Interview with Jorge Thielen-Armand, Winner of Eight International Film Awards

Interviewer: Anna Faktorovich, PhD

Jorge Thielen-Armand_LaSoledad - Photo

Jorge Thielen-Armand is a Venezuelan director based in Toronto. His debut feature film La Soledad (2016) premiered at the 73 Venice International Film Festival and has since won eight international awards, including the Audience Award for Best Feature Film at the Miami Film Festival. Jorge’s documentary Flor De La Mar (2015) won the Jury Award for Best Documentary Short at Cine Las Americas International Film Festival, and was screened at over 20 festivals around the world including Margaret Mead, Sarasota, and RIDM. Jorge holds a Communication Studies BA from Concordia University, and is an alumnus of the Venice Biennale College, TIFF Talent Lab, Hot Docs Accelerator, RIDM Talent Lab, Doc Institute’s Breakthrough Program, and Buenos Aires Lab (BAL). In 2015, he founded La Faena with Rodrigo Michelangeli, a production company dedicated to art-house films. They are currently developing Jorge’s sophomore feature, which won the ARTE France Cinéma International Prix at BAL in 2017.

La Soledad: La Soledad is a dilapidated, seemingly abandoned villa in what used to be one of the wealthiest neighborhoods of Caracas, Venezuela. It used to be the home of director Jorge Thielen Armandʼs great-grandparents, but when the owners passed away fifteen years ago, the property was unofficially inherited by their lifelong maid, Rosina, now 72, who remained to care for the house and raise her grandson, José, now 27, Jorgeʼs childhood friend.

Inside, antique portraits of the original homeowners still hang crookedly on crumbling walls, vegetation invades the structure of the house from all angles, and spirits eerily wander the hallways on quiet afternoons… Yet for José and his family, La Soledad is a safe-heaven in a city plagued with crime and political chaos, a quiet oasis that they are now forced to leave because the legal inheritors have decided to sell the estate. Struggling to find a solution to save his family from homelessness in a broken country, José learns of a dark secret, a desperate answer to his plight: a cursed treasure rumored to be buried in the walls of the house.

The film is set in the beautiful, decaying mansion, and the characters are its real inhabitants. Capturing José’s real-life hardships through a magic realist lens, La Soledad gives an unprecedented look at the economic catastrophe of contemporary Venezuela.

La Soledad 1

Figure 1. Cesar Michelangeli

Faktorovich: Did you shoot this film in your actual family home, or was the demolition of your childhood house merely an inspiration for this storyline? Did you save your own home from demolition with the help of the success of his film or otherwise, or was it definitely condemned from the start? Do you think it might be in the best interest of a family to demolish a house if the walls are peeling off and it might not be safe to live in? Or do you think that history, tradition, and familial places are more important than safety concerns in the long run? Are there programs in place to assist with restoring houses like the one featured in the film? Is it a possibility to gain historical landmark status for such properties in Venezuela?

Thielen: The film was shot in the house of my great-grandparents. The house wasn’t demolished and I don’t think it will be. I never had any intentions of “saving” or preserving the home, but rather to pay homage to my childhood memories in there. The economic situation in Venezuela is very complicated and my family is unsure of what they would like to do with the house. It would certainly be very difficult to fix the house and there is no funding available to restore heritage buildings, so even if the house was to receive such status, it wouldn’t make a difference.

Faktorovich: In one scene in the film, you show a line of dissatisfied people waiting outside of a grocery store, and then show an aisle from which food has been mauled away seconds later. This is a very brief introduction to Venezuela’s extraordinary problems with food shortages. According to various sources, these problems stem in the drop in Venezuela’s farming and local food production, so that too many foods have to be imported. Meanwhile, the inflation rate is out of control, making food in supermarkets unaffordable. This is forcing people to rely on the racket-like military that is profiting from hunger to control the distribution of monthly bags of subsidized food. Venezuela is refusing aid that has been offered by other countries to solve this crisis. The problem seems to have started when Venezuela enacted price controls under Hugo Chavez leadership. If the problem stems in price controls, why do you think somebody hasn’t lifted these price limits? On the other hand, if inflation is what’s driving prices to extreme levels, wouldn’t price controls be the solution to this larger problem? Several recent articles focus on the major weight loss that people are suffering in Venezuela as this crisis continues. Do you think American journalists’ focus on the weight of the hungry people is somewhat offensive? Can you write a note to the international community and to Venezuela’s government and how you think this crisis can be resolved?

