Bolivian writer-director Rodrigo ‘Gory’ Patiño honed his filmmaking skills as a TV commercials director for the past seven years, with the occasional music video and short film among his credits. His feature debut, “The Goalkeeper” (“Muralla”) is Bolivia’s official entry to the Oscars and the Golden Globes.
After securing an MFA in film and TV at Chapman U, Patiño co-wrote and directed the 10-episode TV series “The Drop” (“La Entrega”) of which “The Goalkeeper” is a spin-off.
Back home where it had a 10-week theatrical run, “The Goalkeeper” was the highest-grossing Bolivian film in 15 years.
Its Spanish title “Muralla,” (‘wall’ in English) is the titular nickname of the lead character who has earned it for his blocking skills as a goalkeeper. With his soccer career behind him, he is scraping out a living as a taxi driver. Desperate to save his gravely sick child, he is drawn into the underworld of human trafficking to make some serious cash.
Patiño recently co-wrote and co-directed “Pseudo,” a political thriller that follows a taxi driver who gets caught up in a deadly operation when he steals the identity of a passenger. Both “Pseudo” and “The Goalkeeper” will be at Ventana Sur.
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His next project, “Rock Paper Scissors,” penned like “Pseudo” with Luis Reneo, promises to be more ambitious as he plans to film it in English in Los Angeles. Patiño describes the thriller as “three stories of couples whose lives intersect as they obey the logic of the game: Love kills jealousy, jealousy kills ambition, but ambition kills love.”
Tell me what inspired you to make “The Goalkeeper.” Is human trafficking a serious problem in Bolivia?
I get inspired by reading the news. Reality motivates me to tell stories that touch on important issues that need to be discussed. An average of eight minors a day disappear in Bolivia. Human trafficking has become a cancer that generates more money than the illegal drug trade and is a global issue. However, “The Goalkeeper” is first and foremost the story of a father who is desperate to save his sick child. I make films that I would like to see in the cinema, especially stories that question one’s moral compass: Would you be able to commit a crime to save your child? Harsh realities tend to overcome fiction and my creativity feeds on that.
The panoramic views of La Paz, the slanted angles and the video-game like photography in some scenes drive the story forward in a visceral way. How did you decide on these shots with your Director of Photography?
The slopes of La Paz are another character in the film. My city is a big crater where the slums enjoy the best views. The vertigo brought on by the height of the city is an analogy for what is happening with the lead character who is virtually falling into a bottomless pit. We worked very closely with my DP, Gustavo Soto, on the look of the film, paying close attention to the narrative, maintaining the dialogue between background and form. We shot almost everything with a hand-held camera and with angles that break the horizon in certain places of the story where dramatic turns happen. We even filmed some shots in slow motion, which reflect the broken perspective of the protagonist. The shots that look like video games were filmed with a doggie cam that we hung around the neck of the actors in the chase scenes. That way, we see the actor’s facial expressions up close while his surroundings change abruptly. In scenes of great intensity, the hand-held camera allowed us to do long shots.
“The Goalkeeper” is actually a spin-off of the series “La Entrega” (“The Drop”). Were you involved in this as a producer or director?
“The Drop” was an idea of producer Leonel Fransezze who teamed up with a group of actors to develop a Bolivian series for export. I was invited to direct and co-write it with National Novel Prizewinner Camila Urioste and Fernando Arze Echalar, “The Goalkeeper” lead actor who is also a playwright.
I love thrillers so I convinced the team to make this a police procedural because this genre allows you to provide an X-ray of a society and open up discussions on rarely explored issues. Camila had written a play about human trafficking and had a lot of documentation and research on the subject. We realized that what is exposed in the media is just the tip of the iceberg, that the problem is greater and more complex.
We also interviewed activists and relatives of the disappeared. We even had access to a rehabilitation center for trafficking victims where my actresses gave dance and theater workshops and interacted with the girls to gain insights into their TV characters. We first filmed a pilot and with that, we got an investor to finance the rest of the season. During this process, Leonel saw that the character Muralla was worthy of a spin-off and challenged the team to write a feature film. Camila and Fernanda Rossi, our script doctor, developed the script and we added a dream element that does not exist in the series as well as other scenes and characters.
Were you able to tap the state film fund now being offered in Bolivia or is that still quite a new incentive?
Bolivian cinema is on the cusp of a good year. The film law was just recently approved and will give Bolivian filmmakers access to a state fund for feature films. It will start next year. Before this, we only had private funds and they were more complicated to tap. Now, Bolivia will also have state aid and I understand that they will be competitive, with an independent committee to evaluate the projects. It’s great news.
How do you feel about representing Bolivia at the Oscars and the Golden Globes?
I know we have a long way to go and that competition is tough. I feel proud to be able to show that in Bolivia we make quality films despite it being a small country. Bolivia has a wealth of great and interesting stories that deserve to be told and “The Goalkeeper” is one of them.