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Roser Aguilar • Director

“I’m grateful to my producers for not walking away”


- Cineuropa sat down with Catalan filmmaker Roser Aguilar following the screening of her second film, the very personal drama Brava, competing at the 20th Malaga Spanish Film Festival

Roser Aguilar • Director
(© Festival de Málaga)

Starring Laia Marull as the woman at the centre of the story, Brava [+see also:
film review
interview: Roser Aguilar
film profile
marks the first film directed by Catalan filmmaker Roser Aguilar since 2007’s The Best of Me [+see also:
film profile
, and is in the running for an award in the official section of the 20th Malaga Spanish Film Festival, where I caught up with her.

Cineuropa: It seems like all of the films being presented in this year’s competition have had a longer-than-intended incubation period...
Roser Aguilar: Yes, and in Brava’s case, it was like a nine-year pregnancy! I’ve been desperate to come here and show it for a while now. It’s been hard work. In some respects, I was in no great hurry to figure it all out, and I started writing the script in 2009. Around 2012, 2013, it looked like things were about to start happening, but then the project stalled and we had to start from scratch. I’m grateful to my producers for not walking away, because most people would have got cold feet.

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Because the story you tell in the film isn’t an easy or comfortable one?
Indeed; that’s why it’s so remarkable that they stuck by it, when it was never going to be a box-office hit. There’s a price to be paid for tackling uncomfortable subjects. A friend of mine, who loved the film, said to me: “It’s not the kind of film you see these days — it’s not a thriller and it’s not a comedy of manners... What have you got yourself into, Roser?”

Maybe it’s because you’re drawn to films with complex characters, whose lives are turned upside down by an unexpected event.
Yes, I love making films independently, films that are driven by the things that preoccupy me personally. Those that I’ve been commissioned to make are a different matter; in fact, I was about to start work on a couple, but with one thing or another they didn’t take off. But when I work from the heart, it’s always the same — I’ve always been intense.

That’s an important aspect of the role of cinema: to be a vehicle for addressing difficult questions.
Yes, that’s very true, but in practice, when you take a project to the producers, the TV networks and the distributors, that whole industry world, it’s not a popular approach. I know they’re right, but it’s not my job to worry about that. My job is to push forward with the film and try to get people onside. But it’s not what you imagine, especially in times like these when there’s very little room for experimentation.

During this gap between films, have you been working in other areas?
Yes, I’ve been teaching. Right now, I’m getting offers for advertising work. It’s very difficult to make a living from making films; it’s an undervalued profession and the pay is even worse, and the process takes a very long time.

In Brava, you explore the paralysing effects of fear.
That’s the terrible thing. We are becoming numb to all sorts of things, like violence against women. There are a lot of people who pop pills just to cope with life, and that frightens me.

Did you get advice from psychologists about post-traumatic stress?
Yes, I talked to two different psychiatrists and with psychologists who specialise in working with women who have experienced sexual assault, and they explained the symptoms of disassociation. These women have nightmares and flee from the place where the abuse took place, and, just suddenly, in an intimate moment, they can be assailed by reminders in the form of aggression. We addressed these symptoms through the central character, who, in trying to escape, is pushed to the limit. That’s something that could happen to any of us.

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(Translated from Spanish)

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