Interview with Ion de Sosa
Ion de Sosa debuted in 2011 with the film True Love (2011), a film in which, in an exercise of exorcism, brutally exposes his heartbreaking and unbearable pain caused by a failed love relationship, to the point of making the audience feel uncomfortable. The second film of this Berlin-based Basque filmmaker is shocking to say the least. Although in hindsight, and understanding science fiction’s need for detachment and allegory, Sueñan los androides (2014), really makes sense. The film is a sui generis adaptation of the classic book by Philip K. Dick that inspired the legendary film Blade Runner (1982). Sueñan los androides was premiered at the latest edition of the Festival de Cine Europeo de Sevilla and reaped great success at the Berlinale. Now Festival de Cinema d’Autor D’A gives us a chance to in Barcelona—and also in Madrid these days—this peculiar and decadent futuristic chimera set in Benidorm in 2052, a dystopian place—in the broadest sense of the word— that is unusually familiar.
It has been five months since the release of Sueñan los androides at the Festival de Cine Europeo de Sevilla.Has your perception changed since that first contact with the public?
My perception about it hasn’t changed because I haven’t watched it again. What I do have is a more complete discourse after having answered so many questions over the past few months.
What inspired you the most, Philip K. Dick’s cyberpunk book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968) or Ridley Scott’s 1982 film adaptation Blade Runner?
My film has little to do with neither of them, except for the title, which is a brief and affirmative version of Dick’s novel. Having used the titled, the film is a game of appropriations, of suggesting and not telling. For copyright issues, you can’t make a too faithful an adaptation, but you can try to imitate that atmosphere and that decadent future Dick talks about without fear to be sued. There is a sequence in Blade Runner that was also a starting point, one in which Rick Deckard tells Rachel, the Android, that all those memories she has in her brain are probably the memories of the engineer that created her or of the engineer’s nephew. Starting from there and using archive footage about my environment, my family and friends, I started imagining how androids would be if they’re memories were about having been raised by a traditional family. How would those androids be if their memories were my memories of one Christmas Eve with my family or of a trip with friends?
In Dick’s novel the idea of “reality” is very much present. The protagonist has to continually tell androids from humans, reality from the fictitious. This ambiguity is also present in your film, where “reality” is very important, blurring the limits between documentary and film. This is a rising trend in Spanish independent film. What led you to it? Do you think it gives that touch of indetermination to the filmic experience?
Rather than being a mix of documentary film and fiction, it is fiction with elements of reality. We’ve portrayed Benidorm’s architectural environment to talk about a future in which progress is at a standstill and in which everything is the same as it was in 2014. Given that most tourists in Benidorm are old people, we invented a society in which young people are dead or have emigrated, retired people and their leisure routines being the only survivors. I think using amateur actors from Benidorm playing themselves and shooting indoors and in nature adds freshness and reinforces that parallelism between the future portrayed in the film and today’s Spain.
The way you frame urban landscapes is rather iconoclastic, but at the same time the 16mm format allows us to have a very realistic and closer perception of those places. Is there a connection between your love for documentaries and the way you have to film Benidorm’s architecture? What is your relationship with that space and what led you to film there?
I make frontal frames to remove any dramatic intention with the camera. In order for the viewer to have a more realistic, less manipulated perception of the future I propose, with no futuristic element except for the alleged androids. I almost always shot in 4:3 format and 16mm because their organic quality makes you spend more time contemplating each image. I don’t usually move the camera much; the grain is what generates some internal movement.
What has characterized the passage from True Love, which is a sort of a diary, to science fiction? How has living in Berlin influenced you? From that perspective, what is your opinion of the Spanish film scene?
The shooting and editing of True Love took me about three years of work with autobiographical material. Between 2008 and 2010, when I filmed True Love I was immersed in my own grief and that was what I wanted to tell, then I went back and forth presenting the film and always telling the same story, talking about my relationships, how they had failed and how miserable I’d been… Until one day in June 2011, in Mexico City, while drinking beer with a friend, I decided that enough was enough, I was really tired. My next film would be something fun to shoot and wouldn’t have anything to do with my personal life. It’d preferably be science fiction, the complete opposite of True Love. Living in Berlin perhaps I feel some nostalgia for my country, my family and my friends. I think Sueñan los androides is also a love song to my loved ones whom I see less than they would like. I don’t know what the Spanish film scene is. You can’t put in the same bag all the films made in Spain. I know nothing other than my own environment, my films and my friends, and I think we’re on the right track.
With True Love you were associated with the so-called “Other Spanish Cinema”. What do you think about that label? Do you think they’re good to defend a particular kind of film? Behind this label, we see very close collaborative relationships, for example, with members of the “Other Spanish Cinema” such as Luis Lopez Carrasco (director of The Future, and member of the group Los Hijos) or Chema García Ibarra (Uranes). What can you tell us about your experience with them?
I don’t know that being part of the “Other Spanish Cinema” means. I understand it’s independent film outside the traditional commercial circuit. I haven’t given much thought to think. I think any publicity we get either in solitary or in a group is good; the important thing is to bring people to theaters during the few days we’re given us to show our films. Regarding Chema and Luis, all I can say is that it’s a privilege to have them and be there for them if they need me in their projects.
This film can only be seen in very specific areas: festivals, cultural centers, etc. and rarely get to be released in theaters. What can you say about this?
Festivals are the natural habitat for these films because they’re a meeting forum for fans and facilitate direct contact between the director and the viewer, which is something that interests me a lot. It is very difficult for theatres to screen films such as Sueñan los androides. The general public is offered very specific products and can’t watch Spanish films that are being screened in international festivals. We’re not given the chance to decide whether we want to go watch it or not, whether you like it or not. That’s a shame. And it’s also very bad that they’re not broadcasted on TV either.
Any hotspots worth recommending?
I don’t know what a hotspot is. I’ve checked Wikipedia and it says it has to do with biodiversity and with endangered species. I’d recommend going to Murcio or Las Palmas. I don’t know if they’re hotspots but the last time I was there I had a blast. I can also recommend attending D’A, to Sala Berlanga in Madrid to watch Sueñan los androides.
You never thought you end up…
Filling out surveys to promote my film
Being a good person