Interview with Carla Simon

Kristina Zorita
Kristina Zorita

Kristina Zorita had the pleasure to interview Carla Simon just before her debut film, Summer 1993 received the best First Film in Berlin and Grand Prix of the Generation Kplus in the Berlinale.

Carla Simón (Barcelona 1986) premiered her much-anticipated first feature in the Generation section of the last Berlinale. After having studied in California and London, she has directed a tender and sweet movie about loss in children and their ability to adapt. With a mainly female crew and the young actors David Verdaguer and Bruna Cusí in the cast, Summer 1993 has two main characters played by the children Laia Artigas (6 years old) and Paula Robles (4 years old). The film won the Best First Feature at the Berlinale and ex acqueo Generation Plus K awards. EWA spoke with the director right after the premiere.

The children, Laia and Paula, are incredible. But how brave you were to have Laia in every single sequence, weren’t you?

I love to work with children. I’d say that sometimes I work better with them than with adults. I love it because they have so much truth in them. You have to manage it but when you give them a base, an atmosphere, they are able to give you incredible things. It’s very rewarding. It’s true also that you can suffer a lot, because they don’t have their day.

You seem to have hit the target with the children …

Well, you never know for sure. They always ask me which method I use. There is none. It’s just a matter of trial and error. Children have to believe in what they are doing.

And how is it translated into your movie?

We did a long process of rehearsals with Bruna, David and the children for the girls to believe the relationships. We played for hours, for instance, four hours playing that the four of them were a family. Doing this, they built memories that were used during the shoot. The girls never read the script. If I wanted the girls to say something, I told them before the take.

So how did you build the characters?

It was important for us to find children who were similar to the characters. In this case, you don’t have to build a character. The children play to be themselves. With Laia, we tried to find a city girl who didn’t have a conventional family and with Paula, we needed an innocent and happy girl.

How long did the casting process take?

It was quite long, about five or six months. The casting director, Mireia Juarez, saw almost 1.000 children for all the roles in the movie. In fact, Laia was the penultimate girl that we saw. Because I could not find her. And when we were almost done, Laia appeared.

The title talks about the summer of 1993, why that summer?

It’s my history. My mother died of AIDS when I was six years old. My father had died before. And the summer of 1993 was the first that I spent with my new family. And it was also important to keep the context because of all that happened with AIDS in Spain. It is also the time of my childhood and I have sweet memories of it and I wanted to translate them. We shot in the area where I was raised. There is a moment when I don’t know what is memory and what I have invented.

So memories of a happy childhood

Yes. With the movie, I wanted to express the fact that children can suffer a thing so cruel but they are still able to understand death. That we have to talk to them about death, because a six year-old child can understand. The question/thing/issue is how they manage their feelings. We talk also about children’s ability to adapt, how they can survive and keep going, and the fact that children are more able than adults.

You have been in the Berlinale Script Station at Talent House. How was the experience?

I had very personal material and I needed to share it with other people to get it read and receive feedback. We took different script workshops. One at the SGAE in Spain and another one in Poland. The one at the Berlinale was the first one and my script editor had in fact read the whole script and we talked a lot. That was two years ago and since then the script has changed radically.

And how was the premiere in Berlin?

It was very nice. The girls hadn’t seen the movie yet so I spent the whole screening looking at them, at their reaction. So I couldn’t concentrate on the movie. A large part of the crew came. And the public got connected to the movie very well. Generation is a section with movies with children and children are allowed into the screenings. I was very curious about their reaction and their questions in the Q&A.

Estiu 1993 was very well received at the EFM in Berlin. It will compete at the Malaga Spanish Film Festival in April.