An Interview with Salomón Askenazi (director, El Rey de la Fiesta)

Salomón Askenazi is the director of El Rey de la Fiesta, his third feature-length film. El Rey de la Fiesta revolves around the concept of identity, and is currently screening at film festivals nationally. Please enjoy our interview with Salomón on his latest film.

Ian Floodgate: First of all, thank you for sharing El Rey de la Fiesta with us. What inspired you to direct the film?

Salomón Askenazi: Thanks for the interest, my movies are not finished until someone watches them and makes an interpretation of them. I was mostly inspired by the idea of transformation. I was at a point in my life where I was looking for that, I was looking for a change and was afraid to get stuck somewhere where I couldn’t enjoy or experience everything there was to experience, so I created a story of a man who is presented with the perfect opportunity to explore those transformations. Hector is an extension and a metaphor for what was going inside my mind, and he ended up being a unique creation, not really resembling his creator that much.

Ian: There are lots of ideas I think El Rey de la Fiesta conveys in its exploration of living an alternate life. What were the primary themes you wanted to explore in the film?

SASalomón: The main thing was to show how easy it is to perform like somebody else, you can create any personality you want and play it out and experiment on how you want to live your life. After all, the personality you have is always affected by the environment and is mostly predictable, but when you get more creative, you get more possibilities and you end up living the life you want to live or something like that, the difference is mostly about who is controlling it and how authentic one feels when making the decisions that make up your life. Also the theme of sexual liberation and body expression was important to touch on. Hector is finding his rhythm throughout the film until he gets it and lets go and dances without limitations at the end.

Ian: In your previous film, Dos Veces Tú, you also focus on assuming different identities. What interests you in wanting to explore this subject on film?

Salomón: I guess my mind clings to those concepts right now, on how other perspectives always help in storytelling and how fun it is to play with interchanging characters and settings. I always want to project the idea that our own minds and inner worlds are not as linear as we think, and we all know a certain realm where our minds live where we are everywhere at the same time with the power of thought. I am trying to materialise that idea in particular, that stories in film don’t have to be so obvious in logic and follow any rules, I am mostly experimenting with the art of cinema to express something and to make the audience feel without thinking that much. I make films that way, I feel more than I think. I look at my movies as experiments.

Ian: Just as you explore similar themes throughout your films, are there any particular directorial techniques that you would say define your directing style?

Salomón: I would say I like to experiment with the editing a lot and I particularly focus on the form and style of the film as much as the story and its themes. I like my cast to be as free as possible to reincarnate the characters so we improvise a lot, I also let my fellow crew members propose new ideas as much as possible. I like leaving things open to interpretation and playing with various possibilities of montage. I am very involved in the soundtrack of a film and I enjoy when things come up in post-production that weren’t planned and give new meanings to scenes. I am a different person when I write the movie than when I finish the movie, so both states influence the final product.

Ian: Is there anything you’ve learnt from making El Rey de la Fiesta that has changed your perception on life?

Salomón: Wow, I would like to say so. I think the most important thing I learned is being open to being wrong and changing course based on intuition and flow. Just as Hector is constantly flowing and finding his way, I had to be like that to finish this movie. I changed the script a lot and had to push the production of the film an extra year after we had what they call a “false pre-production” with an older version of the script. It was a challenge as it always is. I found balance in general while making the film I wanted but compromised on some things to get better effects on the final cut. I’ve also had to learn to appreciate what I have and stop looking elsewhere. That also permeated in my private life as well as in my professional goals.

Ian: Your lead actor Giancarlo Ruiz gives a versatile and strong performance in the film – how did casting him come about?

GCSalomón: He was amazing. He was recommended by a fellow producer and I liked him from the first moment and never looked back. I don’t think anybody could have played that role better. He basically made the character come to life and designed his personality, I had the foundation of some traits and ideas about him, but Giancarlo excelled at the materialisation of Hector/Rafael and implanted his blueprint throughout the style of the film.

Ian: I noticed in one of the scenes there is a poster for Denis Villeneuve’s Enemy. Is Villeneuve a director who inspires you? And if not, what other filmmakers do you take inspiration from?

Salomón: Yes, I was inspired by Denis and his film. In all of the pitch docs of the movie I had stills from Enemy, and I always looked to that movie as inspiration while creating El Rey de la Fiesta. I also took some inspiration from Quentin Tarantino and David Lynch in visuals, props and sound design.

Ian: I expect El Rey de la Fiesta will be screening at a few more festivals pending a release. What’s next for the film, and have you considered what project(s) you’ll be working on next?

Salomón: We are gonna try to screen in more festivals before the theatrical release of the movie at the end of the year. We have a strong distribution partner in Cinepolis Distribution, so we hope the movie will be seen by a lot of people and we are excited about that. I am currently working on 2 new scripts, hoping to find funding for one of them soon and try to shoot it next year. My previous film Dos Veces Tú is premiering on Netflix in October so I’m pretty excited about that. Also, our first Netflix Original is coming out in July. It’s called Fondeados, which I helped produce.

For more information about El Rey de la Fiesta, you can read our review of the film

Ian began working in film as one of the founding members of the Rochester Film Society, where he led the programming for films and curated screenings. Since moving into film criticism and writing for Cineccentric, he has provided coverage for various film festivals including London, Glasgow and the BFI Flare Film Festival. He is also the Communications Manager for the North East International Film Festival, where he helps acquire films. Ian particularly admires works from contemporary directors like Céline Sciamma, David Fincher, Steve McQueen and Nicolas Winding Refn.

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