The anticipated directorial debut of Uruguay’s d.p.-turned-director Arauco Hernandez, “The Enemies of Pain” world preemed in Locarno Festival’s Filmmakers of the Present and now plays the Rio Festivals Latin Premiere. Produced by Micaela Sole at Cordon Films in partnership with Brazil’s Primo Films, “Enemies” turns on three broken-hearted fortysomething men wandering through Montevideo. Hernandez, who has worked with many of the leading lights of last decade’s new Uruguayan cinema, serving as cinematographer on Adrian Biniez’s “Giant,” Federico Veiroj’s “A Useful Life” and Daniel Hendler’s “Norberto Hardly Late,” spoke to Variety about his experience and influences as film director.
What reasons led you to take the step of directing feature films?
I never wrote off the possibility. Although I specialized in cinematography, I have done other things too, like film editing or writing. The truth is that I became a cinematographeras the result of circumstance. I wanted to make movies from anywhere, taking any position. I was playing the role asked of me. But even as a d.p., I took time off to do a screenplay masters and write. I adore cinematography but writing has become a spiritual necessity. I don’t direct films because I really wanted to direct. I directed because I had an idea that grabbed hold of me and, if I don’t direct it, it will be the end of me.
And your experience with “The Enemies of Pain”?
I can’t really sum it up, just say “positive” without feeling like I’m leaving something out. This is a bottomless pit. Every day new thoughts and mixed feelings cross my mind. It is still too early to know where I really stand.
Will you now try to pursue a stable career as a director or was this a one-off?
Where I come from, there is nothing that can be understood as an “stable career as a director.” With every new film project, my colleagues begin an odyssey with an uncertain destiny. The truth is that I am not interested in the film directing in itself. I suppose that I will continue spending entire afternoons writing, only of of the necessity of doing so. If among what I write I find something worthwhile to develop or, more probably, if something that I write begins to not leave me alone at nights and becomes an urgent necessity to maintain my sanity, then I will go back to film directing.
What are your expectations with “The Enemies of Pain” at the Locarno Festival?
I suppose they’re the same as those of my colleagues who also participate in the festival: to take the audience by surprise, move it, leaving something to remind them that life is infinite and still has surprises. Give them a little bit of what movies I cherish have given me.
The festival boasts a strong presence of Latin American filmmakers. What’s today does Latin America bring to international film?
The strong presence of Latin American cinema is a sign of cultural diversity. It’s hard to find common features in Latin American cinema. What shines through are the differences.
What made you bet on vet German d.p. Thomas Mauch to lense your feature debut?
A spiritual posture. If I had asked a colleague of my generation to take care of photography, he probably would have done something close to me. I didn’t want that. I was looking for someone to propose me things that radically defied my liking, that questioned everything I thought I knew about cinema, who forced me to look beyond my own ideas. Someone forced me to stay alert. Today, I feel that -without knowing it, and even before meeting him- I wrote this film to make it with Thomas, and the universe miraculously arranged for this to happen.
What filmmaker, among those with whom you have worked as a d.p., has influenced you most as a director?
What I cherish most when I think back to “my” directors, are exemplary work ethics. I have a very close relationship with directors Federico Veiroj and Manolo Nieto, for example. They share their ideas with me even when they are in development, as I share mine with them. We have acted in this way since we were at university, as I have done with Pablo Stoll and Gonzalo Delgado. We’ve learned something of this together … and everyone follows a very personal approach, responding to impulses.