An interview with Andrés Duque

photo: Óscar Fernández Orengo

photo: Óscar Fernández Orengo

Why do you make film? Who are your influences?

I feel sometimes that I’m unable to do another thing, and that may be the reason I work constantly. I work with ideas that are reachable in a short term. And if I’m not working on a new film/video, then I’m teaching at different film schools and even programing films. This is a passion, so you don’t ask yourself why. You don’t question yourself. Regarding the influences, even though I may have many, they depend mostly on the spirit of the filmmakers rather than their style. I love Jonas Mekas in that sense. I wish I had half of his spirit.

Andrés, tell me about yourself. Where did you grow up? When and what made you get into filmmaking?

I was born in Caracas, Venezuela. I grew up there and although I didn’t like much the film scene, I got a nice job as a film reporter at HBO Latin America. I was 22 years old. I travelled a lot, covering film festivals around the world. I was able to see great films and meet their directors. I did this for 7 years, then I knew it was about time to start doing things on my own. I came to Barcelona, Spain in the year 2000 to do a Master on Documentary and it was here where I find the ideal place to work creatively. I was always keeping in mind that I should do things on my own because nobody would give me money to make a film/video at that time. So I invested on working with very personal and risky subjects. And that’s how it all started.

I’m interested in your relationship to visual arts and how you think about your work in relation to that area?

I decided to work on video format and not on film and that leads you to reconcider its relationship with cinema. A different format leads you to a whole new perspective. I thought my films/videos should reflect on that somehow. So that’s why people tend to relate them more to “video art”. Cinema is a medium that implies different medium regardless of its format and that’s one of the things that I’ve learned. I love cinema and I think of a big screen when I’m working. I’m interested on the possibilities of the digital images and what they have to say about cinema. I like it when people can’t put a label on what I do. They say its videoart, documentary, fiction, essay, experimental… It’s all the same to me, it’s cinema.

Andrés Duque.en su casa.OK.52 (1)

photo: Óscar Fernández Orengo

What was the main idea behind ‘Ivan Z’? Tell me about Ivan Zulueta. 

I saw Iván Zulueta’s “Arrebato” in Caracas and I was totally overwhelmed by its strangeness. A metacinematic experience in the form of a vampire’s story. I wanted to know everything about this film and its filmmaker, but fortune was never on the side of this great film and it soon entered on a limbo and so did Zulueta. When I moved to Spain I went inmediatly to meet him. It wasn’t easy because he had been living secluded in his house for more than 20 years and nobody had ever entered into his house. So it took me a while to convince him and take him out for a beer. That’s how our friendship started and continue very strong until he passed away on 2009.

There wasn’t any plan on “Ivan Z” but to do a long interview with him. It was the year 2003. However when the time came to shoot he was kind enough to let me into his house at the last minute. So I had to improvise and the best idea that I had was to take an extra camera in case he wanted to shoot something by himself (he never had a video camera in his hands) and to walk around the house with him. The result was that the house plays not only a mere background, but also has a big psychological impact on his portrayal.

Even though I was unexperienced and had to deal with a lot of technical difficulties the film/video made an impact and it helped to bring this great filmaker back on the spot.

How do you see your audience?

I think of them as individual human beings, with their own thoughts and feelings. Sometimes they connect with my films/videos sometimes they don’t. I can’t control that and I better not. I’m a lowsy marketing person. I don’t expect money back from my works. I feel motivated by particular ideas and I make them hoping they would like somebody. That’s all I expect.

What’s your opinion on the modern Spanish documentary film making scene and how it has been developing in recent years?

There’s a considerable attention on spanish non-fiction in recent years, but it’s mostly because of the economical crisis and that’s not good because working independently should require some ethical attitude, critical reflection and aesthetical courage. It’s not a fashion which is the feeling that I have now with most filmmakers now doing their own personal small budgeted films. However this had happened before and in the present, there are also great examples of compromised filmmakers and also great iniciatives such as Margenes,, S8 Film Festival and the constantly attacked Punto the Vista International Film Festival, among others.