Thielen: I wanted to make a film that spoke directly to the present struggles of Venezuela. However, I’m not a political expert and I cannot recommend a way to solve the crisis. As a filmmaker, what I must do is show how these problems affect us. The question of why the government hasn’t lifted price controls is very complicated. I personally believe that they continue to implement them to have more control over the population. As food becomes unavailable or unaffordable in grocery stores, people are increasingly depending on these monthly bags of subsidized food. You must lineup for hours and abstain from criticizing the government, otherwise you might be kicked out of the line. And what you get in the end is not enough to feed a family of three for even a week. Who could find time to protest when they have to line up for food, for medicines, etc.? This is also a fear technique. They try to dominate people by saying, “Look I’m giving you food for free. The other guys will get rid of this program because they are capitalist pigs. We are fighting the economic war.” Moreover as the price controls drive local producers out of business, the country increasingly depends on imports. Price controls go hand-in-hand with the currency exchange control. If you are connected to the government, the importation business in Venezuela is very lucrative; select importers of food and medicines are able to access foreign currency for a tiny fraction of what it would cost in the black market. Many of these businessmen are corrupt and they find ways to keep these “cheap” dollars by producing fake receipts, with accounting tricks, and by bribing the personnel in charge of itemizing containers in the ports. A corrupt importer would then sell his leftover dollars in the black market, making a ludicrous profit, and then use these new and inflated Bolivars to buy more cheap dollars through the government. It’s a vicious cycle.

Regarding your question about the way the American media reports, I think we have a journalism crisis across the globe and this is unfortunately the nature of reporting today. The vast majority of works are written to fetch clicks and to be shared, not really to investigate or properly inform. That’s not to say that there aren’t any in-depth articles about what is going on, but I think Venezuela’s situation is generally ignored in the international media. I certainly wish there was more in-depth content about what is happening, but I am not offended or even surprised by the American media focusing on Venezuelans losing weight—it’s very representative of our desensitized society and of where we are at now, with instant gratification and a sense of disposable culture and values.

La Soledad 2

Figure 2. Rodrigo Michelangeli

Faktorovich: The film begins like a home movie with possibly unedited home movies, which include blank shots or boxes around the central images. The narrator introduces the story in a natural voice. All of this convinced me that this was a documentary before I started reading materials about the film. In the synopsis, you explain that the script is based on real events that took place in your life. You also primarily use your family members as actors. If you were asked to remake the film, and you had a larger budget, would you hire professional actors for these roles or would you re-hire people you know closely? What were the benefits of working with family on your first feature film? Did you have an urge to exaggerate the storyline to make the story more dramatic to increase the chances it might win in festivals? For example, you begin the story with the main character’s brother returning home because a friend of his was killed, and his life was threatened. For example, if you focused on this threat and showed the murder of his friend this might have created more dramatic tension, and suspense that might have excited action-driven viewers. Why did you avoid such formulaic tricks? Instead there are scenes of Jose Dolores Lopez watering plants, scrubbing a tagged cupboard, and the like. There is one long shot of Jose sitting in complete darkness without saying a word, before the camera shifts to an old whistling man. These types of shots fit into the arthouse film genre nicely. Say a bit about your artistic motivations, goals, and vision.

