Roots: An Interview with Marina Díez


Please tell us about your background. What made you fall in love with cinema? How did you become interested in filmmaking and what did you work on before making Roots?

My background is a very long story but I will try to make it short. I studied Italian and German languages and literature but I decided I wanted to make videogames. I moved from Spain to London in the UK so I could pursue a master’s degree in Game Design in 2018. Since 2017 I’ve been working as a game designer for different companies around the world. At the moment, I’m the lead game designer of a French company making a Nintendo Switch title that will be released this year: Dordogne. Last June is when I discovered my passion for filmmaking – I know, not a long time ago -. I wanted to improve my storytelling skills and a good friend who studied film and works with me advised me to start writing small scripts in order to improve my narrative skills. With that and some book recommendations he gave me about screenwriting, I started falling in love with making films.


Which filmmakers influenced you and your filmmaking? Which films have affected you the most?

I think that for this year the ones I’ve been looking up to a lot have been the Italian filmmakers from Neorealism, especially Luchino Viscontin and films such as “I Malavoglia” or even Fellini. Besides that, I admired a whole lot Wong Kar-Wai. Chloe Zhaò and Nomadland impacted me so much as well and that willingness for showing “common” stories that perhaps get lost in the madding crowd, if you know what I mean. Roots was really inspired on Roma by Alfonso Cuarón.


What are the themes/issues you try to reflect in your films? What, in your opinion, is the most important quality of a film?

At the moment I’m quite immersed in showing the extraordinary of common life. When I say “extraordinary”, I mean things that seem ordinary because we are used to them, but they are not emotionally as common as we think and, in many cases, they shouldn’t be. I think the most important quality of a film is to tell, even if it sounds simple. If connects or not with the audience seems secondary to me at the moment just because the connections will depend on many factors that almost escape our control as creators. If I’m able to choose a second important quality I would say emotion.


Where did the idea for the film come from? Is it rooted in your personal experiences?

The actress in Roots is my very own mother, Manuela Pereiro Castro. The idea for the short film came when we were walking our dogs during one of my visits to Madrid, Spain. My mom has been living in the same neighbourhood in Madrid for now 50 years since she moved from Galicia in the 70s. We passed in front a house where she used to live, two streets farther than our current family home, and she told me the story you can all see in the short film. I thought that the way she told me, as something not so important, was beautiful.


Please tell us about the production and your experiences of making Roots. What are some of the challenges and difficulties you face when making a micro film?

Roots is the first short film I’ve written, produced and shot for the first time in my life. Making films is not super different from making videogames but working with real people is definitely something that is super different from telling the computer what the character has to do. The biggest challenge was to create something engaging that, at the same time, preserved the authentic essence I saw in this story. As for the rest, before shooting Roots I was kind of able to see in my head what I wanted to happen exactly, so that helped a lot. During the shooting, there were things that just happened spontaneously and help to make the production even better. I enjoyed a lot.



What are the advantages and disadvantages of independent filmmaking and working with small budgets? Does it liberate the filmmaker or limit his or her freedom?

Coming from the games industry where the funding procedures are quite similar, for me it’s just frustrating to not being able to have access to a real budget for what making a film costs. For now I’m fine with it, but I’m already trying to picture how am I going to make my first feature film and I shake every time I think about the budgeting part. I don’t feel liberate, that’s for sure (laughs).


Tell us about your festival run. Have film festivals provided you with the experience and exposure you needed?

The festival run for Roots has been even better than what I thought. I’m very overwhelmed that so many festivals have shown interest on my short film and that makes me very happy. It’s definitely giving me exposure and opening doors. I’m really grateful.


What was the reaction of those who watched your film? Was the feedback what you hoped for?

People really liked Roots. I noticed that especially people out of Spain really liked it, perhaps because it’s interesting to see the situation of inmigration inside of Spain when you come from outside. I’m really lucky that I have people around that support me constantly and the feedback was definitely encouraging. I wouldn’t be here without all the incredible support of my closest circles.


Please tell us about your future project(s). Will you make more films like Roots or will you move towards making feature films?

After Roots I made other two short films that are available on my Youtube Channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqlc0g2aXnKUVXQM8459A3A), so I definitely came to the film industry to stay – at least for a while! -. At the moment I’m working on a new short film and a feature film that I hope I will be able to produce with a decent budget, we will see!