Manuel Abramovich’s Pornomelancolía’ snags in San Sebastian Main Competition

Manuel Abramovich’s Pornomelancolía’ snags in San Sebastian Main Competition

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“Pornomelancolía”, selected for the main competition, premiered in San Sebastián during the first weekend of the festival. A Latin buzz title at the festival last year, when in the pix-in-post section WIP Latam, “Pornomelancolía”, it opens a window into the behind-the-scenes life of a porn influencer, Lalo. But Argentine director Manuel Abramovich – who won the 2019 Silver Bear in Berlin with his short film “Blue Boy” – told Variety“Pornomelancolía is not a film about pornography, it is a film about how we look at other people’s eyes.”

“Pornomelancolía” was formed as part of 2018 Ikusmira Berriak, a residency program in San Sebastian, one of Spain’s most important development labs. The film is directed by Argentina’s Gema Films, with Brazilian Desvia Filmes, Bordeaux-based Dublin Films and Mexican Marthfilms. Luxbox handles international sales; Filmin will take care of the distribution in Spain.

Variety spoke to Abramovich.

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The film is about the private life of a public figure. How did you find the right tone to make such an intimate story about such a public aspect of Lalo’s life.

In my films I am interested in reflecting on the different characters we play to live – and survive – in society, in families or institutions. I’m interested in inviting people to become characters, to explore those fictional spaces that we create in our own lives. These are works based on trust and collaboration that look for ways to stage intimacy.

‘Pornomelancolía’ is not a documentary about Lalo Santos. It’s a movie made with him. During the process, we talked about all these things together and turned them into scenes. It combines elements more typical of documentary, along with others closer to fiction. It was a process of testing and experimentation that was only possible thanks to our complicity and the support of the team. This was our starting point and permanent return to build concrete ways to work together.

I was intrigued by how Lalo manages the relationship with his mother. Can you describe the importance of the mother figure and why that is so important to Lalo?

I always think of the family as the first dramatic space in our lives, the first stage. I see the mother – mothers – as a space of containment, of love and care, as a safe space to go to in contrast to the general melancholy state of the film, and above all in contrast to masculinity as an oppressive system that and removes us from our feelings. That’s why I’ve decided that “the mother” must be a construction off the field, that we should never see her directly. An emotional space that Lalo – or the viewer – could go to during the film to feel cared for and loved. In addition, in the film I made the conscious and political choice to emphasize the absence of women, something that struck me when I started researching this project in the context of the gay porn world. In that sense, I decided that the few women who appear in the film would fulfill specific roles of care and authority.

Porn is a very strange basis for stories, even in our modern age. Did you find it difficult to work in that world? And how did you approach the visual aspect of it? Do you feel that storytellers in our contemporary world can base their stories on porn with more public acceptance?

Unbelievable that in 2022 sex is still a taboo in our lives. However, there is less and less modesty to talk about sex, and it is less complicated to access these representations, as sexuality has also invaded social networks and allowed anyone to be a porn producer. In the film, pornography is a context to talk about the characters we create of ourselves and how we deal with the gaze of others in these digital times.

Why did you think it was important to tell the digital story of Lalo?

That first scene sums up the movie for me. The feeling of being surrounded by people and being completely alone at the same time. “Pornomelancolía” is not Lalo’s story, but everyone’s story. It is a reflection of a feeling of this time, especially after the pandemic. We live in such a perverse system that makes us believe that we are free because we can consume, communicate, show ourselves, generate avatars of ourselves. We live our lives staging through social networks and turning them into fiction for a virtual audience that makes us less lonely through likes.

Inserting a digital screen into a movie is relatively new. How did you go about that and most importantly, why did you choose this option to showcase Lalo’s digital interaction, given its importance to the public?

The phone screen is arguably the most intimate space in our lives right now. Often what we see in a virtual conversation, a message or a Tweet is a work of creation “behind the scenes” that is invisible. It seemed interesting to me to create a device to access that intimacy, to show the seams of our social interactions in virtual life. I was interested in the movie screen on a phone screen, as if we were in the phone itself, facing that one screen without being able to watch anything else. To reveal through the screen the social interactions based on superficial exchanges that usually impoverish our personal exchanges.

How would you describe the tone of “Pornomelancolía”?

I would rather not frame the film in a single tone and invite those who see it to find their own definitions and questions. I like to think of “Pornomelancolía” as proof of a moment in history, this time in which we live: where the image we project of ourselves constantly becomes a show for others, a fiction. Intimacy becomes so public that it almost becomes pornographic. I think the title – which came from the main character himself – sums up this feeling very well. “Pornomelancolía” is not a film about pornography, it is a film about how we look at other people’s eyes.

This interview has been abbreviated for publication purposes.

Manuel Abramovichi

Thanks to Luxbox

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