Thielen: La Soledad can be a documentary if you want it to be. I was not concerned with the genre of this film, but rather I wanted to capture the story of the house in the most honest way. Since childhood, for me the house has been a place where fantasies mix with memories, and recently I realized the state of the house is very representative of what happened to the country. I visited La Soledad on the weekends and my uncles would entertain my cousins, José, and me with stories about ghosts, hidden gold, and all sorts of things. We would spend our afternoons exploring the huge property and snooping through the belongings of my great-grandfather, who died before I was born. So in the film, even José’s search for gold and his encounters with sprits are rooted in a reality.

I think making the film is a continuation of that boyish exploration. It was another way to explore the house, to get to know José in adulthood. In fact, the home movies at the beginning of the film are something that we found in the house during the shoot. The voice of the narrator is mine. All of the characters in the film are non-actors and they interpret versions of themselves. José and his family really live in La Soledad. The narrative is based on what was going on in their lives at the time. So for instance, when the character of Jorge (my actual father) tells José that his family wants to evict him, it is the first time that someone from my family is discussing this with José, both in the film and in reality. You see, the people who live in La Soledad have always known that living in La Soledad was temporary, but it became a taboo and so it was never really openly discussed. I chose to work with non-actors because I thought it was the most honest way to tell this story and because I love the naturalistic performances that they can give, not for budgetary reasons. The script was also written with this in mind, so my co-writer Rodrigo Michelangeli and I avoided an over-dramatic narrative. The contemplative pace of the film not only enhances the naturalist philosophy of the film—reflecting a more accurate picture of reality—but also represents the state of the people in Venezuela at the time: stagnating, awaiting, almost paralyzed before the adversities imposed by the government.

La Soledad 3

Figure 3. Rodrigo Michelangeli

Faktorovich: The house in the film is a mansion, as you also specify in your “Director’s Statement.” When was this house built? Did your ancestors build it? What kind of work were they in that allowed them the luxury to build a mansion? What went wrong that prevented them from being able to maintain it? In the film, a woman comes to the gate to tell the grandmother that she has to leave not only because the house is condemned but also because there are too many people living there. This suggests that the grandmother does not own the house, but is rather leasing it, so that somebody can tell her that she is being evicted. Can you explain how this worked (either in the fictional version or in reality)?

Thielen: The house was built in the mid 1800’s for a sister of Juan Vicente Gómez, a military general and de facto ruler of Venezuela from 1908 until his death in 1935. The Gómez family was known to have “morocota” gold coins, and that’s where the rumor of the treasure in the house comes from. The area where it was built was considered to be rural and in the outskirts of Caracas until recently, so when my great-grandfather bought the house in the early 1900’s I don’t think it was like buying a mansion in the city. It was rather a villa, a country house where they lived and raised chickens. When my great-grandparents passed away, it was arranged for their lifelong house workers, Rosina and her husband, to remain living in the house, rent-free, so they could take care of it. It was supposed to be a short-term situation, but over fifteen years went by, Rosina’s husband passed away, the house deteriorated, and her family members began to occupy the vacant rooms. It’s all a result of the economical and political decline of Venezuela that worsened in the last twenty years. On one side, my family was unable to sell the house and on the other hand, for Rosina’s family, living in a decrepit house in a good neighborhood was better than being in the dangerous slums of Caracas.

The process of restoring possession of the house has been slow and difficult for my family. They are unsure of what they want to do with the house, there are a lot of emotions running high with the people who live in the house, especially with Rosina and José, whom they’ve known for their entire lives. The scene at the gate is fictional. Sometime ago I heard that one of my aunts would bring Rosina food and medicines, and that she had various heated discussions with her. For this scene I wanted to show contrast between the classes, so I chose an actress who was blonde and who was actually from the upper class. The actress ended up looking quite similar to my aunt, and when my family saw the film their feelings were hurt. They thought I was disrespecting them. Making these types of docu-fictions can bring many interpersonal challenges, even during the release. Fiction begins to invade reality and the persons involved, either directly or indirectly, have a difficult time separating the film from their reality. In actuality my family helped José and his family buy a small house, where the four of them can live. But the process has been very tense, especially with the other people who live in the house with whom my family have no emotional connection or responsibility per se.

