An introduction to our Watersprite 2019 nominees: Part 1

With Watersprite 2019 just one month away, we caught up with a few of the filmmakers, actors and composers nominated for this year’s awards, finding out more about their film, their thoughts and their hopes for the festival.   

Leonardo Martinelli, director of ‘Life in Gray’

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‘Life in Gray’, although nominated for Best Documentary at Watersprite 2019, is a film hard to pin down into one genre. It’s Brazilian director, Leonardo Martinelli, describes the film as a “faux documentary”. Premiering in the UK at Watersprite, the film imagines a scenario where the government cuts the colours of Rio de Janeiro, turning the city black and white. Despite this fantastical premise, the film can be said to portray another sort of ‘grey area’, the space between truth and fiction. ‘Life in Gray’, Martinelli tells us, is a political film, set against the background of a Brazil descending into social and economic crisis. The film attempts to reflect the fact “people are dying and living in deteriorating ways because of the of mismanagement of the government”.

For Martinelli, the “unique cinematic format” of the faux documentary, influenced by Iranian hybrid cinema, helps to “reflect such issues with respect” whilst never losing sight of the political critique it is making. It is a style Martinelli plans to continue with – his latest film 'Copacabana Madureira' has “ultra-right racist, homophobic and misogynist president Jair Bolsonaro” in its sights, using the hybrid documentary to “reflect on how fake news got impregnated in the conservative Brazilian collective unconscious”.

Sergio Guataquira Sarmiento, director of ‘Simon Cries’

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‘Simon Cries’ written and directed by Sergio Guataquira Sarmiento has been nominated for 5 awards at this year’s festival. It is a visually and emotionally stunning portrayal of the ‘journey’ one takes during a teenage heart-break; a film that, Sarmiento openly details, “needed a brake-up to exist.” Although the short is more directly influenced by films such as as ‘Annie Hall’ (1977) and Richard Ayoade’s ‘Submarine’ (2010), Sarmiento states that it was a far different genre that he sees as set him on his film-making path. “I was fourteen and my mother rented ‘Fast and Furious’" he remembers. The first scene, in particular, a sweeping shot of a high-jacking, “letting you see all the action uncut, that was fascinating.” It is this image that he likes to keep “as the genesis of [his] career”.  

Sarmiento is looking forward to a return to Watersprite, an event he came to last year with his first short film ‘Pablo’. The Watersprite weekend is about meeting as many people as possible, he says, “like hundreds and hundreds of unforgettable people.” Currently working on his next film, a documentary about the indigenous peoples of Colombian Amazonia, there is every chance that this won’t be the last we hear from the Belgian film maker.

Nelson Santoni, composer of the original soundtrack to ‘Upside Down Revolution’

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Nelson Santoni’s soundtrack to ‘Upside Down Revolution’ is one of four original film music nominations.  The abstract short (directed by Florent Médina) depicts a man, who whilst condemned to crawl on the ground of a vast desert, comes across a peculiar vertical mast, and so begins a perilous and dangerous ascent. The dark, tense atmosphere is brought out fully in Santoni’s unnerving orchestral accompaniment.  

Santoni started composing music in his bedroom as young teenager with writing music for films always seeming like “an unavowed dream”. However, whilst studying sound engineering at the Parisian film-school ENS Louis-Lumiére, Santoni took his first steps in the film-scoring world, writing soundtracks for the shorts directed by school friends. “I never stopped since these first experiences,” he says, and after graduating has scored documentaries, animations, a TV-series and now currently a film in VR!

Sartoni is hoping to continue this momentum through Watersprite Festival, looking forward to meeting “other filmmakers and composers from around the world, discuss[ing] the ways we work, to trade tips and tricks, and maybe to allude to the possibilities of future collaborations!”

Daryna Butryk, lead actor in ‘Tomorrow Island’ 

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 ‘Tomorrow Island’, an Estonian short film, takes place in Cold War Russia, telling the story of a young Soviet telegraphist who makes a desperate attempt to save her American lover from being stranded after receiving a border closure message. As well as being nominated for its screenplay and sound design, Daryna Butryk’s role is in the running for Watersprite’s Best Performance award.

Acting, Butryk tells us, has been a lifelong passion ever since a “goose bump” feeling going to the theatre in Argentina as a young girl. “I wanted to make people feel that way too.” After starting out as an extra, Butryk has forged a career in film, currently playing roles in two Latin-American TV series: 'O11CE" (on the Disney Channel and Netflix) and 'Argentina Tierra de Amor y Venganza' (on Canal Trece). She is taking time-out to visit the UK for Watersprite 2019, hoping to combine the opportunity to establish networks with “new colleagues from all over the world” with a chance to sight-see. “To visit Cambridge and its castles, combined with film, sounds like the best-case scenario for me!”