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Carlos Vargas • Director de Era oculta

"Ver a una joven feminista intentando hablar alto y claro fue una revelación para mí"


- El director colombiano afincado en Berlín habla sobre su viaje al panorama artístico de Maputo, la capital de Mozambique, y cómo retrató una cultura desconocida

Carlos Vargas • Director de Era oculta

Este artículo está disponible en inglés.

Berlin-based Colombian director Carlos Vargas has presented his directorial debut, Hidden Era [+lee también:
entrevista: Carlos Vargas
ficha de la película
, at this year's Tribeca Film Festival. The film is a stylish and groovy journey into the art scene of Mozambique's capital. We spoke with the director about his protagonists, his approach to an unfamiliar culture and his cinematographic inspiration.

Cineuropa: How did you come into contact with the art scene in Maputo?
Carlos Vargas:
Living in Berlin, my connection to art was always very present. I started to travel to Africa in the last six years, doing different projects, and it was always my wish to combine my work trips with an exploration of the cultural environment. In Maputo, I had the chance to discover the city. I've been to many places, but Mozambique is one of the most interesting countries that I've been to. It was completely unknown to me. Since it was a Portuguese colony, the language they speak is close to my mother tongue, Spanish, which was lucky, since I was able to communicate with people. I met Phambi, who became the protagonist of the movie. Initially, we didn't speak about making a film together, but we got to know each other and were soon keen to collaborate. I started to understand the city and its surroundings. Ever since I was young, I have been fascinated by Rastafari people and their music. I dove deeper into the art scene and got to know Paula and Nora, the two models for the artist Phambi. The two women were a decisive element in my motivation to make the film. I realised that the story was not only about art; it was also about different aspects of the city. Seeing the young feminist trying to speak up was a revelation for me.

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How did you develop the storyline? Did you write the scenes and dialogue?
I wrote most of the dialogue, and I kind of created the characters. I wanted to see how far they could go, as they are not professional actors, while always making sure that we felt very comfortable with what we were doing. Most of the process involved having conversations to get to know each other, and to share ideas and visions. The recording itself was not so long, so the preparations were crucial. I enjoyed the moments we shared together, going around different parts of the city and listening to their stories. As for the structure of the movie, there were certain films that functioned as references for me. For example, there was Downtown 81, in which artist Jean-Michel Basquiat acts as himself. Another movie that also left a strong impression on me was Jacques Rivette's La Belle Noiseuse, about an artist and his model. They inspired me to create a bridge between art and society. I didn't want to repeat these films, of course, but rather to create my own form of expression. I was trying to craft a more meditative experience for the viewer.

Is this why you chose the car as the protagonist’s mode of transportation, in which he never speaks?
It was important for the pace of the movie. In Maputo, there are only a few possibilities in terms of transportation. I saw the pick-ups that serve as taxis and are an alternative for anyone who can afford them, instead of using the buses. I felt like that would be a way to define the rhythm of the film. It was also a way to show the surroundings of the city and to inject some action into the story.

What were the most important aspects for the look of the film?
I visited the locations often and spent time there to get a feel for them. Particularly important was Phambi's house. It looks incredibly different depending on which angle you choose with the camera. As for the light, I used mostly natural light, except for maybe two shots.

Can you tell us more about how you developed the score for the film?
One part was inspired by a musician friend of mine, James Leyland Kirby, or “The Caretaker”. We have known each other for a long time. He was nice enough to let me use his music. I wanted to create something timeless. As for the other part of the score, one of the elements of developing a movie in a new city is to explore the music scene. I went to some reggae concerts; my protagonist is Rastafari, so I wanted to use this music as well. I met musicians such as Great Matiana and BlackMan, whose songs I used. As for the mixing and finalisation of the score, I had the chance to work with Cisco Parisi, who is a music producer and a good friend of mine.

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