The narrative power in the sophisticated image
Laura Sisteró is a director from Barcelona who directed Waste along with Alejo Levis, a beautiful and brutal short film immersed in a pastel world, where all that is feminine is dominated by something strange. A piece in which the narrative and the aesthetic blows our minds.
Laura and Alejo are the founder of DOSCABEZAS, a director binomial who complement each other personally and artistically doing advertising and audiovisual projects. In this case, Laura travelled to Mexico to be present for the 20th Edition of the Guanajuato International Film Festival, representing this great duo and symbolizing the female power behind and inside the big screen. Laura Sisteró assistance in the 20th edition of the Guanajuato International Film Festival was thanks to the PICE Mobility Support of the Spanish Cultural Action, AC/E.
How did Waste come up?
This project came about because Juli Carné, the cinematographer, had time and money saved up and wanted to work with me on something beautiful. He has a very clear aesthetic defined, he wanted to make a fashion film with a firm underwear. I brought this idea up with Alejo and we started working together in advertising and other projects, and I also pitched it to the producer we were working with, Petra Garmon. Together we decided we could take this project even further and make a short film.
We know you co-wrote the script with Alejo, what inspired the story?
It was interesting that we wanted to do something beautiful. The location was also very clear, it’s Juli’s parents’ house and we all wanted to shoot there. We had some premises and some of the actresses, all of whom are very known in Spain. They’re all incredible, very good and renowned. We had the fortune that once one of them signed on, they all followed. We had girls, an underwear brand, a floor and we didn’t want to tell something banal, we want to tell something.
Both Alejo and I had references to science fiction, to the disturbing… and we thought of this. I was doing a theater course to learn more as a director. They gave us an exercise there to follow a stick and be that stick. It was very liberating not to think and to follow that object. We thought it would be interesting to play with that and give the video a dance feel, making it very beautiful, but also stories with something brutal, not banal, something pure, a feeling, a strong conflict.
It’s called Waste because it’s about how you believe something and create a religion around it, almost like a way of living through an object that for another person is simply something they can discard. This pencil that appears randomly in drawers creates a power relationship among these girls, a very toxic relationship.
It’s set somewhat in a fantasy because they are very beautiful, and their clothes are very pretty and that’s how we curated the entire script. There was also something important in the fact that a man was carrying the pencil, something about sexualization of women through male symbols, like a pencil.
The story is a little blurred, a little cryptic, which we also like, because it’s a bit of a post-narrative. It’s not entirely clear what’s going on and we give clues to get the audience in that mood. More than knowing what’s going to happen at all times, in the end everything has a “why”, nothing is random.
How many days did it take to shoot?
Two days and then we made a few shots and shot a few things we were missing, but three days in total.
What message did you want to show with something so feminine and brutal at the same time?
Alejo and I like to tell fantasy stories and with this one we allowed ourselves to give something that would be so beautiful and fine a certain brutality, something violent to something delicate, how it looks to have such a beautiful model who has such a strong potency.
The feminine and delicate world, girls, the brutality, being possessed by power, it has a lot of meanings. At the beginning we didn’t know how to classify it, more than fiction I think it engulfs itself in the experimental, even though it’s not quite as open; there’s a beginning, a conflict and a clear ending, but one that opens up to many interpretations because it’s based in many symbols and each symbol does its own thing, depending on how you see them.
Regarding symbols, I see you use the same ring as one of the stars of the film. What does it mean?
This is my ring, I’ve had it for more than ten years, it’s a symbol of mine. Since we used a lot of shots of hands, we needed to put something on them to identify them, and it’s a very powerful ring; the eye, refers to the Divine…
I would like to put it in everything I do, as a personal seal.
What was it like to co-direct with Alejo?
Alejo and I met two years ago and worked for producer Petra Garmon and during an advertising assignment we were assigned together as directors. We knew each other from sight, but working together was fascinating. We had the same references and he’s a very creative person and very talented and I feel like I contribute to him as well. When this came out, he was about to shoot his second film and his assistant director couldn’t go, so he asked me if I wanted to come and I jumped at the chance. We were in synch, we became a directing duo that worked in advertising differently; it tends to be bitter, so we wanted something lighter.
We had already done commercials together when this project Waste came to me, but I wanted to do it with him. It was the first thing we did together that was more personal. We contributed a lot to each other because we believe in each other and trust each other’s talent, which lets us reach the other point. Alejo has made two films and it shows, he’s excellent at directing his actors. Me, for example, I like to improvise, whatever happens in the moment and he likes to plan, so we complement each other.
What’s your next project?
I’m in a different world, I’m writing a fiction film, a thriller. Specifically, I’m focused on a documentary I made in Russia called Tolyatti Adrift. We just released a teaser and are looking for international financing along with Boogaloo Films, a very good production company that does documentaries in Barcelona. It would be my first feature documentary, it’s lovely!
It’s in one of the poorest countries in Russia, like the Russian Detroit, because the Lada car factory of the Soviet Union, -which was very strong-, is still there, but they closed a lot of the plants and a lot of people are out of work. Youth unemployment is high and these young people have adopted the Lada 2101, which was supposed to represent the well-being of the Soviet Union. They’re bought cheap, painted and made to be skidded in parking lots on the weekends. They’re burned and it’s a way to express their anguish that there’s “no future”.
Laura, anything you want to add?
I would like to thank Catalan Films, which chooses five shorts a year and we had the fortune to be selected. They’ve brought us all the way here, supporting us in distribution. I also want to thank Petra Garmon, Juli Carné and Alejo. They are the pillars of this project and I would also like to thank everyone in this magnificent festival. I think it’s great and I wish all film festivals in the world were free so people and culture could meet this way.