Interview with Dominga Sotomayor, “Thursday Till Sunday”


Thursday Till Sunday director Dominga Sotomayor. Photo by Benjamin Echazarreta.

Adolescence is a difficult time, no matter what country you call home. This is certainly true for 10-year-old Lucia, a Chilean girl resting uneasily on the border between childhood and adulthood in Dominga Sotomayor's Thursday Till Sunday. Ever-aware and wise beyond her years, Lucia sits in the backseat of her family's beaten-up old car as they head on what may be their last trip together. She observes her parents fighting silently in the front seat and does her best to interject. They try speaking partially in English to throw her off, but Lucia still manages to piece together what they're fighting about. As the trip progresses, so does Lucia's insight about what is truly going on within her own family.

Relying heavily on silence and glances to project emotion, Sotomayor's film is accessible and moving despite being light on dialogue. Watching this family drama unfold through the eyes of a 10-year-old girl is a refreshing reminder that, no matter your age, you may only be seeing a portion of what is truly going on around you. We spoke with Sotomayor about her film, which screens Sunday and Monday in our 13th annual Latinbeat festival:

How did you begin to work on this project?
It was something I developed from the beginning on my own. The project stems from some images from my childhood of my cousin and I traveling on the roof of a car while my parents were inside driving. I found this picture particularly interesting because there were two trips in the same journey. The parents are in the car and the children are on top, having very different expereinces. I also remember all of my trips in Chile as a child, where the lanscape is so long and flat. It felt like the routes took forever and we never arrived anywhere. I wanted to explore the feeling of confinement, being in the backseat of a car for a long period of time and not being able to see all that is going on around you. I worked by myself on the script and then I searched for others to help me with the film. I found my producers and I had my own production company.

Was it challenging to cast the film?
The casting wasn't difficult—I was very lucky. I didn't have an official casting and it was very spontaneous. I found the actress to play Lucia when she was playing with my little sister in a swimming pool. I interviewed her before shooting the film, we filmed a few scenes with her, and I liked her a lot so she continued to be involved with the project. The parents are both professional actors. For me, the most important thing was to feel a genuine connection with these people and for them to like the script.

So much is left unspoken in the film or just hinted at by a glance, a resounding feeling, or a long period of diegetic sound. Why did you choose to not have more dialogue in the film?
When I was writing the film, I was thinking about how to be similar to the way kids realize and react to things. It's more natural and realistic to react like this, without clearly expressing your emotions in words. I was trying to write for the important moments between the transitions of the trip. The kids may only hear a part of a conversation and then they are left trying to understand what is happening. I was more interested in little gestures because I think it's the way we really communicate with each other.

Was it your intention to have Lucia be seen as very perceptive to her parents’ emotions and realtionship?
Yes, it was the idea at the beginning. I wanted to show Lucia's point of view, not her story itself. I was trying to connect this change and crisis amongst the parents with the mood and situation of being a child. I wanted to explore what it is like to be 10 years old or 12 years old, in the middle of childhood and curious, but still not wanting to know everything. When I met the actress who plays Lucia she was 10 years old, but by the time we began filming she was closer to 11 or 12. In the script she is 10, but I liked that the girl looked a bit older as a nice contrast to her young brother. She is in a very critical stage of life, on the border between childhood and adulthood.

Why do you believe the parents, Ana and Fernando, want to take this last family trip? And why do you believe Fernando allows Ana to join them?
Fernando is leaving her, even though many viewers think that she is leaving him. He has these plans to rent an apartment, but she wants to come with them on the trip as a last chance to be together. They have an idea that being in other spaces will help mend things. For Fernando, this is his way to connect with his children and have them remember him in a positive light.

Did you make a conscious effort to use mostly long shots and close-ups throughout the film? Do you believe these types of shots are more effective (from a filmmaking point of view) at capturing emotion?
I think my choices of shot type have a lot to do with being from the perspective of a child. I could have chosen to film in another way and it could have possibly been more easy for the audience to emotionally connect. But the idea was to have some distance from the subject, to not be able to understand everything. I liked shooting things from behind or through things and not always being able to see the faces of the parents. And in the car, I loved showing the confinement. In the end, we see them in the desert and they look so small and insignificant. I wanted to show that everything is bigger than them.

There are lots of beautifully composed shots looking through things, like the rear view window of the car and the opening of a tent. Can you tell me a bit about these choices?
I was trying to connect the point of view of the car with the point of view of Lucia. Everything is fragmented and you can't see eveything.

Were there difficulties shooting due to a large portion of the action taking place in a car or cramped quarters?
Yes, it was challenging at first. But we created a system of two cars to make it easier. I like to work with limitations. We also shot on Super 16 and I think that made for a really nice atmosphere with the crew, where each shot is seen as very special. This project is so connected with memory and the idea that this event will never happen again for these children so it was important to me to use film. I really liked the idea of our film looking like an old picture that is loosing much of its color.

What do you hope your audience in New York takes away from the film?
I hope that they can feel connected with their own childhood and with real emotions. It is a very personal project, but I think people will be able to take something away from it. It was my main goal to make a film that feels alive, like it has cells. And I hope they can take some cells from the film with them as they leave.

Thursday Till Sunday, part of Latinbeat 2012, screens Sunday, August 12 at 1:30pm and Monday, August 13 at 6:30pm with producer Gregorio Gonzalez in person to introduce the film.

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