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Juliana Fanjul • Director of Silence radio

“You have to go deep to find this unique gaze which sets you apart as an auteur”


- At the Zurich Film Festival, Cineuropa had a chat with Juliana Fanjul, director of Silence radio, about Mexican journalist Carmen Aristegui

Juliana Fanjul  • Director of Silence radio
(© ZFF)

Cineuropa had a chat with Juliana Fanjul, Mexican director who has long been based in Switzerland, about her second film Silence radio [+see also:
film review
interview: Juliana Fanjul
film profile
. A brave film which, through the emblematic figure of journalist Carmen Aristegui, allows us to approach a complex country such as Mexico with sincerity. Fanjul told us about her anger and the profound need she felt to make this film, presented at the Zurich Film Festival.

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Cineuropa : How did you contact Carmen Aristegui and how did you gain her trust?
Juliana Fanjul :
My encounter with Carmen was totally unexpected. When I arrived in Mexico, I began asking the people who had worked with her in the past if I could meet her. I got no answer, so I ended up writing her a very sincere letter. I told her about my discomfort, about my frustration when I stopped hearing her voice, and about why I found making this film necessary. The encounter happened progressively, in little steps. The trip we made to Washington together was decisive, we had more time to talk and that brought us closer to each other. I felt that we had made a big step with that trip. Then Carmen established some limits, which I found perfectly understandable. Her private life had to remain hidden, for her security, among other reasons. Lots of people pushed me to reveal this private side of her life, but for me, the film was going in another direction. That sincerity really helped me gain her trust.

A voice-over, composed of impactful and poetic words, regularly comes up in the film. How did you construct and introduce this text in the film?
The writing of the voice-over was done in parallel to the writing on the film, during the editing phase. I was lucky to have an extraordinary editor, Yaël Bitton, who I’d already worked with on Muchachas [+see also:
film review
film profile
. At the beginning, it was a little more complicated because we had to find the right tone. I was lucky because it was clear to me where the need to make this film came from: I was very angry. It wasn't easy to find the right words. I started by taking inspiration from literature. George Orwell, but also some books by Mexican writers and poets: Denise Dresser, and my main reference: Octavio Paz, without forgetting Mexican poet Javier Sicilia. Then, once I found the tone, I had to write and establish the context, which is absolutely necessary for non-Mexican viewers. But there was also the challenge of not being repetitive for a Mexican viewer who is aware of many more things and for whom Carmen is an unmissable celebrity. Finally, we had to build the film’s general structure in three acts. Despite the fact that my film was motivated by the censorship suffered by Carmen and her listeners, I had also been very moved by the story of the 43 students who were kidnapped and disappeared. It really upset and astounded me.

Mexico is at the centre of your films. Could we say that the complexity of this country inspires and feeds your work, which in return helps you better understand that very same country?
I am Mexican and have spent the first 30 years of my life in Mexico. It's a country I was taught to love. I am, like Carmen, the daughter of Spanish refugees who fled the civil war. And I was told that this country, we had to love and defend it because it welcomed us. It's a very complex country which today, as an adult and a mother, hurts me. It is by making my films that I simply try to find the answers to complex questions about Mexico. But the kind of cinema I make also raises other questions, and that is what fascinates me and which I am passionate about, to learn to better know ourselves in order to eventually transform ourselves. I have been living in Switzerland for eight years, a geographic distance which allows me to see Mexico through a magnifying glass. It is that distance which makes my films possible. I would never have made the same films if I had stayed in Mexico. The work with my team is a work of profound psychoanalysis in order to position ourselves politically with regards to the reality we observe. You have to question yourself, you have to go deep to find this unique gaze which sets you apart as an auteur.

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(Translated from French)

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