Among the 16 projects pitched at this year’s Visions du Réel is “Science Fiction” – a genre-busting documentary about Argentine filmmaker Ezequiel Yanco’s flight of imagination during the confines of quarantine.
Yanco and producer Ana Godoy first visited the Swiss festival three years ago when “La Vida en Común,” their hybrid documentary about a group of indigenous adolescents from a San Luis settlement, received its world premiere in the International Competition category.
Now the pair returns to VdR with another fantasy fiction project inspired by Yanco’s return to his childhood home in Buenos Aires during lockdown which won the top VdR-Pitching Award for best project at Tuesday’s industry prize ceremony.
From the balcony of a seventh floor apartment, Yanco sets up a static camera and casually starts filming his new neighbors, observing their daily routines.
During this early filming stage one character stands out – a twelve year old girl, whom Yanco calls Pop Girl, who can be seen dancing, singing and wearing costumes.
While the scenes from the teaser clip are remnant of Hitchcock’s “Rear Window” and Chantal Ackerman’s “La Bas” (in which the Jewish filmmaker reflects on her identity from the confines of her Tel Aviv apartment), Yanco has developed his own solid narrative for “Science Fiction”.
The first part of the film comprises of an observational documentary involving Yanco and his partner, who are seen as ghost-like reflections in their apartment window, speculating on their neighbors’ lives.
At one stage the dancing girl disappears, and on her return she appears to be a different person entirely – and has apparently stopped dancing.
This footage is intertwined with snippets of old sci-fi movies such as “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and “Invaders from Mars,” which build up the dystopian atmosphere.
According to Yanco, the soundtrack for this first part will be a mix of the everyday and the fantastic, a sonic landscape of familiar lockdown sounds: WhatsApp messages from grandparents; washing machines; voicemails from online grocery guys – which are juxtaposed with sounds from the Theremin, an electronic musical instrument widely used in sci-fi soundtracks.
The second part of the film meanwhile takes the form of a scripted drama which attempts to answer what happened to the young girl in a story that sees an actress of a similar age cast in a sci-fi film which then spills over into reality.
“’Science Fiction’ is the feeling of living in a dystopian world where fiction and reality are intertwined and fantasy has become part of our everyday life. The film is a reenactment of this altered world,” Yanco explains.
Yanco refined his preferred ‘fantasy fiction’ approach on his previous project “La Vida en Común” in which he alternated the shooting, writing and editing stages.
“These are open projects, because I usually discover what the next step is going to be during the process itself.
“On “La Vida en Común,” I worked with the indigenous community; I started to film their routines and their life to discover where I wanted to go with the story.
“Then I returned with the idea to create a script where the kids are divided over killing puma that was stalking the village.”
“So the initial shooting process is also the casting process because it’s during this time that I discover the characters – it’s the same with Pop Girl in ‘Science Fiction.’”
According to Godoy, Yanco is currently editing the first part of “Science Fiction” and the project is now looking for international co-producers and applying to funds in order to carry out the fictional second act.
“We already have a local fund confirmed and we’re expecting a second one,” she says, adding that they have currently raised 35% of the film’s €232,210 ($279,000) budget.
The project is slated for a May 2021 shoot, with an expected release date scheduled for January 2022.