The Mrs., an old widow and Aridia, a young maid, live together in a house filled with orchids in the center of Santo Domingo. Aridia cleans, the Mrs. gardens, and when work is slow, they can share some gossip. But sometimes, the atmosphere gets tense: the Mrs. wakes up grumpy, she blames Aridia and when Aridia tries to defend herself, the Mrs. has to remind her “where her place is”; in time, they end up not talking to each other. But the hours pass by, the soap appears on TV, something happens in the neighborhood, and, out of nowhere, the Mrs. and Aridia come close again, ending the day sharing some laughs…
The film is an excuse to watch their relationship closely, to perceive what happens when the border seem to diffuse itself in a place where difference of social class and race remain deep in the culture.
We gathered camera and sound equipment, just the two of us, and spent 3 months in a house with two women who share a very special relationship. We had no script, we didn’t know exactly what was going to happen, but we were there, observing these two women and noticing they didn’t care for our presence at all. They were intensely immersed in their own world so we had the opportunity to collect images and sounds in which we can perceive a certain kind of truth and beauty in the simplicity of everyday moments. After shooting, we spend months trying to build up a narrative at the editing room and now we have a film we really are in love with; a film that was possible thanks to some savings and a mysterious understanding between four people trying to make a film in one house.
INTERVIEW NATALIA CABRAL AND ORIOL ESTRADA
Why did you make the film “You and Me”?
Natalia Cabral: Oriol and I wanted to make a film with some kind of intimacy; we needed to live the experience of actually shooting without getting into complex production processes, going to pitching forums, spending years explaining a film. We wanted to find ourselves working as filmmakers, shooting, deciding about framing, editing, we really felt we needed to connect with the practical work. We took our savings and some money from the family and we bought a camera and sound equipment; Oriol did the camera and I did the sound. We felt it was time, even if we didn’t have the money.
How did you decided to work with The Mrs. and Aridia?
Oriol Estrada: At that time, we were looking for money to finance another filmwith a bigger budget;we were having meetings with important businessmen who could invest in films. But they wanted big names in the credits of the film, TV stars from Dominican Republic and we wanted something smaller, a smaller crew and unknown protagonists. After these meetings we would return home a little sad. One day, we were talking about our situation and we asked ourselves: what do we really need to make a film? At that very minute, the Mrs. and Aridia interrupted our conversation with their own conversation; they were in another room next to ours, The Mrs. was reading the newspaper to Aridia. Their conversation was so bizarre, so interesting to hear. We saw each other and we knew we wanted to make a film with them. Next morning, we were shooting the first scene.
How was the process of making the film?
OE: We started filming an “observational” film. We would shoot all day long and at nighttime, we would watch the footage. We had no script, but as days passed, we started to imagine scenes and thinking about how the story should progress and unfold. Finally, we forgot we were dealing with “reality” in the editing room; we treated the footage as fiction, regardless of the nature of the footage.
What about the style of the film, the paste and length of the frames?
NC: We wanted to achieve a claustrophobic film about a claustrophobic relationship. We needed scenes to feel repetitive, we wanted to reproduce the violence and the sympathy of the story in a real-life rhythm. We like the style of films were you have the time to really experience the point of view of the filmmaker. We strongly believe that cinema, as an art form, has to determine itself, especially when it comes to confronting the audiovisual material that appears on television, commercials, music videos, etc. There is a rhythm in those videos, a rhythm that has another intention and that intention is to disconnect the spectators from the world. We see cinema as another way to connect to the world, to get closer to another experience that it’s not ours;it gives us the chance to have the space and time to do that. It’slike what Jacques Rivette says, that you need more time today, when everything goes so fast, to really see and hear the world.
Have the protagonists seen the film? If so, what was their reaction to it?
OE: They have seen the film but frankly, we don’t know what they really think about it. At the beginning of shooting, both The Mrs. and Aridia, they didn’t believe we were really shooting a film, because our equipment was so small, they thought we were just taking pictures. Then, when we told them that the film was ready, they still didn’t believe us.
NC: We think Aridia couldn’t believe that she could really be inside a film, because for her being in a film is an experience that belongs to another social class, to rich and famous people. We also think that The Mrs. felt that maybe their relationship and lives weren’t interesting enough to be inside a film. But one day, they saw an article on the newspaper about the film and since that day, they do believe we made a film together. But, what kind of film they think we did? A short film? A reportage? We believe they understand the experience differently.
What was the reaction of the Dominican spectators? What’s the reaction of spectators abroad?
NC: The boss-and-maid relationship in Dominican Republic is quite a normal one. People are very use to it and nobody asks if the conditions are really fair. But when we present the film in Santo Domingo, we see that people do relate to it, even if it’s hard to talk about it; some say that the film reminds them of a family member and their relationship with their maid, others confess that they are reminded of their own life with their maid. Abroad, the film has been really successful at film festivals. We feel rewarded when we see people laugh and get horrified at the same time, when they do get the irony, the two sides of the story.
OE: People see themselves reflected in cinema. That has happened to a lot of people who have watched the film in Dominican Republic and other countries with a similar social structure. Like the scene where The Mrs. eats on the table and Aridia eats standing against the wall. That scene really gets people thinking. It’ reminds us what the poet Allen Ginsberg said: “Everything can become a mirror, if you contemplate it enough”.
English title: You and Me
Original title: Tú y Yo
Running time: 86 min 30 sec
Shooting format: HD
Screening formats: DPC, Blu-ray
Speed rate: 24 fps
Aspect Ratio: 1,85:1 and 1,78:1 (16:9)
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1, Stereo
Completion date: April 2014