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Outfest's International Centerpiece "Esteros" director Papu Curotto talks about the journey of his first feature film

Caption: Festival Programming Director Lucy Mukerjee-Brown (moderator), Director Papu Curotto, and Executive Producer Santiago Podesta during Outfest gala screening and Q&A; (bottom left) Papu Curotto with this author.

An exclusive interview with "ESTEROS" director Papu Curotto

by Oliver Carnay

Director Papu Curotto's first feature film "ESTEROS" was OUTFEST's pick as its International Centerpiece. A powerful film that offers nostalgic moments and unforgettable childhood romances using the hometown of Paso de los Lires in Argentina, the banks of Uruguay River as backdrop, and the mutual attraction about teen's deep friendship is the subject of Curotto's first feature film. Childhood friends Matias and Jeronimo reunites in their hometown in Argentina bringing old feelings to sparkle again. But Matias has to figure out if he can turn his back to marry his girlfriend in favor of the man he has always loved .. a sentimental, sexy, and heartfelt story soon you'll be able to watch when it gets released. Breaking Glass Pictures, through Outplay Films, picked up the movie for distribution in the middle of its screening at Outfest. So, watch out when this movie comes out in theaters. I caught up with director Papu Curotto for an exclusive interview so please read on ...

HOLLYWOODFLIP: I want to congratulate you for making your film into the U.S. and being featured at Outfest as this year's International Centerpiece .. it's a great accomplishment considering it's your first feature film!  How do you feel when you first heard that your film was selected at Outfest?

PC: Last year before we shot Esteros, I made a list of the film festivals where I wanted to submit the movie, and Outfest was on top of my list. So I was really very happy when the news came out and that it will be featured as its International Centerpiece. I knew that it is an important film festival, but I did not realize how much!

HOLLYWOODFLIP: Can you tell me the journey how this film was created?  Is this a spin-off of your short film "Matias y Jeronimo"?  Is this part autobiographical?

PC: The first boy I loved was a friend in my childhood. We had our sexual awaken together, even before the understanding what sexuality is. When we understood what we were doing, the shame made that we put distance between each other. More than 20 years left and we met each other again. Our lives were very different, but we were able to reconnect with that feeling and friendship that had been truncated.

At that time I worked in a TV company with Andi Nachon, the screenwriter of the movie, and I invited her to make a movie that tells that story. After a while, Santiago Podesta, the main producer of the film, got involved in the project. I knew him from the university but never before we had worked together.

The three of us have developed the project in 2012. We submitted it to Raymundo Gleyzer, the contest of development projects of the Argentinian institute of cinematography and we won. That gave to us a little money to write the screenplay and to create HAIN CINE, our own production company with which we made Esteros. But the real problem was that I had never directed anything before, so we decided to take the first scenes of Esteros and make a short film with it. The idea was try to find an aesthetic for the feature film, work with kid and have my first experience like a director.

HOLLYWOODFLIP: How long did you work on writing the script for "Esteros"?  What was your inspiration in doing the feature version of "Matias y Jeronimo"?  How did the concept for doing the short film started?

PC: Although I act as the director of Esteros, I can not say that I am the only mind behind it. Andi, Santiago and I are the hard core of the film which works from the very beginning. The three of us have talked a lot about which kind of film we wanted make, Andi is the screenwriter and Santiago the producer, the three of us have worked hard to create the universe of the movie.

After winning the Raymundo Gleyzer, we submitted the draft to the Iberoamerican development projects contest of the Carolina Foundation and the Ibermediam Program in 2013 and we got selected. The scholarship was only for the screenwriter, but I asked them to attend and they said yes. For me as the director of the film it was very important to me to understand why the characters do what they do. Every time I doubted about something in the shooting I remembered what we had talked with our teachers in the scholarship about what is the important thing in each scene.

HOLLYWOODFLIP: Can you talk about how you cast your actors who played the principal roles? How did you find the kids who needed to perform a situation where they may not be comfortable because of the gay theme subject?  How many kids you auditioned?  How did you explain to the parents about the subject matter of the film being offered to the kids?  How did you explain to the kids how they can execute the scenes you wanted, specially the masturbation scenes?

HOLLYWOODFLIP: The grown actors were selected by casting. The character of Matías (Ignacio Rogers) was the first to appear, and to find Jerónimo was more difficult. Andi, Santiago and I talked a lot about which kind of gay man we want to show in the movie. It was important to us that he was not a stereotype; the gay component should be an important part of the character, but not the WHOLE character. After a hard search, we decided to invite Esteban Masturini, he had made the casting for Matías and was not selected. We asked him to improvise with Ignacio. The scene was how it will be to wake up the day after he has made love with the person he has been in loved in his whole life. They made together a beautiful scene and that was the signal that I needed to know he was the right one.

