Eureka: interview with Lisandro Alonso
Following La Libertad in 2001, and Jauja in 2014, both of which were shown at Un Certain Regard, the Argentinian director Lisandro Alonso brought together Viggo Mortensen, Chiara Mastroianni, Maria Medeiros and non-professional actors to shoot Eureka, a timeless Native American fable, showing at Cannes Première. Here’s his interview with the Festival de Cannes.
How did this project come about?
The idea came to me around nine years ago, while I was finishing my previous film, Jauja. I wanted to continue working on the slightly ghostly images of American Indians which featured in that film. When I tried to build bridges between the films I was watching, particularly Westerns, I realized that I wanted to explore the theme of indigenous culture, to make a work about native Indians. I say “Indians”, but in the United States that term is not always well-received. To me, they are the descendants of Indians who have become peoples, unfortunates, who have differences, depending on where they live in the world. In the United States they are particularly marginalised. I began to think about the way a film could reflect that. The film is a little abstract: it doesn’t have a very conventional narrative. It passes from one place to another, from a time to a space… so I couldn’t really sum it up.
Could we say that its objective is to compare the indigenous communities of north, south and central America?
Yes, that’s it. And to see how some of them have already been represented in films, and how they live today. The film unfolds at three different times: first there is a graphic film section, then we move to present day South Dakota and finally to the 1970s, in the middle of a mountainous jungle. It compares the lives of indigenous people today with those who have not yet been affected or subjugated by political and economic states.
“The film doesn’t have many messages. Instead it has uncertain conclusions.”
Where did you shoot the film? With which communities?
In north America, and on the advice of Viggo Mortensen, I filmed at an Indian reservation called Pine Ridge in South Dakota. It is one of the most well-known reservations. I also filmed in Mexico, in Oaxaca, close to a Chatino community. They speak a very particular language which only certain people understand. Although the whole of that section of the film is fictional, they speak their language in it: Chatino. And then the part I filmed in South America is supposed to take place in a jungle, in a small, uncertain place, near to Brazil and the neighbouring countries. We also set up our cameras in Portugal, and in Spain – in Almería, in the settings for Sergio Leone’s westerns.
What can we learn from this film?
The film doesn’t have many messages. Instead it has uncertain conclusions, and each viewer can find their own interpretation. It can be read in different ways. It is also my most complex film, the one which cost me the most energy: two pandemics, a new technical team in each country (four different countries), and some actors being replaced. I experienced storms and temperatures of –30°c in the United States… That was complicated! But it is also the film which taught me the most. I got to know the Chatino Indians, I worked with fantastic professional and non-professional actors (some of them had never been to the cinema) and I had a lot of fun filming in the Almeria studios!