Two years ago Simon Mesa Soto’s short film Leidi, the story of a young girl travelling through her village to find the father of her son, won the Short Film Palme d’Or at the 67th Cannes Film Festival. This year, Simon is returning to the Official Competition with Madre, which once again follows a girl who is leaving her home to attend a porn audition. The film is part of the Break the Silence project, which creates awareness of sexual abuse against young children.
interview by Janka Pozsonyi
You won your first Palme d’Or at quite a young age. How has winning this award changed your life and career as a filmmaker?
Leidi was my last work from film school. It was a big deal for me to get such an award when I was at a starting point of exploring the ways I wanted to make films. It was great and I´ve learned many things in the past two years. However, it doesn’t mean I am different from other directors of my age; there are many directors I like who didn’t get festival attention with their shorts but made great films. Right now the best thing for me is not to think too much about it and to keep on making the next one.
Now that you’re re-living the experience of Cannes again, what do you think is going to be different the second time around?
I won’t have the pressure and anxiety of the first time when I was discovering what Cannes is all about. Right now I am more concerned about my first feature film, so I guess that will be a great moment to talk to people about it.
Both of your films follow a strong female character. Is there a connection between the story of Leidi and Madre?
It somehow happens in a very intuitive way; when I am writing a script I am always trying to find interesting characters and situations and it is at the end when I realize there is a connection between them. Both are young girls from the same city and pass through very emotional situations and both films have some similarities in the way I observe them. However, I try to add different elements as I explore new ways of telling a story. For instance, in Leidi the landscape around her was very important for me, while on Madre the camera is always very close to her as I was more interested in her face.
Can you tell us a bit more about the story of Madre? How did you come up with the idea of a young girl’s travel to a porn audition?
At first, when I was invited to the Break the Silence project, I wasn’t sure I wanted to make a film about the sexual abuse of children because I didn’t know much about it. However, as I started researching I found out many stories of girls in these situations and felt the need to tell the story. I came across a series of porn videos with young girls from Medellin, some of them underage, and I was shocked by the expressions of fear and anxiety on their faces. This is why we tell the story predominantly with close-up shots of our female character. I wanted to highlight what we don’t see when watching these videos online, following her life before and after her experience.
What is Break the Silence? How did you get involved in the organization?
I got a Facebook massage from David Herdies, a producer from the Swedish company Momento Film. He saw my previous film and invited me to take part in Break the Silence, a project that gathers four directors from different parts of the world with the challenge of telling a story that will create awareness and increase public engagement about sexualized violence against children.
You can find this article in the latest World of Young Cinema Magazine – the Cannes 2016 issue, read it below: