INTERVIEW: ‘Azor’ examines the very rich in 1970s Argentina

Photo: Azor stars Stéphanie Cléau and Fabrizio Rongione. Photo courtesy of MUBI / Provided by Cinema Tropical with permission.

Azor, the new film from director Andreas Fontana, takes place in 1970s Argentina and examines the intriguing lives of the ultra-rich. The protagonist is Yvan (Fabrizio Rongione), who arrives in Argentina from Geneva with his wife Inès (Stéphanie Cléau). Yvan’s job at home is difficult: he’s here to replace a missing colleague, and he must learn the political and economic realities of this nation and its so-called “dirty war,” according to press notes.

For Fontana, the film is a special project because it is his first feature film. The film was a hit in the festival circuit, notably at the Berlinale and New Directors / New Films, and now the thriller is being shown by MUBI in theaters across the United States. The film is currently showing at the IFC Center in New York and opens this weekend in Los Angeles at the Laemmle Royal and Playhouse.

“Yes, it was very interesting and fascinating to work on such an ambitious project for a first feature film,” Fontana said in a recent interview with Zoom. “In the meantime, I had two children between the start and the final. My life has changed, so it has been a very long journey.

The director started working on the project in 2015, and what drove him to write the screenplay was his interest in the world of private banking in Geneva (Fontana is a Swiss director who has spent a lot of time in Argentina, and the film brings the two cultures together). “My grandfather was a private banker in Geneva, and I did not know it before, but when he died, I started to take an interest in this environment and this particular world from which he came”, he said declared.

According to Fontana, when a nation suffers a coup, then the bankers show up and start changing the new economy. He wanted to explore these circumstances as they occurred in Argentina in the 1970s, a politically unstable period with a lot of economic uncertainty.

“I have lived in Argentina for a long time,” Fontana said. “I knew the country. I would never tour in this country without being able to know the country, and the language, I am a perfect Spanish speaker. … The period was interesting for me in terms of history and also in terms of economy.

To better understand the world of private banking in the 1970s, Fontana embarked on research into the period and the war in Argentina, characterized by an overwhelming dictatorship and the disappearance of activists and residents. “I worked for two and a half years doing research, not writing, only investigating,” he said. “Basically I read a lot, I even went to Argentina, I had even lived there for months, then I met people, maybe potential clients and also academics or professors.

Now with Azor in the can and distributed in the US and around the world, Fontana can watch his first film with wistful eyes, considering the lessons he learned along the way, and examining his own desires to continue on that path. “It was very interesting,” the filmmaker said of the experience. “I discovered that I was very happy when I realized. … I hope this is the first of many films.

By John Soltes / Editor / [email protected]

Azor, written and directed by Andreas Fontana, is now performing at the IFC Center in New York. The film will debut on Friday, September 17 at the Laemmle Royal and Playhouse. Click on here for more information.

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