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Lois Patiño • Director

“The landscape is a mystery, something that goes beyond you that you cannot understand”


- Coast of Death, Lois Patiño’s unique way of looking at the landscape (and the people who inhabit it), is finally being released in Spain after having won an award at Locarno last year

Lois Patiño  • Director

Galician director Lois Patiño, who has a long career as a director of experimental short films behind him, is finally seeing the Spanish release of his first feature film, Coast of Death [+see also:
film review
interview: Lois Patiño
film profile
. After having been screened in almost 40 countries, the film snagged him the Award for Best New Director at the Locarno Film Festival last year. Cineuropa had a chat with him.

Cineuropa: Why did you choose the Coast of Death for your first feature film?
Lois Patiño: It was a simple decision. Even before choosing the place where I wanted to shoot, I had two clear ideas that I wanted to explore. The first one was to portray a landscape with a precise cultural identity starting with the collective voice of its inhabitants. The second one was wishing to work, on a formal level, with the distance of the image and the closeness of the sound. I wanted to shoot in Galicia, and instantly this legendary place came to mind, a place shrouded in a tragic aura due to the shipwrecks and the apocalyptic landscape.

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In Coast of Death, the voice we hear close by is as significant as the view melting away over the horizon. Why?
Through this dual perceptive distance, I wanted to offer a new experience of the landscape to the viewer, a clash that would make new sensations emerge. With the close-up sound of breathing, conversations and footsteps – in contrast with the long shots of the landscape – what I’m aiming to do is to link the personal experience of the characters with the vastness of the world around them. It is a contemplative film, very much focused on the images. The sounds, which are so close by and bring to mind actions, provide a more physical dimension to the work: you can clearly hear the noises made by the characters as they walk on the sand, touch the rocks, fight fire... Again, there is almost a contradiction between the image and the sound, and at the same time, an audio focus concentrating on a specific visual detail. 

Why have the landscape and its depiction featured in all of your films?
The landscape is a mystery, something you could not entirely understand; it goes beyond you. It is alive, and it has its own inner energy. I try to look at the landscape in the context of Didi-Huberman's idea, who, in my opinion, is a prodigious theorist when it comes to analysing an image: “Knowing how to look at an image means, in a certain sense, being able to identify where the image is burning. There, where its temporary beauty hosts a ‘secret sign’. There, where the ash is still hot.” Moreover, I am interested in reflecting on the representation of landscapes in film. And I am talking about the specific idea of the landscape, not of the surroundings, territory, nature, atmosphere or all the related concepts. I mean the very landscape, which I understand requires a look from afar and a search for expression.

Your works do not stem from mainstream cinema, but rather from experimental art, to which you are still linked. Did this lead you to start shooting features by chance?
I am always interested in a kind of cinema that wants to explore new avenues. I also work for galleries and art centres, and from the beginning, I have tried to focus my work on these two paths, which, in my opinion, are very similar. Or at least I think that the cinema that interests me most – and that I want to make – can straddle both worlds. I feel that the boundary dividing cinema and modern art is becoming more and more blurred. It is right in this grey zone where the films I am interested in seeing and shooting are to be found. 

However, the film is being released commercially (in a way) in Spain only after having been screened in almost 40 other countries...
It is always a minor miracle when a humble film with a different narrative form manages to reach commercial screens, which are held hostage by Hollywood. Luckily, some really enthusiastic exhibitors, which firmly believe that diversity equals richness, still exist. Our films cannot compete with the promotional campaigns of industrial films, but we are still very happy to have found at least a niche, a slot we can insert ourselves into. It is a small gift, a touchdown at home after the film has been shown in so many countries.

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(Translated from Spanish)

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