Matthias Huser, Tolga Dilsiz • Director, producer
"What is really important is the energy that lies beneath the surface in people we work with"
- SAN SEBASTIÁN 2018: Director Matthias Huser and producer Tolga Dilsiz discuss The Jungle, which won the Eurimages Co-Production Development Award in the Europe-Latin America Co-Production Forum
Still at a very early stage, The Jungle, to be directed by Matthias Huser (They Chased Me Through Arizona [+see also:
interview: Matthias Huser
film profile]) and produced by Tolga Dilsiz, of 8horses, both hailing from Switzerland, will follow a Swiss family that comes back to South America to face both their past and their future. The project was presented to professionals at the VII Europe-Latin America Co-Production Forum at the 66th San Sebastián International Film Festival, where it received the Eurimages Co-Production Development Award for its interesting concept and unique production strategy. The director and the producer talked to us about it.
Cineuropa: What are the origins of this project?
Matthias Huser: It was, on one hand, my experience in my own family and my childhood, and on the other hand, the history of Swiss pacifist dropouts who, in the late 1970s, went to Nicaragua to set up their own lifestyle, building communities, but also helping and supporting locals. These two topics came together and formed the basis of my story.
Personally, I feel really good when I’m a stranger. I grew up in Switzerland surrounded by many friends who came from different cultures. I feel great when I’m not surrounded by the same culture. My first film was shot in Poland, where I was a stranger, too, and as a stranger, when you meet the other, you get a different sensitivity, you start to work together, and you find a common ground in an artistic way. I don’t want to penetrate a culture when I shoot a film, but rather to get in contact and merge. This project is about getting in contact with elements and feelings, especially those from another culture that I don’t know. I try to find out about that culture and that experience alongside my characters.
This other culture that you have chosen is Latin America.
Tolga Dilsiz: Yes, that place was always there, in South America, and it’s waiting for us, but we still have to find the way to get to it. The notion for now is Central and South America, and the Amazon rainforest. As the title implies, the jungle is a character in itself in the film, so we definitely need a country with its own culture and its own people involved in the co-production strategy, including locations in the Amazon. So it’s a universe that we haven’t completely defined yet, but all of the elements will firm up within the next 18 months.
MH: Exactly. My inspiration for the story came when I heard about Nicaragua, but we are not sure yet where we will definitively place it. There is another specific concept that is important for me: the social aspect of the project. We don’t want to be invasive; I’m thinking strongly about working with non-professional actors, and we need a co-production partner who has time and who will be able to find local people to work with, emphasising social responsibility.
So you are open to whatever anyone can potentially bring to the project.
TD: Exactly. Matthias was invited to the Berlinale Talents Script Station; he’s also working with Franz Rodenkirchen, a well-known script consultant who works especially with people from overseas. The second programme we got invited to was the EAVE Producers Workshop, and there, we met Nicolás van Hemelryck, who produced the 2016 documentary Amazona in Colombia. We also met Los silencios [+see also:
film profile] director Beatriz Seigner, who also shot the film in Leticia, Colombia. That is a sign that something is there, and Matthias has to go there.
MH: Nicolás gave me the contact of a guy who lives in the jungle near Leticia, and I will go as part of the early research for the film. That will be my starting point for the research. I think what is really important for me is the energy that lies below the surface in people and makes me connect with them. I found it with Beatriz, Nicolás and also a couple of other producers from Peru and Brazil who we met here in San Sebastián.
Will that energy also be found in the production strategy?
TD: Yes; we need an exchange, and that’s why we are here at the Co-Production Forum. We're going the other way round to most of the attendees, from Europe to South America, which makes our project an interesting one. We have to finalise it in the next 24 months, but besides Switzerland, we will definitely have another European partner and a third South American partner. The perfect European partner would be Spain or Portugal, in order to share the language with a possible South American partner, in principle Brazil, Peru or Colombia. Now we’ve got the Eurimages award, and we've also been invited to Ventana Sur, which will be another intense stage for the project.
MH: As a young production company, it’s a zeitgeist. We can’t think territorially. It’s not only about finding money or travelling abroad; it’s also about breathing, especially artistically. There is a global need to do that. We are so well connected to every other country, and it feels natural for us to work with other nations. We share this attitude in our team, and especially on this project.
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