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Juan Carlos Maneglia y Tana Schembori

Juan Carlos Maneglia y Tana Schembori

access_timeNovember 21, 2013 12:00 pm

"We have gay friends who adopted and they are doing fine, they are professionals now and they have human values​​"

In a sparkling and friendly conversation we got a little closer to the world of these two Paraguayan filmmakers, persevering through a career spanning nearly three decades, they knew how to give to cinema the Paraguayan touch. Flattered and consecrated by the national and international public, especially after the huge success of the film "7 Boxes", Tana and Juanca tell us things about their art and anecdotes. They also reveal their visions on discrimination, equal marriage and how cinema can influence to build a more equal and inclusive society.

Each of them has nurtured a deep experience in the audiovisual art and they work in a great symbiosis whose only secret formula seems to be friendship. Talking to them somehow teaches us what different looks may have a transformative impact on the reality and, since the mere observation move to action. How were your beginnings in the world of cinema?

Tana Schémbori: I come from the theater, I started at the age of 6 in the Art School Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion. My teacher Maria Ocampos from the Corazon de Maria School, to whom I owe so much, was the one who introduced me to the world of art, but also taught me declamation and instilled me to open my mind to creativity. Juanca was a friend of my older sisters, he studied at Cristo Rey School, I admired him because he was in the film club, doing things in Super 8 and VHS later in school. In the 80s he was really the genius, he won a lot of awards with his work on VHS. I remember in '87 I saw the short film called "Prisoner" and from that moment, I told myself I wanted to do that. And so in 1990, in the miniseries "The Dispute" by Agustín Núñez, I started working. Juanca was the director of chamber and from there on we never stopped. In 1995 we made our first short film that was called "Artifact Staples".

Juan Carlos Maneglia: I was fortunate enough to meet Tana, I knew her because we were in school and we bumped into each other from time to time. We met at the "La Dispute"; she went to work with the clapperboard, we got along pretty well, I loved the proposals of Tana on editing, and from then on I began to learn a lot from her, in terms of theater, her love towards cinema. She came from the American cinema and I watched a lot of French cinema. All the differences made our connection very rich, we learnt from each other. From there on we grew, giving each other, seeking new ways and above all uniting in one dream which was to someday make a movie, with the possibility of living from fiction.


How would you define cinema, and what does it mean to you?

Tana:What happens is that in defining the cinema, I have to define what Paraguayan film is, which is almost a quixotic, it is like fighting windmills: we have a cinematic tradition, it is very difficult and yet very complex, rather than a profession is still a trade in our country. Film is the great rival of theater in my life.

Juan Carlos: I think the essence is to have a story to tell, and I think at that point the technology helped a lot, digital devices make possible to tell the story from a phone and it does not really matter how you tell but you just need to be consistent with your story, your essence and your passion. To me this is the film, besides having an idea in your head, you have to tell what you have on hand. I agree with Tana in the sense that in a country where the industry supports films it is rather easy, here is even more complicated and difficult. But further, we come to have many Paraguayan films that reflect us.


What does the film "7 Boxes" mean to you?

Tana: Well, "7 Boxes", I think it is to us, all of our years working together; it is the result of a process, we found what we were looking for, it is a cluster of dreams and failures. We have 23 years of work, when we begin to say "only this far" equal forces arose and we continued. In this case, initially we were with another material called "La Santa" that was getting more and more complicated and then we said let's do something for the Paraguayan public, be true to ourselves and it meant the result of much effort. Actually this movie is all the time a great joy for us.

Juan Carlos: "7 Boxes" was a huge learning experience and in parts of the movie that I personally get very proud and say "Geez! There is still much to learn." For me it's the fiction that gave us more satisfaction, it is the film that allowed us to meet other markets, know how other types of public work, know something about the industry, learn to be a distributor, premiere experiences abroad. It was a huge learning moment and we are very grateful for the support of the Paraguayan public.


In the movie "7 Boxes" you told on one hand the story of a trans person, which was performed by Beto Ayala. Do you plan to include LGBT people in future work or projects?

Tana: Juan Carlos is with his new script, we still can not tell what kind of characters are needed. In fact everything we do is a function of history, ie, the presence of the transvestite in the film "7 Boxes" obeys to some extent to describe that world of night, with the police, which is the reality a bit of the street sometime. So, if he thinks, as a writer, that what I propose to him will fit for the scene he will include it, if not is because it does not go with the film, in this case the film had a reason: it brings something to the story.

Juan Carlos: The presence of a transvestite in "7 Boxes" added humor to the film, consistent with their speech but not aggressive, being direct and frank, described a reality of life, violence and discrimination. We had the pleasant experience in India, Japan and several other countries where the audience clapped and laughed when Beto appeared on the scene. And for other stories I think there has to be a similar character if necessary.


Do you think that the film industry can influence to build a more equal, tolerant and inclusive society? How?

Tana: Yes, the film influences everything in order to have something more inclusive or not. For example, the series Glee and Modern Family are great examples: every time, the little guys are tolerant, they take it more naturally, as it should be. On the other hand we keep a very retrograde culture in many things, I have friends whose children go to school and bully their peers because they are different, and this also comes from the family. I think the role of the cinema and audiovisual scenario, and fiction in general, is to overcome the gap in tolerance, help open our minds without a doubt. Not an easy task, it is also making a commitment from all the creators to have that vision. The film is often the vision of the creator, for example in "The Silence of the Lambs", the main character takes the rightful role of evil, who kidnaps and kills his female victims to use their skin to have a suit because he wanted the skin of murdered women. People were shocked by this and criticized it, but it seems to me a wonderful book and film, especially stressing the freedom of the creator. 

Juan Carlos: I think there are still many misconceptions about the gay issue in the world of cinema, particularly the fear of rejection, because you will not be liked, etc, etc.. It is often very difficult to change entrenched values and concepts that have naturalized in society.


What do you think of equal marriage and the adoption of children by LGBT couples?

Tana: I think that the most important thing in a family is love. I am a mother, I can say that having my kid for nine months in is not enough to share with him every day. We have gay friends who adopted and they are doing fine, they are professionals now and they have human values. The bond of mother and father is born from the true love to the person, in many Paraguayan families, the son or daughter recognizes his grandpa as his dad or aunt as his mom, the core that is taught by the Catholic Church of our father, mother and children is not so much like that these days.

Juan Carlos: I agree with Tana, and I believe that love is the basis of all: there must be love and respect, and things should be clear, sincere, for it is fundamental in the relationship. There are many children who are homeless, who have no family to care for them as it should be, also my experience with this gay couple of friends, their children are an example of love and values. I think it's possible.


Increasingly we see young LGBT Paraguayans who presented creative work and tell their stories of discrimination, fighting for equality and their personal stories. What messages do you give to these young people looking every day to achieve their dreams?

Tana: I always say that it is not about achieving the dreams, but to be happy in that process. That is what I will tell people and especially young people, I share my experience, which at one point was between the theater and the cinema, I always felt very different than the cliché of society is referenced, I felt discriminated, I discovered in the course of which the most important is to be true to myself, I know what I want for my life, with whom I feel good and try to be happy, be a person trying to build and not do harm to anyone. Be true to what you love is our greatest motivation, often difficult, but the principle is to recognize that we do not like and from there what we want to do starts to come out.

Juan Carlos: When you discover what you want to do, put passion into it because nothing replaces passion, this makes pleasureable doing everything you undertake, you do it in a different and fun way that venture you find new ways, I think the passion is the engine of all and above all enjoy the process.