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Daniela Fejerman • Director

“My film is like a Christmas tale told by Kafka”


- Cineuropa talks to Daniela Fejerman at the Seminci 2015, who poured her own difficult personal experiences into La adopción, starring the magnificent Nora Navas and Francesc Garrido

Daniela Fejerman  • Director

Spanish-based Argentinian director Daniela Fejerman poured her own difficult personal experiences in an Eastern European country into La adopción [+see also:
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, a drama starring the magnificent Nora Navas and Francesc Garrido, which is competing in the official section of the 60th Seminci in Valladolid. Cineuropa chatted to her.

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Cineuropa: La adopción is a very restrained film. How did you manage to keep a steady hand so that it wasn’t overrun by the drama of it all?
Daniela Fejerman:
Yes, it was essential to maintain a certain tone: I had to prevent it from becoming melodramatic, which I was tempted towards, and it’s something that could easily have happened. I had such a brutal vision of the experience that I just couldn’t make a movie with violins playing in the background, because there were certainly none to be heard there.

But seeing as you were so emotionally involved in this story, weren’t you interested in trying to make it into something of an exorcism or some kind of therapy?
Ever since I decided to write the film, the first thing I did was to call in a co-writer, a friend of mine (Alejo Flah) who knew the whole story, as I had spoken to him while I was in Ukraine, where I went to adopt a child. He knew full well what I had been through, but we decided to construct a story with it using the events we knew, but we also had to add things in, fictionalise it and gather other, similar stories, but without getting too “showy”, because the plot is so raw and truthful that we couldn’t just plonk a couple of mobsters with pistols in the screenplay. That would have taken us into genre-film territory, which this movie certainly isn’t. Then we tried to generate some tension and create expectations: we wanted to make the viewer wonder what was going to happen to those poor people there, tossed into a world they have no control over, but at the same time avoiding any sensationalism.

Didn’t the rather unfriendly portrait that your film paints of an Eastern European country complicate things in terms of the cooperation with Lithuania?
In the fictional story of this film, we never identify the country, although a Lithuanian person will recognise the capital and the language; but they had no problem with it at all. In fact, there is no international adoption in Lithuania. The fact that Gerardo Herrero, the Spanish producer, had previously shot Frozen Silence [+see also:
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there helped us to get his Lithuanian partner, Ramünas Skikas (Lietuvos Kino Studija), on board this project. Working there, speaking a wide array of languages – English, Spanish, Lithuanian, Russian, Catalan and so on – turned the shoot into a proper Tower of Babel, and we sometimes felt a little bit like the characters, but we truly received a very warm welcome.

Were the interiors also filmed in Lithuania?
Everything was filmed there – it was a very intense six weeks. The flats you see are really there, with real furniture, and that also helped Nora Navas and Francesc Garrido to live out that life in a more realistic way.

Was it tough to get a drama project like this off the ground at a time when comedies seem to be doing particularly well at the Spanish box office?
Yes, these last five years have been very difficult. Initially there was another producer involved, but it wasn’t to be, and then Tornasol Films picked it up and rescued it. It’s as I always say: the film is like a Christmas tale told by Kafka because such intense things happened that if we put them in the screenplay, they wouldn’t be believable: what they say about reality being more powerful than fiction is true, but of course, the film has to be truthful.

The cast is one of the biggest aces up La adopción’s sleeve. Did you always have those actors in mind when you were developing the project?
I wanted Nora Navas because she’s a marvellous actress, but I still didn’t know who would play her partner, so I did various auditions with a number of actors, but with Francesc Garrido, the chemistry was just there from the get-go. The supporting cast members, consisting of seasoned Lithuanian actors, mainly come from a theatrical background because there is not a huge amount of film production in Lithuania – only a few historical movies are really shot there. But in La adopción, I show the ugliest side of a really beautiful place.

(Translated from Spanish)

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