Mar del Plata: Eugenio Canevari on ‘Paula’

Argentine director talks about his debut, an abortion drama, which screens at Mar del Plata

Eugenio Canevari Paula
Courtesy of Eugenio Canevari

Eugenio Canevari makes his directorial debut with “Paula,” a drama that follows a  South American housekeeper who deals with an unwanted pregnancy. Abortion laws are strictly limited in Argentina and the protagonist, Paula, seeks it desperately after conceiving with her ex. Unfortunately for Paula, the cost to have an abortion is entirely too expensive given her salary. According to Canevari, the economic gap is “probably Paula’s biggest issue.” The director explained, “the rich and poor do not have the same rights.”

This is your directorial debut, why did you want to tell this story first?

A few years ago and for personal reasons, I was doing some research on the topic of abortion in Argentina. In the next years, I followed the news about a few emblematic cases of abortion in Argentina and the character of Paula came to my mind. I kept her in mind for a couple of years. A few months before shooting, I was in Barcelona, and speaking with my dad on the phone. He was calling from Buenos Aires. My father told me that my grandparents were trying to sell the country home where I’d spent many childhood holidays. I thought it would have been a pity not to shoot something there before it was sold. So, I adapted the character of Paula for this environment, I wrote the plot and I bought a one-way flight to Argentina to make it possible.

What message does this film have about abortion in a Catholic country like Argentina?

Looking beyond the moral aspect of abortion, I think there’s an urgent need to change the current legislation. Women with no resources keep dying after attempting abortion in unsanitary conditions. Some women, the ones with money and education, can do it safely. That’s unfair and unacceptable.

What do you want the audience to take away from this story?

I hope they understand why Paula is doing all of this, I hope they don’t judge her. I hope it helps them to understand the current attitude towards abortion. I hope they submerge themselves in the atmosphere of the movie. I hope it arouses interest in the topic of genetically modified crops growing in Argentina, and, I hope they have a good time, too.

You made the decision to have long scenes. Why is that?

For most of the cast it was their first experience shooting. I wanted the camera to be invisible, for them to feel more natural. I didn’t want to repeat the scenes very much, to keep it fresh for them. So, we worked hard to find the right framing for each scene and then I would work entirely with the actors with a lot of freedom. Also, this is the rhythm I think best fits with the story and the location. It is how I feel about the place where I spent so many summers.

The film’s characters speak few words as well, what was that like for you as a director?

Silence is very important in the movie. I think it engages the audience to complete the information that’s not said. In the final scene with the empty dialogues, it is only possible because of the previous silence.