There’s a particular and sensually beautiful way female directors capture lovemaking. Sprinkle that with a chance encounter at a costume party and then an impromptu getaway for a few days by a volcano national park in Costa Rica (with no one around for miles (with the exception of bugs, and we’re not talking a thriller). It’s a foray into the modern human experience with judgment suspended for an all-out unleashing of pure pleasure. All this lushness captured in a black and white, Spanish-language feature film that captured the hearts of critics at the Tribeca Film Festival 2015. Enter Paz Fábrega who studied at the University of Costa Rica and then the London Film School. This is an unassuming lady who is clear about her vision and open to experimenting with actors and the result, well shall I say, “¡Divino!”
Tio Louie: Your feature film, Viaje that just had its World Premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in NY, what inspired you to make it and what does it address?
Paz Fábrega: It’s about two characters who meet and spend a weekend in a very intimate way by travelling to the middle of nowhere to this volcano in a national park. What inspired me to make this film was seeing that between my friends and people that I know my age who have relationships like that for years, it’s difficult to define them. As some have typically described those relationships on Facebook, “it’s a little complicated.” It’s like, “There is someone in my life, but they don’t live around here or there is someone who I like, but this happened, but I don’t know if we’re dating.” It’s that kind of a non-descript label. It made me want to explain a relationship beyond the label.
TL: If we had to define the relationship between Luciana and Pedro how would you categorize it?
PF: I don’t know if it’s a fling or a one-night stand, but it’s more than that. It’s two people that connected in a very beautiful way. Perhaps it was a way of capturing the beauty of those encounters that at times is not acknowledged, simply because they’re transient ones that don’t last, but they’re there and they exist.
TL: As the screenwriter of Viage did your actors, Kattia González and Fernando Bolaños have to follow a script to the letter of the law or was there improvisation?
PF: There was a lot of improvisation. They never saw a full script. They knew more or less what was going to happen. Sometimes I gave them a scripted dialogue to serve as a guide. But I never expected them to actually follow it word-by-word. I just gave them enough so that they had some idea of what I wanted them to talk about and what kind of information to have at hand. Sometimes I said, “Don’t use this word” or “Don’t say that.” I sort of adapted more to what was natural for them.
TL: Women with “huevos” (balls) – you gave the female character in your film, played by Kattia González, a lot of power. Describe that angle or is this a recurring theme in your films?
PF: Since she had the principal role, I wanted her to be in the driver’s seat and in control of the relationship. It’s about her decision-making ability: does she stay or does she go? At one point in the film’s evolution she was supposed to have decided to go to London to live with her boyfriend who was awaiting her. But once the decision was made, she begins to sabotage her own game plan and find excuses and Pedro is one of those reasons. But originally we had concocted another strategy. However, once I started working with the actors, I loved the interaction between them so much that I started believing it and found it so lovely that the direction changed and it was more about their relationship – between the two of them – and less about her solely. But that angle was at the core since it is she who drives the story and makes the decisions. What remained was that aspect of her being that is a little impulsive and takes the plunge.
This is a facet of the human character that I find charming and alluring in others. While in his own right, he too is someone who lunges forward. The two of them are alike. But in this story she is the one who makes the final decision. But both are people who are not guarded and just go where the die rolls.
TL: How was post-production for completing this film and what particular challenges did you face that you had not encountered in earlier productions?
PF: After we finished shooting I had a lot of material because so much was improvised that I had much more material than is in the final film and I was a little bit daunted by all of this in the editing process. I did like the first assembly. Then I took some time off because I just had to create some distance from this film project. I then went to Thailand to work on another script.
On my way back through New York City I got together with my best friend who was living in Oregon. Two weeks later I suffered the worst thing that’s ever happened to me. This young woman who I have known since the age of six suddenly passed away. Afterwards, I couldn’t do anything for a very long time. For almost four months I couldn’t even leave the house or do much of anything. I went through a very dark phase.
It took me more than two years to finish the film. I just put it away. I didn’t want to do anything at all for a very long time. I didn’t think that I was going to ever finish it. If you have a regular job when something like that happens, you get up and go to work. It brings you out of anything. But when your job is working for yourself and doing something that is very difficult, coupled with not being in a good place emotionally – it’s very, very hard because you need to be very strong. The challenge of being an independent artist – and not just limited to being a filmmaker – is looking after yourself and taking care of yourself so that you’re strong enough to face your work, because it’s very personal and intimate and it can get difficult if you’re feeling delicate or fragile. So for a very long time I couldn’t finish it.
It was at the end of last year that Kattia González (lead actress & Co-producer) was the one who said I should start showing it to people; we need to do something with this. When I looked at it again after a long time, I recalled my original intentions in making a fun, light-hearted film about things that happen to us. But after this happened, I looked at it again and saw it differently. I felt that these things are so much more important to me now after what I have been through because that’s all we have in life. It’s about people that come through your life and maybe don’t stay, but you have that connection. Nobody stays forever. We’re always saying good-bye. But the time you share with someone – no matter how long or brief – that’s everything in life. It’s important to be open to having those moments even if you know it’s going to hurt when you’re going to miss that person afterwards. I made that connection with the film and that motivated me to finally finish it.
TL: What are your $0.10 that you would offer a director?
PF: Take advantage of this time we’re living in when one can find so many wonderful films. It used to be when I was in high school that it was so hard to even watch films that were not major releases. It was so hard to watch different sorts of films – the more interesting films. Because when you start watching a lot of films, the stuff that we are relegated to in cinemas, it starts to get a bit boring. You want something different. You want more.
The stuff I’m describing – independent cinema – is now available to everyone and that’s really great. This is a fantastic education for any aspiring filmmaker. Also, take advantage of all these new technologies – these new cameras and sound recording devices that you can just carry in your hand and have all your equipment in a backpack sufficient to make a feature film. Just go out and shoot films with your friends and don’t be bogged down by all the ideas and hypothetical pressures of what a production should be and this very long, drawn out painful process that most filmmakers envision. Just do it your own way. Remember that film is a very young medium. There are so many books about what a script should be, what a film should be.
We’re only just finding out what film is. The people that are going to find that out are the people making films. Now with everything available to us, what could result are many more people telling all sorts of stories.
TIO LOUIE/Louis E. Perego Moreno: President of Skyline Features, he is an interactive content producer and educator who for the past 33 years has owned a bilingual (English and Spanish-language) multimedia and educational production company developing documentaries, television programming and advertising commercials featuring Latinos, Blacks, Women, Urban Youth and LGBT. He is also the Executive Producer of PRIME LATINO MEDIA, the largest network of Latino multimedia-makers and actors in the metro-New York area that gather once a month to interview proven leaders in the community.