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I am Become Death

I am Become Death is a visual tour in three acts plus an epilogue on the lower instincts of the human species, based exclusively on old and new found footage. Gloria Trinidad Deocón. the director of the project was born in Madrid in 1968 and grew up in Madrid, Brussels and Rome. This is her first film. It is our pleasure to interview her.

What was the inspiration behind the making of I am become Death?

The idea that humans are a pretty awful species, and that the cycle of violence and terror repeats itself over and over again.

What is the most challenging aspect of working on this particular genre?

The easy answer would be money. But money is not an insurmountable problem, not even the main one, as is often claimed. Budgets in the film industry are inflated, very much like in soccer or the contemporary art market. "The 400 Blows" was made with a 50,000 euro budget. "Bicycle Thieves" with a little over 100,000. The Maysles brothers self-funded "Salesmen" with around 100,000 dollars. Even if you were to update those figures to take inflation into account, they are still very far from today’s grotesque numbers.

The most challenging aspect is always oneself. Do you have something to tell? Can you free yourself from what Harold Bloom called the "Anxiety of Influence" and from external pressures/expectations? Can you overcome financial and technical limitations with imagination?

When did you realize that you wanted to work in media and make films and what was the first film project that you worked on?

When I finished high school in Rome, cinema, especially Italian cinema, Monicelli, Fellini, Scola, Zampa, Moretti, was very present in our lives, and I was quite familiar with Cinecittà through a friend, Emmanuel Vergine, whose father worked at the studios. It seemed to me that making movies was “the” normal thing to do. But since life is not normal, I found myself studying law, partly at my family’s insistence and also because I had to leave Rome. How can one stoop so low?

To answer your second question, I am become Death is my first foray into film.

What genre of filmmaking fascinates you as a director and which genres do you prefer to continue working on?

I barely watch movies, and I don't pay as much attention to the "genre" as to the observer and the observed. I enjoy the films of Kurosawa, Cassavettes, Kubrick, Fellini, Lumet, Kiarostami or the Maysles brothers, to name a few. Among the living, I am interested in Pietro Marcello, Andrei Zvyagintsev or Bahman Ghobadi, and hope that Patrick Keiller and Werner Herzog will continue to make films for many years to come. But I am become Death is rather indebted to Artavazd Pelechian and Chris Marker. Especially to Pelechian's "distance montage".

In any case, I believe that cinema is impoverished when it only looks at itself. Poetry, theater, music or painting nourish cinema as much or more than cinema itself. And then there is life, which is ultimately what demands to be captured.

What was the most interesting or challenging aspect of production?

Due to lack of funding, I am become Death was made exclusively with found footage. The biggest problem I encountered is that current copyright protection has completely perverted its original purpose, which was to safeguard original creations from exploitation by third parties. Nowadays, those who benefit from such protection are often companies that, for some enigmatic reason, claim to be the owners of photographs, films or music whose copyright, if there ever was any, has long since expired.

Alamy, for example, claims to be the licensee of photographs of the Spanish countryside taken sometimes a hundred years ago that do not even have a known author. And in Youtube, fraudulent copyright claims are our daily bread. You might be familiar with The Orchard controversy.

What is your plan for distribution of your film?

Right now, we have been introducing it in the festival circuit, where it is getting a good (and rather unexpected) reception. It has been a finalist in the Rome Independent Prisma Awards, an award winner at the IndieX Film Fest of Los Angeles, the Calcutta International Cult Film Festival and the Tagore International Film Festival, and has to date been accepted in the official selection of the Berlin Art Film Festival, the Chicago Indie Film Awards and the Venice Shorts festival here in California. In a few weeks we'll upload it to Vimeo and see how it stands on its own.

How can cinema change the world and have an impact on society?

I am not at all sure it can. There are far more powerful forces than cinema (or art in general) at work. Personally, I have no such aspirations. The only thing that moves me to make films is to tell how I see things, and only when I think I might be seeing them in a slightly different light.

What is your next film project?

I am working on a short that, just as I am become Death, only uses found footage, although the perspective is almost the opposite. The protagonist of I am become Death is the entire human species. The new short focuses on a single man confined in a sanatorium and, above all, in his own mind. In parallel, I am planning to make a documentary about a generation that intrigues me, the one born approximately between 1985 and 2000, that of my children. A generation that, despite living in a surplus society with high levels of welfare, seems quite hopeless and confused.


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