I see people drying their eyes: it connects with the audience in a universal way, which is exactly what I was going for.

What is surprising about the film is that it offers a broad and diverse portrait of transexuality, as you show everything from the hedonism to the campaigning.
I tried to paint a candid and unbiased portrait, a multifaceted one, that would offer the broadest and most nuanced vision possible of transexuality. All of the protagonists manage to be political through their actions, from the dance floor to the stage and the clubs.

With films like yours and Girl [+see also:
film review
interview: Lukas Dhont
film profile
, now seems to be a time when transexuality is getting more exposure...
The fight for the visibility of transexuals goes on forever, so we should not stop standing up for those who are different: it’s important to make difference into a valuable part of one’s identity, a driving force behind the struggle. It’s about not seeing difference as a defect, but rather as a special attribute. Civil rights are very vulnerable. It’s not an obsolete or a trendy struggle just because it’s popping up now in the media: we all have to fight constantly, without losing sight of how fragile our rights are.

How did you infiltrate the underground world of NYC?
I grew up in Úbeda (Jaén), where there was limited access to culture in the 1980s. I’ve always looked for spaces for creation that would reflect what I felt: when I decided to travel to New York City, I was already working as head of public relations for the Sonar Festival in Barcelona, but once a year I would leave for a month and a half, I would pick up the camera and begin to explore what I sensed was going on and was not being represented in the media. In New York, people from all over the world come together: I was interested in that breeding ground, with such different people living alongside each other, creating together with others just like them and looking for similarities. I interviewed a lot of people, and I came across these four brave protagonists who represented the values I was looking for.

Had you studied film beforehand?
I studied Audiovisual Communication and I went off with a small camera to do some investigating, with my only aim to depict a scene that I thought was interesting. I was alone in front of the protagonists, and I thus achieved a degree of intimacy and proximity that would not have been possible if it had been done within the industry parameters, with a production company behind it and a ten-person crew. I had absolute freedom. Two years ago, the Bayona brothers came on board, and they helped me with the post-production.

And just to wrap things up – do you hate New York?
[Laughs] For me, the film is a state of mind, a way of questioning reality, of not accepting what is imposed on us by society. You either love or hate NYC, but it’s a place where people from all over the world end up, trying to make a life for themselves and create outside of imposed limits; that’s why it makes me happy, it motivates me and it seems like a unique, utterly inspiring place: so much so that I’m not ruling out going back there to film again, as I’ve had a mind-blowing relationship with it – more love than hate.

(Translated from Spanish)

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