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IFFR 2022 Big Screen Competition

Adrián Silvestre • Director of My Emptiness and I

“People today are treated like commodities on the market”

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- Following his second feature, Sediments, the Spanish filmmaker continues to explore the conflicts of trans identity in his new film

Adrián Silvestre • Director of My Emptiness and I
(© Oscar Fernández Orengo)

The third feature by Adrián Silvestre has blood ties with his previous work Sediments [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Adrián Silvestre
film profile
]
, which enjoyed a fruitful festival run after being presented at the Málaga Film Festival in 2021. We sat down with the director to discuss this and other interesting aspects of My Emptiness and I [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Adrián Silvestre
film profile
]
, which is competing in the Big Screen Competition at IFFR 2022.

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Cineuropa: What kind of family tie would you say there is between your two most recent films: would they be (parallel) sisters, cousins or sisters-in-law?
Adrián Silvestre:
I’m glad you say that! Because whenever people talk about prequels and sequels, I reply that they are connected and I don’t know how to define it, but I like to call them sisters because they strike up a dialogue with each other, and they share a common subject matter and some of the cast.

The emptiness alluded to by the title Is it a void that the protagonist finds it difficult to fill?
Yes, it stems from the experiences of Raphaëlle Perez herself and was actually the title of one of her poems. It was important for it to come from her, but also for it to reflect the topic we were exploring. It’s the void that she has inside and that we have all had at some point; indeed, some of us will never cease to have it. It’s that obligatory search for our identity which we sometimes arrive at late, or even never, and which we have to fill with other things. Raphi tried to fill it with romance and love, but at the end of the day, you can only fill it with yourself: it’s in the struggle between emptiness and being oneself that you find these conflicts.

Why did you ask Carlos Marqués-Marcet (The Days to Come [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Carlos Marques-Marcet
film profile
]
) to come on board as one of the three screenwriters for the film, alongside you and Raphi?
I had spent years collaborating with a group of trans women, one of whom was Raphi. She and I began to work on what she had written. I had such a close relationship with her that I didn’t have enough of an outsider’s perspective to tell whether it would be viable as a film, as I was too involved. Then the production company suggested we call upon someone external, and we loved Carlos’s films and felt like we were on the same wavelength as him. He also liked the idea. He came on board after the first version of the script, and we began to rewrite it together: in this way, we made a perfect team consisting of someone who had experienced it at first hand, a director connected with her and another person with an outsider’s point of view.

When Laura Herrero Garvín, your DoP, premiered La Mami [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Laura Herrero Garvín
film profile
]
, she told us in an interview that she was not someone who looked for stories, but rather they came to her. Is it the same for you?
That’s interesting, because I feel more closely bound to fate and the chance it gives you to improvise and explore, but Sediments is a documentary and My Emptiness and I is a fiction, and in the latter, you have to have many things tied down, with a more complex working plan. But we were also able to toy with improvisation, and there’s a mixture of languages. My Emptiness and I does not have the same level of freedom or risk-taking as Sediments, especially in terms of the production aspects, with its bigger crew.

So could we say that My Emptiness and I is a docu-fiction, or pure fiction?
It’s pure fiction with a natural actress, based upon her own experience.

In the film, we see these hook-up apps that we seem to use so much these days. How do they influence our relationships?
In Spain, things have been changing quickly, and in a good way, for the trans community, despite the violence and rejection that these people still encounter on a daily basis. But they are living in a safer and more pleasant place now. In the case of Raphi, a young woman with a social life and an office job – in other words, with a number of obstacles successfully negotiated – abuse has found her on social networks. What they don’t say to your face and what you don’t find in the street any more, you do get on that brutal market of the apps, regardless of whether you’re straight, gay, lesbian or trans. A lot of the time, it’s verbal abuse, which rears its head in the type of language and the things they demand of you – or how they ask them of you. Raphi showed me screen grabs of the chats she’s had with guys on these mobile apps: she has an incredible ability to capture and record things, transforming them into something creative, and it was atrocious to see the set of messages that we gathered together and put into the film. Many people might think it’s made up, but no, that’s the way they really are. I think there’s hardly anybody who can avoid suffering this: we’re living in an extremely neoliberal time that also affects the sexual and emotional aspects of life, and people today are treated like commodities on the market.

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(Translated from Spanish)

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