The Spanish director was moved to filmmaking after witnessing a plane crash at a young age. He gained the attentions of Spanish and international audiences after his short film "Esposados" won awards around the world. He was recently awarded the Goya Award for Best New Director for his latest film, "Intacto".
Hailing from Tenerife, how important was it for you to shoot your first film in your homeland?
When you make your first film, I think it is very important to incorporate your own identity from the place that you came from. In this case, it's important because the atmosphere of the story begins with the landscapes - so for me the use of Tenerife was very important. Although the style and look of the film, I think, is very international in a way.
Was one of the reasons making Max von Sydow's character English-speaking to give the film a more international feel?
He's a very cosmopolitan guy, having lived in many different countries - so he is international! I believe Max's character is the embodiment of my obsession with trust and possibility. He's like a pillar to the plot in the film. So we thought we'd need an important actor to express the charisma, authority, emotion, and darkness. There were a lot of colours this character could transmit, so Max was the first option.
Was it easy to get him, as he's stated he's in semi-retirement?
It was surprisingly easy. We sent him the script, and I thought it would be a long time until we heard from him. But he replied very quickly, and from the beginning he was very accepting of the project and the character.
Being a first-time director were you apprehensive about directing him? How did you approach directing him?
We had a joke between us. I'd tell him after takes, "Max, you were great, but do it again". Because I didn't know exactly how I could express my instructions. I felt directing Max was like playing a classic piano that sounds much better than you could imagine. It took only two or three takes per shot, he's very quiet and very cool, and he was inspirational. Being tense and nervous, as it was my first time, he relaxed everything and made me comfortable. So it became a privilege for a first-time director to work with someone like Max von Sydow. I was lucky!
What's you feeling about "Intacto" being picked up for an American remake?
It's strange because in a way you feel happy because it's your first film, and an American producer has picked up the rights to the movie. But at the same time you feel fear, "Oh my god, what kind of movie are they going to make?"