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Disquieting thriller “Lateral Thinking” (“Pensamiento Lateral”) enjoyed a private Buenos Aires preview screening alongside key Latin American film market, Ventana Sur

Argentine director Mariano Hueter (“El Legado”) and lead actress Spain’s Itziar Ituño (“Money Heist”) fielded audience questions ahead of its wider release in the coming months.

The film revolves around a school of thought presented by psychologist Edward de Bono, which speaks to solving problems in an unconventional, indirect manner. When a psychologist is kidnapped after giving a lecture, she relies on the very theories she teaches to thwart her captors and escape further torment.

Scenes play out slowly and build in intensity. The shots are precise and achieve a claustrophobic, frantic urgency frame-to-frame. There’s an astutely raw vulnerability to Ituño’s character Julia, who develops supreme agency in her attempt at accessing her captors’ weaknesses. In Julia, they’ve met a venerable match, and Ituño plays the role with a gentle gravitas opposite convincing cons César Bordón (“10 Palomas”), Alberto Ammann (“Narcos”) and Mauricio Paniagua (“Pipa”).

An extremely disturbing character study, “Lateral Thinking” folds cunning strength into its victim and sensitivity into its criminals, blurring the lines of the charge from one minute to the next.

The project is produced by Buenos Aires-based production houses 16:9 Cine (“Al Acecho”), Torneos (“Apache: The Life Of Carlos Tévez”) and Idealismo Contenidos (“El Mundo De Mateo”) and marks the first feature-length film for Hueter, who comes from an reputable career in television. A young director of note, he steps comfortably outside the limits of the genre to resuscitate veiled human fears without exploiting the oft-utilized damsel in distress storyline.

Ituño spoke with Variety about women in film, working with Hueter and realizing the stirring role of Julia.

Your character develops profound agency throughout the film. In some respects, in other films, we often see women play victim to their captors, never getting past the vicious and vile things done to them.  Can you speak to that dynamic in the film?

It’s true that, at first, she puts herself in the role of victim, because she’s the victim of a very violent kidnapping. I have to say that there’s a part of her rebellion, her survival, in which she applies all of her intelligence to get out of that barbaric situation, in which she finds herself. Playing the role of the heroine, not just the poor woman-victim who has to be saved, we’re seeing this more and more in female roles, which makes me very happy.

It seems to me that many times, in some films, this victimization situation of women has been somewhat abused, they’re shown as incapable of defending themselves. This is changing, but we must not forget that women continue to be great victims of the violence of an absolutely hetero-patriarchal system that we’re changing little by little, that’s a fact. You have to fight, but it’s a fact that things are still going badly for us. In this case, for Julia’s character as well, it may be a reflection of society and how we’re deconstructing it, in that sense, and moving forward.

As women, we move through the world, affected. I read that this role nearly went to a male character. In what ways do you feel it serves the narrative better to cast a woman? What minutiae do you feel you lent the role that a male counterpart could not?

I found out that the character of Julia, at first it was not Julia but a male character. Later I think they realized that the female presence within the plot was so scarce and they decided to give the leading role to a female protagonist, and that’s where I come in. 

I don’t know how the story would have been if the protagonist had been a man, I know how my experience of the story has been, it’s been very powerful, in fact I have worked my ass off doing it, and trying to do my best. I hope it turns out I achieved that. I think that now, in these times, having a female protagonist in a rather masculine story, gives support to all the struggles that we women have been carrying regarding our presence and gaining spaces in the audiovisual world, in cinema and art. I think it’s a good thing. It doesn’t mean that one actor is going to be better than another, but rather that, in this situation in which we women struggle, for us it’s a good thing to have a presence. For me, especially, to be given a leading role like that, I’m very grateful, it’s a tremendous and vital experience.

Bringing your breadth of experience to the set is a natural boon to the finished project. How did this role capture you? What was it about the script that you found an invigorating get, enough to come film here in Argentina?

Yes, I have baggage and experience, but one never stops learning. When faced with new roles and situations that are given to you, I’ve seen it as a challenge, I’d never been touched by something so intense, so emotional, so extreme. 

Playing Julia, a woman who’s on the verge of being murdered by criminals and has to survive, putting myself in that role had never touched me until today, in fact it was one of the questions that captivated me, the challenge that it entailed. How do you interpret a woman who is beaten, tortured, who panics, who then dies of rage, who unleashes her beast, who tries to survive and use all her psychology and intellect to get out of there? That captivated me. I also like thrillers as a genre, as a spectator. 

Finally, working with the Argentine talent and team was quite an adventure and it’s what’s captivated me the most. What it’s contributed to my life is what I take with me is a great treasure: the experience of being able to work in Buenos Aires, on an independent film, a debut feature made with so much effort, with a wonderful and beautiful crew.

Can you speak to working with Mariano Hueter, on his style in crafting a compelling script/ and role through to his precision as a young director while filming?

Mariano Hueter’s work is super important, not only as a director but as the creator of this whole story. Mariano has a very direct style, he’s a young director but with a background, experience. 

This is his debut, a very risky and very ambitious debut, a story with a thriller framework that must be carried forward. He’s a brave director when it comes to choosing the stories. His way of directing is quite technical, he has things very clear. He’s a great person, it’s been a pleasure to share this adventure with him.