How did you come up with the idea for Ato San Nen?
The starting idea came from a real anecdote that once happened to me in Japan. I was trying to communicate with the staff at a train station without much success because I couldn’t speak any Japanese at the time. A man who was passing by was very kind and helped me translate into English. When walking out of the station together, he started asking me many detailed questions about my life. I found it odd, but charming; it felt like he was very excited to make a foreign friend. When we said goodbye, he asked me to write my address on his notebook. I wrote down my email but he insisted on having my address in Spain. Since I wasn’t living in Spain at that time, I wrote my mother’s house address. A bit after parting ways I started imagining what could happen if the man suddenly decided to show up at my mother’s door one day.
Are you particularly interested in how language barriers affect the relationships between the characters?
I find it interesting how, when there is no language in common, two people can still communicate if there is a desire or a need to do so. This kind of situation forces us to use creativity and find other ways to express ourselves. Sometimes this type of simpler communication can actually be deeper and get to the essence more directly.
The characters in your film are very down-to-earth and open-minded, inclined to welcome foreigners. Why do you think that is?
I think these two characters connect because, under the several layers of cultural conventions, protocols and habits, they both share an acute fear of loneliness. The many years of being alone is what they recognise in each other.
Are you particularly interested in empathy and compassion? Are you planning to explore them further in your next films?
Yes. I’m interested in how connections can be made across cultures, generations or any other gap. I’m drawn to odd characters that carry around their solitude, looking for someone or something to mitigate it, and end up finding it in the least expected places.
What sort of freedom would you say the short format allows?
I can’t compare it with the process of making a feature film because I haven’t made one yet. In fact, Ato San Nen is the longest film I’ve made so far.
If you’ve already been to Clermont-Ferrand, could you share with us an anecdote or story from the festival? If not, what are your expectations for this year?
I had another short film in the festival two years ago, in a program outside competition. I was so impressed by the amount of people and venues and the quality of the programs. I’m very excited to have a chance to go back and share this new film with the enthusiastic short film audience of Clermont-Ferrand!