Audrey Diwan Forces The Venice Film Festival To Witness An Abortion On Screen

Anamaria Vartolomei (left) and Audrey Diwan, before the presentation of ‘The event’.Domenico Stinellis / AP

The Venice festival He has concentrated his heavyweights in the early days. And where there were divos there were spotlights, glamor and full rooms. Queues and anticipation, now, have diminished. And in the seats spread the fear that the contest would lose interest and quality. But then the French director Audrey Diwan arrived and struck the audience with an unforgettable image, much more than any red carpet: on the screen, an abortion was seen. Long, painful, terrible. Without ellipsis, as in life. The hardest sequences of The event are sculpted in memory. And the other film in official competition, Box, of the Venezuelan Lorenzo Vigas, also moved, with the loss of innocence of a teenager in search of his father. When, in both projections, the lights are turned on, the bad body remains. And it takes time to leave.

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“The cinema is a means of transmitting emotions. We did not want to dramatize the situations, we were looking for an incarnation of the authentic, of the living, ”Diwan told the press. The story, after all, happened: the creator of Lebanese origin adapts the novel of the same name by Annie Ernaux, where the writer recounts her battle to terminate a pregnancy in France in 1963. That is, when she was just 23 years old, the law forbade it and just expressing her intention out loud was scandalous. Hence, the protagonist of the film deals with warnings, the rejection of her own friends and even a doctor who, instead of helping her, injects her with a drug to strengthen the embryo.

The young and extraordinary actress Anamaria Vartolomei confessed that she did not even know that clandestine abortions once existed in her country. Although the problem remains in many states and even old Europe sometimes progresses slowly. Or even take steps back, like the tightening of the law in Poland. 69% of Italian gynecologists are conscientious objectors, according to 2018 data from the Ministry of Health. And the program Saved uncovered that in Murcia it is impossible to interrupt a pregnancy voluntarily in a public center. Real examples, in the XXI century. Like the expression “free bar to abort”, heard in recent years in national politics. Hence a movie like The event, which will arrive in Spain in March, it seems more than timely. Maybe even necessary.

The film, yes, has an unconvincing start. Some dialogues and situations weigh down the feeling of realism. As the countdown progresses – the film marks the inevitable weeks of pregnancy that pass – however, the young woman’s anxiety is contagious. And ends up grabbing the entrails of the viewer.

“It was about reappropriating the woman’s body. She is the one who must decide on her desire, what she wants to do or not do, she must not justify her behavior, “said Vartolomei. The director added: “I was interested in talking about the sense of freedom, the character is a way of never looking down and moving on”. Diwan also stressed the importance of representing the young woman’s physical changes and, at the same time, of an intimate approach, focused on filming above all the “head and eye movements” of the characters. And another actress, Anna Mouglalis, who plays the only woman willing to help, said: “My character is a tribute to those women who fought for abortion rights. It is difficult to tell these stories, even in countries where it is legal. We should keep talking about it. “

Director Lorenzo Vigas (center) points out the two main interpreters of his film, Hernán Mendoza (left) and Hatzin Navarrete.CLAUDIO ONORATI / EFE

In search of the father

Box, by Lorenzo Vigas, too it was a complicated project. Between writing, searching for actors and locations, and filming, years went by. Six, specifically, have passed since his previous film, From there, that made him the first Latin American filmmaker in obtaining the Golden Lion. For that alone, the expectations were remarkable. Vigas follows a boy who recovers his father’s remains. But then, instead of finding peace, his grief turns into an obsession. Because he thinks he sees a man identical to his father on the street and decides to follow him. First, literally. And then on his debatable model and example.

“The absence of the father is a fairly common situation in Latin America. Sometimes you have to replace the figure that you never had at home and you grab someone to replace that voice. It is not by chance a continent where people have worshiped leaders like Hugo Chávez, Perón or many more. You have to understand who we love and why. It can take us to very dangerous places ”, defended the filmmaker. And it is not the only criticism of the film to the system. Like Sundown by Michel Franco —They are both produced by Teorema, the company that the two directors share—, Box illuminates the shadows of Mexico: labor exploitation in the maquilas, factories covered by large tax benefits that populate the border with the United States, and violence against women. “More than 20,000 have recently disappeared in the north of the country and no one knows where they are,” denounced Vigas.

The director said that he chose the leading actor, Hatzin Navarrete, from among dozens and dozens of boys. And that this “had never stood before a camera.” So it went from zero to a thousand: on the set, Vigas repeated a shot up to 10 or 15 times, in search of the truth. And the truth is that he found it. At first, perhaps, the coldness of the story alienates more than one. But the boy’s insistence appeals to universal feelings. By his father’s approval, he is ready for anything. It is the strength of any family. And its danger.