Alejandro González Iñarritu's Visionary Award

As the director picked up his award at Stockholm Film Festival, we got a chance to discuss storytelling with the director of Babel and 21 Grams

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Last month Alejandro González Iñarritu won the Visionary Award 2011 at the Stockholm Film Festival for conveying raw emotion and sorrow, as well human vulnerability throughout his work. Alejandro has already managed to develop a strong international profile on the basis of his small but impressive portfolio of films including 'Amores Perros', '21 Grams', 'Babel' and 'Biutiful'. Storytelling is at the core of the director's interest and he feels real life is the source of his inspiration as opposed to relying on fiction which is often why he finds it difficult to direct other people's stories. Here he speaks to us about how important it is for him to still experience life separate from filmmaking and why is takes him on average about three years to complete a film.

Dazed Digital: Are you currently working on a new project?
Alejandro González Iñarritu: I'm working on three projects but all of them are in process. They are in the fragile state in that you cannot mention them cos the leaves can fold down (laughs).

DD: Are you interested in continuing doing both writing and directing simultaneously?
Alejandro González Iñarritu: Yeah, I think always I have been interested in that, these things go through my veins. It's my interest. I've been looking to pull them out.

DD: So if a project comes to you just to direct, could be that something interesting?
Alejandro González Iñarritu: If it is fantastic, it would be fantastic (laughs). But it's hard. It's very difficult. I would have loved that to happen, imagine saying that after many years writing scripts. At the same time, it could be a liberating sort of process too, but it hasn't happened so far.

DD: Since 'Amores Perros' you have done an average of about one film every three years, can we expect a new release for 2013?
Alejandro González Iñarritu: Yeah, I think that's what it takes for me to make a film. I always try to make time for me to live. For me life is bigger than films. There's people that just live to make cinema and cinema is their life. For me, cinema is part of life. Life for me is the source of what I do. It feeds me thematically and inflames me. I couldn't be just working all the time making films– because when I'm making a film I'm not living. I'm in my bubble, in my island. And if I loose the connection with what life is really about, then what would I be talking about?

So that's why I'm always making a space for life. It's a very difficult transition from being in your bubble to getting out of that and being exposed to reality. You don't know what the fuck you're doing, who you are. For me it's incredibly difficult but needed in order to achieve the goal.

DD: Does your creative muscle work better when things aren't going well for you?
Alejandro González Iñarritu: When I'm in harmony or such circumstances, physically too; for instance, when I go to the beach and I found people saying 'I go to the beach to ride...', I can't understand it because when I go to the beach I want to swim or I want to get a beer. I want to get drunk (laughs). So when I'm solely in these things, I really enjoy it. When I'm going through difficult times I am trapped within these four walls – but not meaning that I put myself in a masochist state that I want to suffer.

To write something comes from the needed. It's not that I wanted it but it's a need that comes. It sometimes comes easier to me to write when I'm struggling with things in my life, there are some limitations that I would like to get rid of and the only way to get it out is through that. When I'm nice and more relaxed, I enjoy it too, I just take it, fuck it do whatever (laughs). The muscle of surviving becomes when those tough times physically and emotionally are there.

DD: Once you were asked about your background saying, “I passed through a few rivers in order to reach the ocean”. How does it feel to swim in the ocean now?
Alejandro González Iñarritu: It's always desolate. Sometimes you confront the most terrifying feeling, which is when nothingness comes. That can be a very scary feeling. And the infinite possibilities that open your eyes in 360 degrees without a compass, so that's the ocean. At the same time, the incredible and beautiful feeling of freedom, space, potential and richness. So it's both, you experience that you are in control but it's always ying and yang. So it's terrifying but very intense. I mean this because suddenly you have to decide which way you're gonna go to find the island. Sometimes you find it and sometimes not. You are on your own, you have your own voice, if you see what I'm saying.

DD: The work of composer, Gustavo Santaolalla has definitely enhanced your story telling. How was it working with him?
Alejandro González Iñarritu: To work with Gustavo has been always a pleasure since the first film we did. His music doesn't come from a rational process. It comes from the right part which is truly the heart. He is really one of those few people that I know that are aware. He has an awareness of... I don't think it has a translation in English “el saber estar”, he just knows how “to behave.” His wisdom allows him to be aware of the actual present and he captures that. Therefore his music represents the awareness of the characters in a very specific situation. It's not a rational development of the violins or anything like it. It's just that note that makes you connect to it. It's like a bell that awake you up or something. 

DD: So it's likely you'll work with him again?
Alejandro González Iñarritu: Yeah, I would love to but it depends if a project offers me the possibility of going there, if the project needs that again but no one is crucial in that way. You develop a team that collaborates and saves you a lot of time, so that's very nice. But sometimes you change collaborators because you need to get out of that. The films are more important, even more than me (laughs). Sometimes the characters, once they grow up, they can manage by themselves.

DD: How do you find the editing process?
Alejandro González Iñarritu: I find it the most enjoyable one. Editing is when you really re-write the film. It's when the film is done. The art of cinema is the editing. The rest is very industrial.

DD: Do you find it hard re-writing, to find what is the right path to go?
Alejandro González Iñarritu: It's when the third dimension really appears. It's when that kind of primitive stone that you bring is sculpted and you find the form and all the things that you can't write on a piece of paper because it's not a novel. I think cinema is done in a dark room where you find the tone, the internal rhythm of the film, the flow, the space, the time, even the genre. Literally, through the editing process you find the voice, what that film is about, what kind of film it is. You can recreate it completely. For me that is transcendental.

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