IN Andrea Jaurrieta’s debut feature Ana By Day, the peculiar arrival of a doppelgänger presents Ana (Ingrid García Jonsson) with an opportunity to leave the orderliness and security of her life to seek out something completely different.
Andrea joins us on Close-up Culture to talk about dive into Ana By Day in more detail ahead of the film’s international premiere at the Raindance Film Festival in London (September 29 and 1 October).
Q: On the surface, Ana By Day might look like a thriller about a doppelgänger hijacking a women’s life, but this is something else. Can you tell us why you wanted to follow down the complex path of self-discovery, introspection and exploration?
A: IN all my previous works (short films and video art) the need for my female characters to runaway – and the conflict the impossibility of this idea generates for them – has always been very important. It is a subject that is always present in all my scripts, not only Ana By Day.
My characters feel they have never been able to discover themselves, like they have been oppressed by a way of life they haven’t chosen. But it’s a feeling that none of them can face or express with words. They have let it happen because life ‘has always been like this’. It is the ‘correct way of living’ they have been raised with and learnt.
Ana, at the beginning of Ana By Day, is also one of these characters. In fact, if the dopplegänger hadn’t appeared, she would had never been brave enough to run away and look for her own personal way of living, to explore herself. She might be wrong – or not – in the way she has chosen now, but at least she is taking her own decisions. For the first time in her life she is far from her things-must-be-like-this education.
Q: This idea of escaping the ordered life you have grown up in and living free is particularly interesting in the age of social media and smartphones. We are all aware it is harder than ever to live an anonymous or judgment-free life. Was part of your thinking in Ana By Day?
A: AS you can see, the only moment a smartphone is visible in the film is at the beginning of the story when Ana is still attached to her old life yet. Once she decides to escape she enters into a world where people are living in a kind of timeless present.
For me it was important to create an atmosphere of an old time freedom, anonymity and non-judgment that is dying (the Music Hall) in modern cities but also make spectators think about the real possibility of running away from oneself – even without new technologies. So, yes, it was a very important part of my thinking.
Q: Do you feel the film will challenge audiences to reflect on their own lives and the expectations they try to live up to each day?
A: WELL, I hope to make people think and ask themselves the question ‘what would I do if a doppelganger appeared to me?’. It has been very funny to see how each person that has seen the film has had different thoughts at the end of it. I love it. I love controversy.
I remember one critic in Spain, after Festival de Málaga, saying something like ‘I would have chosen a more ‘Vardian’ (I guess she meant it for Agnés Varda) way of life’. For me it was a great piece of critic! That meant I made her think about what would she do with her life – so my objective was reached. I think nobody leaves this film indifferent.
Q: What made you think Ingrid García Jonsson would be perfect for the role of Ana?
A: INGRID García Jonsson is one of the most intelligent actresses I have met. I saw her in Beautiful Youth, her first film, and I was amazed with her. She was super young and I was believing every word she said. When I met her, at the beginning, I was afraid she might have too much energy to be the initial Ana. She is more punk, like Nina. But after the casting and during rehearsals with her I realised she was the perfect one.
Q: You must have been very excited to have an actor of Ingrid’s talents working on the project. Does your background as an actor help with these collaborations?
A: I love directing actors. It’s the favourite part of my job. As I have worked as an actress before, I know how difficult it is to stay in front of the camera and be in front of 20 people looking at you while you are trying to be another person. Actors are fragile and brave at the same time. They need a lot of understanding. Each actor is different and has a different way to deal with the character, so I love using all my tools to help them reach the point that I want for the film.
Q: This is your debut feature. How did you find the experience?
A: AMAZING and exhausting! It’s been 8 years since I started writing the script. In Spain we were in a huge crisis when I started looking for a producer for my film and it was impossible to develop any independent debut film.
Finally, after two attempts of shooting it with two big production companies, I ended up producing it by myself with my team. After this film I know two things for sure: one is that I want to be a director forever, the other one is that I don’t want to produce alone anymore (laughs)!
Q: I believe you had a 70% female crew on Ana By Day. Can you talk about the shoot and the type of environment you had on set?
A: WELL, we were all a young team and cinema schools are full of women, so it is (or should be) something natural in this new generation. The problem is that in big productions there is still this “glass ceiling” for women.
In Ana By Day we called people that we knew or that we had worked before on short films and gave them the opportunity to be the head of their technical departments after being assistants in other big films. So, there we were: a team in our 30’s, full of energy and, of course, women and gays! (laughs). It was very funny. I will never forget this experience.
Q: I noticed you worked on Pedro Almodóvar’s Juileta. What did you learn from working with Pedro?
A: I flipped out. For me was a vital experience. Pedro Almodóvar is one of my favourite directors ever. In Julieta I was the direction trainee. I didn’t have a lot of responsibilities so I was always listening and watching everything from my small place on set, to learn. And I learnt a lot.
The most important thing that I learnt was the exquisite attention to detail that he has in every single shot. I remember the first day, how the prop masters showed him no less than 15 quills and pens. All of them looked similar to me, but he took them one by one, looking at them carefully. After choosing one, he asked in high voice ‘how would be this one in Emma’s hand?’. In this moment I understood what good cinema is.
Q: I can’t wait to see Ana By Day at Raindance, but have you already started thinking about what is next for you as a filmmaker?
A: I am developing a documentary about a music band of the 90’s that had a really interesting life: The Kelly Family. We’d been shooting for two years but I had to stop during last year due to Ana By Day. I want to keep on shooting it and at the same time I’m writing two different scripts: one is a comedy and the other one, for me, is a story that could be understood as the closing for Ana’s story – of course with different characters – in the future.
Q: Finally, what would your message be to UK audiences ahead of the film’s premiere at Raindance?
A: I hope they love the film for its freedom, the decadent world in which Ana gets to disappear in and that it makes them escape their lives for 105 minutes to ask themselves if they are living the lives that they want or not.
I also want to say that is an honour for me to premiere it in London and I’d love to arrive to any cinema there after Raindance. I love London. I lived there in the summer of 2007 sharing a flat with another eleven people and I have very good memories. So if I also have to send a funny message it would be: Brazilians from my shared flat in 2007, if you are still in London come to Raindance to see my film! I haven’t forgotten you and I would love to see you again!