Jazmín López | Director’s Highlight
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Jazmín López is an award-winning visual artist and filmmaker. López is a graduate of the Universidad del Cine in Buenos Aires. She worked with Jorge Macchi and Guillermo Kuitca as tutors at the Universidad Torcuato Di Tella, Buenos Aires Argentina. Her work is represented by Ruth Benzacar Buenos Aires Argentina and REVOLVER gallery, Lima, Perú and has been exhibited in galleries and art events globally.
Her first feature Leones is a film that has been selected to present at the 69 Venezia Biennale, Viennale, New Directors New Films at MoMA and the Lincoln Center, Centre George Pompidou and KW institute Berlin, among many other world renown Film Festivals and featured in Variety.
IAF: How did you get involved in filmmaking?
I started to study Philosophy, and after some months, I decided I needed something a little more visual. Someone at that perfect moment said Visual Arts and Philosophy combined would be Cinema. I went to Universidad del cine university, not knowing much about it. In a matter of 2 to 3 months, I totally fell in love. It’s run by a filmmaker named Manuel Antín, who was a part of a beautiful moment in Literature, Film and even Visual Arts in Buenos Aires. They try really hard to teach us non-commercial Cinema, or what in the US would be considered independent film.
What is your feature film, Leones, about?
At 20 or 22 years old, I felt that I had been prepared all my life to be an adult, and then all of a sudden when I was, I didn’t know what to do with that responsibility. I felt an emptiness. It was a very exciting emptiness. Leones is a portrait of that moment in my life. The story follows five young people are involved in a serious car accident. Isabel, the youngest, is the only aware and helps her four friends realize what has happened. I was such a fan of Godard and Andrei Tarkovsky films, and I wanted to create something from this inspiration through my own experiences, my culture, and age at the time.
IAF: How did you finance Leones?
JL: It was a big budget for me at that moment, around 500,000 Euros. What we did was very common in Argentina. We applied to European funds. We have Hubert Bals, it’s a development fund that helps us develop a good script, translation of the script and a resume. Then we also applied to Arte Cinema and the production markets. The support that was very important for Leones was the Torino Film Lab. I had to pitch and then there’s a jury that selects 2 projects that win more than 30% of their budget. We won that prize. Having part of the budget already confirmed connected me to a lot of people who could help finance the rest. There are foundations that need you to have some money committed already. The National Film Society in Argentina gives you money back once the film is released. You have to find a way to finance it, and after the first release in five theaters in Argentina, you can get the money back. It was a combination of a lot of things, but it worked.
IAF: What effect have you seen in your Film career as a result of having successfully made and released an independent feature that made money?
JL: Now, when I have a meeting with a production company in Argentina or France or any of the countries involved in Leones, they know about the film, so it is easier. I premiered Leones at the Venice Film Festival, which was big for me. After that, it was accepted by a lot of festivals because it was at Venice. When you release a film at a major festival, you have this feeling of ‘wow’. Of course, it was very hard at the beginning. In meetings, I was trying to finance a film that I knew wouldn’t be commercial at all, and might never earn the money back. Surprisingly it turned a profit, but I couldn’t be sure of that when I was speaking with investors who could finance it before it was made. Now, I know it can be done.
IAF: How do you draw inspiration for your films? Is it always the same in that it’s based on a period in your life like Leones?
JL: Right now the film I’m writing is about the emptiness. It’s about the period at the end of a relationship. What really interests me is the idea of being emotionally in a state that doesn’t match where you are in reality. It’s an investigation of what I imagine would happen after a separation. For example, a woman will go to a house that she used to go with her partner to and he is there in her mind, but not there in reality. She’s doing something else in reality, but emotionally she is still there with him. I’m trying to see the possibility of a subjective camera that’s not in her eyes but is in her emotional state. It also happens when someone dies; you’re still with someone who isn’t physically with you anymore. I’m trying to investigate that grief in visual terms: what would happen if a person from your past was present emotionally but not physically? I’m working with continuity mistakes, which is how as a spectator you start to see that you are watching something that isn’t actually there. It takes a lot of play with logic in order to get the spectator to understand what is really going on.
IAF: Is there a lack of female directors in Argentina?
JL: Yes. It’s very difficult.
IAF: What was your experience like on Leones as a young female director?
JL: I am thinking a lot about Feminism these days. Leones was a very physically demanding film. 80% of the crew were men and most of them were technical professionals. For me, it was a big and new experience, but I remember at the first meeting they were rolling their eyes. Eventually, during the shoot, some started to understand that this was very important to me and I wasn’t just playing with the idea of being a filmmaker. And they always try to make the film shorter. If it comes from a woman, it’s as if the idea isn’t that interesting because it’s a she. I hate that with all my being. It’s really hard, especially with the crew.
