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Morelia: Writer-Director Paula Markovitch Discusses ‘Paintings in the Dark,’ Art Under Dictatorships, Upcoming Projects

Last year 'Paintings,' took part in Morelia’s Impulso section, this years it's in competition

Morelia: Paula Markovitch Talks Film, Family,
Paula Malcovich

MORELIA, Mexico — Paula Markovitch’s “Paintings in the Dark,” made its second appearance at Mexico’s Morelia Fest, after screening a rough cut in last year’s Impulso section. Markovitch is one of Latin America’s more influential female film voices, nominations and awards including a Berlinale competition berth for 2011’s “The Prize.” She has also published a book of short stories titled “El monstruo.”

The film is an Argentina-Mexico-Germany co-production between Altamira Films, Niko Films, Romanos Films, Twins Latin Films and Mexico’s Universidad de la Comunicación. Initial funding for the film came in 2012 when Markovitch received financial support from pan-regional fund Ibermedia and Mexico’s Imcine state film agency.

While the film is not directly her father’s story, it is based heavily on the works and life of Papa Markovitch. In the film the antagonist, Marcos, is a gas station attendant who, because of his left-leaning political ideas, is forced to practice his art in complete anonymity. Marcos lives alone as well until a young street orphan robs him, thinking the house is empty. The two embark on a friendship which becomes nearly familial as they face the harsh realities of living in poverty in Cordoba, Argentina.

Markovitch and her team say they would like to release the film in Argentina sometime in the second quarter of 2018 after focusing the first part of the year on a festival tour. Although she is from Argentina, the director now lives in Mexico and said that Morelia was always the goal for the world premiere. The screenwriter-director sat down with Variety in Morelia to talk about her film, her family and being an artists in volatile political times, as well as give some insight into her upcoming projects.

Your father was a painter who couldn’t show his work. What other similarities to your father’s story made it into the film?

The similarity is precisely that the protagonist is an artist who lives painting, but in anonymity, That is, he lives without exhibiting his work and worked pumping gas. That part was real, my father worked 20 years pumping gas. The invented part was that Marco lived alone. My father never lived alone. The character also has elements of my mother, because she was also a painter and loved to draw. My mother taught art classes, so that character trait I actually took from my mother.

Marcos in the movie is very political, he’s a communist. Is this story part of your family’s story too?

My first movie dealt with just that, my parents left-wing convictions. My father participated in the PRT and had friends who helped to hide people during the dictatorship. My parents were artists and they were intelligent at a terrible time. The dictatorship not only persecuted  academics, it persecuted anyone intelligent. In that sense they were internal exiles. Exile are those who fled, those who escaped the dictatorship going to other countries. And the internal exiles were those who hid within the same territory. The present situation in Argentina and the world is not so different from this cruel past.

Are the paintings in the film original?

No, the pictures are almost all reproductions of the original work of my father. The only thing that is changed is size. All the curation of the work was done by a colleague Ludmila Bollati. Some of the works were by Daniel Marín and Fernando Rapi who were part of the team.

This film is all light and color. It’s really a moving painting.

Exactly. With the director of photography Bruno Santamaría, we worked so much with color, inspired by my father’s paintings. My father painted with a lot of color, and we wanted to make a colorful movie, a film that shows that beauty is everywhere.

Where did you film?

The whole movie was recorded in Cordoba, Argentina in Villa la Maternidad, the neighborhood where I lived. We did post-production in Mexico.

And what’s next, do you have more projects?

I’m working on another feature which has already filmed called “El Actor Principal.” I’m at the editing stage. A Mexican movie produced by Canibal Films, an intimate encounter inside a laundry in Berlin. Also with Lorena Quevado at Twins Latin Films we have another project in co-production. Again it’s between Mexico and Argentina. That one also deals with the Argentine political situation because unfortunately something similar to the last dictatorship is reviving. People are beginning to disappear again. There is a situation of overwhelming misery in the country.

You do just about everything, which do you prefer; directing, producing or screenwriter?

I love them all. When I was a little girl I loved literature and that is vital to filmmaking. Cinema is everything and I love it!

And do you paint as well?

I painted as a child. I would like to start again but it’s just too much!