I can’t say it’s a ideologically coherent movement, but Spain is also a culturally fragmented society. it’s imperfect and their subject-matters and aesthetics varies a lot. It feels like bit of freedom and a not controlling center scene. I like that.

What inspired or influenced you to make ‘Color perro que huye’?

I had an accident (as I tell on the film) and had to stay in bed for a long time. I had no better thing to do than start ordering all the images that I have been recording. To transcode the tapes into a hard drive device. I though I should do something with this new little screens, these memory movies on my computer. So as if it were a patchwork I started weaving and connecting these images. I impossed myself total freedom in the narrative. I work with my images and from others, regardless of its nature, they are all part of my imaginary and that was a central interest while doing it. Representing my imaginary and put it into a big screen as it is, a sensorial experience.

How was your film received in Spain and abroad?

Either people liked it a lot or hated it. The first reaction it’s strange to the people because they don’t know what to think of it, but after a few days they come back and tell me that they liked it. I think it’s because “Color perro que huye” has a nature of its own, it does not follow any narrative trend and that affects people’s reaction on it. That’s a common situation on most of my work, so I’m used to people telling me that they feel disoriented with them. However, our minds works just the same, our visual thoughts are fragmented, chaotic and then we find them a logic. I wanted to portrait that experience.


photo: Óscar Fernández Orengo

photo: Óscar Fernández Orengo

Do you consider yourself an “experimental filmmaker”?

It’s a difficult time for filmmakers to call themselves like that, since most of them work with video medium. Cinematographers have them easier to call themselves like that. A quick answering would be “I’m a filmmaker”, but it’s not precisely correct. It’s definitely an exciting moment when you find yourself having difficulties into defining what you do. Regarding the experimental, yes I do experiment a lot, but that doesn’t necessarily makes me an experimental film/video maker in terms of what the market thinks of an experimental film.

‘Ensayo fianal para utopia’: What was the most difficult aspect of making this film?

I think its the self-biographical aspect of the film that makes it difficult. Exposing yourself to the audience emotionally naked. Again, it’s the film I had to do. Dealing with the death of my father wasn’t easy at all. While I accompanied him during his lasts months I had these images I brought from Moçambique. There were images of people dancing for several reasons. Found-footages on the celebration of their revolution and young dancers in the present, all these images were inexplicably related to the fact that my father was dying, and when he left us it was a kind of a therapy to assemble a film that would have both images I brought from Moçambique and those of my father. A possible utopy to face death.

Did you have a clear idea about how the film would unfold right from the start?

I was editing these images from Moçambique while I was accompanying my father. At some moment, the images of my father entered into the editing. Now I see the logic of it. But at that moment I only felt grieve and editing was the only thing I could do that would peace my mind.

How long did the preparations and shooting take?

No preparation at all. I was in Moçambique working on a ONG project and stayed there for a month. On my free time I visited the Film Institute looking for some films that were made during the revolution. I also got to know a group of guys very passionate about street dancing. Then I find about my father’s diagnosis and had to travel to Venezuela to take care of him and of my mother.

Have you used different cameras?

Yes, in “Ensayo final para utopía” most of the images of Moçambique were shot on a mobile phone camera. I like the unstability of the image and I force that in some scenes, for example when you see a young girl dancing on a wooden stage, I put the camera on the floor and the vibration of the floor makes the whole image vibrate.

Can you explain Duque’s method?

I keep on collecting images of my daily life, I keep that as a good practice learnt from Mekas. I find beauty in the strange and the unexpected.

What creative project are you working on now?

I had the opportunity to meet a great music composer from Saint Petersburg last year. His name is Oleg Karavaichuk and he liked the idea of working together. I will travel soon there with a small crew and start working.

Are you happy with the film?

It’s important to experience happiness with what you do. Even though it comes on small doses. 

photo: Óscar Fernández Orengo

photo: Óscar Fernández Orengo

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