Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Q&A with Jonathan Jakubowicz, director of Secuestro Express


Secuestro Express was inspired by your own experience of being kidnapped – what happened?
My experience was less traumatic and violent, but I did have 45 minutes with a gun to my head. They took us to two different ATMs and they dropped us in the middle of the highway at one in the morning wearing underwear and socks. They took the car. They weren’t as violent or as hateful as the guys in the film, but it gave me the idea that I was going to be killed for 45 minutes. When I saw the clock I couldn’t believe it was 45 minutes. I thought it was at least 5 hours. It’s one of the things in the film. People think the film goes on for 24 hours, but the story happens in a very short amount of time. That’s the way you perceive it, you always think a lot more happens.
The film makes a political point about poverty, but before you notice that, it’s a thrill-ride. Was that deliberate?
There’s such a strong message in the film that the only way to have society listen to it was by not letting them notice we were telling them. Venezuelan filmgoers are lovers of entertainment; they want a lot of fun. One of the crazy things about Venezuela is that we have the loudest movie theatres in the world. The movie theatre’s like a disco. Dolby goes to Venezuela and they’re like: ‘what the fuck’s going on here, you’re going to break my speakers?’ That’s the way Secuestro is created – it’s like a disco. There’s all this noise and music and effects. That’s because it was designed for the masses in Venezuela. That’s why it translates to other cultures, because people love circus. We have created this crazy circus in which you don’t really notice how much we’re saying about us.
The action is incredibly fast…
I really believe in that. I get bored in 90% of the movies I watch. I’m part of that short attention span generation. We have this storm of information everyday everywhere we go, and the real scenario of a kidnapping is that perception of reality, where everything’s coming from every direction and you don’t know who you are with and where you are. Everything you see is just fragmented images. It was really important to give the audience that feeling. To invite the audience to go through the experience of kidnapping and be in the complete power of somebody who can do anything with your life.
You must have been filming in dangerous places.
Yeah, sometimes the security crew outnumbered the production crew. It was a mix of gang members with police corps, bodyguards, and private security. We shot in the centre of the Chavista movement [supporters of President Hugo Chavez] and the centre of the opposition, with the help of both sides in the same week. Everybody thought we were spies from the other side. It was like, they’re poor and rich together – what the fuck is this? The reality is that we had no political position, and that’s why both sides helped us do it. It was really complicated. There are seven different police corps in Caracas. Some of them don’t like each other. Some of them are Chavist, some are against them. It was chaotic. It was hard to shoot, but that helped the performances.
What was the influence of Trainspotting on Secuestro?
I really liked the dynamic between the characters in Trainspotting - there’s a sense of a group there that’s hard to create in a film. I tried to create that in my kidnappers. Trainspotting and A Clockwork Orange are among the few films that create that – you see a group. These people know each other and they know what the rules are.
They both used music well, too, and the music in Secuestro is really powerful.
Great music – beats as part of filmmaking – it’s definitely key. I’m glad you say it – music has to be the director. The director chooses the music and the music chooses the images.
What did you learn from working with Robert Rodriguez?
I was spying on Robert for two years, working on production, and seeing the way he builds an action sequence. He’s such an incredible storyteller; the constant movement of the camera and the kinetic pace and the editing as a tool to create tension, but also to create action with less money, to make a movie look bigger than it is. The budget is less than half a million dollars, and it feels like this huge epic – it’s because we’re moving the camera everywhere.
You used DV cameras, not film. What was the advantage?
The camera is tiny, so we would put it in the glove compartment, or in the pedals, or through the sun roof. Sometimes we would shoot with three cameras at the same time. It gives you freedom, because you can shoot a lot and you don’t have to cut. That’s great when you’re working with non-professional actors. When you have to cut every ten minutes, it gets them out of the role. We would go for 40 minutes with three cameras simultaneously. They’re in the car, they’re fighting, they’re freaking out. Some of the explosions you see in the film are because they’re really fighting, they’re not acting. When Mia’s hitting people, she’s really going crazy. A lot of the danger and the madness of what was going on in Venezuela in those days created that tension, that true fear. I personally go to movies to see human beings and to see them feel. A lot of times you just see the actor and you can see the procedure, and it’s just boring.
INTERVIEW: ALASTAIR McKAY