Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Gigante is the feature film debut of director and screenwriter Adrián Biniez. The film focuses on Jara (Horacio Camandule), a physically imposing man who works as a security guard on the night shift in a supermarket during the week, and as a bouncer on the weekends. His main job at the store is to watch the closed-circuit cameras, which also allows him to see the cleaning staff at work. He becomes entranced by one of them, a country girl named Julia (Leonor Svarcas). The film follows Jara's growing interest in Julia, as he starts following her around town to learn more about her, which results in some funny, yet grounded, scenes as the normally collected Jara becomes as reluctant and nervous as a schoolboy when it comes to Julia. And in the process we see Jara try to find his footing to make a decision about his feelings and his life.

The style of the film reminded me a bit of this year's Police, Adjective, or a better example might be José Luis Guerín’s Dans la ville de Sylvia (En la ciudad de Sylvia). Like the former, Gigante is a very quiet, spare film, that focuses on the often mind-numbing daily routine of its principal character, but in that routine, gives subtle insights into the true nature of that person. Like the latter, Gigante has Jara follow Julia around Montevideo in long, dialogue-free shots and scenes that capture the feel of the city and its people that also provide a window into the characters. What could be quite unsettling (as one audience member put it, basically stalking), never becomes such as Biniez and lead actor Horacio Camandule do a very good job at belying Jara's physically imposing stature by providing ample glimpses at his gentle and kind nature. It's hard to imagine another actor being able to project the same presence that makes the character both sympathetic and interesting despite his life. While never a conventional courtship as the two leads don't directly interact for much of the movie, Biniez still has Julia provide subtle clues that perhaps she's not completely unaware of Jara's attentions. This is a nice, intimate little film that provides a different, yet satisfying romance.

Adrián Biniez was at the screening and did a Q&A after the film:

  • When asked if he could recommend any heavy-metal bands from Uruguay, Biniez said the last song on the soundtrack is from a group called Radikal and that Biniez and his friends did some of the other songs.
  • When he first started writing the film, Biniez had a friend of his in mind for the lead, and they rehearsed for about a year on-and-off, but he turned out to be a terrible actor. So they casted for the lead, and the first person to show up was Camandule, who hates going to casting sessions. As soon as Camandule walked through the door, Biniez knew he was perfect, but since it was his first time casting a movie, and his first time directing a movie, he didn't want to rush to conclusions and to play it cool.
  • Because Uruguay is such a small country, it's hard to make a living as an actor, so Camandule does work as a standup comedian on weekends, but normally teaches 10-year-olds in an elementary school.
  • On the grainy look of the film, Biniez said that was more a budgetary thing, but he does like grain, just not that much. He shot in Super 16, and the post production was quite chaotic. They did the colour correction process, which should take 10 to 15 days, in 4. They completed the film 48 hours before its premiere in Berlin (where it won a number of awards including best debut for Biniez), and he was very nervous to the point of losing his voice.
  • They originally shot a rough cut to get money to shoot the actual film, which was $150,000 USD. In total, the cost for everything was probably around $600,000 USD.
  • He doesn't really remember when he got the idea for the story, but he does remember having typed the line in his computer "security guard falls in love with cleaning lady in supermarket", to which a week later he added "during the night shift", then a week later "and he's in charge of the security cameras".
  • He was at his house one time with his friend and Leonor Svarcas, who plays Julia and who is Biniez's ex-girlfriend, and the other two said it was a great idea, and Biniez thought his friend and Leonor would be great in it, and started writing.
  • The lead role was always envisioned to be a big guy. Biniez's friend actually made it into the film as the guy who pays in the Molotov disco club.
  • He always had an idea that the main character would be tall, but Camandule isn't actually that tall, he wears 5 cm-tall platform shoes, and they cast to make sure everyone else was shorter. Biniez joked that Camandule is as tall as he is, but twice as wide.
  • Someone asked if Biniez was concerned about conveying a message that stalking is ok. Biniez had talked to a number of women who did the same in reverse when they were in love, but he knows there is something a bit strange about it. A woman in the audience commented on how since Biniez portrays Jara as a caring, morally good person, that's why it works in the film. Biniez joked stalking is likely more of an issue from the Rio Grande north. In the beginning, the spectator realizes that beyond some ambiguities in the character of Jara, they realize that the character is not threatening to Julia.
  • Biniez was searching for more to say when one woman in the audience commented that from a woman's perspective, she felt that Julia knew Jara was following her, which is exactly what Biniez wanted to say. He tried to make it subtle in the film, but in many scenes Julia kind of knows he's following her and in some scenes where the camera goes from background to foreground, you can see she has the vaguest hints of a smile. and since the film is recounted from Jara's perspective, Biniez couldn't make it too obvious but he thinks you can see she is somewhat aware.

On a side note, I thought the gentleman from the festival providing the translation was excellent in the Q&A.


My experiences at the Toronto International Film Festival. Note this blog is not affiliated with the Toronto International Film Festival Group or the festival itself.
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