Faktorovich: What are you doing in preparation for the theatrical release of La Soledad in the United Kingdom and in Venezuela next month, in August 2017? Will you take out advertisements in TV or internet ads? Will you rely on word-of-mouth, or on posters, or on other tools? Will you employ any cost-saving tricks, or do you have a healthy budget for this push? In how many theaters will it open at the start? Is your distributor or producer handling these types of concerns or are you responsible for many of them?

Thielen: The Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) and Mubi are launching La Soledad in the UK. It will be a limited release in very select theatres and cities, which will then be followed by our online premiere on Mubi UK. We don’t have a big budget for this, but we are lucky to have our Co-Producer Manon Ardisson based in London. She has spearheaded all our communicational efforts and she has done an exceptional job at it. In collaboration with Mubi and ICA, our marketing plan will be a mix of online ads, publicity, and hopefully through word-of-mouth in the Latin American community in London.

In Venezuela, we are distributing the film with Cines Unidos, but we decided to postpone the release of the film until early next year in solidarity with the rebellion.

La Soledad 4

Figure 4. Daniel Benaim

Faktorovich: Your films have been shown in festivals from Trinidad to Helsinki to Seoul. How many of these have you or another member of your cast and crew attended? What have you enjoyed the most about participating in film festivals? What have you found to be the most difficult or problematic about the film festival circuit?

Thielen: The festival experience is completely different when you make a feature. Even though my short documentary Flor de la Mar had an extensive festival run, only two of these festivals paid for my travel to attend to present the film. These were the Margaret Mead Film Festival in New York City, and Green Screen in Port of Spain. With La Soledad, most festivals have invited me. I’ve attended Venice, Cartagena, Miami, BAFICI, and Frames of Representation in London. Film Festivals provide a great opportunity for exposure and networking, especially the ones with markets. If you are proactive, you can benefit from both the exposure of your current film and use it as a launching pad for projects in development. The biggest challenge with festivals is that there are no real rules. Festivals have their own agendas and you’re up against heavyweight distributors that have relationships with programmers. There are politics and the number of films being submitted is exorbitant. Sending a film to ten festivals and seeing what happens is not enough. It takes strategy, networking, and hundreds of submissions. Then, there’s getting the film seen at the festival. The process is exhausting, but it can be very rewarding if you are persistent.

Faktorovich: After finishing a BA in film from Concordia University, you worked as Multimedia Producer and as a Digital Media Specialist. Can you describe the types of tasks you did in these roles? How did they prepare you to break out into starting your own production company and creating an independent feature film with La Soledad? You have also worked in a wide array of roles from Editor to Director to Cinematographer. Has it been easy for you to convince producers that you were fit to perform each of these new roles? Most other first-time feature directors, have a specialty on their CV, whereas yours is very diverse. I wonder if your diversification is due to your ambition, talent, multifunctionality, or all of the above?

Thielen: The jobs you mention were in small companies so my role was very multilayered. I found myself in the role of a copywriter, production assistant, editor, and sometimes as a social media manager. However, the most enriching experience I had after university was making Flor de la Mar, which happened simultaneously with these jobs. Months after I graduated I went to film the documentary in Venezuela with three friends from university. It was mostly funded through a small crowdfunding campaign. I spent the next three years editing while working on various jobs, sometimes it was at restaurants and other times it was on film sets doing whatever was offered to me. Putting the documentary together in the edit was a huge, painful puzzle, but it taught me a lot. So frankly, the diversity on my resume is a product of necessity. I needed to make money, but I didn’t want to stray away too far from film. I do think all of those jobs have given me a better understanding of the filmmaking process and ultimately make me a better director.

La Soledad 5

Figure 5. Daniel Benaim

Faktorovich: What type of camera and other production equipment did you use for La Soledad? Did you use any lights to assist nature? One of the awards you received was for sound. What type of a microphone did you use? Do you think this award was for sound quality in general, or can you point out particular sound qualities that you think made this film outstanding in this regard?

