Locarno Open Doors: Michael Labarca’s “Kids Swimming in the Lake”

Cannes Cinéfondation winner Michael Labarca will be at Open Doors in Locarno next week with his feature film debut, Kids Swimming in the Lake, produced by Venezuela’s Todos Los Ríos, France’s Ticket Shoot Films and Chile’s Oro Films became.

For Venezuelan film projects, such international co-productions are not just a virtue, but a necessity, “due to the crisis in our public funding for production, our limited access to the Ibermedia fund and the complex situation of our country,” said Kids producer Patricia Ramírez Arevalo near Todos los Rios.

Set in contemporary Venezuela, Kids Swimming in the Lake is about emigration but from the perspective of those left behind.

Amid constant power cuts, 11-year-old Dayana and her little siblings dream of leaving Venezuela and reuniting with their father, who emigrated to escape the crisis. As they eagerly await that day, the children watch as other families and their friends go first.

Venezuelan Labarca now lives in Argentina himself. Tat brings a deeply personal passion to the story.

“My need to make this film and no other comes from the deep sadness of having lost my country. It’s consistent with the image that surrounds me today as a migrant myself: the people I left behind,” Labarca said diversity.

“In this film, too, the cinema allows me to return to my homeland, to continue to deal with the constant stylistics that have accompanied me since film school and that are evident in my earlier works, such as the rigor of the staging, the absence of light , and working with children,” he added.

These constants shaped the Cinéfondation entry “The Guilt, Probably” (“La Culpa, Probablemente”), set during a power outage while light from passing cars sweeps the curtains of a bedroom outside. There a mother and her young daughter sleep until they are woken up by the mother’s newest ex-partner bringing candles. He’s probably feeling guilty for leaving her or just longing to see her again.

The 13-minute short film is shot in the shadows using long fixed takes.

The film’s climax underlines that the daughter, despite her tender years, fully understands her mother’s desire to find a father figure for her.

“It’s a film that you can almost understand just by listening,” commented Labarca.

Labarca’s graduation film from Venezuela’s Universidad de los Andes, The Guilt, Maybe, was awarded third prize by a jury led by Naomi Kawase at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival’s Cinéfondation Selection. It also caught the attention of René Osi of Ticket Shoot Films, a producer on another Selection title, who co-produced Labarca’s next short film, 2017’s “El hombre de cartón,” and then signed on to co-produce his early development.

Osi and Ramírez Arévalo recently applied to the Cinémas du Monde fund set up at the French CNC. Results are expected in September. Ramírez Arévalo argued that international partners could also contribute expertise.

Oro Films is currently preparing Beautiful Yet Mortal, Nicolás Postiglione’s sequel to his acclaimed Immersion. His credits include Agustina San Martín’s “Matar a la Bestia”.

“Oro Films’ Florencia Rodríguez and Dominga Ortúzar have the sensitivity and professional experience that our film and our team need. From the first moment, they were willing to think with us about different alternatives, to allow this to understand and enrich our strategies,” said Ramírez Arévalo.

Todos los Ríos and Oro Films will apply for the Minority Co-Production Fund in Chile in August, she added.

“Kids,” set to be shot in Maracaibo, Labarca’s birthplace, will use non-professional actors. In Locarno, Ramírez Arévalo is looking for a second European co-producer.

Lazy loaded image

Children swim in the lake
Courtesy of Michael Labarca and Patricia Ramirez

diversity spoke to Labarca and Ramírez Arévalo ahead of Locarno’s Open Doors:

What inspired “Children Swimming in the Lake”?

Labarka: The child’s gaze fascinates me. Innocence and freedom together. Since I emigrated from Venezuela, the bond with my family – especially my niece and nephew – has been maintained through voice messages via WhatsApp. They describe their surroundings and then inquire about mine. At a distance of more than 5,000 kilometers, we finally imagine each other’s universes. So my writing was influenced by my exchanges with them. What happens to those who stayed behind? How do you deal with it when others leave? How does a child see a deserted land where it still lives?

However, the characters in the film are, in a way, not ordinary children…

Labarka: My intention with this film is to focus on the dynamics of some children who have assimilated the shortcomings of their context. As children, we have a power that we eventually lose as we grow up: the ability to play, which distanced us but didn’t save us from the mistakes of older people. And there are realities that require us to lose that power early on in order to survive. Not only do my characters have to face social or economic adversity, they also have to cope with the absence of their father, their mother’s emotions and concerns, and the many constant goodbyes of people who, by their absence, lead them to believe there is one out there better world. I am interested in capturing the grief of Dayana and the mother Chiqui that they have no choice, their grief that they cannot decide whether to stay or go.

As a producer from Venezuela, Patricia, do you have a special connection to this film?

Ramirez Arevalo: “Kids Swimming in the Lake” is a challenge for me not only as a producer, but also on a personal and emotional level because through the resourcefulness and innocence of some children I was confronted with what I am experiencing in my own country because it the story is about us who didn’t emigrate, about us who stayed. It is the story of our farewell. The intimacy of a family weaves a tapestry that helps reveal our country, one with many nuances but always ours. A story told of a place that, when I called it “ours”, made it seem so inclusive that I was forced to consider it “everybody’s”.

How easy is it to produce in Venezuela?

Our cinema requires active reflection, where we must be at the forefront of proposing solutions. Our film productions have not stopped, I continue to live and produce in the country, generating alternatives and creative and financial alliances to support our projects. And we’ve done that before when we filmed Michael’s previous work and decided to take on the situation, in places even more complex than this project, and where he gained experience working with children and non-actors Has.

https://variety.com/2022/film/global/locarno-open-doors-michael-labarca-kids-1235330129/ Locarno Open Doors: Michael Labarca’s “Kids Swimming in the Lake”

Charles Jones

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