Ecuadorian Ana Cristina Barragán, an alumnus of the Elias Querejeta Zine Eskola (EQZE) postgraduate film school in San Sebastian, has come full circle with her second feature film “La Piel Pulpo” (“Octopus Skin”) participating in the San Sebastian Horizontes festival. Latinos, a year after participating in the Work in Progress part of the festival (WIP Latam).
A coming-of-age family drama “La Piel Pulpo” revolves around twins Iris and Ariel who live on a remote island with their mother and younger sister. Raised in this rarefied environment with only the mollusks, birds and reptiles for company, the teenagers are inseparable and have formed an almost transcendental bond with nature. Curious about the world beyond their island, Iris takes a boat trip with a rare visitor to explore the mainland in search of their estranged father. The physical separation from her twin brother puts a strain on their relationship.
In the trailer, shared exclusively with Variety, a series of haunting images unfold against a background of suggestive music. Fragments of the dialogue reveal the tension in the family as the twins rebel against the mother’s orders to stay away from other people and Iris leaves for the mainland on her own.
You will not see an octopus in “La Piel Pulpo” (“Octopus skin”). Barragán sees the title as a metaphor for Iris, who during her visit to the city skillfully learns to adapt to her new environment, but remains mysterious, transparent, tactile.
As in her previous short films and her career-starting feature film ‘Alba’, ‘La Piel Pulpo’ explores the world of adolescents, their burgeoning awareness of their sexuality and their original innocence.
“Outside the story of a movie, I look for a smell, a body language in which characters interact with their world in a non-verbal way,” Barragán said. Variety.
Her non-pro teen actors, selected from 1,500 applicants, not only received acting lessons, but also learned how to move and be more in tune with their bodies, and even training in parkour.
“I’ve always been fascinated by the world of twins, the unique language they form and what the breakup of growing up and separating is,” she said. “In this film, the breakup of the twin universe is linked to man’s break with nature,” she noted.
Barragán is working on a docushort “Soñé que era Piedra” and hopes to shoot her next feature “La Hiedra” (“The Ivy”) in Ecuador in March or April next year. “La Hiedra” revisits the theme of family ties and is led by “How To Get Away With Murder” star Karla Souza, who plays 31-year-old Azucena who searches for the son she gave birth to at age 13. and abandoned. She decides that 18-year-old Julio, who is about to grow old from the orphanage he grew up in, is that son. “The tension between mother and son who seem to be physically almost the same age opens up a space to explore instinct, the Oedipus complex and anger,” Barragán said. Variety.
Later next year, Barragán will follow “La Hiedra” with “Amapola”, based on an earlier short film “Sopor y Ave”. This follows a group of teenage sex trafficking victims who temporarily live in a shelter. Abigail, 14 years old, enjoys visiting the babies that the abused girls have given birth to, feeding them and playing with them as if they were dolls. When she comes home, it’s the sea and a new friend that help her heal.
The sea plays an important role in most of her films. “I spent much of my childhood on the beach where my father lives,” Barragán said. In fact, most of “La Piel Pulpo” was shot on that coast where she worked on her photographic project called “space-infancy”. “Photographing spaces and creatures on the beach where my father lives and which I know microscopically was the seed to create an imaginary island, full of birds and mollusks.”
She has a busy schedule, but Barragán, who is only 35, feels she has to make up for lost time. “It took me six years to get ‘Alba’ off the ground; I have so much to say and feel the urgency to express so many things that I have to work on multiple projects at once.”
Duesseldorf-based Patra Spanou Film handles the international sales of the multi-country co-production produced by Caleidoscopio Cine (Ecuador), Graal Films (Greece), Desenlace Films (Mexico), Unafilm (Germany) and Promenades Films (France).