After San Sebastian’s 201 Europe Europe-Latin America Co-Production Forum unveiled, Juan Sebastian Messa’s second film, “Rust”, had its world premiere in San Sebastian.
It follows George, a young farmer from Colombia, working in a coffee garden. Faced with a growing plague that is ruining crops and feeling deeply alone – he is the only person of his generation who has remained in the countryside – his ghosts of the past come back during local festivals, confronted with his first love and his childhood friends.
From the very first shot – a long camera movement that shows the green expanse of the valley across the sky until it finally reaches George – Mesa uses a clear and controlled language that patiently finds a dynamic direction for the camera.
Produced by Colombian Monosiclo Cine and Dublin Films of France, the Colombian-French film is an interesting portrait of a man and the region in which he lives and testifies to the growing power of the Colombian filmmaking industry.
Diversity Messa was interviewed before the premiere.
How did you get into the first script of the movie?
Most of my parents and my family come from the coffee zone in southwestern Antioquia, Colombia, and this is a place I have visited many times. My life is basically between these two worlds, between the city and this city. The whole thing of leaving and going back and not belonging to one is very close to me. I began to ask myself what would have happened if I had stayed here, if I had not left the country, if I had stayed on this farm. And if I meet someone who will meet him, who no longer thinks they belong, who is not here or there. From there I wrote this story, with the eyes of anyone left behind surrounding the clash of rural and urban cultures. Almost as a work of resistance, somewhat situational, but a kind of stubbornness that finds a lot when going to the countryside. There are some people who don’t want to go and who are constantly struggling, because the situation gets you out of that place. And I began to think of my childhood, the farms I visited, the workers, my cousins. I remember when I was going to help them make coffee. Those memories of childhood were very special and it is the story of George that has been inspired by the thousands of people I have met and interviewed.
Open and loose, the film follows a structure that is less concerned with set-up and payment, and centers on a character who doesn’t have a clear goal. Can you comment on that?
During the process, many told me that it was two films, splitting the film into two. Since it’s been filmed, it’s pretty much like this. There is a subject of language that separates the two moments, this small brushstroke of the character’s daily life that creates a portrait of his background, his way of seeing the world. I was very interested to talk about those rituals, how reality is surpassed by many beliefs, contemporaneity, which allows you to see things somehow. The contemporaneity of the countryside seemed very interesting to me because it was a response to many indescribable events from the way they understood the world. I wanted to realize the reality that they are seeing because it is confronted by the space of the city.
The camera is always moving through George Traverses spaces. What was your view on staging it?
I was very interested in tearing the spaces to pieces. [I wanted] Building the countryside differently than the city and getting closer to it, seeing the wide shots and his vision stop him. That was our approach. I see the film as a kind of descent: the camera starts in the sky and slowly descends into the fire. The camera lands until it finally finds something dark. A tour of George’s ghosts.
Can you talk about production?
Every change from one place to another was extremely complex: landslides, mud, stuck cars, it was a nightmare. Every day it was a car in the mud and it was a light car, a photo car. Reaching certain areas was very complicated and it is very contrasting because we want to portray very everyday life but that daily life was our worst enemy. We were shooting on a hill and suddenly there was a chainsaw sound and the sound engineer told us to stop because the sound would not work. And while it may be the most everyday thing in the field, the casting was very complicated because we were looking for an endangered character who is a young farmer, but full of older people and children in the countryside. Older people who can no longer migrate and children who in many cases can’t wait to leave because of the same condition, but realize that there is no chance.