Berlin Silver Bear winner Manuel Abramovich (“Blue Boy,” 2019) is presenting his new project “The Monsters” at Swiss doc festival Visions du Réel’s Industry event, VdR-Pitching.
The project, he tells Variety, “is about one of the first characters that we play in our lives which is gender, as a performative fiction with our bodies. From the moment we are born we have two scripts already written for us: either you are a man or a woman. This is about people who chose not to play this binary role.”
One of Argentina’s fastest rising auteurs, Abramovich explores what he calls the “theatricality in everyday life” in his films. A festival regular, he presented his debut feature-length doc “Solar” at the VdR-Work in Progress forum back in 2015.
“In my work, I see the world as a big mise-en-scène – like a theater play. So I invite real people to become characters and reflect about this shift from being someone to playing a character.”
The director plans on inviting 10 adults and 10 children, all trans and non-binary, in a setting which he describes as “an empty space with no physical references, like a theater or studio, and no time references, like a laboratory, to create a film together where we can write a new future, a world with other norms, or no norms,” he says.
The film, Abramovich explains, will comprise three levels: the stage, where the characters will create their project together through exercises, dance, performance and re-enactments, a backstage level that will feature more intimate one-to-one moments, and a third level, which he calls “the debate,” where cast and crew will have a space to discuss issues of representation, the meaning of the project and possible tensions arising from the process.
Questioned about the title, he says the key question he wants to ask the characters is how they define the word “monster,” and whether they feel like one. “But there is also a second meaning,” he adds. “Maybe it’s the norms we live in that are monstrous, and that is the monster that we have to fight.”
“This is, for me, an opportunity to collectively rethink the institution of family. The idea is to challenge the norms: it’s a film about people who chose a different path. Trans bodies, dissident bodies, bodies that society itself has pathologized, rejected, marginalized, or that have suffered physical and psychological abuse. It’s a place of empowerment,” says Abramovich, whose previous work includes “Blue Boy,” about a group of sex workers in a gay neighborhood of Berlin who build characters to seduce customers – the first part of a trilogy about the way people use their bodies as a source of income.
He is currently finishing post-production on the second part, “Pornomelancolia,” which has been acquired by Luxbox and is due out soon, and working on the final part, “Cowboy Love,” which he describes as a Mexican gay cowboy movie.
Produced by Abramovich and Juan Pablo Labonia’s outfit Ruido, with the support of Argentina’s National Institute of Cinema and Audiovisual Arts, Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg and Germany’s BKM – Deutscher Kurzfilmpreis, “The Monsters” will be shot in Buenos Aires in November.
VdR-Pitching runs alongside the festival from April 10 through April 14.