|Pablo Trapero - Image: IMDB|
HM: Speaking of main characters, how did Jérémie Renier adapt for the part?
Trapero: I knew Jérémie from his work with the Dardenne Brothers. Nicolás, his character in this film was that of the 'Gringo' priest, so he had to look and sound different from the locals. Jérémie did not speak Spanish prior to filming, so that was his main challenge. As the film progresses, we notice subtleties in how he speaks. Non-Spanish speakers will not recognize this but Nicolás' Spanish changes from a Central-American sound to an Argentinian one. We did this deliberately and Jérémie worked really hard on this with the aid of a coach.
HM: Can you talk about your direction for White Elephant; how did you plan the flow of the film?
Trapero: I wanted to show how life is composed of a myriad of stories. I think some people find aspects of the film disjointed because that is how life is. The scenes in the film are episodic because that is how Julián, Nicolás and Juliana's lives are; as well as, the lives of those living in Villa Maria.
HM: You have some long and dark shots throughout the film, some of which feel very tense, where these always planned for?
Trapero: Long shots are for the most part always planned since we need to find the location in which to shoot them. For others, we planned them as we knew who the actors were and how we wanted to shoot them. For example, the shot of Nicolás (Jérémie Renier) going into the drug lord's hiding place is purposely dark, as it helps the audience place themselves in that situation. Essentially, Nicolás is blindfolded and so is the audience; it's a tense situation.
HM: Michael Nyman (The Piano) did the original score for the film; did you always know he'd be the one you'd work with? As for the other music we hear in the film, were those songs your choice?
Trapero: Yes, I knew we'd be working with Nyman to score this film. And it was a great experience to work with him. I'm aware that at times the score is grand and it almost comes off-screen, which to me, works well with the intensity we're seeing on-screen. -- In terms of other music, I did choose the songs we hear in the film. I wanted it to have different sounds you'd hear in the city from rock to cumbia.
HM: Did you always have in mind to honour Father Mugica, who was also a priest who worked with impoverished communities in the 1970's, in White Elephant?
Trapero: Indeed. Father Mugica is not well-know around the world or even close to home. I definitely wanted to highlight his life and work. Father Mugica is an important figure for all of those who work and live in the Argentinian slums.
White Elephant is a film that deals with themes that are global. Trapero shared with me how he's really glad that audiences are picking up on the issues he addresses in this film; poverty and drugs are a commonality in many parts of the world, sadly. His first screening in Toronto last night went very well. He mentioned he's always felt comfortable with Toronto audiences, who ask some really intelligent questions.
White Elephant screens at TIFF again today (Sept 14th) at 3pm (Scotiabank Theatre) and Sunday, Sept 16th at 5:45pm (Scotiabank Theatre). For information on ticket availability, visit tiff.net.