Maria Belen Poncio and Rosario Perazolo Masjoan • Director and co-director of 4 Feet High
“We prioritised authenticity, and we wanted people to find beauty in this diverse body”
- We had the chance to talk to the two filmmakers behind the Argentinian transmedia series
Cineuropa caught up with Maria Belen Poncio (director and co-writer) and Rosario Perazolo Masjoan (lead writer and co-director), the team behind the new transmedia series 4 Feet High, presented in the Indie Series programme of the Sundance Film Festival.
Cineuropa: When did you start developing the project?
Rosario Perazolo Masjoan: The making of 4 Feet High began four years ago, when our producer Ezequiel Lenardon suggested making a VR documentary about my life after I gave a TEDx talk in Córdoba. I wanted to talk about the sexuality of people with disabilities. Together with Maria, we started to create this universe.
Maria Belen Poncio: When Lenardon invited me to develop the project, I was captivated by the idea of rethinking the perception of disability and getting closer to that reality. Working with Rosario to create this piece has been a great journey. We shared many experiences and reflections that ended up being in the script. We also had a very talented team of writers – the two writers who worked on the last draft, Greta Molas and Javier Correa Cáceres, along with the others who participated in different stages of the development – namely, Elisa Gagliano, Ivana Galdeano, Gabriela Vidal and Delphine Agut.
How did you cast your three leads?
RPM: The casting was one of our top priorities. For me, it was very important to find someone with real disabilities to play the role. But I knew it was going to be a difficult process. We did a casting call through social media, inviting people for an in-person casting session in Córdoba and Buenos Aires. We wanted to prioritise the social and political importance of representation over possible professional experience. For me, as a disabled person, I know the importance of representation, the importance of not letting others speak for us. We cannot continue to tolerate people without disabilities representing bodies or realities that they don't “live”. Through art, we create culture and society, and culture should show real bodies as they are.
MBP: We prioritised authenticity, and we wanted people to find beauty in this diverse body. Marisol Agostina Irigoyen signed up to the casting through social media, but she was not able to get to the place because of transportation issues. After having seen nearly 20 wheelchair users in Córdoba and Buenos Aires, I went back to the registration form and saw Marisol, who had sent us a very cool video. She was very funny and singing beautifully. I asked her to do a private casting session and travelled to Buenos Aires just to see her. She didn't have any acting experience before, but her courage, the way she moved her body, how her eyes shined, her mix of tenderness and smartness – it was all captivating. She was Juana. The camera loved her.
Regarding Marcio Ramses and Florencia Licera [who play Efe and Julia, respectively], they are both from Córdoba, and they attended the casting sessions. The minute they entered the room, I loved them. Florencia’s personality reflected how we had imagined Julia – strong, powerful and combative. The same thing happened with Marcio – both feminine and masculine. We wanted Efe to be like that: free, without categories, without labels.
Why did you decide to add visual effects to show Juana's inner world?
MBP: The idea behind adding animation was indeed to share Juana's inner world, thoughts and emotions. The whole story is told from her perspective, and we wanted to invite people to feel what she feels. This also opened up the possibility of breaking the boundaries between reality and fiction. The animated universe was built by a group of artists from Córdoba – Florencia Cosutta, Agustina Moron, El Pelele and Sofia Torres Kosiba, led by art director Guillermo Mena. It was animated by MalditoMaus and Estudio Animo, along with other independent VFX composers.
Why did you decide to add a VR experience to the production? How will viewers explore Juana's emotions?
MBP: The project was born as a VR series inviting people to live the experience of being 4 feet off the ground, the height from which you see the world when you are in a wheelchair. After making a first short VR film in 2018, entitled 4 Feet: Blind Date, we noticed that we wanted this story to be more accessible than what VR could offer, so we decided to work on a cross-platform series. So we decided to include not only four powerful VR sensorial experiences – inviting viewers to live out those situations, explore the locations and feel closer to the characters – but also six 2D episodes to reach a wider audience. In these “flat” episodes, we see more character development, dialogues and conflicts, whereas the VR component allows us to dig deep into a more experiential and sensorial dimension.
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