In Focus: Sandro Aguilar

29 December 2010
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The Portuguese film year has been enormous, as evidenced by the lists of best films of the year. Through Agência - Portuguese Short Film Agency, the short film format also continues its important path. 2010 was, in particular, a year of many good selections for several prestigious international festivals. But the strongest signal that the international visibility was - and is being - starring Sandro Aguilar, an author with a year very fruitful: two short films - "Voodoo" and "Mercury" - and his career has gained a new impetus: many international film festivals have selected his short films for competition. And next year promises to be excellent as he will have two special retrospective of his work scheduled for the important festivals of Buenos Aires and Rotterdam.

Remember that Sandro Aguilar is one of the most important authors of Curtas Vila do Conde - International Film Festival, where he won the Portuguese Competition in 2001 with "In Between" (which also received the Prix UIP Vila do Conde, Best European Short Film), received the Young Director Award for "Close" in 1998, and received an honourable mention in the Portuguese Competition (apart from winning again, the Prix UIP Vila do Conde, Best European Short Film), for "The Serpent" in 2005. He also directed "Remains" (2002), a production of the Festival, in celebration of its tenth anniversary. However, during these more than ten years, Curtas Vila do Conde has selected for the festival all his short films, including "Mercury", which was selected for Competition in the 18th edition.

At the turn of century, a new wave of Portuguese short films flooded the national scene: it was called the "Shorts Generation". An important name of this movement was Sandro Aguilar who, with a series of short films, became one of the promises of the brand new Portuguese cinema. Films like "In Between", "Remains"or "Motionless" exhibited a filmmaker at a creative explosion, showing how cinema can be enhanced by its visual dimension. Stories of people afflicted with interior conflicts, these films also showed how cinema, and the short film in particular, can empower themselves with a tenuous narrative and with a strong exploration of space (in a documentary like film). Increasingly, the Aguilar's films also addressed an experimental perspective (cases of "The Serpent" or "Archive").

As already mentioned, in this last year, Aguilar presented two productions: "Voodoo" and "Mercury. The first is a film dedicated to two characters, a man and a woman, both flight attendants. The sound environment suggests a love story, but the film continually undermines that possibility. Aguilar considers it "shameless" and "a little more open, more permissive". Accordingly, "Voodoo" changes some of the narrative assumptions of his previous films, but transforms this narrative into a game with the spectator: "[this] is a film more ambiguous: it sometimes seems a classic movie, sometimes it feels like a film completely abstract; sometimes feels like a film of relationships between characters, and sometimes this relationship is constantly being sabotaged". Therefore, the film is divided between the story of two characters and a sort of documentary about a factory of airplanes (the two dimensions are continually defiled).

In the case of "Mercury", in the words of Aguilar "I wanted to work in a logic of parenthetical narrative, as I did in "Voodoo", with another type of scale, because the film also had another life. In the case of "Mercury", the film had to be done shortly. The filming was done in five hours, logistically we had absolutely nothing. It was me, Rui [Xavier, director of photography], a sound person and the actors." The film takes us to a parking lot, where two characters, a man and a woman, meet. There is a strong link with its surroundings, a kind of small forest by the roadside. Aguilar works in an "ecosystem", a blending of documentary with a fictional story, "["Mercury"] is a much more linear space: cars are parked next to each other in a residential area with trees. And I wished to make, from this space, a micro-fiction; which, in this case, refers to the idea of illicit encounters on the fringes of cities. Any point, hidden, where the social logic can be sabotaged and it can be opened a space for another logic."

In these two films, Aguilar proposes "a game": "an alternation between a wild side" and a normal life. "Simply, and ironically, this jungle is in the middle of town, [and I wanted] to tame a wild side that may exist in the human and to polish it somehow. And the opposite: get out of the civilized and [the characters] could find, tentatively, that wild side. And that was what I wanted to work with "Mercury" and "Voodoo"."

The future is, for the director, an open front work with several projects in perspective: "I have a feature film project to do, which also revolves around the problems of the last two shorts. For now, it's still something very much like an urban western: an enclosed space with lots of wildlife around. I also have a short film project to do at the beginning of the year. Incidentally, I have several projects in very different short films, some more "still lifes" as I did in some films (like "The Serpent") and other more human, in some ways a continuation of "Voodoo": to emerge from a space with its own organic, I would say that a documentary study about a space and in the interior of those logics to build fiction".

All retrospectives have the support of Agência - Portuguese Short Film Agency.

Sandro Aguilar's Filmography

Special Retrospectives:
2011 - Internacional Film Festival Rotterdam, Netherlands (it will be screened: "Motionless", "Remains", "Archive" and "Voodoo")
2011 - Buenos Aires Festival Internacional de Cine Independiente, Argentina

Mercury (selections):
2010 - Curtas Vila do Conde Festival Internacional de Cinema, Portugal
2010 - Festival Internacional de Cine de Gijón, Spain (Prémio de Melhor Curta Metragem)
2010 - Corona Cork Film Festival, Ireland
2010 - Ovarvídeo, Portugal

Voodoo (selections):
2010 - Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen, Germany
2010 - IndieLisboa - Festival Internacional de Cinema Independente, Portugal (Prémio Restart para Melhor Realizador Português de Curta Metragem)
2010 - Cinema Jove Festival Internacional de Cine, Spain
2010 - Torino Film Festival, Italy
2010 - Festival Internacional de Cine de Gijón, Spain
2010 - Viennale Vienna International Film Festival, Austria
2010 - Curtas Vila do Conde Festival Internacional de Cinema, Portugal
2010 - Split Film Festival - International Festival of New Film, Croatia
2010 - Ovarvídeo, Portugal
2010 - Festival de Cinema Luso-Brasileiro de Santa Maria da Feira, Portugal
2010 - Rencontres Internationales Paris/Berlin/Madrid, France
2010 - Corona Cork Film Festival, Ireland