The casting of the kids was a whole different world. I wanted that they were from Paso de los Libres, the place where I was born and where we shot the movie, because for me, it was important that they were kids who used to be in contact with the nature. Libres is a small town and only a handful of kids studying theater there. So we decided to make an exhaustive research in each high school. With María Laura Berch, the casting director, we decided not to mention about the gay component in the movie because we did not want to inhibit the boys. Once we found the resemblance, we talked with the parents and we told them about the film, then we gave them the script. One father took his kid off, but other three let them in.

We asked the parents to read the script and talk with their children about it, after that we asked the kids to explain us what the film was about. So during the rehearsal, we worked with them using the same words that they have used when they told us the story. The scene where Jerónimo masturbated Matías was not a problem, because it was a camera trick. The most difficult thing for me was say “jerk off” in front of a kid.
I think the proper way to work with kids is speak to them without underestimating them.

HOLLYWOODFLIP: When you were writing your script, do you already have a perfect location in mind?  Such perfect location added the tone and mood of the film.

PC: I was born and grew up in Paso de los Libres, the heat in the nap time of the summers and the mood of little town has marked my childhood. The field where we shot belongs to a family who are friend of my parents. I have spent a lot of time in that field when I was kid, and I still remember resting with my friend in the floor of the gallery, both of us with our backs naked over the cool floor in the warm nap time. For me it was very important to realize the mood of those places and situations.
It was really important that Andi, Santiago and Eric Elizondo (the DOP) spend time in the Ibera estuaries, so they could understand the spirit of the film.

HOLLYWOODFLIP: How long did you shoot this feature and what were the greatest challenges you encountered during filming?

PC: We shot for five weeks. I think the hardest thing was the weather, some days were so hot that the whole crew worked slowly. Other problem was our small budget and the fact that the city was not prepared to receive us. So we had to stay in the army and every day we woke up with the sound of the military band. When we shot with daylight it was useful, like an alarm clock. But when we had night shoot and we needed rest the day after, it was really a problem.

HOLLYWOODFLIP: It was announced before the screening that "Esteros" has been picked up by Breaking Glass Pictures for distribution.  Congratulations!  Can you talk more about the structure of how BGP will handle the distribution?  Will there be a theatrical U.S. release?

PC: Thanks! Philippe Tasca from Outplay Films is taking care of it. I know that Breaking Glass Picture is going to release in Miami, New York, LA and Toronto in November. They said that they want to invite me for the Premiere release, and I really want to be there for it! :-)

HOLLYWOODFLIP: How many screenings did you have before this U.S. Outfest screening?  How was the response from the other screenings?

PC: The worldwide premiere was at Inside Out Toronto LGBT Film Festival, the theater was full and a lot of people stayed after the screening to talk. The second screening was in AMOR Film Festival in Chile, but I could not travel and that was a shame. So Outfest was my second screening. The audience feedback in Outfest was amazing! I think it is a film that works well because everybody has an unforgettable love story in their childhood.

HOLLYWOODFLIP: How does it feel that your film is getting good response from Outfest? Have you made a lot of friends since you arrived in L.A.?  

PC: The time I have spent in LA was incredible! I met a lot of amazing people; some of them that I already have met in Toronto. I love to meet people who enjoy what they do. Share experiences makes you get full with energy! And it is very rewarding discovery that in different parts of the world everybody makes movies in the same way and must fight with the same problems.

HOLLYWOODFLIP: How is the gay community in rural areas in Argentina?  Do you know how many gay films are made in Argentina in a year?  Is it easy to produce gay films in Argentina?

PC: Coming out of the closet in a small town in Argentina is harder than do it in a big city like Buenos Aires. When we were shooting the movie, it was amazing to discover that there are a lot of gay teenagers (boys and girls) in Paso de los Libres that they could come out of the closet in their high school even though it is a hard time because of the bulling. That made me happy.

There are just a couple of gay movies each year in Argentina. I don’t know if it is difficult for some to make gay movies, I think the hardest thing is make good movies with low budgets. And it is hard not only in Argentina but also it is hard in the whole world.

HOLLYWOODFLIP: What is your next film?  Do you have the urge to direct more gay films or are you considering other type of genre, like comedy or horror film?  Would you consider submitting more gay themed movies for Outfest in the future?

PC: Andi, Santiago and I are already working in our next film; its name is Leoncinho, it means “little Lion” in Portuguese. It is a lesbian drama and we want to work again with Latina Estudio, the Brazilian producer of Esteros.
We really would love to come back to Outfest! Besides that, Hain Cine makes not only gay movies, nowadays we are working in different kind of projects.

HOLLYWOODFLIP: Can you let our readers know where they can find your social media links -- twitter, facebook, instagram, or web sites they can check out your films?

PC: Hain Cine home is all of our projects are there. And there you have the links to the Facebook and Vimeo. My Facebook, Twitter and Instagram is @papucurotto



07.23.16 by OC