Thielen: La Soledad was shot on the Arri Alexa Plus 4:3, and with a set of vintage, bayonet mount Carl Zeiss Super Speed lenses. My Cinematographer, Rodrigo Michelangeli, and I love the look that these lenses provide, with triangular bokeh and subtle imperfection due to their aged coating. Another key reason for choosing these lenses was to keep the camera smaller. We adapted all aspects of production to preserve intimacy on set; in the same way we used mostly natural light, and the lights were placed outside of the windows. Operating under a documentary philosophy, I wanted to reduce the number of artificial elements on-set that could be detrimental to the non-actor’s freedom of movement and performance overall. Only the most essential crew was allowed on set when the camera was rolling, so in a way we shot the entire film like a sex scene.

My Sound Recordist, Mario Nazoa, used a variety of microphones, but I can’t recall which exactly. The sound design was created by Eli Cohn in Brooklyn, New York. As I didn’t want extra-diegetic music, we treated the sound design as our score. My sound team did a very special job at creating a surreal atmosphere of natural sounds that provide subtext for both the narrative and the characters’ emotions.

Faktorovich: Considering the high inflation rate and other problems in Venezuela, was it the right decision to make your feature debut there? If so, how so? Were locations, equipment and other film-related necessities cheaper? Were extras and the like easier to find? Would you recommend that other filmmakers should make films in Venezuela?

Thielen: Making a film in Venezuela comes with many challenges. Inflation is on the rise every day and that makes it very hard to budget accurately. Scarcity of basic necessities also puts a lot of stress on production and impacts the performance of your crew. For example, one day our Props guy spent the whole day going around the city in search of consumer batteries for the metal detector. The boom operator would turn off the microphone between takes to save batteries, and then sometimes he would forget to turn it back on. Our Camera Assistant would reuse marking tape in order to save this hard-to-find item, so sometimes the tape would come off… Scarcity and inflation just create a lot of absurd challenges that add unforeseeable stress to the production. Talent is harder to find because so many creatives and technicians have emigrated in hopes of finding better opportunities abroad. We worked with the only SteadyCam Operator left in the country and naturally it was very hard to schedule him. However despite of all of these challenges, shooting in Venezuela does have very unique advantages. Production costs are indeed more affordable, but most importantly the richness of the landscape, the textures and colors, and the variety of untouched locations is so vast. The adverse situation has created an atmosphere were stories just unfold before your eyes every time you leave home. After all, movies are about people trying to overcome obstacles and there is plenty of that in Venezuela. There are very few films being made in Venezuela, so it’s not hard to find an unexplored subject. For me, as a Venezuelan, I hope to continue making films at home because that is where my stories are. I feel as if I’m exploring myself. The stories and the people I love are there and I don’t think filming anywhere else would be the same.

La Soledad 6 - jpeg

Figure 6. Rodrigo Michelangeli

Faktorovich: In addition to the food shortages, a main conflict in this plotline is the power outage. The grandmother also complains: “The mangoes are late this year.” These problems are very realistic and are firmly grounded in the specific place. Did you write the script after living or studying this house and its surroundings closely as an adult, or did you write the script before you returned to Venezuela for the shoot? It has a feel as if you did a good deal of research on-location to make the details as multi-dimensional and representative of the real situation as possible. Can you describe your research process?

