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Spain / Argentina

Juan Miguel del Castillo • Director of Unfinished Affairs

"Violence leaves its mark on you forever, it's a scar that never heals"


- The Spanish filmmaker releases his second feature film, once again starring Natalia de Molina, an adaptation of the novel by Benito Olmo

Juan Miguel del Castillo • Director of Unfinished Affairs

The dramatic thriller Unfinished Affairs [+see also:
film review
interview: Juan Miguel del Castillo
film profile
opens on 13 May and is the second feature film by Cádiz director Juan Miguel del Castillo after Food and Shelter [+see also:
interview: Juan Miguel del Castillo
film profile
. The same lead in that drama, Natalia de Molina, works again with the director, this time alongside the French actor Fred Tatien in a tense psychological thriller, a film adaptation of the novel of the same name by Benito Olmo, which competed in the official section of the 25th Malaga Festival.

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Cineuropa: These two films are very different! Was the transition between them easy?
Juan Miguel del Castillo:
No, it has been tricky. A real challenge. When the producer Marta Velasco called me to tell me she wanted to do it with me, I was scared, because I didn't know how to step in. Things were going well with Food and Shelter, but I had no projects. I read the novel and told her about it, because it had some good ingredients, like the fact that it was set in Cádiz and dealt with male violence. She loved it, got the rights and offered me the adaptation: I didn't think much about it, and I jumped at the chance. I tried to bring it to my domain, making it an unconventional thriller.

You could say it’s a thriller based on psychological aspects.
Yes, on characters, a human, relatable thriller, showing the consequences of violence. The police storyline is not important, but a main theme, because I am more interested in other aspects of the film.

Also, some central characters experience tremendous conflicts.
Yes, they have both suffered instances of male violence and are going to live in Cádiz to start a brighter period; but things get complicated there. I found the connection between the central characters interesting, because although they are very different, deep down they are going through the same thing: they are a mirror of each other.

Are they blocked by what they have gone through?
Violence leaves its mark on you forever: it’s a scar that never heals. This was present in the novel, but there the words are key, and here we have tried to convey the emotions so that the audience empathises with such a difficult situation.

Cádiz - your hometown and also the hometown of the author of the novel on which your film is based - is a place that has not yet been used that much in film...
The province of Cádiz has a lot of potential, as I'm from there and I know all its different spots. When I read the book I saw that there were good locations, making the place another protagonist. It is something new and different to have a thriller set there: I wanted to show its light but contrasting with its sordid side.

I have to ask, like any film adaptation, are there any changes compared to the book on which it is based?

It has the same spirit. There are plots and characters that have been removed: we have even changed the gender of some of them. We also changed the fact that the protagonists knew each other in the hospital, and each lived in a different part of the city: we made them neighbours. In the book they don't connect as much:  that's why they had to be close. Changes like that, which worked for the film. But Bonito Olmo is happy with the adaptation.

In Unfinished Affairs, the social background can also be seen through the immigrant characters from different social classes.
Yes, these are light touches, because the system is not working properly; work is being done to eradicate male violence, but there are still victims every day. There is also police corruption, the judicial system and the immigration issue. We cannot go into depth or make a film pamphlet but, by sticking to the theme of the system, we can say what interests us.

Finally, it should be noted that tragedy pervades the whole film...
Yes, yes, it's a tough film, but I think this is the best way for the message to resonate longer. My aim was to put an issue on the table, giving it visibility. We had a big debate about whether to make it less disheartening or not. Creation is about making choices, that's my job, and I've tried to do my best. I've kept that tone in the film because I think the message is stronger that way. With the subject matter we're dealing with, the story could never end well. It's our narrative decision, because we had more endings filmed and we've been debating until recently how to end it. 

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(Translated from Spanish by Vicky York)

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