South By Southwest 2019 Interview – DAYS OF THE WHALE director Catalina Arroyave

“DAYS OF THE WHALE is the story of Cristina and Simón, two young graffiti artists from Medellín, a city that deals with the consequences of a violent history. They defy their environment when they decide to paint a mural over a threat written on a wall.  With powerful Latin music, fresh cinematic language, and a wonderful cast of first-time actors, it’s a film that you should not miss at SXSW.” Director Catalina Arroyave on DAYS OF THE WHALE which screens at the 2019 edition of SxSW Film!

Congratulations on DAYS OF THE WHALE playing in at SxSW this year! Is your first time here and are you planning to attend your screenings?

Yes! It’s my first time at the festival and I couldn’t be more excited. I’m also very happy because I’m the first Colombian female director that has had the chance to be a part of this great festival. I’ll be attending and I invite you to come as well.

So how did you get into this movie-making business? Talk to me a bit about how you got your start and what you have worked on in the past.

I didn’t go to film school. My degree is in Social Communications and I was preparing myself to be a journalist, but I always wanted to make films. So I started a platform with my best friends called Rara to experiment and support each other in our desire of making movies. This was a decade ago. Over the past few years, I have worked non-stop on this project while also working as an assistant director and being a teacher.

How did this project come together for you? Give me a rundown from the preparation, to shooting, to post-production to now!

At first, I thought it was going to be a small project, but it ended up costing half a million dollars, which is a big number for a Colombian film. The pre-production was my favorite part – seeing it all come to life, working with the actors and the other artists that made the film was beautiful. We only had four weeks to shoot and it was very intense. The crew got sick for two of those weeks, but our desire for making the movie was bigger than anything else, so we kept going. The post-production took about a year and a half and it was probably the hardest process because we didn’t have the financing complete and editing can be difficult. At least it was.

What keeps you going while making a movie? What drives you? How much coffee?

Tons of coffee and the illusion of having the ability to say something out loud, of shouting something that has been wandering in your spirit for a long time.

What was your biggest challenge with this project, and the moment that was the most rewarding to you?

The biggest challenge throughout the whole process was having enough courage to keep going for years and to stop myself from thinking that it wouldn’t be possible or the result wasn’t going to be good enough. It’s easy to lose confidence when you’re exposing yourself so much. And the most rewarding moment was getting to the final cut and knowing that was it.

I’m about to get technical, but I would love to know about the the visual design of the movie; what camera did you film with, your relationship to the director of photography and how the movie was photographed.

The cinematographer of the film, David Correa, the production designer, Tatiana Vera, and I, wanted to have a strong, colorful, visually rich result. Since we were making a film on urban art, that was one of our most exciting challenges. We shot with an Alexa mini and anamorphic lomo lenses, and we designed murals with very talented local artists that appear in different moments of the film. Also, I have the feeling that Medellín has never been shown with this kind of visual delivery in cinema.

What are you looking forward to the most about showing your movie here in Austin?

This is our world premiere so I’m anxious to know what the reaction of the audience is going to be. I’ve also heard that Austin is a very open and vibrant city, so I’m specifically looking forward to receive the response of the SXSW audience.  Hopefully, they’ll enjoy it.

After the film screens at SxSW, where is the film going to show next? Theatrical, online, more festivals?

We have several other festivals confirmed, and afterwards, we hope to take the film to the streets of our hometown.

If you could show your movie in any theatre outside of Austin, where would you screen it and why?

This is a tough question. I guess as a filmmaker, I want the movie to be seen as much as it can be, anywhere in the world. But I dream of the moment I get to show the film in my hometown. It’s very important for me to see how the audiences in Medellín are going to react to it.

What would you say to someone who was being disruptive, like talking or texting, through a movie?
I would say there is a lifetime of effort of hundreds of people involved in the making of a movie, so it probably has something interesting to say or show them. I would recommend that they give it a chance with their full attention, but if it just doesn’t get to them, they should leave the screening so it can still touch the audience that feels connected to the film.

We have a lot of readers on our site looking to make movies or get into the industry somehow. What is the ONE THING you would say to someone who is wanting to get into the filmmaking business?

It’s not going to be fast, easy or mild, but if you want it, keep going.

And final question: what is the greatest movie you have ever seen at a film festival?

I have seen many! But there is one film that I saw in the last edition of the San Sebastian film festival that’s coming to my mind. It is called JOURNEY TO A MOTHER’S ROOM by Celia Rico. I thought it was a beautiful, simple, yet intense piece. It’s also a debut film made by a woman, so it moved me deeply.

This is one of the many film titles playing at SxSW 2019. For more information on this and any other title playing in the festival, point your browser to!

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