Thielen: A year before making the film I travelled to Caracas and visited the house for the first time in fifteen years. After proposing to José and his family that we make a film together, I spent some time in the house and filmed a demo, a proof-of-concept piece. This allowed me to test some of the directing techniques I envisioned and to explore the house visually. We treated the script as a starting point to our experience; we wanted to transpose the script. It was a living document that was changing every day, even during production. The power outage and drought were problems that were happening at the time of the filming, so it felt right to incorporate them. I also included the problems and moods that my characters were experiencing at the time of filming. I wanted the experience of making the film to influence the product, as it does in a documentary. The research never stopped. For instance, when we were looking at the location for the hospital scene, which was at an educational institute, on our way out I saw a man untying a fishing net in a room filled with paraphernalia. There were trophies, art, and sports equipment—the man saw me staring and said, “What are you looking at?” So we approached him and began asking questions about what he was doing. Jesus was the janitor of the school, and he said he made all of this art from recycled materials, which he was selling on the streets. Jesus also showed me the flamenco moves on the board that he had there. I was blown away by him and so I asked him if he wanted to be in the movie and “sell” the metal detector to José. He said yes. So in a way, this character was invented on the spot or I just stumbled upon him. We also ended up hiring Jesus to perform at our wrap party. Sometimes reality infiltrates fiction and vice versa.

Faktorovich: You introduce the gold that was potentially buried by the slaves of a previous owner of the mansion over half-way into the film. Why didn’t you bring this in at the start of the film, if it’s a plot element designed to move the film forward, as the main character attempts to find this gold to resolve the family’s financial difficulties? And after finding out about the treasure, the protagonist sells a central, tall statue from the house in exchange for a metal detector to search for the gold. A long set of shots where he is searching for the gold does not lead to any results. Finally, he is distracted by the sight of a white horse. He searches for gold inside of the horse’s stomach. He pets and hugs the horse. Then, he gives up on the quest. Did you make these scenes deliberately anticlimactic? What does the horse symbolize in this context or was the horse simply there and you used it?

Thielen: José’s decision to bet on the legend of the gold is motivated by desperation, because nothing seems to work in the real world. This element also shows how in Venezuela, or in Latin America, we turn to religion and beliefs in the supernatural to escape the hardships of everyday life. In retrospect, I do think the film would have benefited from having this element earlier, but in the edit we couldn’t make it work earlier and so we left it where it was written. The horse can symbolize many things. Traditionally a white horse is a warning for death, but in Venezuela a white horse is associated with Simón Bolívar’s horse. Chavez and Maduro have used the image of Bolívar heavily, so we decided to have an old, frail white horse to show the deterioration of our heritage.

Faktorovich: Prior to this feature, you made a short, For de la Mar, about the first European city in the Americas on the Cubagua Island. The money to restore the historic ruins of Nueva Cadiz disappeared in the government bureaucracy, and you attempt to find out what is at the root of this failure. The film’s description asks if pearls brought about this island’s abandonment, then perhaps the same fate might befall Venezuela if oil is depleted. Do you think Venezuela is too dependent on its oil production? How can government corruption that led to the disappearance of the funds meant to go to the Nueva Cadiz be prevented? Is this corruption really the main obstacle to the ability of people in Venezuela to succeed in business and otherwise? What other challenges would have prevented you from starting a production company as easily in Venezuela as you were able to do in Canada?

Thielen: Around 96% of Venezuela’s economy is based on oil and this represents a very serious problem. We are a country that increasingly depends on imports, which again I think is what the people in power want. Corruption and mismanagement are merely symptoms of a larger problem. We Venezuelans must change the way we think, we must consider the long-term effects of how we do business, how it impacts those around us. The problem is partly rooted in education.

Our production company is registered both in Venezuela and Canada. The difference is that it took one day to open the corporation in Canada, whereas in Venezuela it took us hiring a lawyer and the turnaround time was about three months.

Faktorovich: What advice would you give yourself if life turned out differently and you would have had to complete your BA in Venezuela and then had to make it in film there? What advice do you have for filmmakers who are currently struggling to succeed from Venezuela?

Thielen: Venezuela has changed so much since I left that it’s difficult to imagine what my life would have been like if I stayed. I encourage Venezuelan filmmakers to look at their surroundings, to realize the potential that our country has for storytelling. In Venezuela there is conflict at every corner and it’s a country full of people trying to succeed. There is so much to be explored. So many landscapes, locations, cultures, and subjects are untouched. It is true that resources are very limited, but I think those challenges can be turned into advantages. For that reason, I think there is a lot of room for the documentary form to be explored and expanded. In North America it’s so hard to find a new subject because so many films are made every month. I encourage Venezuelan filmmakers to make films on the issues that surround them in the present. No one else can make those films. We have a unique opportunity—if not a duty—to speak about our issues through cinema.

