Patxi Amézcua • Director
by Alfonso Rivera/ Sergio Ríos Pérez
Thanks to his debut work, the disturbing and sordid 25 Carat [+see also:
interview: Patxi Amézcua
film profile], Navarra-born Patxi Amezcua has rightfully established himself as one of the most promising European directors in the thriller genre, as recognised by Variety and EFP who have included the film in the Variety Critics' Choice section at the Karlovy Vary Festival. This debut film has so far won over critics and festival audiences (it triumphed in the Zonazine section at Malaga Film Festival, where it scooped Best Film, Best Actor and Best Actress). Two months after releasing the film domestically, Amezcua has several new projects in the pipeline, some as director and others as screenwriter (in the case of Bruc, which will start shooting soon).
Cineuropa: The most striking aspect of your film 25 Kilates (“24 Carats”) is the feverish and dynamic editing, which is unusual in Spanish cinema.
Patxi Amézcua: I wanted to make a fast-paced film. I wanted to be aggressive in the shooting and editing style, and film lots of shots in order to make a dynamic work. That’s why we sometimes settled for the second or third take and moved on; it wasn’t perfect but I knew I already had one part and I preferred to shoot from another camera angle, because that way we’d have more options in the editing phase. This meant we had to work against the clock, which I enjoyed: it’s good to have a bit of adrenaline and tension on a shoot.
Where did the idea for the film come from?
I like layering ideas. I’d heard about a local thug, a sort of "debt collector" who used forceful means to convince those who owed him money to finally pay him. I thought he was an interesting character. Then I heard about someone who stole cars by puncturing their tyres: when the driver got out of the car to check the tyres, their vehicle was then stolen. These two characters were full of potential, so I used them as my starting point to begin constructing the plot.
Was it easy getting a genre film, a thriller in this case, off the ground?
In Spain, it’s difficult getting any project off the ground, including comedies that look set to be box office hits. Producers finance films in partnership with television networks and with funding from the Culture Ministry. If you don’t have television backing, you either don’t have a film or you have a very low-budget film.
We were lucky, because TVE came on board from the outset: they read the project and said yes, so we were already part of the way there. Then we received support from the ICAA. As our budget still wasn’t adequate, we looked for regional funding and sought co-production backing in Catalonia (TVC): Ovideo and TV3 came on board.
We thus managed to get the budget together. It wasn’t ideal, because we needed a little more money, but never mind. It would have been ideal if we’d been able to shoot for one additional week so as not to be too stretched for time. We were shooting for six five-day weeks: it was very tight time-wise. And we lacked equipment, such as a camera dolly and crane... But I think these missing elements give the film a bolder and more independent style. The total budget stands at €1.5m and €300,000 of this is for prints and promotional costs.
As someone who is from Navarre and lives in Madrid, why did you shoot the film in Barcelona?
For production reasons. But the story would have worked in any large city. I had originally set the film in Madrid (I wanted to film in the old Legazpi slaughterhouse and the Príncipe Pío train station), but the co-production agreement meant that we had to shoot in Barcelona, with 25% of the dialogue in Catalan. This mixture of languages is normal in Catalonia and I think it works well and is perfectly in keeping with the film. We also had to work with Catalan actors.
The authorities carefully consider the benefits for Catalonia, because they invest around €500,000, but double that amount of money will most certainly be poured back into Catalonia: with the shoot, salaries, catering, actors and technical team, etc. It’s an investment which pays off for Catalonia. They spend a certain sum of money but they get a lot more back by ensuring that films are made in their region. If the Madrid region had invested that money, it would have come back here.
What are your expectations for the international presentation of 25 Carats at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival?
I’m proud that my film has been selected to represent Spain in this section. Being among the ten European productions selected on a European level by the magazine Variety, both for the impressive work of those who contributed to production and the quality of the film itself, is a source of pride.
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