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BERLINALE 2020 Forum

Irene Gutiérrez • Director of Between Dog and Wolf

“My lead characters represent a way of being in the world which has been lost”


- BERLINALE 2020: In the Forum section, Spanish filmmaker Irene Gutiérrez presents her second feature film, Between Dog and Wolf , starring three real-life war veterans

Irene Gutiérrez  • Director of Between Dog and Wolf

Spanish filmmaker and teacher Irene Gutiérrez experienced Rotterdam film festival in 2014 with Hotel Nueva Isla [+see also:
film review
film profile
. She now appears in the Forum section of the 70th Berlinale with her second feature film, Between Dog and Wolf [+see also:
film review
interview: Irene Gutiérrez
film profile
, a docufiction produced between Spain, Cuba and Colombia which takes place in the jungle and stars three real-life war veterans. Cineuropa has had a chat with her.

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Cineuropa: Where did the idea for the film come from?
Irene Gutiérrez:
The seed for Between Dog and Wolf goes back to my first stay as a student at the International Film School of San Antonio de los Baños (Cuba), where I was able to discover that many of its workers had participated as internationalist combatants in Angola, but none of them spoke comfortably about the topic. That same year, for one of the practical exercises I travelled to San Pablo de Yao, in the heart of the Sierra Maestra where Televisión Serrana is located. As soon as I got there, I knew I would go back to make a film. In time I realised that that the two things would eventually come together, since the veterans that I interviewed in the Sierra Maestra have qualities that differentiated them from those from the Film School: the landscape that surrounds them and the way they spoke about their years on the Angolan front. Their words are full of epic, perhaps because in those mountains they also said goodbye to their parents when they rose up alongside Ché against the Batista dictatorship. It seemed to me that the matter of “generational duty” was deeply marked in their lives, a generation that put the commands of the Cuban Revolution before their own desires as individuals. They represent a way of being in the world that has been lost today.

What links could this film have with your previous film, Hotel Nueva Isla?
Between Dog and Wolf is a natural response to that film. Both Jorge, the lead character in Hotel Nueva Isla, and our guerrilla fighters could be contemporary Quijotes, vital, headstrong and unique. After the premier of my first feature length film I was already pitching this project at San Sebastian Film Festival’s Europe-Latin America Co-production Forum. Alongside Hotel…, this film creates a diptych about the anonymous heroes of the Cuban Revolution, but this time I wanted to film with a different method, form and style. Hench I went to the Sierra Maestra with the idea of making a jungle movie on location. It was a logical evolution, pushed by my desire to take on challenges under the same premise as my works.

How did you select the three protagonists?
The work with Carlos Y. Rodríguez was essential: filmmaker from Televisión Serrana and friend since my student years, he made a broad selection from the town. Throughout the process, the interviewees led us to others who were not on the original list, confirming once again the historic dimension of the topic I was investigating. After three months, I decided to work with five of them: the three lead characters, Pepé the solitary guerrilla fighter and Lázaro the pastor. While living in the town, I was very close to Estebita, Miguel and Alberto, leading me to believe that they should also be the leads because of their complete generosity, the old friendship that there was between them, their personal stories, their exceptional faces and the balance they possess between mind, body and heart.

Filming in the jungle can’t be easy. How was the experience, how long did filming take, where did it take place and how many people were in the team?
There were seven of us in the technical team. The film was shot in San Pablo de Yao, in and around the mid and high mountain jungle areas. The challenges were physical and psychological. We started shooting the film a month after the death of my father, who as a young man served three years as a parachutist in the Sahara. He had a way of being in the world, without fear, which reminded me of that of these men. So, during filming, they became my fathers and the rest of the team a family. José Martí has already expressed it in his Campaign Diary: “Climb hills sister men”. I think this phrase sums up the spirit not just of what we can see on the screen, but also of the process of shooting this film.

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(Translated from Spanish by Laura Villada)

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