Holiday, written and directed by Diego Araujo, tells the story of shy Juan Pablo (Juan Manuel Arregui) who during the Carnival holidays travels to his family house in the mountains of Ecuador. In this house hides his uncle George, a banker involved in a corruption scandal with his wife and children. It's February 1999, in the days before the bank holiday of March, which marked the beginning of the worst financial disaster in the Ecuadorian history.
Juan Pablo befriends Juano (Diego Andres Paredes), a poor indigenous boy that loves heavy metal. This collision of two different worlds will mark this coming-of-age story, while Juan Pablo explores his first emotions of friendship, love and attraction.
I spoke to Diego Araujo about his latest movie Feriado, screened at Berlinale.
Gomes: How did you come about making this film? How long did it take to finish the film?
Araujo: It started a while ago, with a short story I wrote. I began developing the script and in 2011 I attended the screenwriting lab organized by Fundación Toscana in collaboration with Sundance in Oaxaca, México, where I developed it further. In 2010, we won the production award from the Ecuadorian Film Council, a seed grant that made the project take off in terms of fundraising. We shot the film in August-September 2012 and worked on post all of last year before finally premiering at this year’s Berlinale, in the Generation section.
Gomes: The response towards your film has been extremely positive so far. How does it feel to represent Ecuador in the international film circuit with Feriado?
Araujo: When we started traveling with Feriado to co-production markets, I immediately realized how little visibility Ecuadorean film has. Just a few years back, very few films were made in Ecuador; after a film law was passed and the National Film Council was created in 2007, the panorama changed dramatically, so the number has gone up dramatically. So, to me, it’s great that Feriado is giving visibility to Ecuador and its flourishing film industry.
Gomes: Acceptance is a major theme in your movie. While Juan comes to terms with accepting his feelings for Juano, his uncle George struggles to admit his fraudulent decisions, your country is accepting the financial hurdles. What obstacles did you encounter during the time that you were working on Feriado?
Araujo: All sorts of obstacles; when we decided to make a film set in 1999, we knew there would be trouble but in spite of preparations we didn’t realize how much before we were in the midst of shooting. Everything turned out fine in the end, we had a tremendous crew, but not without some drama: basically every car we used in the picture was at least 15-20 years old and every single one got some mechanical trouble, just on the day of shooting. We also had challenging scenes with lot of actors, animals and stunts, and 60% of the scenes were night shoots, and it gets pretty cold during nights in the Andes region where we filmed. It was not the kind of small, intimate shoot you might would have wanted for your first feature. We were lucky not to get any rain, but on the other hand, that led us to evacuate the forest where we were supposed to shoot a big, violent scene in the middle of the night because of wildfires. Another obstacle that I think all independent filmmakers face, was getting the film made in terms of financing. I also struggled with the script and I spent a long time letting it mature and getting it right, but I think it was a very necessary process.
Gomes: Movie fan to movie fan, who or what inspired (or inspires) you to keep creating and making movies? Any recent movie you watched that you would like to suggest to movie fans out there?
Araujo: I’ve never been a film geek and I’m inspired films as well as literature and music. But what inspires me most, really, is life: the people, the places, the experiences.
But of course I love movies and I try to see as many as I can. Living in Ecuador, sadly I have to travel to international festivals to see other Latin American movies. The last one I saw and that I will strongly recommend was Celina Murga’s La Tercer Orilla (translated as The Third Side of the River), which I caught at the Berlinale where it was in Competition. I have been following Celina’s career since her first film, Ana y los Otros, which I liked very much and reminded me of the carefree, casual style of Eric Rohmer, another favorite director of mine. La Tercera Orilla is a very powerful film. I admire the way she has drawn extraordinary performances from her actors and what she manages to build with her images.
Gomes: What will you be working on next?
Araujo: Our next project is a dark comedy called Ocupación Habitual (Usual Occupation). And we’re also working on a horror film called Cinco (Five), to take on a commercial genre and experiment with a more playful way of filmmaking.