Terror as a safe place and the adventure of explore it from self-managed cinema, interview with Federico Gianotti.

By Belén Nieto

Immersed in a world panorama that is committed to the return of screenings and the rebirth of old formats such as VHS and vintage aesthetics in general, the instance of presence in theaters is gaining strength. This is the case of LENI (2020) the Argentine horror feature film, written and directed by Federico Gianotti and starring Ailín Zaninovich that after numerous selections and a tour of film festivals that has been going on for two years, this August 23 is projected at the Cineteca Nacional for the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Macabre FICH 2021 at 8:00 p.m. MEX:

“It was an immense joy – Fede tells about the selection – beyond not being able to travel at this time, the Macabro FICH is a big festival and it is something that we did not think we were going to play at this stage of the journey. It is a pride that our little film gets there and finally has a theatrical release. Although my goal is for the film to reach its audience regardless of the platform, one always dreams of the big screen, with that shared experience where a lot of people feel the same way at the same moment ”.

Although the return to the magic of the screens and the cinema as a meeting place is imminent, luckily the internet exists! and you can also witness this great Latinx event online. For those of us who were born millennials or almost on the brink of those decades, it has a special energy because it is the environment in which we grew up, sometimes we yearn almost with nostalgia for the old formats and spaces, but we also revalue the possibility of everyone’s access to art:

“I remember the movie theaters and screenings that were formative for me, going to the movies was part of my weekly routine. (…) Personally I miss the time when cinema was a more popular and cheaper outlet. There is something about laughing or freaking out with a group of absolute strangers that is a bit magical. And on the other hand, there was never so much availability of things to see, nor was it so easy, so I do not deny the advances, I think it is spectacular and I hope people can see Leni just by pressing a button on their remote controls. But there is a deal, like a tacit pact when you enter a room where you turn off the world outside and there is only that movie in front of you, there are no distractions -says Fede-

If we talk about childhood / adolescence in the 80s-90s, terror, more than a simple genre, was for many a formative and performative element, because beyond fanaticism, it installed in many children the cinephile gene, children who later They came to write scripts and have that tireless love for storytelling:

Terror was always a safe place for me. They were the movies that he rented and watched alone at home, the ones that he hooked up on the cable when he was a boy and was not old. It is difficult for me to write if there is not an element that is linked to terror. I think it happens to many of us who grew up with the video store and cable TV – says Fede-. The first movie that I saw in the theater, or at least the first one that I can remember was “Disappeared in Action” (Missing in Action, 1984), one of the Cannon with Chuck Norris in Vietnam. My father used to take me to see action movies that did not correspond to my age. In contrast, in my house (I lived with my mother, my aunt and my grandmother, after my parents were separated), they bought me the collection of films from Página12 for boys where things like Modern Times or The Red Globe came. And he spent a lot of time alone, so the cable was also a great gateway to other worlds. “

One of these children infected by the cinephile gene is undoubtedly Federico Gianotti, a passion that led him to find a bridge between his work and an ever-present dream: to bring his own stories to the big screen. But to tell the beginning of that story, you have to travel a little further back in time to the young 00s, with an adolescent Fede going out into the world at a time of chaos for our country:

“I finished high school in 2001, in the middle of a social and economic boom. I come from a working family, without many professionals (my grandfather and stop counting) and the fear they had was that I could study something to work on. Cinema sounded like something that I was not going to be able to live with and I only knew private film schools like the FUC that were far beyond my possibilities, so I ended up studying advertising basically because they gave me scholarships (my uncle was the director of the school ). “

The path of art seemed impossible and uncertain, but with advertising Fede found a bridge to be close to his vocation:

“It was something that was related to cinema at some (remote) point and it was my gateway to advertising cinema where I started working as a production assistant in 2005. I went through production, locations, art (briefly), directing assistance and I wrote script treatments for other dires for years. I started running publicity in 2013. But even so, one day in 2018 I found myself looking back and seeing that the route I had done only paid bills and some trips, but I was not doing what I wanted to do: tell stories. Years had passed and I didn’t have a short film to my name, nothing that was not something to order, nothing of my own ”.

