24 Aug 2018

Film director Carla Simón -- When you see women making films, you think, I can do it too

When I started to give interviews about my newest film "Summer 1993", they asked me, “Why are there no women making films?” I blew up at them. “What do you mean? But there are!”

Wysokie Obcasy
Aleksandra Lipczak Wysokie Obcasy, Global
Film director Carla Simón -- When you see women making films, you think, I can do it too - NewsMavens
Carla Simón, YouTube

The following selections from Aleksandra Lipczak’s interview with Carla Simón originally appeared in the Polish weekly “Wysokie Obcasy” in April 2018.

Aleksandra Lipczak: So why did you choose the title,“Summer 1993” [as the title of your movie]?

Carla Simón: That was the year my mother died and when I spent my first summer with my new family. I was six years old then.

The title came to me when I found a home video cassette recorded that summer. I wanted to give that kind of visual experience through my film, to convey something domestic, intimate, born, in some sense, from those pictures of my childhood.

While making Summer 1993, I had two guiding principles: one side was the romantic idea to portray my own childhood, and the other was to tell the story of what happened not only to me, but to many other people in Spain -- to children who ended up without parents for the same reason.

AL: The film begins in a big city, but then the action shifts to the countryside. What is this place where Frida, the girl in the film, is going? 

This is Garrotxa, the mountainous volcanic region in the north of Catalonia, where I grew up. In the background, you can see my town and the school where I went. We made this film in a place that I know really well.On the one hand there was something beautiful in this. We received enormous support from the people there. They offered to be extras and helped us in all kinds of ways. On the other hand, if you make a film in a place where you have such strong emotional ties, there is the risk that you won’t be attentive to the details in the scene. You know them so well, they’ve become invisible.

AL: It’s interesting that your film, using the Catalan language and immersed in the reality of that region, turned out to win the most awards of probably any film of the past year in Spain. And clearly, relations between Spain and Catalonia haven’t been the easiest.

We had a long discussion with the producers about whether it was a good idea to make this film in Catalan, considering the problem of distribution. They gave me a free hand, and for me it was natural that the characters would speak the language of my childhood.

AL: The topic of “children and death” has come up before in your short films. It’s one of the greatest themes in film, but it also contains the risk of being boring. Weren’t you afraid of this?

True, there are certain classical approaches, motifs that appear in most films about children and death. For instance, there is the moment when the mother must appear and the child talks with her in a dream or in some other way. Nothing like that ever happened to me. Maybe that is why I wanted to tell it in the way I experienced it myself, differently, and particularly, about what a six-year-old can understand.

AL: And what is that?

For example, that death is something irreversible, that if someone dies, they really aren’t coming back. I remember that I truly understood then what had happened -- that once I heard “Your mama died” -- I never expected to see her again.

Adults think that children don’t understand certain things, but I knew that it wasn’t true, and I wanted to defend this idea in my film.

AL: Did you learn anything new about yourself in making this film?

When something happens to you at such a young age, at a certain moment it starts to seem like make-believe. It seems as if it weren’t really true. So I made this film, perhaps mainly to reconnect to my own story, to free myself from the feeling that it was some kind of family legend.

AL: Having received the Goya Award -- the Spanish Oscar -- for Best First Film, you said that you dedicated it to your biological parents and to all those born in Spain who had the same experience. Do you see them as victims of their era?

After the death of Franco, freedom exploded in every sense of the word in Spain. When people like my parents started to experiment, they weren’t aware of the consequences. They had no idea what the dangers were.

When the AIDS epidemic broke out, the results were terrible. Thousands of people orphaned so many children, just like me.

But we can’t judge that generation. They were children of their era and also, they were equally victims. Their only “sin” was experimenting with the freedom of which their parents were deprived.

AL: Something truly interesting is happening in Catalan cinema. A big group of young women directors have come to the floor, and they are making truly wonderful films. What happened, and why from there?

It’s true, many women have recently produced their first or second film in Catalonia: Mar Coll, Neus Ballus, Elena Martin, Meritxell Colell, and Diana Toucedo, who is actually from Galicia, but lives in Barcelona. We all know and support each other.

On the one hand, it’s a question of education. There are many women in fields related to film today. But also, in Catalan and Spanish film there are women who function as reference points, who provide the energy and courage to work. When you see that there are other young women making films, you simply think, “I can do it too.”

And the community is truly wonderful. When I started to give interviews about the film Summer 1993, they asked me, “Why are there no women making films?” I blew up at them. “What do you mean? But there are!”

In my circle there are more women film makers than men. I realize, though, that I am an optimist, because I live here, where I live -- in Barcelona. And in Barcelona women make films, period.

It’s like a snowball effect -- the more of us there are, the more there will be in the future.


Carla Simón (b. 1986, Barcelona)–Director and screen writer, graduate of the London Film School. For her first full-length feature film, Summer 1993 (1997), she received the prize for Best First Film at the Berlin International Film Festival, the grand prize at the Malaga Film Festival, the Écrans Juniors award at Cannes, and three Goya awards including Best First Film.

Translated by David A. Goldfarb


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