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‘Hemingway’s Words Name our Wounds Today’
Saturday, April 2, 2022


Paula Ortiz Alvarez, who teaches Audiovisual Communication at the University of Barcelona, staged the world premiere of her latest film “Across the River and Into the Trees” this weekend at the Sun Valley Film Festival to many enthusiastic reviews from those in the sold-out audience at the Sun Valley Opera House.

The film, filled with lush photography, was black and white—a fitting flashback to 1950 when Ernest Hemingway published his final novel. One viewer called it the best film she’d ever seen.

Ortiz studied cinema directing at the Tisch School of the Arts at the University of New York and completed her screenwriting studies at UCLA while writing her doctoral thesis on “The Cinematographic Script: An Update of its Theoretical and Practical Bases.”

She was nominated for Best New Director for the 2011 award-winning feature film “Chrysalis,” which also was nominated for Best Supporting Actress and Best Original Song. She directed a couple more films, including a Turkish-Spanish collaboration, before taking on Ernest Hemingway’s semi-autobiographical novel about a traumatized soldier who meets a charming young countess in Venice.

Eye on Sun Valley had the opportunity to ask her a couple questions about her new film:

 What interested you in doing this film?

  I was drawn to the essential conflict of life, love and death. I was attracted to the historical moment after World War II, where all the people and their consciences tried to rebuild themselves. I was attracted to the male character and all his cracks and the female character and her desire for freedom. I was drawn to Hemingway's words that can travel through time, and name our wounds today. I was interested in this story because of all its ethics and aesthetics possibilities. Venice also attracted me, like a limbo between life and death, full of beauty.

 What strikes you about the story given what we’re seeing unfold in Ukraine today?

It is surprising to see how humanity barely learns. How history repeats itself over and over again. And it is surprising how necessary it is to reflect and enunciate words that illuminate peace and demonstrate the meaninglessness of war.

 What did you learn about Hemingway from working on this project?

 So many things... He was a man whose struggles and contradictions are deeply alive today. So, if I have to say just a few: From Hemingway I have learned lucid, passionate and committed ways of looking at life. I have learned the need to focus on the conflict. I have learned to be clear, direct, not to hide behind ornaments, to look at the wounds directly, no matter how much they hurt. And I have learned a deeply passionate attitude towards life.

 What do you hope audiences might take away from the film?

 I hope the audiences can take away from this movie a new and contemporary approach to Hemingway and all his conceptual, symbolic and iconic levels: His antibelicism, the meaninglessness of violence... And I also hope they can reflect about male identity deconstruction, looking at all his cracks, full of light and shadows...

I truly wish that the audience could capture and reflect about the necessity of new encounters to restore ourselves.

And that´s why I hope everyone could capture Hemingway's passion, his vitality, his desire and his responsibility in the face of death... And that they could share his commitment to life, and to others.

 What is it like showing it at the Sun Valley Film Festival, where Hemingway once lived?

 Showing the movie for the first at the Sun Valley Film Festival is full of symbolic charge for us because to be in the place where Hemingway once lived causes that the seed that led us to make this film to flourish in the land it should truly be born.


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