Q&A with Mila Araoz, director of FILMS OF FURY - EFN CRITICS’ AWARD WINNER
Wednesday 20 October 2021, by
A short documentary following a young couple as they prepare to make their first action film in El Alto, Bolivia. Films Of Fury won the Critics’ Choice Prize at the latest edition of Emerging Filmmakers Night. We chatted to Mila about her work.
Well done for your win for Films Of Fury. What an original, offbeat and truly moving short film. Could you tell us more about its inception? How did you meet our protagonists? Why Bolivia?
I am half Bolivian, so I spend a lot of time in the country. One summer, a friend told me about a community in the city of El Alto who make their own action films. I found some DVDs in the market and watched them. Some were three to four hours long, with winding plots and local landscapes. The films had low budgets and were influenced by a mixture of Hollywood action film violence and El Alto news stories. I was really interested in how people were making these films, the stories they were telling and why they were doing it. I decided to turn my focus on this community for my research at university and that is how I met the protagonists of Films of Fury, Rodrigo and Luz. The first day I met them, they invited me to their homes, showed me their DIY special effects and we became friends. After finishing my dissertation, I was eager to go out and work with them again, this time to make a film myself. I wanted to follow Rodrigo and Luz as they embarked on their first feature-length film.
How did you decide on this specific format of documentary making?
I had never made a documentary before and although I had been a runner on a couple of commercials back in the UK, I hadn’t had any experience filming something. So, the film was made rough and ready, I learnt what I could about my friend’s DSLR camera and then I just went out to shoot. Most importantly, Rodrigo and Luz guided me through their own filmmaking. The two projects, my documentary and their film, supported each other: while I acted for their film, they allowed me to follow their lives for a couple of weeks. I found this cooperative way of directing and filming exciting and it’s something I’d like to keep exploring.
What did you find were the biggest hurdles in making the film? What were the
The biggest hurdle was the technical side of the production. I didn’t really know how to use a camera or the mics, and I was often balancing the filming and the sound recording while asking questions. It was a struggle to juggle all of this in an effective way. It would be great to have more of a crew for my next project! The highlight of making this documentary was spending time with Rodrigo and Luz, filming with them. The feeling of community and friendship that builds as you make a film is wonderful. Having the opportunity to live with them and see what they do and feel their passion for their films was inspiring.
The film won the Critics Choice Award at the latest Emerging Filmmakers Night festival. How was that experience?
As it was my first documentary, it was hard to trust whether it would come together, from the crowdfunding at the beginning, to filming in Bolivia and during the edit. I think for any director, there must always be moments of doubt as to whether you are telling the story well. I was really pleased with the final film, it was how I wanted it to be, but I wasn’t sure if others would like it and feel the same way. Winning the award, I felt like the documentary had worked, it had shared Rodrigo and Luz’s story in a way that had touched the judges and that was the most amazing experience. Hearing the judge’s kind and warm words made me feel like, wow they’ve really watched Films of Fury and understood it. And there is no better encouragement than that to keep making documentaries.
What is the trajectory of the film from now on? Is it still on the festival circuit?
Films of Fury is reaching the end of its festival run. But I would love to work with Rodrigo and Luz on other projects now that I have more experience. It would be great to develop Films of Fury into something bigger, either a feature film or a series, as I know there are so many more stories to tell. For now, I am working on a new project. I´ll be filming in Bolivia and Rodrigo and Luz will be a core part of my filming team.
What is your background as a filmmaker? Are you keen to work on more docs? Are you interested in fiction?
I got into the industry with the dream of making documentaries and so, yes, I want to work on more of these! I want to make more of my own, but I also want to work on bigger documentary productions, as part of a team. I have been working in the television industry for the past three years, as a runner, then as a researcher. I would be interested in making fiction and while this is a whole different experience, I find the idea of merging documentary with fiction exciting.
Do you have specific cinematic influences, filmmakers whose work have inspired you? Where do you draw your inspiration for ideas and techniques?
I love any documentaries or films which build and focus on strong characters: when you watch something, and you feel that you know the people in real life. I think one
of the best directors to do this, or at least one of my biggest inspirations is Werner Herzog. He seems to find the most interesting people to tell their personal stories, and I find myself following them so closely. Sometimes they’re just talking about things that have happened to them but the way Herzog draws this out makes you feel like you’re in the room with them. I find it equally amazing when this happens in fiction. I think Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s character development in her scripts does just that, making you feel so close to them that you don’t want the programme to end.
What are your current recommendations in terms of films, both doc and
I recently watched a documentary called The Mole which was very moving and powerful. It’s one of the best docs I’ve seen in a while. I also highly recommend For Sama if you haven’t watched it. I thought I May Destroy You was an important series to watch, and it left me stunned. And, on a lighter note, I would recommend Call My Agent.
What advice would you give to young filmmakers starting out?
If you have a story or an idea, just go out and make it. There are so many high-budget and high-quality productions out there, it can feel daunting to make something of your own when you don’t feel 100% ready. But good stories don’t always need expensive cameras. The experience of making something yourself, working out how to do that, is one of the best ways to learn how to make films. It also helps to develop your own style of filmmaking.
Here’s your chance to watch the award-winning short!