I AM Jazmín López: New Director
Lopez is an award-winning visual artist and filmmaker. She is a graduate of the Universidad del Cine in Buenos Aires and has worked with renown Argentine artists: Jorge Macchi and Guillermo Kuitca. Her work is represented by Ruth Benzacar (Buenos Aires, Argentina) and REVOLVER gallery (Lima, Perú) and has been exhibited in galleries and art events—globally.
Her first feature film Leones is a film that was previously selected to present at the 69th Venezia Biennale, Viennale, New Directors New Films at MoMA, the Lincoln Centre, Centre George Pompidou, and KW Institute Berlin—amongst many other world renown film festivals and museums. Leones (English translation: Lions) was featured and reviewed first in Variety.
How did you become involved in filmmaking?
JL: I started to study philosophy, and after some months, I felt I needed something a little more visual. At a perfect moment, someone said to me that the visual arts and philosophy combined would be cinema. I went to Universidad del cine university, not knowing much about it. In a matter of two to three months, I totally fell in love with the medium. It's (the program) run by a filmmaker named Manuel Antín, who was a part of a beautiful moment in literature, film and even visual arts in Buenos Aires. They tried really hard to teach us non-commercial cinema, or what in the US would be considered independent film.
What is your feature film Leones about?
JL: At 20 or 22 years old, I felt that I had been prepared all my life to be an adult. All of a sudden, when I was one—I didn’t know what to do with all of that responsibility. I felt an emptiness. It was a very exciting emptiness. Leones is a portrait of that moment in my life. The story follows five young people are involved in a serious car accident. Isabel, the youngest, is the only one who is aware and helps her four friends to realise what has happened. I was such a fan of Godard and Andrei Tarkovsky films, and I wanted to create something from that inspiration, but through the lens of my own experience, culture, and age at the time.
How did you raise finance for Leones?
JL: It was a big budget for me at that moment—around 500,000 Euros. What we did was very common in Argentina. We applied for European funds. We have Hubert Bals—it's a development fund that helps us with the development of a good script, translation of that script, and a resume.
We also applied to Arte Cinema and the production markets. The support that ended being the most important for Leones came from the Torino Film Lab. I had to pitch the film to them and then there was a jury that selected two projects, that won more than 30% of their budget.
We won that prize and having part of the budget already confirmed, connected me to a lot of people who could help finance the rest. There are foundations that require you to have some money committed already.
The National Film Society in Argentina gives you money back once the film is released. You have to find a way to finance it first, and then, after the first release in five theatres in Argentina, you can get the money back. It was a combination of a lot of things, but, it worked.
What effect have you seen in your film career as a result of having successfully made and released an independent feature that made money?
JL: Now, when I have a meeting with a production company in Argentina or France or any of the countries that were involved in Leones, they know about the film, so, it is easier. I premiered Leones at the Venice Film Festival, which was big for me. After that, it was accepted by a lot of festivals because it was at Venice.
When you release a film at a major festival, you have this feeling of "wow". Of course, it was very hard at the beginning. In meetings, I was trying to finance a film that I knew wouldn't be commercial at all, and might never earn the money back.
Surprisingly, it turned a profit, but I couldn't be sure of that when I was speaking with investors who could finance it before it was made. Now, I know it can be done.
How do you draw inspiration for your films? Is it always the same in that it's based on a period in your life?
JL: Right now, the film I just wrote—my second feature—is about emptiness. It’s about the period at the end of a relationship. What really interests me is the idea of being emotionally in a state that doesn’t match where you are in reality. It's an investigation of what I imagine would happen after a separation.
For example, a woman will go to a house that she used to go with her partner and he is there in her mind, but not there in reality. She's doing something else in reality, but emotionally she is still there with him. I'm trying to see the possibility of a subjective camera, that's not in her eyes but represents her emotional state. It also happens when someone dies; you're still with someone who isn't physically with you anymore.
I'm trying to investigate that grief in visual terms: what would happen, if a person from your past was present emotionally but not physically? I'm working with continuity mistakes, which is how, as a spectator, you start to realise that you are watching something that isn't actually there. It takes a lot of play with logic in order to get the spectator to understand what is really going on.
Is there a lack of female directors in Argentina?
JL: Yes. It's very difficult.
What was your experience like on Leones as a young female director?
JL: I am thinking a lot about Feminism these days. Leones was a very physically demanding film. 80% of the crew were men and most of them were technical professionals. For me, it was a big and new experience, but I remember, at the first meeting, they were rolling their eyes.
Eventually, during the shoot, some started to understand that the film was very important to me and I wasn’t just playing with the idea of being a filmmaker. But they always tried to make the film shorter. If it comes from a woman, it’s as if the idea isn't that interesting because it's a she. I hate that with all my being. It's really hard, especially with the crew.
