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Spain / Uruguay

Rafa Russo • Director of The Year of Fury

“You never know which projects will end up moving forward”

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- We talked to the filmmaker, who has returned to direct a feature again after a 15-year hiatus; the movie reconstructs the moments prior to the dawn of the military dictatorship in Uruguay in 1972

Rafa Russo • Director of The Year of Fury

It’s good to know that Rafa Russo (Madrid, 1962), the screenwriter of features such as Remember Me [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Martín Rosete
film profile
]
and La decisión de Julia [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
, is back in the director’s chair with The Year of Fury [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Rafa Russo
film profile
]
, as his first film, Love in Self Defense, dates all the way back to 2004. On this occasion, it’s a co-production between Spain and Uruguay, starring Joaquín Furriel, Alberto Ammann, Sara Sálamo, Maribel Verdú, Martina Gusman and Daniel Grao, and it reconstructs the months leading up to the coup d’état in the South American country in the 1970s.

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Cineuropa: Why did it take you so long to direct another movie?
Rafa Russo:
Because I wasn’t able to: not that I didn’t try several times… I carried on writing screenplays for other people, but I also tried to get my own ones off the ground, but for one reason or another, they didn’t move forward. There was a huge crisis, which severely damaged the industry, and it became increasingly difficult to get projects moving. I suppose the fact that my feature debut didn’t have the impact I had been hoping for didn’t help either. You never know which projects will end up moving forward and which ones won’t, because initially, The Year of Fury didn’t seem like a simple prospect at all, as it unfolds in Uruguay in the 1970s. However, the screenplay gradually made small breakthroughs. I had projects in development at the same time, which were ostensibly more mainstream, but which have been left by the wayside. But I’m happy with this movie: I hope it enables me to do more directing and that it puts me on the map again.

It must really have got you into shape, as it’s a period film and is a lot more ambitious than your feature debut
Yes, it was extremely demanding, and I had to prepare myself a great deal for it: it was such a challenge that now I feel like I could direct Apocalypse Now if I needed to [laughs]. I put my all into this film.

But how does a Madrilenian like you end up in a South American country like this?
I was born in Madrid, but my parents are Argentinian, and that’s why I’ve always felt connected to the political and social reality in Latin America: Uruguay and Argentina are sister nations. When they told me about “the year of fury” and what it meant, I saw there was a great story and that it could be approached differently… And in addition, it’s a country that hasn’t been depicted on film very often. All of that made the project very appealing and stimulating.

Plus all dictatorships are alike: were you also thinking about the one that Spain had to endure for some of last century?
Yes, of course – more than anything else, I was interested in portraying what the moments leading up to the horror of the dictatorship were like. When I see films about the Nazis, I think it’s more stirring to see what the years before that were like, and how they got to that point. We’ve already seen the sheer horror in many other features; there’s not much new to be said there. Perhaps that’s why it’s more interesting to tell the story of those years leading up to it and how they got there, for example, in a country like Uruguay, which has always been at the cutting edge of human rights and progressivism in Latin America. And the fact that that particular country ended up sliding into the abyss of totalitarianism really caught my attention. I wanted to tell the story from the perspective of the man on the street, rather than from the desks of the politicians or the soldiers. I wanted to get down and dirty, and look at the nitty-gritty of how regular people experienced that moment, with a wide-ranging kaleidoscope of characters that had different points of view. Which attitudes did they gradually develop in the face of that stifling atmosphere that enveloped them? In this way, I was able to make today’s viewer feel more involved with what people were going through at that time.

Actually, two of the protagonists (played by Alberto Ammann and Joaquín Furriel) are screenwriters, just like Rafa Russo…
They’re fictional characters, and there were comedy programmes on Uruguayan television during that decade that were very well known. As a creator, I was interested in adopting the point of view of someone involved in culture because I believe we have a weapon that other people maybe don’t possess. It’s a double-edge sword: on one hand, you can condemn and amplify what you’re living through (which is something that others can’t do), but you feel the burden of that responsibility, and because of that, you can’t focus on the paper and detach yourself from what’s happening outside, as everything you try to write will pale in comparison to what’s actually going on, especially when it’s something so shocking. And so if you want to take a look in the mirror afterwards and feel good about yourself, it’s hard to prise yourself away from it, which means it’s a complicated position for an artist to be in.

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(Translated from Spanish)

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