JesÃºs PÃ©rez-Miranda’s Dear Child Jesus is part of The D+CFilm International Open Screening, at Two Short Nights at the Exeter Phoenix on Friday, November 27. The film is a powerful story of fear and belief. We got in touch with JesÃºs to find out more about the film and his work
What’s your background and what other films have you made?
I was born in 1980, in a small town in the South of Spain called Martos (in JaÃ©n). I studied Communication at Navarre University (UNAV), where I directed the short film Where Silence Lives (Donde habita el silencio, 2002) as my degree project, which received six Kino awards. Later, I studied Editing at the Film School in Madrid (ECAM), where besides collaborating in several projects, I directed the experimental short film Alice in Hollywoodland (2005), which is still participating in exhibitions and film festivals around the world. Nowadays I combine my work as a producer and editor on television with the development of personal projects. Dear Child Jesus (Jesusito de mi vida, 2009) is my first short film as a professional. Apart from directing it, I’m also responsible for the script, editing, production and financing.
Dear Child Jesus seems a personal story about the loss of faith. What was the inspiration?
The story is inspired in some memories of my childhood. But since they are so distant in time now, I can’t tell whether they are true or imaginary memories of something I might have dreamed about. Nevertheless, my Catholic background and education had a lot to do in this story. Also, the deep impression I had when I first watched The Miracle of Marcelino (Marcelino Pan y Vino, 1955), a very popular movie in Spain, dealing with some of the same themes as my short film. I remember that, in this particular movie, a child witnesses the miracle of a wooden Christ sculpture that starts talking to him. I guess I wanted to give a more realistic version of it, according to my own experiences and beliefs.
The set -the room and the hall -adds to a sense of claustrophobia, was that intentional?
I really wanted to shoot the whole short film in interiors, because I was trying to portray inner conflicts and intimate relationships. So that’s why I renounced the usual establishing shots. Also, I decided to reduce the number of locations to a single set (the room and the hall), because I knew I had to concentrate space (and time) in order to intensify the conflict. The sense of claustrophobia might be a consequence of that. But I believe it’s mandatory when you pretend to portray deep universal issues, specially in short films, since you don’t have much time to tell the story.
How was the process of looking for the young main actor?
I did a few casting sessions for the main role, because I knew it was going to be difficult to find a six-year-old actor that could carry on with such an intense performance. But the minute I saw Guillermo, I knew he was the one. He had some experience in commercials, although he never acted in a fiction film. But I trusted my instincts and picked him for the main roll. Oddly, later the Mexican director Alejandro GonzÃ¡lez IÃ±Ã¡rritu (Babel, 21 grams), also chose Guillermo for a role in his last film, Biutiful (premiere in 2010), where he performs with the Spanish actor Javier Bardem. For me, this was the proof that I was on the right path.
How did you manage to get such an intense performance from him?
With a young talented actor like Guillermo Estrella the work is a little bit easier. But still we are talking of a six-year-old kid. I mean, you can’t expect him to know exactly what to do in every scene. So I had to picture his performance in my mind first, in order to explain him what he had to do, almost step by step. Sometimes I would give him my indications while shooting. Other times I would even perform in front of him so he could imitate me. In the end, we did a lot of retakes during the same shot to keep him focused, so he wouldn’t be distracted with all the mechanics involved in movie making (camera, sound, slate, and action!). Obviously, the hardest scenes to shoot were the most dramatic ones. They demanded a little bit more time and patience, but finally Guillermo ended up doing a great job, that has already earned him an award in Spain (Youth Short Film Festival of HuÃ©tor Vega).
Where else has Dear Child Jesus been shown?
Dear Child Jesus has been shown in 10 festivals in Spain (its country of origin), and also in Turkey (Adana Golden Boll Film Festival, Istanbul International Short Film Festival), Russia (Saint-Petersburg International Youth Film Festival, where it won a Special Mention for the Original Concept), Bolivia (International Festival of Video and Digital Cinema), France (International Short Film Festival The South), and of course in the UK, where it’s been shown at the Portobello Film Festival and it’s selected on competition in other three festivals taking place in November (Two Short Nights Film Festival, Insight Film Festival, Falstaff Film Festival). Also, it will be shown in Italy (Imaginaria Film Festival), USA (Ava Gardner Film Festival), and again in Spain (National Short Film Contest City of Valls’.
What’s next for you as a filmmaker?
Well, writing, producing, directing and editing this short film it’s been quite an experience that still continues with the promotion. So for now I’m taking a break, but I hope not for too long. As soon as I come up with an idea that really catches me, I will set to work. But it has to be something I could fall in love with. Otherwise, I guess I’ll just stick to Stanley Kubrick’s advice: ‘If you are not in love with the thing, leave it There are already too many mediocre films.’
â€¢ The D+CFilm International Open Screening takes place at the Exeter Phoenix during Two Short Nights, on Friday, November 27 at 6.30pm. Tickets cost £3 (£2.50). To book call the box office on 01392 667080
(image: still from Dear Child Jesus)