×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Bolivian Work in Progress ‘Sirena’ Aims to Enchant at San Sebastian

The black and white feature highlights a culture clash between men of science and traditional natives in 1980s Bolivia

SAN SEBASTIAN — Carlos Piñeiro’s “Sirena” (“Mermaid”) came into last month’s Sanfic Festival in Santiago Chile buzzing from the news that it had been selected, along with another Sanfic work in progress “The Prince,” to participate in the San Sebastian’s Films in Progress competition.

“Sirena” is a black and white look at the conflict between tradition and modernity. It starts off following the drowning of a well-known engineer in Lake Titicaca, some time in 1984. A commission put together to recover the remains of the man are gathered on a small boat, crossing t0 an island inhabited by a group of indigenous families. Conflict arises when the families who recovered the body refuse to give it up, in fear that it will adversely affect the upcoming harvest. Frustrations boil over and cultures clash as the irritated commission members want little more than to collect the body and leave. One gets drunk, the others try to negotiate through an interpreter, and it becomes increasingly unlikely the body will ever end up at its intended destination.

The film is produced by Socavón Cine. Its team is working now to secure sales and distribution, riding the momentum of the back-to-back festival appearances. Piñeiro talked with Variety about filmmaking out of Bolivia, portraying native peoples on the screen and shooting on an island.

What are the major difficulties and benefits of making films out of Bolivia?

Paradoxically, Bolivia is on one hand the country with the greatest cultural wealth in the region, and at the same time where there is the least support, both from the state and from private enterprise, for the development of cinema. This fact, far from being an excuse, is a challenge and an incentive to try our best to ensure that our projects are of high quality.

How do you see your generation of filmmakers? How do you think the future of young Bolivian filmmakers will look?

It seems foolish to talk about the future, because anything can happen. I currently look on my generation with optimism because I realize that it is exploring different directions. I am fortunate to belong to the Socavón Cine collective. With “Dark Skull,” our first fiction feature film, we went far and learned a lot. But our philosophy was always that of a collective. We rotated roles and each contributed from a place where the project could best benefit.

Your characters demonstrate frustration with the indigenous community. But as a director it seems that you strive to avoid judging them. Can you talk about how you wanted to represent these people?

Bolivia is the least western country on the continent. The limits between what one is and what the other is are diffuse. The characters have a relationship with the other, in which I could not intervene. From the direction I avoided falling into the harmful temptation to speak on behalf of the others. What I have with “Sirena,” in the most humble way possible, is a story; simply a story.

Can you talk a little about filming in the desert near Lake Titicaca? What challenges did it present?

A great part of the film we filmed on the Isla de la Luna in the middle of Lake Titicaca. It’s an island inhabited by 26 families that has no roads or electricity. Obviously the challenges were many and very complex. However, when we realized that even having a bigger budget would not be of any use, we found the joy of filmmaking.

Why did you choose to film in black and white?

We all have nuances, but deep down we are a contradiction. Without that contradiction we would not have the strength to transform ourselves. But when talking about life and death, about the ephemeral and the permanent, about each other, sometimes it is better to show the contradiction and let the viewer find the nuances.

CREDIT: Carlos Piñeiro

More Film

  • Kenneth Branagh's 'All Is True' Opening

    Kenneth Branagh's 'All Is True' Opening Palm Springs Film Festival

    The 30th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival will open on Jan. 3 with historical drama “All Is True,” starring Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench, and Ian McKellen. Branagh, who will be in attendance at the opening night screening, directed from Ben Elton’s script about the little-known period in the final years of William Shakespeare. Branagh [...]

  • Actor and Activist Rodney Kageyama Dies

    Actor and Activist Rodney Kageyama Dies at 77

    Actor, activist and influentials member of the Japanese American community, Rodney Kageyama, died in his sleep Dec. 9. He was 77. The SAG member was known for roles in “Karate Kid IV” with Hillary Swank, Ron Howard’s film “Gung Ho” and the spinoff sitcom, and the TV movie “Hiroshima: Out of the Ashes” with Max [...]

  • Most Popular Films 2018: The Best

    9 Holiday Gift Ideas Inspired by This Year's Most Popular Films

    From superheroes to super nannies, 2018 was a year full of memorable characters — and memorable movies. Whether you’re a big film buff, an avid follower of a popular franchise, or have a couple movie fans in your life, here are nine gifts that capture the fun of some of this year’s biggest films. 1. [...]

  • Gravitas Ventures Acquires Irish Film ‘Lost

    Gravitas Ventures Acquires Irish Comedy ‘Lost & Found’

    Irish writer/director Liam O Mochain’s third feature film, “Lost & Found,” has been picked up by Gravitas Ventures for all rights worldwide, excluding Ireland, U.K., Australia and New Zealand. The film was recently acquired by Rialto Film Distribution for Australia and New Zealand, Film 4 and High Fliers for the U.K., and RTE TV in [...]

  • Nicole KidmanWarner Bros. Pictures World Premiere

    How James Wan Convinced Nicole Kidman to Star in 'Aquaman'

    While some actors dream of playing a superhero, that wasn’t the case for the cast of “Aquaman.” “I knew nothing about this,” Amber Heard, who plays Mera in the James Wan-directed action film, told Variety at the movie’s Los Angeles premiere. “I knew nothing about comic books in general. I didn’t know anything about this [...]

  • Anonymous Content Adds Meredith Rothman to

    Anonymous Content Adds Meredith Rothman to Management Division (EXCLUSIVE)

    Anonymous Content has added Meredith Rothman to its management division, Variety has learned. She joins the company from Mosaic, where she spent the last five years as a talent and literary manager. Rothman started her career working for casting director Francine Maisler and later worked as an assistant at Independent Talent Group in London. She [...]

  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

    Box Office: 'Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse' Could Tangle Up to $40 Million in Debut

    “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” is dominating the domestic box office as it heads for up to $40 million in its opening weekend at 3,813 North American locations, early estimates showed on Friday. Clint Eastwood’s drug-runner drama “The Mule” should finish second with about $18 million at 2,558 venues, at the high end of expectations. MRC-Universal’s [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content