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CANNES 2021 Critics’ Week

Clara Roquet • Director of Libertad

“You can forge your own style of directing”

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- CANNES 2021: The screenwriter who has teamed up with filmmakers such as Jaime Rosales and Carlos Marqués-Marcet makes her feature-length directorial debut by broaching the complex topic of freedom

Clara Roquet  • Director of Libertad

Libertad [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Clara Roquet
film profile
]
is the feature debut by Clara Roquet (Malla, Barcelona, 1988), the acclaimed (co-)screenwriter of films of the likes of Long Distance [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Carlos Marques-Marcet
film profile
]
by Carlos Marqués-Marcet and Petra [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Jaime Rosales
film profile
]
by Jaime Rosales, which took part in Cannes three years ago. The first-time director now comes to this year’s edition (in the Critics’ Week) with a movie whose title (lit. “Freedom”) is dripping with meaning. Roquet was not able to come to the Croisette to present the film in person, because she recently tested positive for COVID-19 (she will soon be discharged, but she will have to have a negative result if she wants to come to the French gathering). Despite everything, the Catalonian director answered this writer’s call in high spirits.

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Cineuropa: Was it a dream come true to finally be able to direct one of your own feature-length screenplays?
Clara Roquet: I consider myself a screenwriter – for me, directing was not a necessity, but rather a consequence of wanting to tell a story that was very personal to me, and that’s why I don’t know if someone unconnected with it would have wanted to direct it. I was never in any rush; it was a script that I wrote little by little, over time. This helps to build up the stories, which gradually start to grow and take shape, becoming ever more complex. When it was time to shoot the film, I realised what this meant, but I thought I had to direct it from an authoritative standpoint, and I’m not like that at all. However, while I was shooting my short films, I discovered that a person can direct however they want. You can forge your own style of directing, and you should feel comfortable with that style: for me, it entails surrounding yourself with kindred spirits, feeling as if it’s a joint creation in a community, which does not stem from authority, although you and the crew always have to share your point of view.

The title, Libertad, has a deeper meaning than just the first name of one of the protagonists…
The main questions that this film raises are: is someone truly free if they spend all of their time at another person’s beck and call? Can you only truly be free if you have the necessary means to choose? Or is freedom more of a spiritual thing? There are various characters in the film attempting to free themselves, in one way or another.

In your short film El adiós (2015), a person dies and the question comes up of whether their carer has to attend the funeral. The topic of immigrants taking care of others is very present in your body of work. Where does this concern of yours come from?
From seeing it around me so often. We have placed the care of our elders in the hands of others; we have subdelegated it, which is what happened with my grandmothers. And indeed, Libertad sprang out of El adiós: when I was doing the casting for the film, I was looking for non-professional actresses who were caregivers, and I asked them about their lives; what always came out was this huge trauma of them having left their children behind in their home countries to come here and take care of others. That subject really moved me: I set about investigating, and that’s what spawned the character of Libertad, the daughter who arrives having not seen her mother for ten years, and I imagined what the relationship between them would be like.

Your film brings to mind a Brazilian one called The Second Mother by Anna Muylaert.
Yes; I had already written the screenplay, and a teacher of mine at Columbia, Argentinian filmmaker Julia Solomonoff, told me I should watch it: they have different approaches, but I liked it a lot. They both show that discomfort that gets generated when you are serving the middle-class, well-off, self-righteous and progressive part of society. It’s very interesting to depict that.

Family seems to be another concern of yours that pops up regularly
Yes, I wrote two different scripts: one was the story of the immigrant who is reunited with her daughter; the other was that of the grandmother, the mother and the daughter during their final summer together, with a way of life that will no longer exist, save for in their memories. A teacher at Columbia, Andy Bienen, the screenwriter of Boys Don’t Cry, who was my tutor, told me that it was the same story and that I should combine them. That was a fantastic idea, and that’s how I found the film, because neither of the two scripts worked on its own. I am a very nostalgic person, and film has the power to freeze something that’s on the verge of disappearing. You can feel it as a memory of a certain time, of those sun-kissed summers on the Costa Brava in the 1960s and 1970s, is gradually being erased. That’s why I wanted that atmosphere to permeate Libertad.

It’s a summer during which there are rumblings in the background that disturb the idyllic peace and quiet.
Yes – for me, it was important to have that naturalism, for something to be wrong when you have high expectations. But that’s life: sometimes there’s something that is not quite right lurking beneath the surface of that apparent perfection.

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(Translated from Spanish)

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