RA: Can you tell me something about the women portrayed in your films, who they are and how their characters and their stories evolved?
LP: There are very different types of women, teenagers and children portrayed in my films and novels. The only common element to all of them is I discovered them while writing, I mean to say I didn´t have all the details of their personalities clear in my head before I began to write. These days I´m writing a new novel about the women of my family in past generations, and it´s always a mystery how characters start building themselves before my eyes, as if they had a life of their own. At some point, if things go well with my writing, I feel they´re talking on their own, not being written by me.
RA: Why is it important to you to show these women’s lives on screen?
LP: Not only women, I really don´t have that genre division in my head, it´s character´s in general. I always loved films and literature that are driven by characters: Casavettes, Bergman, Solondz, Haneke… When I remember I film or a novel I usually remember a character more than a plot, so it´s the type of thing I like to write.
RA: Sexual identity is a recurrent theme in your work, and a very powerful one. What makes it such an important theme to you?
LP: I really believe sexual identity is in the core of who we are. I celebrate that every year it´s less of a tabú to speak of this. My country has made big steps the last years, with very modern laws that protect sexual identity in many ways. In XXY and El niño pez, my first and second films, this pulse of protecting freedom of choice is very clear. But I also see many points of contact between Wakolda (The German Doctor) and XXY… many points of contact between those two young girls, Alex, the intersex teenager of XXY, and Lilith, the main character of Wakolda… It´s through her eyes and strength that both stories are told. And there´s also many points of contact between the doctors: Mengele is the fanatic expression of omnipotence in medicine that the surgeon of XXY also shows… It´s the most dangerous issues of certain ethical dilemmas of medicine. The danger of being capable to do anything to achieve the standard of perfect bodies our society expects.
RA: How do you find the actresses you work with?
LP: I look for them for many months, with calm and patience. I enjoy the casting, it´s a period of discovery for me too. The time to listen for the fist time certain dialogue lines, to see how certain scenes work while a look for the actors. I usually begin the casting while writing the scripts, almost a year before the shooting, to have no need to rush and find the casting quickly. Then, when the right actress appears, it´s always been so clear it´s him or her. In all of my films, I´ve seen them for a few minutes, listened to their voice and see them through the camera for an instant and it´s enough to know she (or him) is the right one.
RA: What has influenced your casting choices? What have the actresses brought to the roles that has surprised, inspired or challenged you?
LP: Many things, I would say everything. The character I wrote is finally born when it has a face and a body. After that, it will always have that face and body. That way of talking, moving and looking into the camera. So, in a way it´s like having ideas of how your child will look when you´re pregnant… The moment he or she is born there is no more uncertainties.
RA: Do you think that being a woman yourself has an effect on how you portray women and their relationships on screen?
LP: Maybe. I guess so. But there´s also been men like Bergman, Lynch or Almodovar to quote the first names that pop into my head who have made films of the universe of women like no other women. And woman who have very masculine perspectives when they read and write.
RA: Has it been easy to become a film director? What are the benefits of being a woman filmmaker? What are the challenges?
LP: I know it has been more difficult in the past, of course I´m conscious of this. I remember the decades when being a woman who worked in cinema was not so easy. Women were allowed in certain roles, they were editors, they were cutting negative in the lab, they were art directors, wardrobe, make up artists… But it was rare to see women film directors or DoP´s or even producers. That changed decades ago. With the outburst of film schools, so many women began to work in other roles. Today, in Argentina, the amount of women directors is big. It´s not a surprise to have a woman as a DoP. I always say, with total sincerity, I´ve never felt a difference when trying to bring a project together or trying to get a job because I was a woman. It´s something of the past. It´s good to remember it once was like this, but it´s also important to make it clear it´s not like that anymore.
RA: If you had a daughter who was thinking of going into filmmaking, what advice would you give her?
LP: To have fun.