Faktorovich: What advice do you have for filmmakers anywhere who are about to embark on their first feature film?

Thielen: Looking back on how I handled the process of making my first feature film, I learned one lesson that I would like to share. Back in 2014, when I was in the early development stages of La Soledad, I met a Colombian filmmaker at the Montreal International Documentary Film Festival (RIDM) who changed the way I see film. His films expanded my notion of a documentary and influenced my approach to making La Soledad. But this isn’t about how I was inspired by his work, rather about one thing he said: filmmaking isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon. At the time, I took it as a word of encouragement, as if he was saying that if you persist and you hold on, you could have a career as a director. Throughout the next eighteen months I followed his career with admiration, I tried contacting him several times for advice on making my film, but he never responded. I went on to edit La Soledad with the editor of his first two films and then in March of 2017 it got into the Cartagena Film Festival in Colombia, and I saw that he was going to premiere two films there; one as a director and the other as a producer. I wrote to him with excitement, but I didn’t hear back. When I arrived at the airport, chance had it that I ended up sharing my taxi into the city with him. He didn’t remember me at first, but we quickly became reacquainted. He had a huge luggage filled with flyers for his films and he told me about how much work he had. He had changed a lot in two years. He had gained weight and was losing some of his hair. He looked tired. At the festival he was like a superstar. Young filmmakers followed him everywhere, he would introduce me to people and seconds later he would be speaking with someone else. He couldn’t hold a conversation for more than a couple of minutes. In the mornings, I would see him giving interviews while hiding his hangover behind sunglasses. I remember thinking to myself that perhaps I was starting to become like him. Having recently premiered my film in Venice, I also felt overwhelmed with attention, unfocused, running on adrenaline, excited, and tired ultimately. I wasn’t so aware of it back then, I was wrapped up in the work that needed to be done to launch my film and career. One night we were walking across a plaza. We had a few drinks on us and talked as we headed to another bar. At some point, he said something like, “you know, I’ve realized that this is who I am. I’m going to be making movies for the rest of my life and that is ok. That’s me.” He said it as if he was speaking to himself, almost regretfully. It caught my attention, but I didn’t think much of it then. The coming months, after Cartagena, I went to more festivals, I worked tirelessly on developing my second feature film, and I focused on keeping the momentum going. I was caught in a whirlwind of passion and work that ended when my girlfriend of six years ended our relationship. Suddenly, I was realizing that I had neglected my friends, my family, every relationship around me, and even my own health for way too long. Frankly, back then I couldn’t hold a conversation unless it was about film.

Looking back on all of this, I think that what this guy was trying to tell me in 2014 wasn’t about persistence or dedication. It was about balance, about taking a serious look at your priorities in life. I feel incredibly lucky and grateful to have achieved so much with my first feature film, but moving forward I am determined to take things slower. And life is not about making a movie; there’s so much more. I ask myself, what is the point of working so hard for success if you won’t be able to share it with those around you in the end? It’s a valuable lesson and I take it with me onwards. And after all, I don’t think you can tell a good story if you haven’t lived, so making time for other things in our lives will benefit our creative selves, as well as our personal lives.

Faktorovich: Thank you for participating in this interview. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Thielen: No. Thank you for this opportunity.


One Response to “Interview with Jorge Thielen-Armand, Winner of Eight International Film Awards”

  1. Matilde Daviu August 9, 2017 at 12:40 am #

    So wonderful interview, so human, so sincere. Faktorovich approachs venezuelan film Director Jorge Thielen Armand in a clear and intelligent way about filming “La Soledad”, his motivations, feelings and creative perspectives for future projections as a honest and hard working film director whose stories are in his country’s heart and the reality its people live.


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