Sónar co-director Sergio Caballero has emerged in recent times as an essential film maker. Following Finisterrae (2010), which was also the image of the International Festival of Advanced Music, he’s just premiered La Distancia, an experimental fantasy film that was premiered in the Brilliant Future section at the 43th International Film Festival of Rotterdam. So far the film has been present in 20 festivals in countries including Brazil, UK, South Africa, South Korea or Taiwan. The film is a very personal art-house film in which sound and image are equally important.
In La Distancia, Russian is again the language. Why?
Dramaturgy is experiencing a boom. People insist on telling a store by following the three steps: a beginning, development and end. However, I’m much more interested in making a film in which this isn’t the most important. In La Distancia there’s a story, but it isn’t the most important element but joins others like sound or image. That’s why I like using other languages. Catalan or Castilian are too close, and Russian takes you to a world where things happen and make of La Distancia a place where certain characters live and where certain things happen.
I use to work with distant languages because I like their sound and what they bring to the film
You are the co-director of Sonar, so your musical training is palpable. It seems that you ise Russian because of its musicality.
A few years ago I stated making music with Pedro Alcalde. We co-wrote the score for a Chejov play for Nacho Duato’s National Dance Company. We composed it using our voices, there was someone narrating and the music came out of that. That’s when I felt in love with the sonority of voices and I realized how rich that language is.
The lead actor of the film is the power station, which is expressed through a 100 HZ bass tune
In fact, sounds are like characters…
In La Distancia there are several sounds that are part of the film. For example, in the guard’s house there’s some dripping that is there all the time. The leading character is the power station that expresses itself through a 100HZ low sound. There’s also a cicada that shows up several times, which doesn’t really make sense because of the cold, but it helps to make changes in the film.
What is La Distancia?
It’s a posible world, a place that continues existing once the film is over and which has several layers—a plastic one, a sound one, and an esoteric one, closer to science fiction.
What are the differences between Finisterrae and La Distancia? The first one was the image of Sónar 2010 and the dwarves and the power station of the second were the image of Sónar 2012…
We filmed Finisterrae with the idea of making a film, but also to be the image of Sónar. We wanted to go beyond 2D in that respect and make it into an animated video for the first time in history. We wanted it to have a live of its own. With La Distancia, it was different. The fact that it was the image of Sónar 2012 was useful to get funds for the film.
The most important thing to do filming is to find a good dealer and just fun
You’re known for being an anti-academic person. What would you say to those who want to study film in school and ask their parents for tuition money?
If you are interested in doing something, do it. Looking for experiences and work. If there is a field you don’t master, hire someone to do it for you. The point is: find a good dealer and have fun. But I wouldn’t try to learn a profession that is much more intuitive than academic. You don’t need a script but your own references and avoid trends. If you only have an iPhone to make a movie, make it so, look for the most convenient way to make your film, a personal one preferably.
What do you think of social realism in cinema? It seems you’re not much into it…
Indie films and social realism are a pain. I’m so bored with the classic film about a boy with guitar, like Buffalo 66, and then everyone wants to be Vincent Gallo. There was more freedom and acceptance in 80s cinema than there is now. And it’s the fault of distributors, critics and festival.
Throughout your life you have been involved in various musical projects, either as a composer or as the co-director of Sonar. What led you to filmmaking?
It’s what I’ve always wanted to do. The staging is impressive and being a director is a little bit like being a semi-God: you make the sound, the image and create the time of your own story. It’s the richest form of expression. But I’m much more interested about process than the result, that’s why they label me not very mainstream.
But your work has been praised in in certain festivals…
I don’t really like festivals. I attend very few of them, and if I go it’s because of a good reason. I attended the Copenhaguen festival because then I can go and eat the Noma, for example. And the only festival I like is the Rotterdam Festival because it’s much more open that the others. Berlin and Cannes are full of clichés, for example.
In my work there are recurring elements: taxidermy, cold, snow and humor
Let’s go back to La Distancia. It’s an experimental fantasy film but also a comedy film. Is this comedy element something you were looking for or it just happened in the process…?
There are recurring elements in my work: taxidermy, cold, snow and also humor. I think the art-house films shouldn’t be at odds with humour. Laughter is healthy at all levels.
Even the erotic moments are loaded with humor. But you’ve made it very clear you don’t want to make commercial cinema.
I’m not so sure about that. When I was making the film I wanted it to be a blockbuster. There’re murders, sex, humour, action… Some people think it’s a weird film, but in my opinion everything that happens in just normal and commercial.
The indie films and social realism bore me, it tired me that everyone wants to be Vincent Gallo in Buffalo66
Do you have another project in mind?
Yes, and it will be radical. Since I have tried to do something commercial and nobody has understood it, I’m not going to show my more mainstream side anymore. If Finisterre was a road movie and La Distance is about a robbery, now I’ll work on a murder. It will also be in Russian.
Your favourite hotspots?
I’m against banning, it’s pointless. If you ban Nazi books, there will be more because people will want to read what’s banned. Or look what’s happening now: if you don’t allow people to vote, there will be more and more people who will want to vote. Banning equals more federalists. I don’t like that ‘banning is banned’ thing, it sound a bit hippy.
You can’t stop listening to…
A Bach piece for four hands played by György Kurtág.
You never thought you’d end up…
Getting a driver’s license. I had a fake one for ten year. I was never caught and, luckily, they’ll never do because now I have a real one.
Something easy and very difficult at the same time.