Although not everything was ideal, what is destined to occur eventually finds its way, and this is how LENI was conceived, waiting like a seed, in a dormant state, the right conditions and the right environment to see the light:

In a week between work projects, and with frustrations from fiction projects that had not advanced through the traditional ways (INCAA), Pato (my wife) asked me what I wanted to do,” tell something “I said and she was very practical He told me “I wrote something that we can film with what we have, with the favors that we can ask for and let’s do it.”
LENI was that script, it was a short, ambitious in length, 32 pages and for which I was going to need 7 days of shooting and a budget that was going to mean grabbing anything to be able to finance it (and that’s how I ended up having a kind of job fixed generating content for a couple of years in addition to my work as an advertising film director). And in the midst of that madness of filming weekends and working during the week on something else, we realized that the story was asking for more, so I wrote the rest and we went out to film for 4 more days to turn it into a feature film ”-says Fede-

So almost three years ago, a director and the story of a girl who seeks to deal with her past after leaving a toxic relationship were born in parallel, struggling to find answers to an overwhelming reality:

LENI was born from a moment of anger and frustration, it came at a bad professional moment and LENI worked as an escape valve. Originally it was not such a personal story, the first draft was a slasher where the final girl was the murderer, Leni was my Michael Myers (if Michael was the hero). But putting ideas on paper I began to connect with things that happened to me, with repressed memories and those sensations began to shape Leni’s emotional state, moving away from slasher and pure genre, to become more of a horror drama

Leni’s story shows us the marks of the arduous process of confronting our traumas and how we relate to others in that transition:

“Leni is closed in on herself, with her monsters, and the outsiders can’t come because she won’t let them. In the short film version there were no male characters except for Martín and Juan. There was an initial intention that the entire inner circle of hers were women and men only existed as a threat. When we extended the narrative to the feature film we tried to make that a little more ambiguous ”.

In the eyes of the protagonist, reality is somewhat confusing: nightmares, dreams, persecutions, interrupted sequences and moments of tension intermingle in her day-to-day life, but there is a space of freedom that she appropriates, one that she builds herself from of the ruins that others have left:

“It was important to me that I had a relationship with something alive, primordial and primitive -speaking of LENI-The earth had to be present as that element that harbored fears and monsters, but at the same time it was something physical and real that she had to deal with on a daily basis. The nursery came a bit naturally thinking about this and that it was a family business, something that he inherited, as well as the house he lives in, everything has a symbolic and oppressive weight on it. But unlike other places, she has a domain over the nursery, there are no monsters there ”– Fede says.

A deep and empathetic film that is also the setting for another great story, being an operaprimist in the world and a panorama of independent cinema:

“(…) Everything was difficult, from making the decision to make it to the last cut, to the last note and the last sound mix. I had never gone through this process, the physical and emotional wear is very great, more in an independent film where everything is very lung. Yes, perhaps there was a greater fear, which was to terminate it, to be able to let go of that need to continue “fixing” things and put it in front of the public. And although it sounds contradictory, what I enjoyed the most was all that too. Making a film is a collective endeavor where the team’s gaze enriches that vision you had, where the company of others makes the experience less lonely. It’s exhausting and it’s the best job in the world at the same time (…)

Today, LENI is traveling around the world and from Argentina, Fede’s life and new projects unfold between work, family and of course the desire to continue telling stories, yes, with terror always at the helm!:

“I don’t lead a very orderly life because my job in advertising films takes on my years, but in general I have a very quiet life, at home, with Pato, with our dogs and cats (we have two of each), we really like to cook and watch movies (although I usually watch horror movies alone) ”– Fede tells – “There are always new stories (and old ones too, that are there, waiting their turn) and projects. Now I am working on two scripts, one that I am co-writing with my editor, “The Fire on the Other Side of the Door” about a family that owes its wealth to an entity, the internal conflicts that this generates and the obligations that are have to comply. We have the idea of ​​filming a short version this year as a kind of proof-of-concept to seek funding. And on the other hand, a project that I have in images in my head and little by little the story was appearing, a thriller during the genocide of the native peoples that was the Desert Campaign in Patagonia, one of those that does not let you breathe because of an hour and a half, to have a bad time, as I like it ”.