Abismo – Dancing into the Abyss
Abismo – Directed by Pablo Diconca, the short film “Abismo” (“Abyss”) has won an impressive number of awards since being released last year. In 2016 Abismo won the prize for Best Dance Film at the Manhattan Independent Film Festival and a similar distinction at the Verona International Film Festival. Abismo also won the Best Choreography Award – at the In Shadow Festival in Lisbon, and the Best Film Award, at the Mediawave “On The Road” Film Festival, in Hungary; as well as dozens of other distinctions at festivals in various countries.
“Abismo” features dancers Caroline Gravel and Dany Desjardins performing a choreography designed by Catherine Gaudet, shot in black and white and set on a raft in the middle of a river. The film lasts a little over 8 minutes, conveying a series of emotions and powerful images. We had the opportunity to ask a few questions to Diconca.
Montreal Times: How did the idea of “Abismo” come about?
PD: “Abismo” (“Abyss”) is a short dance film inspired by a dance piece I saw at Théâtre La Chapelle a few years ago. I was seduced by the choreography and approached Catherine Gaudet, the choreographer, to see if she was interested in making part of the piece into a film. She was happy with my proposal, and I started to look for the concept of my film. I am myself a dancer and choreographer, as well as an actor and film director. I graduated from the contemporary dance program at the Université de Québec à Montréal, after my studies in theatre in Uruguay and Mexico.
MT: So the subject of dance was not something new to you…
PD: My last project at UQAM was a dance film. That film was based on the story of my great-grandfather, Felisberto Hernandez, and included Latin American magic realism; it had great success for a student film. I then started creating dance films. “Abismo” is my 16th film. Fourteen of those films are short dance films. Although my greatest interest in cinema is in the fiction and documentary genres, my expertise is in dance film.
MT: The film contains many scenes of eroticism, what is the importance of this?
PD: The eroticism in the film is inherent to the choreographer’s artistic language. To make the film, I selected excerpts of the piece and worked with her and the dancers to create new transitions. I essentially kept Gaudet’s choreography and as the director, adapted it to the screen in a new setup, onto a half sunken raft representing the fragility of the couple’s relationship.
MT: Then there is the element of nature, by setting the film in the wilderness, why is that?
PD: The wild scenery around the dancers is part of my artistic choice of setting them onto this raft far away from civilization. My metaphor responds to my need to talk about the couple. What happens with the couple inside their intimate space is unseen by anyone else. The universe is infinite, but we decided to choose one person to create an entity set up by two. The nature around the couple on their intimate space—the raft— illustrates the infinite, the rest of the world. They are alone, with their desire, their attraction and their fear of losing their identity by abandoning themselves to the other. This dance on the raft represents a fight between two basic instincts: the reproduction instinct and the will to be united—in this case as man and woman—and the survival instinct. Why survival? Because if we go too far to the other extreme, the raft will completely sink and they will probably drown. The reference to the couple in this last case is that if we abandon ourselves too much to the other, we can lose our identity.
MT: What about your future film plans?
PD: Presently I am working on two projects: another fiction film, a feature called “Four Winds” to be shot in Latin America as soon as I get the funding, which is taking longer than I thought. This film is about love for life; the self-love that can be awakened and strengthened by meeting someone else who can help us open our eyes to the exterior world while we are too busy taking care of our everyday concerns. The second project is a documentary about a singer, someone who spread the love around the world with her art and that was taken from us way too soon. This project is in an early stage, and I can’t say more about it at this time.
I am a bit saddened by the way “Abismo” was treated in Quebec. The film won many awards. It was shown in more than 60 festivals in one year, but here in Montreal, it was rejected twice by the FIFA (Festival de films sur l’art), which would have been the perfect framework to show this artwork. We premiered it in Montreal at the RVCQ (Rendez-vous du cinéma Québécois) last week, a year and three months after the world premiere. The film represented Canada and Quebec to the world and is, to my knowledge, the most illustrious dance film in the world in 2016 with innumerable awards and international recognition. This indifference is hard to take because I’ve lived and created here for 20 years. However, I will continue focusing on my upcoming projects and try to stay positive while hoping to find financial support to keep creating and living for and from art.