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SAN SEBASTIÁN 2019 San Sebastián Industry

Juan Sebastián Torales • Director of Almamula

“Everybody has felt misunderstood at some point in their lives”

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- Cineuropa caught up with Argentinian filmmaker Juan Sebastián Torales, now settled in France, whose first full-length feature, Almamula, has just earned him a gong from Eurimages at San Sebastián

Juan Sebastián Torales  • Director of Almamula
Juan Sebastián Torales collects his Eurimages Co-Production Development award in San Sebastián (© Pablo Gómez / SSIFF)

Twelve-year-old Nino lives in the Argentinian city of Santiago del Estero. After he is assaulted on account of his homosexuality, his father takes a job in a rural area and the family relocates for his protection. Here, Nino discovers the legend of Almamula, a creature who lives on the mountain and carries off anyone guilty of sexual impurity. This is the premise of Almamula, the debut feature from Argentine filmmaker and resident of France Juan Sebastián Torales. The film has been awarded the Eurimages Development Co-Production Award at the eighth Europe-Latin American Co-Production Forum, here at the 67th San Sebastián International Film Festival.

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Cineuropa: Why did you want to tell this story?
Juan Sebastián Torales:
It’s a story that’s very personal to me. It came out of how I felt at a fairly dark time in my adolescence, something I think a lot of gay teenagers go through. I was born into a community that saw things through two lenses: conservatism and superstition. There was a sense of the magical in that superstition that always appealed to me. I took that dark time and fused it with the mythology of my own city, to bring a message of hope to young people who suffer abuse for being different.

Did you have this idea in mind for some time as the theme of your first full-length project?
The idea of making a film to do with Santiago legends has always been at the back of my mind, and I’ve been thinking about how to tie all that in with my own personal experiences for about five years now.

When you came to start work on the project, how did you approach it?
Almost from the very start I had the support of Pilar Peredo, who produced the film for Tu Vas Voir, and of Edgard Tenembaum. Basically, it grew out of our friendship; we came to Paris together twelve years ago and we’re inseparable now. Right from the beginning, when I was starting to dip my toes in the film scene in Paris, she would say, “Juan — when are you making your film?” After I told her that I had the idea, she wouldn’t let up. It’s a story of friendship; she’s like a sister to me. More recently we were joined by Lorena Quevedo at Twins Latin Films. She’s based in Cordoba, where I studied filmmaking and lived for nine years, and so for me it just made sense to reconnect with that city, where I have a lot of support. I met Lorena at Ventana Sur. Finally, there’s also Nicolas Steil from Iris Productions in Luxembourg, who co-produced the last film for Tu Vas Voir, Tremors [+see also:
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by Jayro Bustamante. We wanted to keep things in the family and maintain that working trust; we knew we would be in good hands.

For you, I imagine that collaborations between Latin America and Europe come naturally.
Absolutely. I’ve lived in Paris for some time, and it was such a stroke of luck to come across a Franco-Argentinian production company. Their previous work speaks for itself, and their films show a commitment to the messages they want to send to Latin American society, and to the whole world.

What do you think is the project’s greatest strength in terms of attracting other potential collaborators?
It has a certain truth — everybody has felt misunderstood at some point in their lives. I don’t mean to say that everybody has lived through periods of darkness, or of a particular kind, but at some point, they will have become aware of how angry they feel at the way things are — how we resort to violence, attack each other and discriminate against each other. That’s the tragic reality. I loved the idea of blending that with a touch of fantasy, which might also have something to do with my passion for horror films. It’s a horror/drama film that addresses something that I think is one of the most frightening things in the world: division and discrimination.

What stage is the project at now?
We’re at the initial stages of securing financing. We plan to apply to the INCAA, because that would open up other opportunities and we could start shooting in October. The producers are currently waiting on the third draft of the screenplay. I have a second draft that I’m very happy with, although I know that there is some room for improvement, and I’m going to be working on it at BrLab in São Paulo (3–9 October), where it was singled out from around 500 projects. I’ll be working with some superb teachers; the news couldn’t have come at a better time after the Eurimages Award here in San Sebastián.

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(Translated from Spanish)

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