24/10/2019.- Argentinian filmmaker José Celestino Campusano, director of Hombres de piel dura (Hard Skinned Men), spoke with the media and the audience this morning during the press conference held after the screening of the film, which features in the Official Section of the 64th Valladolid International Film Festival.
The film portrays some of homosexuality’s possible sides through his protagonist, Ariel (Wall Javier), a young gay man who decides to explore his sexual orientation with men in his community after being disappointed by his first love, the priest in his church (Germán Tarantino).
The film’s plot also deals with paedophilia and corruption within the Catholic Church. “I remember how surprising talking about this film with members of the clergy was. They were blatantly corporate and seemed unconcerned with the issue,” said the director. During their investigation, the team found strong evidence proving that “reality is much darker than what the film shows; but that would be a different film.”
Material borrowed from the setting
The Argentine filmmaker explained his team’s modus operandi — they plan the film, arrive at the community, talk to the people, and include them in the film. Even the dialogues have actually taken place most of the times and get reproduced later. “70 percent is borrowed from life itself,” said Campusano, who says that his films are almost documentaries, but with the tempo and rhythm of fictional narratives.
The strategy expands to the actors themselves, who tend to be non-professional actors or had no previous contact with the film industry. “Many have been doing theatre for a long time, so it gets you thinking if what we understand by professional is someone who hasn’t acted yet or someone who isn’t famous. Some others had never acted before, not even in theatre, like the protagonist. But we won’t give up our commitment to the community when it comes to the cast,” explained the director.
“Sometimes we are approached by professional actors, who even suggest working for free because they think it will benefit their careers to star in a socially conscious film. But we’d rather bring in someone from the community and pay them like we would pay a professional actor before compromising that principle,” Campusano stressed.
Socially conscious cinema
Campusano and his production company Cinebruto are always inspired by the social sphere, and not cinema, when making their films. Dialogues and permission requests to access some places are essential in all of their films. For the director, the starting point is getting in touch with the reality without judging it. “Humility and acceptance can get you a long way,” he said.
When they plan a film, they focus on that social reality. “We never make films to win awards or make a profit. We have other principles, and that is why we don’t hesitate to make such irreverent films,” he said.
In the specific setting of Hombres de piel dura, halfway between the urban and rural, the concept of homosexuality is usually synonymous with effeminacy and feminization, meaning that within a couple there is always an active one and a passive one, and only the passive one is homosexual and, therefore, stigmatized. As he said, “rural communities are much more permissive with issues like this or with the prostitution of very young girls.” To finish with, he said: “I’m sure this also happens in rural communities in Spain. What doesn’t happen in plain sight is more permissive.”