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SAN SEBASTIÁN 2022 Competition

Manuel Abramovich • Director of Pornomelancolía

“I don't have any fixed work method; I question myself all the time”

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- We interviewed the Argentinian director nominated for the Golden Shell for a film that, beyond all the controversy, is an interesting shake-up of experimental film conventions

Manuel Abramovich • Director of Pornomelancolía
(© Gorka Estrada/SSIFF)

The 70th San Sebastian International Film Festival has hosted the première of Pornomelancolia [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Manuel Abramovich
film profile
]
, the latest work by Argentina 's Manuel Abramovich. The film was already enshrouded in controversy after star Lalo Santos affirmed that he regretted taking part in the project because of the conditions he had to endure while filming. Here, the director responds to this delicate situation and reflects on the complexities of a work that goes far beyond any possible polemics.

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Cineuropa: What can you tell me about the Twitter thread in which Lalo claimed to regret having taken part as he felt vulnerable and compromised during filming?
Manuel Abramovich: It was very upsetting to read. The process lasted almost four years from the time we started working together until we watched the final cut together in December last year. This took the whole team by surprise. I am disconcerted and upset. I am trying to understand what he may be feeling and wanting to talk about. I understand that his way of expressing himself to the world is through social media, but we would have loved him to do it with us, which is what we wanted when, until two months ago, we were planning his trip to the première. I would like to understand his change of perspective on the process is about and for him to share it with me, because I think that the issues he raises are exactly what this film is about. It is a film that we built together, as I hope comes across, with love and empathy. The most interesting thing is that we discussed deep political ideas on all areas of the film, we read together and we found ways to transform all those theoretical ideas into scenes that are now in the final version.

What was the process you went through with Lalo to achieve the intimacy that the film captures?
It was a very intimate process, during which Lalo was really generous and open. I think that was only possible because of the trust we had and the boundaries we set together. I am fully aware of the risk involved in this type of project. For me, making films is about risk-taking. I am not interested in creating anything else. I don't have any fixed work method; I question myself all the time. Obviously, if Lalo is not feeling good about it now, I am interested in understanding why, to know how it can be done better.

The line between fiction and reality is blurred in Pornomelancolia. What genre would you place it in?
This is similar to what happens with people's gender. We live in a system that is always trying to label everything, especially in a binary way. And it is crazy because the same thing happens with documentaries and fiction. What interests me is finding those fictional spaces in the real world, which is why I invite people to become characters; characters that we have often already become in order to get by in life.

There are very few women in the film, and the ones that are in it have a very specific role. Why is that?
It was a very conscious decision. Some that struck when I was researching this world of porn actors in Mexico was the absence of women. These are people who live in the environment of gay men, where there is a strong presence of sex, often as a way of filling a void. I feel that it is a very lonely environment and that is why I made the decision to accentuate that absence and for the women in the film to be in positions of authority, caring and love.

There is a distinction between Lalo’s real and virtual characters; they almost seem like two different people. What reflection would you make on that?
I would say that the film goes beyond Lalo Santos. It paints a picture of this moment in time where we have many personalities, and the virtual world and social media are part of our identities. We create our own stories that are extensions of ourselves. This is even more acute right now, after the pandemic that left us all a little broken. I dare say that there is a sense of meaninglessness. No one understands exactly where we are going. I think that this multiplicity of personalities made possible through social media makes us feel more and more free yet more and more lonely.

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(Translated from Spanish by Alexandra Stephens)

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