Peruvian, Colombian and French co-production “Diogenes” has played at Ventana Sur’s Primer Corte selection, for films in post-production.

It marks Leonardo Barbuy’s debut after he garnered attention with his first short film “Alana” (2017), winning Peru’s National Short Film Award. Backed by Mosaico – the same production company  who produced “Alana” – and in close collaboration with creative producer Illari Orcottoma, Barbuy has another film already in development as “Diogenes” is being finished.

“Diogenes” is on its way to being completed, after having already won a variety of awards such as moneys from the 2021 Berlinale World Cinema Fund, as well as a development award given by France’s CNC film agency at the Cartagena Film Festival.

Co-produced with France’s Dublin Films and Colombia’s La Selva Cine, the film follows a sister and younger brother who live in near total isolations with their father, Diógenes, in Peru’s high Andes. Then suddenly one morning their father dies. Three days pass as the siblings comprehend the passing of their father, until the sister takes on the responsibility of going to town, revealing a part of their past.

Entirely spoken in Quechua, the film has very little dialog but is yet filled with sound, and it is clear yet playfully obscure. Barbuy’s debut is a  puzzle that reveals itself at its own pace, with grammar inherited from many filmmakers but with a clear voice which speaks in a tone that is quintessentially Latin American.

Variety talked to Barbuy before his debut screened at Primer Corte.

Working with long shots implies an editing task where the moment of the cut has a great weight. How long the shot is held is one of the key questions for works of this style. In the case of your film, the movement of the camera has a clear beginning and end and gives a very clear guideline for editing. What was the guiding concept when designing the camera movement? What were the self imposed rules?

I believe that the temporality of a shot is multiple and variable. That is, there are “times” in a shot and not just “time.” For example, there are shots that last a long time and the movements of the bodies within the shot are also long, but the relevance and density of what happens is so great that perception is not found in the passage of time, perhaps, but in the narrative density. However, there are also other shots that are long but do not have such a great narrative weight. They do perceive a little more “the passage of time in itself” and there it takes on another value. Bearing this in mind, the guiding concept has always been to try to find the meaning of each scene, where is its truth and its need, and with it, its particular form of time.

The length of each shot is strongly tied to the sound design which works with very specific elements for each scene, isolating and intensifying gestures. Were such sounds already defined in script or were they found in the process of shooting? 

The importance of sound design was indicated from the script and had a clear proposal. However, during filming I was open to receiving different sounds that appeared and that could make sense with what was written and with what was revealed about the film with each take. Still, it is only in the editing process that I begin to realize the immense concrete value of each sound. I have always thought that sound is the “touch” of a movie. It is your closest sensory link, as well as being inescapable. It is in the sound where the shortest distance with each spectator is found, the immediate. In sound, for example, there is another temporal dimension to the shot.

How did you direct the children? 

I looked for actors who showed something interesting and powerful about themselves that was close to the traits of the character and who knew how to handle the relationship with the camera very well. On the other hand, we worked on filming the idea of a “pact.” The pact was in recognizing that something was going to happen that was not going to be spontaneous but that could lead to something that would bring the truth of the spontaneous. The pact implied knowing that there was going to be a preparation, a request to do something, repetitions and changes. This is in a relationship of care, respect, consideration and listening. The game was to make movies. I approached each shot almost instantly and without rehearsals, starting from the pact and the observation of who my actors are, so that the game of cinema is clear. They told me they really enjoyed the process and so did I.

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Diogenes Credit: Musuk Nolte