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Berlinale Women Directors: Meet Celina Murga

Interviews
by Melissa Silverstein
February 12, 2014 2:00 PM
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Still from "The Third Side of the River"

Argentine director Celina Murga was thrust into the international film scene when she was chosen by Martin Scorsese to participate in the Rolex Mentor and Protege Arts Initiative several years ago. Scorsese serves as executive producer on her new coming-of-age film, The Third Side of the River (La Tercera Orilla), which will compete for the top prize at this year's Berlinale. Her previous films include Ana and the Others and A Week Alone.

Please give us your description of your film.

The film tells the story of Nicolas, a 17-year-old boy, who lives in a small city in rural Argentina. His father, Jorge, a highly respected local doctor, leads a double life: one with his officially recognized family, and another with his mistress and their three children, whom he doesn't acknowledge socially. Nicolas is the eldest of the second family. 

Nevertheless, Jorge has decided that Nicolas will be his successor both in his business and his medical practice. Day after day, he pushes him in that direction, giving him no room for replies. Nicolas hates his father, but he also fears him. Besides, he's seen his mother suffer for this man her whole life. Nicolas loves his family, but discovers he can't go on living his life like this.  

What made you write this story?

I was interested in developing a story immersed in a very patriarchal and closed society, where the roles of men and women are very fixed. I also want to explore the identity conflict of an adolescence living between two worlds. 

What was the biggest challenge in making the film?

It was very important for me to create complex characters, especially with the father. I want him to have different layers, not to be the obvious tyrant father. It was also a challenge to build the tension inside Nicolas, who keeps so much inside. It was necessary that the spectator perceives this, but in a subtle way. 

What advice do you have for other female directors?

Never give up. Be strong and brave. Always keep working and believing. 

What's the biggest misconception about you, as a female director, and your work?

That as a female, I am not able to lead a shooting crew, especially when that group is highly composed of men. 

Do you have any thoughts on what are the biggest challenges and/or opportunities for the future with the changing distribution mechanisms for films?

I see a challenge in keeping the spectators watching a film for more than ten minutes. The way we conceive of a film may not be appropriate for the kind of viewing that people are getting used to now. I also see an opportunity to find more audiences around the world. Many more people are able to see films from different countries through the Internet.

Name your favorite film directed by a woman and why.

I would mention two. Agnes Varda's The Gleaners and I, because of her very human approach to the characters, which is very profound and simple at the same time. It connects a concrete story with her own story and fears. Also Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker, because she shoots films in a way that is not the "usual" way of making films by women. She's very brave, and in this particular film she depicts the "macho" world like no one before.

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