IAF: What advice would you give to aspiring female directors?
JL: I would say just do it. It’s time. I’ve thought independently all my life about Feminism and I’m happy that for the first time in history it’s becoming “a thing” shared amongst the majority. I know there’s so much manipulation of that and so much trendiness and whatever, but I do believe that either the future is female or the future is the end.
IAF: How did you start doing art and how did your filmmaking translate into that?
JL: When I was studying, I was fascinated with the 60s and 70s type of filmmaking, particularly in Europe. I think filmmaking has a lot more to say or investigate or ask in terms of the visual composition, and I’m not just saying this in regard to experimental filmmakers. In a way, exaggerating a bit, narrative filmmaking is a way to dominate the masses. I was not interested in narrative filmmaking for this reason. I have a friend who is a painter, and I started to go with her to paint in her atelier. There, I learned in the opposite way from my Film studies where we were learning narrative filmmaking and watching those types of films. In Visual Art, there is narrative, but it doesn’t make up the structure of the piece. It can be an element of a work, but it’s not the foundation.
IAF: And you’re not trying to say the same thing in different mediums, right?
JL: Right. I think the more interesting things that my films have are human beings but not because it’s figurative or representative, it’s not about that. It’s a concept mixed with a language, and this is what the result has to be. If not, I would be doing advertising. You can say the same message in a picture, slogan, video, etc. I choose different messages using different mediums.
IAF: What do you think are the main differences between the Film and Art worlds, in your opinion?
JL: Just a matter of practicality. I’ve started to see more and more people that I knew from Cinema in Visual Arts and vice versa, which I find interesting and it’s happening in all fields I think. I’d say the difference is rather practical than substantial. In the end, it’s the same. They are merging more and more. I love that because people have stopped asking me if I’m a filmmaker or artist. I don’t want to be categorized.
IAF: Where do you find inspiration for your Visual Art?
JL: I would say the same as for my films. I try to put myself in a place, as a medium in a way- channeling. And then, I try to create an image that can show or at least investigate that feeling using different media. It’s about trying to create images that suggest a type of feeling and thinking, never a literal narrative.
IAF: What advice would you give aspiring filmmakers?
JL: I think the Film Industry doesn’t exist in the sense people think, but it exists commercially. It wasn’t that separate 40 years ago. Godard films were released commercially and people were going to them and not throwing tomatoes.
I also think to watch films is one of the most beautiful things, and not to try to understand them during the first viewing. For me, an interesting film is not plot driven and obvious in the very first moment. Watch films with this in mind. You can become a part of it after watching it so many times and after thinking about it as a whole. It’s yours. There are some films that I love that I feel are mine. So, in this way, see films, think about them and let them be yours. My films and art pieces are not mine after I release them, they are for the world.
IAF: Do you have a favorite project you’ve worked on so far in your career?
JL: In the Venice biennial, they asked 69 directors to do a 1-minute video short. At the beginning, I was very upset. I thought, “Why one minute? Why should I do that? What can I tell in one minute?” But when you have some limitations you can really dive into an idea and try to think very sharply. I really enjoyed that, and I liked that activity. I was complaining and then I was falling in love with the limitation. I would choose that.
IAF: What else do you have coming up beside the film you’re writing? And where are you in the process of writing?
JL: I’m writing the script and I’m writing a book about the project I did in Lima with Dorothea Lasky. I have an exhibition in November in Madrid, but for now, I am basically just writing, and always investigating and seeing and watching. It’s my way of working.
Jazmín is currently finishing the script and beginning financing for her next feature film, My Dear Valentín while she pursues Visual Arts projects. Her film, which focuses on the aftermath of grief will take a new point of view on the topic. In her words; “When you wake up after the shock, you never know what’s broken and what’s not.”
You can connect with Jazmín on I AM FILM @jazminlopez
Interview conducted and edited by Writer and Journalist, Elyse Roth @EMRoth for I AM FILM.
Jazmín López | Biography
Jazmín López is an award-winning filmmaker and visual artist. Her feature film, Leones, was selected to present at the 69 Venezia Biennale (2012), Viennale, New Directors New Films at MoMA and the Lincoln Center, Centre George Pompidou and KW institute Berlin, amongst many other world-renown film Festivals and art institutions. Her work is represented by Ruth Benzacar and REVOLVER gallery and has been exhibited within major galleries and art fairs, globally. López graduated from the Universidad del Cine in Buenos Aires and worked under the tutelage of Argentina’s leading artists, Jorge Macchi and Guillermo Kuitca, at the Universidad Torcuato Di Tella.