Exclusive Wholly Cinema interview with filmmaker Jorge Thielen Armand.
Blog post by Ross Munro for Wholly Cinema.
We here at Wholly Cinema were fortunate to snag an interview with up and coming Venezuelan filmmaker Jorge Thielen Armand who, while based currently in Toronto, has been successfully launching his first feature “La Soledad” into the limelight of several high profile film festivals such as Venice, Miami, Cartagena and Atlanta to name but a few.
His film quietly and artfully depicts the chaotic unraveling in modern day Venezuela through the eyes of a young father, Jose, as he tries to keep his family afloat while residing in a crumbling abandoned mansion in a suburb of the similarly decaying heart of Caracas.
“La Soledad” is a rigorously shot and profoundly meditative piece of honest filmmaking that has the realistic feel of the Dardennes Brothers mixed with the Malick-infused dream-like quality that announces a bold new cinematic voice from a country where making a film is no easy task to say the least as witnessed by the current economic hardships, food and medicine shortages and an oppressive government in its seemingly last ditch death throes waging a civil war against its citizens clamouring for change.
Wholly Cinema: What was the inspiration for “La Soledad”?
Jorge: I wanted to explore my feeling of loss at having left Venezuela and being separated from my family. Also, my great grandmother passed away and I wanted to make a film to honor the memories of our family in her house and create a metaphor between the country’s economic collapse and the story inside the house.
WC: How long did it take to make “La Soledad”?
Jorge: The idea emerged in 2014 when I returned to my great grandmother’s house for the first time in 15 years and saw my childhood friend (and the film’s main actor) Jose and proposed that we make a film together. Initially, I filmed an 8-minute video that was a cross between a trailer and some scenes from the film and with that was able to get the rest of the financing to complete the actual film. So the whole process of making “La Soledad” probably took around 3 years in total.
WC: What were the difficulties in shooting in the chaotic and dangerous environment of modern day Caracas?
Jorge: The economic crisis in Venezuela imposed a lot of ridiculous challenges. For example, one of our crew had to ride around Caracas all day just to find and buy consumer batteries for the set. The camera assistants would have to reuse all the tape from the floor because there was no tape available. Also, the boom operator would have to turn off the microphone to save the batteries but would sometimes forget to turn them back on when filming.
Plus, there’s only one steadicam operator in the whole country because all the others left so working on his schedule was difficult. Also, the crime situation in Caracas- you needed security always and it was very tense especially when shooting at night. But still Venezuela is a great place to shoot because there is so much to explore there- for me it’s a treasure chest of stories. In fact, there’s so much hardship wherever you go that you find incredible people doing things to survive and those are great inspiration for stories.
WC: Will you be screening “La Soledad” in Venezuela?
Jorge: It’s going to be released there in theaters in June but I have a feeling something is brewing because the website of CNAC (the official Venezuelan government filmmaking office) hasn’t even tweeted one thing about our film even though we just won the Audience Award at Miami Film Festival.
WC: Is it too controversial?
Jorge: My film doesn’t reveal anything that anyone doesn’t already know. The film puts a face to the crisis in Venezuela and I feel it’s honest and subtle and lets you experience things through the eyes of the character. I don’t try to provide any answers or theories as to why the situation’s like this- I don’t point fingers but I think it’s all there for the audience to make its own conclusion.
WC: What filmmakers inspire you?
Jorge: I’m very inspired by the films of Pedro Costa from Portugal and Italian filmmaker Roberto Minervini as well as Oscar Ruiz Navia from Colombia. Also, recent Venezuelan films like “Desde Allá” (“From Afar”) and “Pelo Malo” (“Bad Hair”).
WC: What’s your next project?
Jorge: I’m currently developing my second feature which is a “documentary dream” about my father returning to a tourist camp that he built in the Amazon. We’re also creating a VR project.
WC: What was your biggest artistic challenge when making “La Soledad”?
Jorge: Staying true to my vision and trying to merge fiction and documentary together.
“La Soledad” is currently on the international festival circuit and is necessary viewing- Viva La Cinema!