The Summer Side Director Antonia San Juan on Sex in the Film Industry and Why Families Suck
Spanish director Antonia San Juan does not hold back her criticism of the oppressive, suffocating extended family. Not in her new film, The Summer Side (Del Otro Lado Del Verano), which screens at O Cinema Miami Shores tonight, nor in real life. The film, San Juan's second feature, follows an extended family struggling to come to terms with the death of a patriarch as many skeletons seem poised to burst out of their closets.
Antonia San Juan in The Summer Side
Speaking in Spanish over the phone from her hotel in Miami Beach, San Juan, who is also a well-known comedienne and actress in her native Spain says, "The family is a decadent institution, equal or more decadent than the Church ... [the family] meddles with who you sleep with, how you dress, who you relate with. The family is always intervening in the lives of individuals."
However, the big-voiced actress, who also plays a key role in the film, does not malign the family wholesale, and denies any autobiography in the story. "The family plays a key role if you have to take care of an individual who is a drug addict, for example," she explains. "In that, the family plays a role. But if you are a healthy individual, the family is not necessary."
If she can clarify her feelings for kin, she shows little mercy to the Spanish film industry. The 52-year-old blames necessity for her reinvention as a director. "I've become an accidental director because I was not getting any offers to work," she says. "I have always generated my own work. I will not wait for someone to offer me roles. Roles are only being offered to those who are trendy or young because now everything revolves around youth and celebrity, and everyone has to be 20 years old."
The kicker? "Producers and directors have to have sex with young girls in the business."
It's not something most actresses will admit about the industry, but San Juan has no shame explaining: "When they all get to be 50 years old, they want the 17-year-old girls. That is why, as they say in my town, 'Fuck a lot when you're young,' so when you reach maturity you do not get mixed up with young women, because most fall into that, or at least, they want them around, especially during shoots."
A woman of her charms indeed comes from a special place in Spanish cinema. She is probably best known for playing the transvestite Agrado in Pedro Almodóvar's Oscar-winning 1999 film All About My Mother. It's been both a blessing and a bane to bear for San Juan. She does not care for easy comparisons to the esteemed director, but does not deny his importance. "Always whenever somebody eats a taco [in a movie] or colors are more vivid and strong, it is compared to Almodóvar," she says. "I am delighted to be compared to Almodóvar. I would love to continue his career and win an Oscar and be the heir," she adds wryly.
She cannot help but offer high praise for the world-famous director whose shadow seems hard to shake. "Spain is Almodóvar," she notes. "That's what you get. I do not know any director in any red carpet in Hollywood or any of those actresses who say, 'I don't want to work with Almodóvar.' All actresses, even one Angelina Jolie, all of them on the red carpet say, [puts on bad American accent] 'quiero trabajar con Pedro.' Pedro is king. Pedro surpassed Buñuel many years ago, and Pedro is one of the greatest directors in the world."
For all her bold statements, when it comes to her first appearance in the U.S. with her new film, in Miami, she remains humble and gracious. "In life, I never have expectations, nor do I go around with preconceived notions to any place or any meeting," she says about her upcoming Miami appearance. "I just show my work, and of course I have a wish for it to be liked, but I have no pretensions that it will be liked or that it will be understood. I just come to show my work and by the simple act of showing it and by having been invited by the Miami Theatre Center, it is enough for me. I have nothing but words of gratitude."
--As told to Ana Morgenstern, who conducted and transcribed the interview in Spanish.
Antonia San Juan will present her film The Summer Side at a special one-night-only, sneak-peek preview screening with a Q&A following the screening on Friday, December 20, at 8 p.m.at MTC's O Cinema. 9806 NE 2nd Ave., Miami Shores, FL. (786) 565-FILM. Tickets: $13; Student/Senior: $9; Members: $7.50.
Follow Hans Morgenstern on Twitter @HansMorgenstern.