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Hugo Ruiz • Director of One Night with Adela

“My film is extremely unrestrained”


- The Spanish filmmaker unpicks his feature debut, an indie revenge flick that has just earned him the Best New Narrative Director Award at Tribeca and which will leave no one indifferent

Hugo Ruiz  • Director of One Night with Adela

Hugo Ruiz is brimming with pure enthusiasm. The self-taught Zaragoza native, aged 49, has just touched down in Madrid after attending the Tribeca Film Festival, where his feature debut, One Night with Adela [+see also:
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interview: Hugo Ruiz
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, was presented. The film, which stars Laura Galán (of Piggy [+see also:
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fame), earned the filmmaker the Best New Narrative Director Award at the US gathering.

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Cineuropa: Your film is quite hard-hitting… How did the audience in New York react to it?
Hugo Ruiz:
Nobody moved when it ended, and everybody stayed for the Q&A after the screening. Several people told me that at the start, Adela is extremely repellent, but then you come to understand the character’s bitterness. You have to put yourself in her shoes to feel her suffering. I constructed the role so people would see that she has absolute control during the night in question, because she’s never had that control before in her life.

Is it a very independent film?
It’s extremely unrestrained. It had a budget of €339,000, and I had six days to rehearse the movements of the camera as well as those of the actors. Then, it was shot in only three days.

I spotted two cuts in the single sequence shot that tells the story in real time.
Well, there are three more, which are practically undetectable. I take it for granted that film buffs will look for exactly this, and that’s what we all did with Sam Mendes1917 [+see also:
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. I wanted the story to be told in a sequence shot, although obviously you should notice it as little as possible. And I’ve been told that the audience forgets about the camera.

It’s very nocturnal and otherworldly.
I’ve always had this obsession with night-time street sweepers. This film is part of a trilogy, for which I’ve written the other two screenplays, with self-contained stories that take place during the same night and in the same city, but there will be connective tissue between them. In this one, Adela drives around in a dust cart, in Domingo the protagonist will do so in a taxi, and in Dante it’ll be in an ambulance. And all three will unfold in a sequence shot.

After getting such a warm welcome with your feature debut at Tribeca, you might perhaps find more partners now.
As long as I can carry on with my way of shooting and retain my hallmark, everything will be fine, but if I have more days available for filming, so much the better.

Although a decent part of One Night with Adela unfolds in exteriors, its format makes it quite claustrophobic.
It begins in 1.85 ratio, and I gradually close in until I get to Four Thirds because at the end, when the characters are in the house, I want everything to seem more compressed. Little by little, I wanted the viewer to sense things closing in and to feel very claustrophobic.

Can religion – just like drugs – be bad for you?
My film is not a criticism of religion, but rather a critique of the malpractice of Christian doctrine: if you state you are a Christian, you can’t do as you please. If you look at Christian doctrine, it’s totally fine, but it’s not put into practice properly.

Family can sometimes also be a restrictive force.
Family can lead you one way then the other. The way a human being grows up depends on the family they have: the parents have always been there, conditioning their kids. What has happened to Adela is “behind the scenes”, but once we realise, it puts everything we see into perspective. Also, how many families have rejected their children because they worry about what other people will say?!

Why did you decide to include a radio host like Gemma Nierga?
I was thinking about a means of contributing information to the story: I needed to give Adela something to do while she was driving the dust cart. And so, I created a character that would accompany her, via a programme where you call in with your problems. I used this to enable the viewer to get to know Adela a bit better because her actions are quite misleading, and at the same time, you don’t see her on her own, as that would get tiresome. Therefore, there are two functions to this radio programme discussing people’s secrets on the air.

It takes place entirely at night. At what time of year was it filmed?
In December, as I wanted to capture that icy rigidity. Also, that graininess of winter helped create the atmosphere, even though we were pretty cold. The next instalments in the trilogy will also be shot at the same time of year. And virtually all the light was natural light – it was a real challenge.

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(Translated from Spanish)

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