cinema nicaraguaPosted: April 23, 2015
For most ‘indy’ directors, their audiences can usually be counted amongst those fortunate enough to travel the world attending film festivals – other film directors, critics, and the local population of wherever the circus has moved on to – Berlin, Buenos Aires, Cannes, Sundance, Toronto etc.
But for La Yuma, Florence Jaugey’s first full length feature, things were a bit different. After hearing the buzz about it, and visiting Nicaragua not long after its release, I walked into a bookshop which stocked DVDs, hoping to pick up a copy. I was then treated to a 15 minute lecture by the shop assistant, praising the virtues of the first feature film to be made in Nicaragua for two decades.
Jaugey isn’t Nicaraguan. Originally a French actress, she moved to Nicaragua after appearing in El Señor Presidente, shot in the country in 1984. Five years later she established Camila Films with her partner, Frank Pineda. Camila Films, and the work of both Jaugey and Pineda, have now been central to Nicaraguan film making for over three decades.
In February we had the chance to interview Florence, at her home in Managua.
You spent many years making documentaries, but made the switch to feature films in 2009 with La Yuma. What were the reasons for this?
I come from feature films. I was an actress, and my first films were short features. The difference is features are the re-constitution of reality, whilst documentary is filming the reality. I’m very concerned with social issues. The job of the film maker is to reflect our vision of the world where we live. Then of course there is the practical reasons, that documentary is a lot cheaper than making features.
Your first feature length film, La Yuma, was very well received.
It took me ten years to make La Yuma. I thought that after winning a Silver Bear in Berlin (for her 1998 short Cinema Alcázar in the Berlinale) I would have a lot more opportunities, but nothing happened. I wrote the script, and tried to find the funding, but failed.
But I had to film. I wanted to make films (Florence made a string of documentaries during the early 2000s, including La Isla de los Niños Perdidos, Historia de Rosa and Managua, Nicaragua is beautiful town). Finally I re-wrote the script, and began to find the money. It took six weeks to shoot, and then another year as I scrambled to find the money for post production. (La Yuma went on to gather a best foreign film Oscar nomination in 2009). La Yuma is still alive. For example, it’s still shown in the UK, in universities, in colleges. Next week I am doing a Q&A on skype with the United States, and I do one of these a month. It’s a film with a long life, and I’m very happy with it.
How did you finance your latest film?
With my new film, La Pantalla Desnuda (Naked Screen), it was easier. La Yuma helped me a lot. It wasn’t a commercial success, but it was well received. It opened a lot of doors to find money. Also crowd funding has be come available, which didn’t exist when I was making La Yuma. The film also received sponsorship from firms and brands, which all added up to the $500,000 budget. La Pantalla has been shown in the Santa Barbara Film Festival, and travelled to Panama, Austria, back to the US in Chicago, and is currently at the film market in Berlin, looking for international buyers. We also have distributors for it in Germany, Switzerland and the Benelux countries.
And the reaction at home?
People have been raised on telenovelas and Hollywood blockbusters. I don’t do happy endings. They say they like the film, but “Oh My God, the ending….”!
Camila Films can look like Nicaragua’s film industry. Besides your own films you’ve provided facilities for foreign film-makers in Nicaragua, and Frank has also worked as Director of Photography for other directors…..
There are other companies. A new generation of film makers is emerging with good projects and features. Maybe in ten years time we will be able to speak of a Nicaraguan film industry. The reality is you have to do everything. With our own films we shoot and edit the film, but also do the publicity and the distribution. But to survive, you have to work on other people’s projects as well. We make documentaries for NGOs, we shoot for the BBC, we don’t have a lot of time for our own projects. I want to sit down and write. Frank worked as second camera on Ken Loach’s Carla’s Song. We are currently preparing to help with the film for the BBC Simon Reeve documentary (recently screened on BBC2).
I hope the film industry here will grow. We have plenty of locations. Six months of the year without rain. Two oceans. It’s easy to work here, and the government is interested in attracting film-makers. At the moment there are no tax incentives for films, but we are lobbying them to change this.
Do you feel part of a wider Latin American film movement?
The film-makers in Latin America all know each other. There is solidarity between Central American film makers. We are so small that we need each other. Camila Films employs technicians from El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica. One weakness is there is no Central American film school. There are plenty of workshops, but I’m no fan. They are useful for people who have three years experience. The nearest school is in Cuba, and most of our crew have been students there. We’re all very excited because a Guatemalan film has been chosen in competition in the Berlinale (Ixcanul by Javro Bustamente won a Silver Bear, days after the interview).
In Wales we have a strong tradition of literature and music. The story of Welsh painting has only recently been told, but our film heritage has been downplayed. Is this the same in Nicaragua?
There is a huge tradition of great painters and poets in Nicaragua, which coupled with music is the traditional expression of culture. But film is 120 years old. During the Revolution INCINE, the Instituto Nicaragüense de Cine, was important (Frank Pineda was a founder member, making dozens of short documentaries about the revolution). It was a time before the internet, and a way of showing to the outside world what was happening in Nicaragua – everybody wanted to film, and be Nicaraguans!
Many thanks to Florence, and to Camila films for the photographs