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Los Debutantes Q&A

  The youthful innovation of new Chilean cinema is much in evidence in Los Debutantes, an explosive drama about two brothers embroiled in a seedy underworld of sex, drugs and violence. Twenty-four-year-old Silvio and his 17-year-old brother Victor leave their small town for the big city. To celebrate the younger boy’s birthday, the two go to a strip club and there meet the sultry stripper Gracia, whose whipped cream act captures both their hearts and loins.

We caught up with the director, Andres Waissbluth for a quick interview...

The Spinning Image (TSI): Have you always been a fan of the neo noir thriller genre, and who are your main influences here?

Andres Waissbluth (AW): I never knew that there was a neo noir thriller genre. I just loved noir films. And I studied a little bit of noir for the film. If I have to choose some favourite noir films, I would say "The Killing" by Stanley Kubrick, "Sunset Boulevard" by Billy Wilder, "Chinatown" by Roman Polanski and "Touch of Evil" by Orson Welles. Anyway. In "Los Debutantes" there are other influences, like "Gilda" by Charles Vidor for Gracia. Gilda is the number one femme fatale in film history, so I wanted Gracia to be the new Gilda. "On the waterfront" and all Elia Kazan films are really part of the film, especially for constructing Silvio's character. "The 400 Blows" by Francois Truffaut for Victor's character. Lots of films and directors were in my head when I shot the film. Of course "Rashomon" and all Kurasawa's films. All Scorsese's films, All David Lynch's films. The quotes are evident in "Blue Velvet" and "Wild at Heart".

TSI: Did you struggle to tell the story from three different points of view?

AW: No, it was a salvation. The script first was just lineal, but I never felt that the script was working in that way because some characters were not getting enough attention and enough deepness. When we changed the script to three different points of views, all the characters got real and deep enough for shooting. With this structure I was able to tell their complete stories.

TSI: Would you say that sex and violence, which are so prominent in Los Debutantes, defining characteristics of modern Santiago, or are just unique to the narrative of the film? I ask because there is something of the Mean Streets of Santiago about your film.

AW: I think both at the same time. First of all pornography and violence are defining characteristics of modern Santiago, modern Chile, and modern occidental society. But also there was an artistic choice to set the vulnerability of the characters.

TSI: Can you tell us a bit about working with Antonella, and why you chose her for the film?

AW: It was amazing. She only entered the cast one month before that we start shooting. She needed to learn dances, songs, have violent and sex scenes. She gave her self to the film and that you can notice in the film. I chose her because when I saw her I felt she was Gracia, with no need to act, she already had the mix of innocence, sensuality, coldness and tenderness that the character needed. She had never acted professionally before this film.

TSI: I know you touch on it only briefly in the film, but is teenage pregnancy a big issue in contemporary Chile?

AW: Absolutely. In Chile girls don't finish school because of pregnancy and there are a lot of abortions.

TSI: What are you working on currently - what is your next project?

AW: I am working in the postproduction of a kind of experimental film (mix of fiction and documentary) about the demolition of a traditional Hotel in the south of Chile. Also I am working in my next feature film called "199 tips to be happy", about leaving your youth behind.

TSI: What was the reaction in Chile to the film †– was this an instant overnight success for you?

AW: Although this is a very conservative country, the film was a great success here in Chile. It had the highest box office takings in Chile history. There was a lot of controversy and applause because of the sex approach and the criticism of the way Chilean society is working in the film. Also it was celebrated for the amazing production levels achieved for an almost no-budget film.

TSI: How hard (or easy) was it for you to get Los Debutantes funded?

AW: Very very hard. 7 years knocking doors and getting loans. But I think that’s as hard as in any other place in the world. Any way it really paid off.

TSI: Would you say Los Debutantes has a cult following in Chile – and if so why?

AW: Yes, there are two kinds of followers. The ones that became fans of Antonella (now she is in soap operas in TV), and the others lovers of noir films that were surprised with this new version of noir which has become part of Chilean film history.

TSI: Some critics say you are following in the footsteps of Quentin Tarantino, but with a style very much your own. What do you feel about these comparisons to QT?

AW: Well, in many places this comparison was discussed. In Chile some newspapers called me the new Chilean QT. I do like very much QT, but I would like to be recognized for my own style.

In fact my most important references were Scorsese, Kurosawa, Elia Kazan and David Lynch. I always knew that the script had some Tarantino style, but that is because Tarantino works by recycling others styles. My other projects aren't similar to Tarantino though, so I expect this comparison is not going to continue.

We then got a grabbed a quick chat with Antonella Rios...

The Spinning Image (TSI): You're a soap star. Is it fair to say this is a major change of direction for you?

Antonella Rios (AR): It is funny to feel yourself a star or that other people treat you like that. fame come suddenly, but I dont feel really different, I was already a grown up girl when this happened. I just want to think that is the consecuence of lots of years working.

TSI: How did you get the part?

AR: I was ill in bed. A friend called to invite me to a casting. I was feeling really bad, but I felt something, like an intuition so I accepted to go with her. When i arrived i felt it was an special moment for me, I felt I was a winner. two days later they called me to say the role was mine and that a lot of work was coming, acting, dancing, singing.

TSI: What were the main challenges and joys of such a role?

AR: Many joys. Workng in film was a dream that come truth. Until that moment I mainly did dance and musical spectacles. That was good for the role and for playing a fatale show woman. Also being close to great chilean actors was a great experience, I learned a lot from them, they really help me in my first time.

TSI: Gracia is tough yet vulnerable, a manipulator who's also manipulated. How did you go about showing her many sides?

AR: I try to give always differnt views and proposals for my character. Every scene makes me work different. Finally I think is intuition. Getting involved from your inside. The character was very rich. A women-girl trying to survive a life that didnt choose.

TSI: Were you afraid of the nudity at all? Gracia has some very sexy scenes, and some very disturbing ones too...

AR: Being my first film experience was so important that I really was deliering my self to the role. Also the way Andrés Waissbluth managed the set was very important for making me feel comfortable. So it wasnt so difficult, even the harders.

TSI: Did you model Gracia on anyone?

AR: In many ways she's a return to the femme fatales of classic film noirs... the most important thing was going to real night clubs where I meet many women that worked in that bussines. There was one that tell me the most important tip for the character. She saud "we are little girls by day and big bitches by night". from there on, the rest was easy.

TSI: Andrés is a first time director. How was he to work with and what do you consider to be his main talents?

AR: He discovered me. he helped me and teach me everytrhing I know about acting for fim. I have never forgotten his words and directions. I thing that being both debutantes, newcomers, created a very special and strong relation.

You can read our review of Los Debutantes here.
Author: Darren Jones


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Last Updated: 18 March, 2006