Interview: Ventura Pons
Includes Key West
In World Tour
By Shirrel Rhoades
Filmmaker Ventura Pons and I played telephone tag around the world. Taking his first vacation in ten years, he’d left his home in Barcelona to visit places he’d never been before: The temples in Cambodia, the lost cities in Laos, the magic mountain in Australia, a stopover in New Zealand, a long stay in French Polynesia (Tahiti, Bora Bora), a hop to Los Angeles, then onward to the glitter gulch of Las Vegas.
“It seems a joke that after 18 days of islands I look for that fake city that I don’t know yet but attracts me a lot,” he chuckles.
He’s enjoying this break in his work routine.
“On the way back to Barcelona we’re making a side trip to Key West,” he tells me from the Luxor Hotel on the Strip in Vegas. “My friends Phyllis Rose and her husband Laurent de Brunhoff (he did the children’s books about Barbar the Elephant) invited me to visit.”
While in Key West, Pons has agreed to show four of his award-winning films. Tonight and Monday the Tropic Cinema will be screening “Ocana, An Intermittent Portrait” (1978), “Mils Cretins” (2010), “Anita Takes a Chance” (2001), and “Amic/Amat” (1999). The director will be on hand to chat with the audience.
Pons’ films are noted for their use of the Catalan dialect with English subtitles. “Because it’s my language,” he explains to me in flawless English. “The same way a Danish director works in Danish.”
Born in Catalonia, an autonomous community that encompasses Barcelona, Spain, his stories are often based on Catalan customs. “You talk about the things you know,” he says. “But there must be a universal truth to be found in it.”
During his world tour Pons got a call from the Film Society at Lincoln Center, asking if it could host a special sneak preview of his next film. He’s obviously pleased. “They have been supportive of my work,” he tells me.
The Film Society at Lincoln Center has called Pons “one of Spain’s best-loved auteurs.”
Has he come up with any ideas for new films from his recent travels? “No, no,” he laughs good-naturedly. “You have to make films about things you really understand. Otherwise you’d be like an octopus in a garage.”
Stick to that which you know, is his message. “It’s very easy to fail,” he muses. “A successful film requires three ingredients – the story, the cast, and director. Everything goes together.”
Pons started off working in theater. “But I had cinema in my head,” he reminisces. “In the theater you only live once. What happens with a camera lives on.”
He recalls that first film back in 1977, a documentary called “Ocana, An Intermittent Portrait” (one of the four films being shown at the Tropic). “I took a camera and I looked for a story. I shot it in five days like an exercise. Such a small story, but the film went to Cannes.”
Today his films have been seen in more than 650 festivals as well as movie houses around the world.”
In 1985 he created his own production company and left the theater behind. He’s written and directed some 22 films. “I write my screenplays, I look for the money, I look for the actors,” he explains the process. “For me cinema is my life. And life is my cinema. I put a lot of myself inside.”
[from Solares Hill]