Sol Berruezo Pichon-Rivière is a director and screenwriter from Argentina. She graduated in Film Direction from the Universidad del Cine (Argentina). “Mamá, mamá, mama” is her first film, shot only by women: both in the crew and in the cast. Her debut film premiered at the Berlinale in 2020 in the Generation K Plus Competition, where it was awarded with the Special Mention of the Jury. She was also the youngest director of the 70th Berlinale. At the beginning of 2021, with the support of the Biennale College Cinema, she shot her second film, “Nuestros días mas felices” (“Our Happiest Days”), with her producer Laura Mara Tablón. The film premiered at the 2021 Venice Film Festival.
At this year’s RVK Feminist Film Festival, Tara Karajica talked to Sol Berruezo Pichon-Rivière about “Nuestros días mas felices” (“Our Happiest Days”), feminism and film and what she is up to next.
What made you want to become a filmmaker?
Sol Berruezo Pichon-Rivière: I didn’t plan to be a filmmaker. But my passion for stories has been present my entire life. At first, I thought about becoming a writer, but then I understood that would have intensified my loneliness, so that’s when I found cinema. I saw cinema as a possibility of combining all the arts, and also, a way to share the creation process with other people.
How did Our Happiest Days come about?
S.B.P.-R.: Our happiest days is my second film. So, in the first one “Mamá, mamá, mamá” I shot with a little actress that really blown my mind. Her name is Matilde, and she is the main character in Our happiest days. By the time I shot my first feature, she was five years old, but she still impressed me. We became friends and I decided I wanted to write something for her. As I always saw her as an “old child” I decided to write a character that could show that. Then of course, it was also inspired in my grandparents, and in family dramas from my own family.
With a combination of magical realism and oneirism, you create a story of identity, rediscovery, familial relations and internal peace. Can you elaborate on that?
S.B.P.-R.: I think I have found my place in cinema in the world of dreams. The unconscious, the immoral, the hidden, the fantastic are worlds that interest me, worlds I want to talk about. I believe that cinema is the perfect medium to show worlds that are beyond the ordinary, secret worlds that we all share in silence, but that perhaps we do not dare to share. Regarding the world of family ties, I believe that the family is where our first obstacles begin, our first ideals. I consider revisiting this place healing. I think that reformulating relationships is essential to keep them healthy, and also to pretend that a relationship remains stagnant in time, is not realistic. But neither is it easy to carry out these transformations. Sometimes, cinema, for me, is a way of accompanying us in silence in difficult and traumatic processes.
You use a Kafkian approach where it’s not about the how, but the emotional sensations of your characters. Can you comment on that?
S.B.P.-R.: Actions and sensations generally don’t make sense of each other. Sometimes, they contradict each other, other times they go hand in hand. The world of sensations seems to me very valuable and also very fragile; not having rational certainties seems not to enable one to feel. But those uncatalogued feelings, at times abstract, I think they are the pure manifestation of our interior. And, just like a dream, without form, encrypted, it is the sensations that I am interested in capturing.
Going back to the subject of familial relations, you explore in your film the relationship between parents and children, the circle of life or of care, if you will, and you play with the parental archetype image. Can you delve deeper into that?
S.B.P.-R.: The film moves around a concept: “growing back to childhood”. I feel there’s a cycle in life, with the shape of a circle, where everything ends where it begins. Both old age and childhood interest me because they are moments in life where humans are more “transparent;” their emotions are exposed. And, I feel there’s a huge necessity for love and affections at these ages, which make them resemble even more.
Fear is another big topic in your film. Can you talk about that?
S.B.P.-R.: I believe that fear is present in everyone, without exception. I believe that the search of each one is to find where that fear is hidden, and finding that place leads to our liberation
The maternal link is a huge theme in your opus (both feature films). Can you expand on that?
S.B.P.-R.: As I said before, cinema seems to me to be an art that allows all the other arts to come together. I believe that the presence of cut-outs, or “collage” as I like to call them, generates another texture, another closeness, and a certain imperfection that the camera sometimes seems to forget.
Can you talk about your female characters, Agatha and Elisa? How do you see them?
S.B.P.-R.: Many times, I think that there is a kind of karma between female bonds within a family. There is a certain impending conflict between mother and daughter, which is repeated from generation to generation. Perhaps that conflict that seems to be due to differences is actually because of precisely the similarities. I see Agatha and Elisa as the same person, with the same conflicts. And that resemblance makes it easier for them to react or fight. But deep down, I think hate also speaks of a very deep love.
Can you talk about the title?
S.B.P.-R.: I think the film is an essay on happiness and, at the same time, an essay on sadness as well. Both feelings are related and cannot exist by themselves. For this reason, the title, in turn, I feel that it has some nostalgia, as well as a bright side.
Can you expand on the shooting process?
S.B.P.-R.: The shooting process of this film was very atypical. It was written, filmed and premiered in only one year. This is because it was supported by an amazing fund and mentorship called Biennale College Cinema. We shot during the pandemic, so that made the process even stranger. But it was an amazing experience.
Are you a feminist? If so, how does it inform your filmmaking?
S.B.P.-R.: Yes, I am, as I guess all women are, by the mere fact of carrying the body we carry. Even if you do or do not something about it. It’s both an internal and external fight. I try to tell the stories from the point of view of that that hadn’t been represented, or even a point of view that I have that I’ve never seen portrayed before. Cinema can be a medium that allow us to dream of more, to feel we are allowed.
What is your take on women in film today?
S.B.P.-R.: I think I entered the film circuit at a boom time for women. You could even say that today it is fashionable to be a woman, which seems like an achievement to me, but at the same time, I would like art to be indistinct to the genre.
Do you have a favorite female filmmaker and a favorite film by a female filmmaker?
S.B.P.-R.: One of the first director who really influenced me is Lucile Hadžihalilović. It really surprised me how she combined fantasy, childhood and horror. And, one of my first favorite films is also by her – Innocence.
What are your next projects?
S.B.P.-R.: I’m working on two scripts. One is set both in France and in Argentina, and the other one is set in Iceland, where I live now.
Photo credits: Mehdi Benkler.
This interview was conducted at the 2023 RVK Feminist Film Festival.