What advice would you give to NEW female directors?
JL: I would say—just do it. It's time. I've thought independently all my life about Feminism and I'm happy that for the first time in history, it's becoming a thing shared amongst the majority.
How did you start creating art and how did your filmmaking translate into that?
JL: When I was studying, I was fascinated with the 60s and 70s type of filmmaking, particularly in Europe. I think filmmaking has a lot more to say, investigate or ask in terms of visual composition, and I'm not just saying this in regard to experimental filmmakers. In a way, exaggerating a bit, narrative filmmaking is a way to dominate the masses. I was not interested in narrative filmmaking for this reason.
I have a friend who is a painter, and I started to go with her to paint in her atelier. There, I learned opposing methods from my film studies where we were learning narrative filmmaking and watching those types of films. In visual art, there is narrative, but it doesn't make up the structure of the piece. It can be an element of a work, but it's not the foundation.
And you're not trying to say the same thing in different mediums, right?
JL: I'm not sure. I would say, I’m not choosing the mediums to deliver a message. I am using different mediums in order to investigate those languages and discover a concept, a feeling. It’s not about saying something. It’s about searching within a language. In the end, my topics are always the same.
What do you think are the main differences between the film and art worlds?
JL: Just a matter of practicality. I’ve started to see more and more people that I knew from cinema in visual arts and vice versa, which I find interesting, and it's happening in all fields, I think. I'd say the difference is rather practical than substantial. In the end, it's the same. They are merging more and more. I love that because people have stopped asking me if I'm a filmmaker or artist. I don't want to be categorised.
Where do you find inspiration for your visual art?
JL: I would say the same for my films. I try to be a medium and channel my work. And then, I try to create an image that can show or at least investigate that feeling using different media. It's about trying to create images that suggest a type of feeling and thinking, but, never a literal narrative.
What advice would you give to aspiring filmmakers?
JL: I think the film industry doesn't exist, in the sense people think, but it exists commercially. It wasn't that separate 40 years ago. Godard films were released commercially and people were going to them and not throwing tomatoes.
I also think to watch films is one of the most beautiful things, and not to try to understand them during the first viewing. For me, an interesting film is not plot-driven and obvious in the very first moment. Watch films with this in mind. You can become a part of it after watching it so many times and after thinking about it as a whole. It's yours.
There are some films that I love that I feel are mine. So, in this way, see films, think about them, and let them be yours. My films and art pieces are not mine after I release the—they are for the world.
Do you have a favourite project you've worked on so far in your career?
JL: In the Venice Biennale, they asked 69 directors to do a one-minute video short. At the beginning, I was very upset. I thought, “Why one minute? Why should I do that? What can I tell in one minute?” But, when you have some limitations you can really dive into an idea and try to think very sharply. I really enjoyed that, and I liked that activity. I was complaining and then I was falling in love with the limitation. I would choose that.
What else do you have coming up beside the film you're currently developing?
JL: I just completed the script for my second feature film last year and I'm writing a book about a project I did in Lima with Dorothea Lasky. For now, I am basically just writing, and always investigating and seeing and watching. It’s my way of working.
Jazmín is currently developing her next feature film, My Dear Valentín while she pursues visual arts projects. Her new film, which focuses on the aftermath of grief, will take a new point of view on the topic. In her words; “When you wake up after the shock, you never know what’s broken and what’s not.”
About the Artist
Jazmín López (1984. Lives and works in Buenos Aires) Visual artist and filmmaker. She is a graduate of the Universidad del Cine in Buenos Aires. She has worked with Jorge Macchi and Guillermo Kuitca as tutors of her work in Universidad Torcuato Di Tella, Buenos Aires Argentina. Her work is been represented by Luisa Strina, Sao Paulo Brazil, Ruth Benzacar Buenos Aires Argentina and REVOLVER gallery, Lima, Perú. Leones a film project has been presented in 69 Venice Biennale, New Directors New Films at MoMA and Lincoln Center, Centre George Pompidou, KW Institute Berlin (where she did a residency in 2014) among others. Some recent shows: Song Sung During The Execution Of A Difficult Physical Work, Tabacalera, Madrid Arco. A noir, E blanc, I rouge, U vert, O bleu curated by Juan Canela, Revolver galería, Lima, Perú / Fire and Forget curated by Ellen Blumenstein and Daniel Tyradellis, KW, Berlín, Germany / One sentence exhibition at Kadist Art Foundation curated by Jacob Fabricius / Maria Maria, 70 Venice Biennale, Italy (watch video) / Single Room Zona Maco Sur curated by Adriano Pedrosa, DF, Mexico / Art Basel Miami, Galeria Luisa Strina, Miami, USA / Istanbul Biennial Istanbul curated by Adriano Pedrosa and Jens Hoffmann Turkey.