“SOUTHERN DISTRICT” | writer-director, Juan Carlos Valdivia
[PREMIERE SCREENING: Tuesday, Jan. 26, 6:00 pm — Eccles Theatre, Park City]
I chose to work with an ensemble of mostly non-actors in a choreographed and precise mise-en-scene that allowed little improvisation. I had become disenchanted with film and with filmmaking. I knew that only a strong element of risk could bring back my sense of wonder. What makes a story unique is not what you tell, but how you to tell it — and the choices you make are the core of creativity. We shut ourselves in a house full of mirrors with a revolving camera that observed everything — especially my troupe of inexperienced players. I wanted an atmospheric film with very natural performances. But at the same time I was looking for very specific nuances from characters I knew very intimately. The film has 57 circular sequence shots. There was no possibility to cut. Each take had to be perfect. Betraying this — cutting away to a reaction shot or an insert — would be equivalent to failure.
The process took an enormous amount of concentration because the actors had no training and only the limited tools I gave them during rehearsal to get out of difficult situations. We didn’t stop production until the desired results were achieved, even if that meant retakes, reshoots and an extra week on a four-week shoot.
I learned that silence, careful observation and working in an atmosphere of intimacy are the most important allies in the process of making a film that requires precision. Also creating a mystique and a sense of hope in the team, so they know that everything they do is important and possible. But above all, knowing exactly what you want beforehand, is essential. The decision to work like this and standing by that choice is what makes this film special. I think it works. And it made me believe in filmmaking as an art form again, which is why I started making films to begin with. To me, filmmaking is about creating states of mind, atmospheres and unique images that resonate emotionally and intellectually. The storytelling part is only what holds it together.