Ana Asensio • Director
"Private producers believed in my passion"
by Alfonso Rivera
- Actress Ana Asensio makes her directorial debut with Most Beautiful Island, which premiered in Europe at Sitges after winning the Grand Jury Prize at SXSW
After scooping the Grand Jury Prize at SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas, with Most Beautiful Island [+see also:
interview: Ana Asensio
film profile], actress Ana Asensio (Madrid, 1978) has returned to Europe to present her debut film as a director (and actress); the movie has opened the Noves Visions One section at the 50th Catalonian Sitges Film Festival.
Cineuropa: What made you want to go and live in New York, which is also where the action in this film takes place?
Ana Asensio: I wanted to extricate myself from the comfort of Spain. I started working as an actress for television over here, but I wanted some experience living abroad. I arrived in New York on 7 September 2001, four days before 9/11. New York is a hostile city but for the few months following the tragedy, people looked each other in the eyes: there was a shared empathy that went beyond social differences. It was full of humanity, it was beautiful, despite the strangeness of it being the result of such a catastrophe.
Is the main character in your film at all autobiographical?
Yes, in relation to certain things that I have experienced, such as the fact that I have accepted unimaginable jobs, and that all of my possessions live in a suitcase. I put myself in a limiting emotional situation, because the pressure you feel when you have no friends or relatives is very anxiety-producing, which is where the intrigue behind Most Beautiful Island lies. From then on, I built a dramatic and much stronger universe. I met women who have made similar decisions and started new lives, leaving behind a traumatic past that they could not overcome – and thus choosing to settle in a city in which you can remain anonymous: to start from scratch where no one can remind you of your past.
So is that how the plot of Most Beautiful Island was born?
I came up with the story in a just a few hours, in a day: the concept was clear in my mind from the very beginning. I had never written a script before. And then I started knocking on the doors of producers and private investors in the United States and Turkey. From the start, it was clear to me that it wouldn’t be easy to find someone to produce the film, so I decided to shoot a scene so they would understand my vision. I wanted to capture everything in one single shot: ignorance emboldens you, we never know where we’re setting foot.
People believe that anything is possible...
I am glad to have been so naive. It allowed me to throw myself in at the deep end and take a lot of unusual decisions that people would have otherwise advised me against, like filming in Super 16. I found a Franco-Catalan associate producer and we worked on the development of the screenplay, but we were unable to finish it due to a lack of financial support. I wanted to film the project as it was anyway. Finally, I made a few more calls and got funding from private investors who had never made a film before, but who believed in my passion and the concept of the film. We started with a minimal budget. We shot in two stages, too - filming had to stop because we were missing a location.
From what feelings did such a strong story develop?
I wanted to talk about a type of immigration that isn’t often touched upon - and yet I’ve met so many girls hoping to get visas as models or actresses. We walk past them on the streets and don’t think they have any problems, when really sometimes they don’t even have enough to eat. The contrast interested me: this false cruel and bitter-sweet glamour that consists of only being able to eat when invited to parties. It's degrading. I also wanted to show how the property-owning classes, who can buy anything, are capable of paying in brutality.
(Translated from Spanish)
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