Interview: Nathalie Álvarez Mesén and Nima Yousefi • Director and producer of The Wolf Will Tear Your Immaculate Hands – “A tropical, gothic drama about the historical colonization of the female body” – Turin 2021 – Torino Film Industry/TorinoFilmLab

“A tropical, gothic drama about the historical colonization of the female body”

– The director of Clara Sola and her producer spoke to us about their new project, the winner of the Eurimages Co-Production Development Award, handed out at the TorinoFilmLab for the very first time

The Wolf Will Tear Your Immaculate Hands, the new project by Costa Rican-Swedish director Nathalie Álvarez Mesén – who previously won acclaim for Clara Sola [+see also:
film review
interview: Nathalie Álvarez Mesén
film profile], which was presented at this year’s Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes and is Costa Rica’s candidate for the upcoming Oscars’ Best Foreign Film trophy – walked away with the Eurimages Co-Production Development Award, which was won by a TorinoFilmLab project for the first time and accepted during the Meeting Event which unspooled 29 November – 1 December in Turin, during the Turin Film Festival. We discussed this and more with the director and her producer Nima Yousefi of Stockholm-based production company Hobab.

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Cineuropa: How did this project come about?
Nathalie Álvarez Mesén: This is the second time I’ve worked with Nima after Clara Sola. It’s something of a continuation of the exploration of how we can get rid of patriarchal structures, basically. It’s a tropical, gothic drama and it takes place in colonial Latin America in the early 1800s. It was born out of a desire to get people talking about the historical colonization of the female body, the historical colonization of nature and how we can break free from it by embracing nature, because we have a tendency to separate ourselves from it.

Who are the protagonists of the story?
NAM: The women in the house, in this hacienda in the middle of a misty forest, are taught to fear the world, and then, as they embrace the world, they finally find a form of emancipation. They’re forced to get married when they’re teenagers, like their only purpose in life is to be mothers. Even the education they receive is only intended to be passed on to their children, rather than being used to achieve their own independence.

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As a producer, why do you feel it’s important to tell this 19th century story, today?
Nima Yousefi: It has a lot to do with conservative warnings. All these norms we talk about in the film are passed down from one generation to the next and they colonise us, both in our minds and in our bodies. The film will be very physical; it’s very clear how Nathalie is going to make it, combining visual poetry and physical storytelling, in a certain sense.

What tone will the film have?
NAM: It delves into magical realism, just like in our previous film Clara Sola, but it’s a bit darker, a bit more uncanny and eerie; we always try to work quite a lot with the five senses, and with an extra sense too: the room we give the audience for interpretation. We’re trying to make a very tactile film, a visceral, sensual, sexual and diverse film. Like a fairy-tale creature which we don’t want to tame, but which we want to befriend and whose eyes we try to see things through.

What visual aspect are you aiming for?
NAM: It won’t just be a visual experience, it will also be a visceral one, to feel with all the senses. We hope to enhance certain elements which convey the smell of the forest, sensibility, how it feels to touch the fur of a wolf or your own teeth, which feel sharper than yesterday… Hopefully it will resonate within viewers’ bodies and release something underneath their skin. It’s like when you go to a tropical forest that’s a bit muddy, and roll on the ground: that’s how the movie will feel.

Did you expect to win such an important prize as the Eurimages Co-Production Development Award at TorinoFilmLab?
NAM: Not at all! We loved so many of the other projects; we’ve been watching them grow, there’s such synergy at TFL: we worked in small groups of four, and it’s nice to see the projects becoming cousins and influencing each other, too. We now share a few elements which we were all very excited about, and this makes the entire filmmaking process incredibly exciting. We’re very grateful for the visibility our project has been given and for the fact that Nima and I will get the opportunity to make a second film together. Beginning our journey in a place like this means a lot.

How will you use the €20,000 prize-money? What are the next steps for this project?
NY: We’ll continue to develop the script. We also have to begin scouting for location; finding the right place is very important to the story; a magical, beautiful place which also has a dark side. So we’ll use the prize money for that, and to start casting too, that’s also a very lengthy process. Coming now, this is an amazing and much appreciated award.

Do you have any ideas about where your location will be?
NAM: We’re exploring different countries. We need to find a match for the type of forest and colonial architecture we’re looking for. We’re still open to scouting in various places at the same time.

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