Raindance 2019: Director Armond Cohen On His Surrogacy Drama ‘Souvenir’

Director Armond Cohen’s complex surrogacy drama, Souvenir, will have its international premiere at the Raindance Film Festival in London (20 and 21 September). For ticket info

Synopsis: To meet her 4-year-old son retained in the United States, the enigmatic Isabel decides to rent her belly to give birth to the baby of Sara and Joaquín, a possessive couple, obsessed with the idea of starting a family. When a complication ruins her plans, Isabel draws on Bruno, a one-hit wonder novelist who has an aversion to fatherhood. This decision will alter the fate of Isabel, Bruno, Sara, and Joaquín irreversibly.

Q: What resonated with you about Ricardo Aguado-Fentanes’ script for ‘Souvenir’?

A: I have always liked movies that ask questions more than give you answers. In the years of working on the script with Ricardo, questions abounded and, at the same time, those questions were filled with meaning.

A script is an exploration; it’s the unknown and a step towards emptiness.


Q: The film’s lead character, Isabel, takes on surrogacy from a position of desperation. What does Isabel’s journey in this film explore?

A: It explores the desire to start a family. Or to have your family close to you.

The two female characters want the same thing, but their circumstances couldn’t be more different. Sara is 40 and has been wishing to be a mother for several years. Isabel was deported and unfairly separated from her son. Sara wants a biological baby; Isabel wants her child back.

It is about feminism and how women defend their spaces of power. Their corporality – what a woman can’t; another one can.

Souvenir seems to say: life prevails.

Q: Many will recognise Paulina Gaitán from her role on ‘Narcos’. What did she bring to the character of Isabel?

A: Cinema is about the ineffable: what cannot be explained in words. In many moments Paulina injected the ineffable, a subtext that helped to empathise with the character of Isabel.

Q: Raindance’s George Chadwick mentioned that the film is ‘visually satisfying’. What was your approach to the visual style of the film with cinematographer Sergio Armstrong?

A: Collaborating with Sergio was a privilege. Movies like El Club, Post Mortem, Neruda and Ema are films that helped me to know who I wanted to create with.  

We matched since the first moment he arrived from Chile and we studied intimate films that portray complex human situations and set real and close issues. Match Point, Mommy, Sex Lies, and Videos to mention some of them.

Paulina Gaitán on the set of ‘Souvenir’

Q: ‘Souvenir’ will have its international premiere at the Raindance Film Festival. What does it mean for your debut feature to premiere at this prestigious festival?

A: It is incentive, and the result of years of hard work and love.

Q: What discussions or thoughts do you hope ‘Souvenir’ sparks at Raindance?

A: I hope that it generates discussion that leads to questions and opens a dialogue.

For those who have children, they understand the sacrifice that it takes to have offspring. They empathise with Isabel’s pain. For those who yearn and cannot conceive, they will hope that Sara and Joaquin reach their goal.

Some have never wanted to have children and enjoy their freedom. But there will be those, like Bruno, that will be afraid of loneliness and the lack of purpose in adult life will weigh on them.

You can see ‘Souvenir’ at the Raindance Film Festival in London later this month. For more info

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