Imagine a gripping story of a desperate mother, Alicia, who will stop at nothing to save her son, Daniel, from being imprisoned for attempted murder of his ex-wife, Marcela. In the midst of this ordeal, Alicia’s domestic employee, Gladys, is also accused of a murder that will shake the entire family to its core.
Recently, we had the opportunity to chat with Sebastián Schindel, the director of “Crímenes de familia,” who shared insights into the process of bringing this powerful film to life.
A Film Unveiled in Challenging Times
How does it feel to release a movie meant for the big screen but now reaching audiences differently?
“It’s a strange sensation,” says Schindel. “While it’s not a traditional cinematic release, given the current circumstances, it is the best outcome we could hope for. Originally scheduled for May, we had begun preparations in March, only to be interrupted by the lockdown. We initially thought it would be short-lived, but as time went on, we realized that we should not be angry with the quarantine or the virus. Instead, we should learn to live with it as best we can, despite the difficulties it presents. In this context, having the opportunity to release the film on Netflix worldwide and simultaneously on Cine.ar for free in Argentina is a unique privilege.”
Real Stories as Inspiration
As a documentary filmmaker for over fifteen years, Schindel believes in the power of real stories. “I extensively research and document when working with true events; it serves as my inspiration. For this film, I delved into two specific cases that profoundly impacted me and then reimagined them within the framework of the same family. I also studied other cases and consulted with researchers, sociologists, and anthropologists. I found invaluable insights from Beatriz Kalisnky, an anthropologist from CONICET who extensively researched infanticide and similar situations. ONU Mujeres provided significant assistance, advising and connecting me with NGOs working on domestic violence issues. All this research forms the basis of my screenplay.”
Giving Voice to Testimonies
“In this particular case, I couldn’t personally speak with the individuals involved, but I did have access to the public court files, which allowed me to understand their testimonies. Additionally, I sought guidance from experts in the field and closely followed similar cases that frequently make headlines,” shares Schindel.
Exploring Socio-Cultural Themes
“Crímenes de familia” tackles various thought-provoking themes such as gender violence, unwanted pregnancies, the legalization of abortion, and solidarity among women. Did the feminist agenda influence the film’s development?
“It wasn’t something I consciously considered at the start. I began working on this film in 2014, before the powerful wave of women’s rights activism that emerged shortly afterward. Over the five years it took to make this movie, I witnessed struggles for the decriminalization of abortion and the rise of the #MeToo movement. These experiences influenced the honing of the script,” explains Schindel.
A Unique Directorial Choice
The film primarily relies on testimonies rather than visual depictions of events. Schindel explains, “It was a conscious decision from the very beginning. As the idea emerged from the two court cases I investigated, I had access to recordings, testimonies, and footage from the trials. This inspired me to construct a trial-centered film, not like the American courtroom dramas but rather akin to the genuine Argentine legal process, where testimony plays a pivotal role. It was a daring choice. The film is light on action but heavy on testimonies. Instead of showing everything, we let the characters’ words tell the story. As a filmmaker, I wanted to experiment with this approach, and based on the audience’s reactions on social media, it seems to resonate and be well-received.”
Engaging the Active Viewer
Schindel believes in engaging the viewer to provoke thought and reflection. He says, “There are active and passive viewers; sometimes we all fall into one category or the other, depending on the film we are watching. Action-packed Hollywood blockbusters can turn us into passive viewers, where we enjoy being entertained for ninety minutes. In contrast, an active viewer is someone who thinks and reflects while watching the film. Adventures with constant excitement rarely leave room for introspection. However, that doesn’t mean these films lack value; I personally love them and enjoy them immensely. But I also appreciate and relish more complex movies that require an active viewer, someone who ponders, asks questions, and draws conclusions. These films may have a slower pace, providing moments for the audience to think. I understand that audiences differ; for instance, the American audience is not accustomed to this rhythm and might label such films as ‘European’ or ‘art-house.’ They expect a faster pace.”
The Power of Active Engagement
“In the films I create, I aim to have an active viewer who thinks, reflects, and draws their conclusions instead of having everything spelled out for them. When writing a screenplay, I consider that the film unfolds not only on the screen but also in the viewer’s mind. It’s similar to reading a novel; we wouldn’t say the novel takes place within the pages, but rather in the reader’s mind. The same principle applies to a film,” explains Schindel.
Casting Choices and On-Screen Chemistry
Regarding the primary cast, Cecilia Roth and Miguel Ángel Solá, Schindel shares, “Cecilia Roth was involved from the very beginning. When I had the first draft of the script, I approached her, wanting her to be a part of it, and we finally made it happen. The rest of the cast came together closer to the filming date last year. We searched for actors to portray Alicia’s husband and son, and we ended up with the actors we initially had in mind: Miguel Ángel Solá, Benjamín Amadeo, and Sofía Gala.”
The Role of Gladys: A Star Is Born
The character of Gladys, portrayed by Yanina Ávila, posed a unique challenge as she is not a professional actress. Schindel explains, “Working with Yanina was different from the rest of the cast, who are highly experienced actors. Although she had prior acting experience, notably in Diego Lerman’s film ‘Una especie de familia,’ here she had to portray a character with certain similarities. Yanina possesses a natural talent, an innate light. I supported her throughout the process with a support group and guidance. In an interesting twist of fate, when we approached her about the role, she mentioned having a three-year-old son, Santi. I immediately felt it was a sign from destiny. Yanina had to play this character, and Santi had to play himself in the film. It’s worth noting that even in the script, the character was already named Santi. It wasn’t a coincidence since Santi is short for Santiago [del Estero], the same place Hermógenes, a character from ‘El Patrón,’ is from. Gladys was his wife in ‘El Patrón’; these names were intentional.”
Echoes of “El Patrón”
“This film maintains a continuous dialogue with ‘El Patrón: radiografía de un crimen.’ The character of Gladys, played by Ávila, is almost the female counterpart of Hermógenes, played by Joaquín Furriel. However, Gladys’ story is much more harrowing because, in addition to sharing similarities with Hermógenes, she is a woman exposed and vulnerable to numerous horrendous situations, which the film portrays. When watching both movies together, one can find several subtle references scattered throughout,” Schindel highlights.
An Impressive Production
“Crímenes de familia,” directed by Sebastián Schindel and starring Cecilia Roth, Miguel Ángel Solá, Benjamín Amadeo, Sofía Gala Castiglione, Yanina Ávila, and Marcelo Subiotto, with a special appearance by Paola Barrientos, Diego Cremonesi, Claudio Martínez Bel, and María Marull, stands as a testament to Schindel’s commitment to creating thought-provoking cinema. The screenplay, co-written by Schindel and Pablo del Teso, is brought to life by Buffalo Films and Magoya Films, with Hori Mentasti, Esteban Mentasti, and Guido Rud serving as executive producers.
For more information on “Crímenes de familia” and other groundbreaking films, visit Ratingperson.