Inspired by real-life accounts, By The Name Of Tania follows the story of a young woman in Peru who is forced into sex work when her attempts to escape the stifling limitations of village life go wrong.
Directors Bénédicte Liénard and Mary Jiménez join us on Close-up Culture to shed more light on the film ahead of its UK premiere at the Raindance Film Festival in London (20 and 21 September). For ticket info
Q: ‘By The Name Of Tania’ brings to light the story of Peruvian girls who are forced into prostitution every day in the gold mining regions of Peru. Can you tell us more about this horrifying situation and the type of young women who are dragged into it?
A: There are several myths in this part of the world that tell the story of attractive young girls. Men come looking for these girls in the rainforest region where we shot.
They are good merchandise for the brothels since they are pretty and poor. They are taken in by fake propositions of work and are tricked into following pimps to far away places. They end up being prostitutes near one of the gold mines or petroleum sites in Peru, where there are only men and prostitutes.
Q: The film is based on real testimonies. Where did you encounter these testimonies? And how did you set about crafting a story around them?
A: We were looking to understand how the trafficking of women worked and we met a policeman whose life has been devoted to rescuing these girls. He had an enormous amount of materials and many stories. He gave us many testimonies of the girls he had saved. When we read them we were so touched that the necessity of making a film to tell their stories emerged.
Our aim was to shed light on the trafficking routine. How it worked and the process used to produce a slave. We decided to make one story out of the many. We organised the testimonies in that way, taking what seemed to be exemplary of every story.
Q: Tania is played by Tanit Lidia Coquinche Cenepo. What were you looking for when casting such an emotionally heavy role?
A: Tanit was pretty aware of the importance of playing Tania because of her own past. She actually chose the name Tania because it was very close to her own. Tanit knew she was representing many women and the responsibility that came with it.
We needed someone not to ‘play’ this single story but to ’embody’ it. During our different trips we had made a workshop in a home for teenagers that had suffered from sexual violence, either trafficking or other. We had met Tanit and we liked her. She had suffered and you could see the shadow of the violence through the dignity she had built to hide it.
We chose her because she would be absent-minded, leaving the present and coming back constantly. The camera also likes her – she is very photogenic.
Q: I read that the film captures the destruction of life in a capitalist world in connection with horrific natural devastation. Can you talk about these two forces and how they manifest in the film?
A: The fires in the Amazon have reminded people of the duty we all have to this wonderful part of the world, the rainforest.
For those who have been there and experienced the immense beauty, the incredible amount of life and diversity, the value of this place is obvious to them. For others it is only a place for riches. Gold mining – there is lots of gold – destroys the purity of water, throwing mercury in it and
poisoning wide areas. Petroleum companies have spills every so often. And now the fires…
We do not show any of this, but it’s there as a shadow. The capitalist world is only looking for growth, and will end up choking the life out of our planet. Our film doesn’t treat this issues directly, but gold is pretty present. The exploitation of the girls and the exploitation the miners inflict upon themselves is two faces of the same coin.
Q: I have also read about the incredibly powerful imagery of the film. What were you looking for from cinematographer Virginie Surdej and the visual language of ‘By The Name Of Tania’?
A: A film is a teamwork. We are two directors, already a team, but the work of Virginie Surdej is as important as ours. She is so talented that any demand of a special kind of photography was answered with propositions that took this quest to the next level.
We were looking to find a dreamy style because the protagonist remembers her story. A sensorial image that would consist mainly of long planned sequences that could be used as jokers and go anywhere in the editing. We would decide day by day, with no script whatsoever of what we would shoot, without considering what will go before and what could go afterwards.
Every piece of every shot had to be self-suficient and stand on its own. We didnt do ‘scenes’, we worked with long unities of time-space. We would create a situation and Virgine would improvise.
Q: I saw a few wonderful images of the cast attending the world premiere at Berlinale. How special was that occasion?
A: Berlin was very special because we brought Tanit and Fiorela Aguila. These two girls come from very poor areas and they were in awe of this other world. A world that is not necessary better than theirs but so different.
Q: What does it mean to now be taking the film to Raindance in London?
A: Raindance is a place that reminds us of two filmakers that we love and admire, Mike Leigh and Ken Loach. We are so proud to been invited and we really hope Londonders will like our film.
You can see ‘By The Name Of Tania’ at the Raindance Film Festival in London (20 and 21 September). For ticket info