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BEYOND CAMPUS | Sergio Cabrera: Director turns everyday life into cinema art


24 October 2015 | By Xu Wei | Shanghai Daily

  • Sergio Cabrera

    Many of Cabrera’s films center on ordinary people and explore real-life problems with sympathy and humor.

  • Sergio Cabrera

    “Some Chinese film producers have expressed their intention to put the story on the big screen,” Cabrera says. “It is also my dream to have my film shot and shown in China.”

C

elebrated Colombian filmmaker Sergio Cabrera has strong ties with China. Born in 1950 in Medellin, Colombia, Cabrera moved with his parents to Beijing when he was just 10 years old. There he finished his secondary school education and then studied philosophy at Peking University.

In the mid-1970s, Cabrera studied film at the London Technical School. After graduation he went on to direct, write and produce numerous feature films, short movies and hundreds of commercials. Over the years, his films have become immensely popular among Spanish-speaking audiences and critics, and have taken home awards from film festivals in New York, San Juan, Taschkent and Bogota.

Many of Cabrera’s films center on ordinary people and explore real-life problems with sympathy and humor.

“The Strategy of the Snail” (1993), for instance, is a comedy-drama which focuses on a group of crafty tenants working to avoid evict.

When it was initially released, it eclipsed Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park” (1993) in terms of ticket-sales in some Spanish-speaking countries. Today the film is considered a classic of Colombian cinema.

These days, Cabrera says he is working on a script about his childhood in Beijing in 1960s-1970s. During a recent trip to Shanghai, he told Shanghai Daily that it could take another two years of preparation before the script is ready to begin production.

“Some Chinese film producers have expressed their intention to put the story on the big screen,” Cabrera says. “It is also my dream to have my film shot and shown in China.”

During his recent stay in the city Cabrera took part in a film screening and discussion at Shanghai International Studies University (SISU). The director talked with Shanghai Daily about his life, art and his passion for filmmaking.

Q: How has your experience living and studying in China influenced your filmmaking career?

A: Although I haven’t made a Chinese movie, I would say that the Chinese culture has had a big influence on my works ... For instance, scenes in “The Strategy of the Snail” are also inspired by the famous Chinese proverb story of “The Foolish Old Man Removes the Mountains.”

Making a film is a difficult process. It is both an art and an industry. I can handle the part of art. My experience in China also made me a more disciplined and hardworking person. This helped me deal with the “industry” part.

Q: What do you want to convey through your films?

A: Filmmaking is a way to share things and help people be smarter. I don’t think that film artists can change much of the world by themselves, but they can use films to show where the problems in real life are and inspire people to fix these problems.

I like to make movies about ordinary people in my country. Film can really help audiences become more confident and find justice in life.

Q: What’s the current state of Colombian cinema? What kind of movies are popular with audiences in your country?

A: I am proud to say that most Colombian feature films are independent films about reality, conflicts and justice. Some of these movies have also received help and support from our government. Colombian audiences love comedy dramas. Also, Hollywood films, like in many other countries, are a threat to local filmmakers. Our movies have much lower budgets. We don’t make superhero and fantasy movies. What we insist on is freedom of expression.

Q: What’s your advice to young filmmakers?

A: Film language is very easy. The most important thing for them is that they have to have something to say in the film. They should know their country, people and culture very well and just be themselves.

Q: In your opinion, how can a film achieve artistic and commercial success?

A: This is always a difficult task. What we need are good and professional producers to market, distribute and promote films. Directors should still focus on art. In my opinion, there are two kinds of films — those that exist only to make money and those that say something about real society and people.

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Press Contact

SISU News Center, Office of Communications and Public Affairs

Tel : +86 (21) 3537 2378

Email : news@shisu.edu.cn

Address :550 Dalian Road (W), Shanghai 200083, China

Further Reading