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Theo Montoya • Director of Anhell69

“We’re entering a trans era”


- The Colombian director is surprising audiences everywhere with his award-winning feature debut, in which he portrays his country’s disillusioned youth in quite an unorthodox way

Theo Montoya  • Director of Anhell69

The 12th edition of the Lanzarote Film Festival opened its official competition section a few days ago with Anhell69 [+see also:
film review
interview: Theo Montoya
film profile
, the feature-length directorial debut by Theo Montoya (Medellín, 1992). We caught up with him to talk about this title, which has been reaping awards at gatherings of the likes of Gijón, Márgenes, DOK Leipzig and Zinebi, among others.

Cineuropa: At the project stage, your film took part in various labs: how were they of benefit to the end result? And how do you manage to maintain the essence of a film when you are bombarded with so many different opinions during its development?
Theo Montoya: Anhell69 had the opportunity to take part in various labs, particularly when we were at a very early development stage with the film. I never studied film, and at those labs, I gradually met more and more colleagues and collaborators who helped me immeasurably. More than opinions or valuable pieces of advice that other people can give you about your creative process, I think these labs are useful for building a community. I remember the first international one that I took part in, at the TorinoFilmLab: there, I met Bianca Oana. We became friends, and after a while, she would become our Romanian co-producer. Now, I think that we gradually discovered the essence of the movie while we were making it: it was all of the people whom I met during that process, from beginning to end, who contributed to it.

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It seems as though Colombian film is enjoying a boom today, with the success of your movie, that of La jauría [+see also:
film review
film profile
which was in the Critics’ Week at Cannes – and that of The Kings of the World [+see also:
film review
film profile
, which was victorious at the most recent San Sebastián. Is it just a coincidence, or a real creative comeback for your national film industry?
Time will tell.

In what way did the reality of the violence in your country affect the content and the form of Anhell69?
In every way, I suppose.

What exactly does the title allude to? It’s a mixture of the angelic and the hellish.
It refers to the Instagram handle of a friend of mine; these nicknames always grab my attention, and in the film, I say that that name described the movie I wanted to make to a T: angels living in a hell of desires. That nickname really encompasses duality: angels and devils, love and hate, Eros and Thanatos, yin and yang, and so on…

How did the co-production with three European countries come about?
With a lot of patience – sometimes even I wonder the same thing. The truth is that we built up a family, one of those unusual ones: a modern one where there are various mothers and fathers who are trying to raise a monster called Anhell69.

When you presented your movie at Lanzarote, you described it as a trans film: so why does it have multiple genders, or no single, defined one?
At a time when human beings are wondering more than ever about gender identity, Anhell69 is also questioning this. The way I see it, we should reconsider what we understand as cinema because fiction films have gradually become outdated, like those stereotypes of the really macho man or the very feminine woman. The rejuvenation of the audiovisual world, much like the human one, lies in understanding something more fundamental – accepting mixtures, experimentation and new things, ceasing to pigeonhole, and accepting the future of this new era. Because in the end, we’re entering a trans era, one of transformation, where the hegemony is starting to falter, right?

Filmmaker Víctor Gaviria (Sumas y restas) makes a brief appearance in your film. What does he mean to you? Is it a well-deserved tribute to a famous maestro?
A tribute to the passing on of knowledge, to memory, to his films, to him as a figure, because Anhell69 is an homage to film, and particularly to the cinema of my country, Colombia – to filmmakers such as Marta Rodríguez, Luis Ospina and Carlos Mayolo. Sometimes, I like to think that this feature is a blend of film, literature and poetry; I devised it as a film within many films, and I thought about myriad directors and authors who have influenced me: Harmony Korine, Reygadas, Apichatpong, Jennie Livingston, Kiarostami, Almodóvar, Jack Kerouac, Gonzalo Arango, Andrés Caicedo, and so on and so forth…

Could your feature debut be considered a political manifesto?
Yes, it could be seen as a political and poetic manifesto, or an act of psychomagic, or a poem, a song or a collage of thoughts.

How is your movie being received by audiences at the different festivals it has been screening at?
I don’t pay too much attention to that; sometimes they like it, sometimes they don’t.

Do you have any projects or ideas in the pipeline for your next movie
No; a little while ago, I became a member of a group of artists called Lazy Artist Forever: one of the principles we follow is not to create for the sake of creating, and to give ourselves time to really think.

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(Translated from Spanish)

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