Interview with Diana Toucedo and Lara Vilanova

Kristina Zorita
Kristina Zorita

Diana Toucedo and Lara Vilanova after the premiere of "Thirty Souls" in the Berlinale

Thirty Souls, an hybrid film set in the North of Spain about the sensorial world.

The Galician editor and director Diana Toucedo (an EWA member) presented her first feature at the Panorama section of the last Berlinale. Warmly welcomed by public and critics, her documentary-fiction hybrid, Trinta Lumes (Thirty Souls), is set in a rural village of Galicia (Spain) where the dead dwell amongst the living while some of the living suddenly disappear. Another EWA member, the Catalan DoP Lara Vilanova has accompanied Toucedo in a six-year long journey. EWA Network spoke with both of them during the festival.

By Kristina Zorita

Why did you make the film a documentary-fiction hybrid?

Diana Toucedo - “It's part of the ambiguity of the film. It was born with a documentary basis, an observational documentary of O Courel mountain range and its people. But the issue I wanted to talk about is very fictional. So we underlined the fiction approach at the editing. Because this film casts doubts on our way of work and our approach to the world, how we feel it. So this ambiguity is part of our questioning as authors too”.

Is the film a vindication of a way of life?

D. T. – “The film defends a different kind of perception. Our obsession with the technology and the science has made us turn our backs to other ways of understanding the world. In Galicia, there is still an ancestral system of beliefs linked to the nature. This link to the earth could lead us to a spiritual world. I wanted to vindicate the way to see the world beyond the one set by the technological narrative. For me, the main character, Alba has paved the way for another reality”.

Talking about Alba, there is a moment when she and her classmates in high school are being lectured about Halloween, and she is looking outside, apparently not interested …

D.T. – “It was a very important moment. The film is filled with dualities. That fight they have. Being isolated as they are, they keep a lot of traditions but modernity has also come. The past and the future are fighting against each other. And I wanted to put it in a cinematographic way through the teenagers. They are opening to the world without prejudices. They are being taught about the local tradition and heritage, but also have a fascination for alien cultural traditions”.

Lara, the Galician nature is vital in the film. How have you treated it as a DoP?

Lara Vilanova – “One of the pillars of the film is the Galician story. It's a Celtic country. The Celts idolized Nature, gave it names of gods. We have received that heritage. Our passion for being part of that land gave us the ability to make that link clear to the audience. So I tried to underline the magical moments given to us by nature”.

Your camera underlines the rural way of life (the farming, the hunting, …). Is a nostalgic approach?

L.V. – “I'd rather say it's a journey. I am a city person who arrives to a magic place. Diana spent a lot of time getting to know the people, learning about the landscape. She assimilated it and translated it to me. I had to put it into pictures. I had to keep Diana's particular look through the camera in order to enable the audience to do the same journey”.

D. T. – “Lara had never been in that area. She doesn't understand the Galician language but she connected totally because she did it from the depth of her heart. She captured the details, the gestures”.

Variety has published an article about the new wave of Catalan female filmmakers. Both of you work in Catalonia. Do you think this wave will remain?

L.V. – “We have lived times of masculine pressure. But we have to recognise the work of women. Those girls, f.e. Carla Simon or Meritxell Colell, are strong women. They don't have to fight. They are going to keep the room already made by others”.

What does Thirty souls mean?

D.T. – “The title in Galician is Trinta lumes. Lume means fire, but in the region of the film this word is used to talk about a home, a family. The villagers talked to us a lot about how a closed home meant that a family had left. Thirty refers to the number of children living in the area. For me it's a symbol of population drift and low birth rate. But it is also the thirty resistant homes that will preserve O Courel, which will keep that past”.