The Milk of Sorrow: An Interview with Claudia Llosa
JK: Birds Eye View celebrates and supports women filmmakers. One of the main themes of your film is the aftermath of the abuse and suffering of women in Peru in the 1980′s. Do you think it was essential for the film to be written and directed by a woman?
CL: To an extent it does matter, as the film is about the trauma and burden that women suffer, their pain and sorrow, their muteness. The film is about accompanying these women and giving them a voice, so they can process what happened to them and rebuild their self esteem. I guess a man could actually speak on the same issue. I do not believe that gender determines things like sensitivity.
JK: Without doubt such intense suffering and the subsequent trauma that women deal with must have an impact on their children. But does this illness that is supposedly transmitted through breast feeding exist? Do people believe in it or is this solely a metaphor you use in the film?
CL: This is totally real! This is a very common believe. Many women in Peru were interviewed and they talked about the concept that this deep suffering is transmitted from mother to child through breast-feeding.
JK: What was the starting point for this film? Did you know right away what kind of story you wanted to tell?
CL: I wanted to talk about this very violent period in my country in the 1980′s. But I did not want to go back in time and tell a story about the past. I wanted to show my views and my way of seeing things and how I feel today. The fear that we still have, that needs to be addressed and at the same time left behind us. I read a book by the American Anthropologist Kimberly Theidon, which mentioned this illness. From that moment I was hooked and wanted to know more. At the same time my intention was to tell a story about a woman who lives in Lima today and portray her life.
JK: You were able to create such intense feelings of empathy for Fausta. We are able to understand her inner feelings so well, though it is such a different world to ours. How were you able to achieve this?
CL: There are certain themes that we can all commonly relate to. Pain and suffering and the things that cause this pain are understandable in every part of the world. This is relevant and close to everybody. It is important to not be condescending but apart from that, I was just thinking; if I can relate to her, so will other people.
JK: The songs that Fausta are singing are such an important part of the character and also crucial to the story. Who wrote these songs? Were they composed for the film or are they old folk songs?
CL: The singing was always in the script. Magaly Solier, the actress actually then developed them. The one song that was composed for the film was the melody that had to work on a piano and a capella.
JK: The film is very successful abroad and of course won the Golden Bear at Berlinale last year, how was it received in Peru?
CL: Oh, it was amazing and very important for the people in Peru. I guess the fact that it was so successful abroad made people very excited. It is hard to say how the film would have been received without this endorsement. But people who normally do not go to the movies went to see the film. For the first time, everyone in Peru watched the Oscars. It certainly had an impact on many people and I hope there are many more successful films from Peru to follow. The film also gave us the chance to reflect on these violent times again through a mass medium. It was good in that it did reach so many people at the same time.
JK: Is it still a bit of a taboo to talk about the civil war and the suffering it has caused?
CL: It is not in intellectual circles, but it would be on the street. People still feel uncomfortable talking about it. This is why the cinema was so good medium.
JK: And are you already working on a new project?
CL: I am actually working on a new script after being back from all the traveling to various festivals all over the world. It is too soon to talk about the idea, but I hope that I will finish it by the end of the year.
The Milk of Sorrow is out now. Show your support for Claudia Llosa and women directors by going to see it. For more information, vistit our First Weekenders page.