by Jeremy Toppings
Gabriel Zaragoza is a passionate man. If he likes something, he will devote himself to it, at the cost of sacrificing all restraint! When asked to describe himself, Gabriel has this to say: “I have lots of faith in animals and children, and sometimes other people. But when I move chess pieces on the board, or have a coffee with a friend, that’s when I feel that the world comes together properly”. His mind races from one thought to another, never stopping. He is always asking himself questions, questions he might not have the answers to. This is where the philosopher becomes a filmmaker: he puts his questions on screen to work things out through his visual storytelling.
Zaragoza is an Argentinian filmmaker with an impressive resumé, winning awards for his films, including the 2014 National Film and Visual Arts Award. His path to filmmaking began when he was offered the lead role in one of Iván Fund’s movies. This led to a great mentorship that let him be part of film productions and gain significant experience. Later he worked with Santiago Loza, which really served as an inspiration to make his own films.
Last year Mekkin Fridriksson invited Gabriel to come to Ottawa, and although he misses many things about Buenoa Aires, Ottawa’s scenery made up for it. Walks he took along the Rideau Canal, being surrounded by the stark white winter, and the colourful spring left him inspired. Frideriksson then encouraged him to participate in Digi60, which focused him to create Leaves that fall off the tree. At the Digi60 Filmmakers’ Festival in December 2015, Gabriel Zaragoza was awarded the SAW Video Spotlight Award, for his submission. “That’s where I met Penny McCann, when she presented me with the award!” Coming to Ottawa had been a good idea.
Leaves that fall off the tree is a beautiful journey through the mind of a thinker, absorbed by the subject of ‘memory’. Memory has been important focus of Gabriel’s for quite some time, that Digi60 last fall was themed “memory” became an inspirational catalyst. Research into subjects of psychology and neurology, and many conversations underpinned the making of the short film. ”Memory is a beautiful problem we have to face every day, and with that comes beauty and challenges,” says Gabriel. “I don’t see time any longer in a linear way”, Gabriel states. He felt as though chronology was nothing but abstraction. “Upon this realisation, I started researching quantum physics to help me understand the concept of time and space, and how it related to the way I was seeing it.” Finally, he concludes “that this work is an attempt in trying to resist the alienation that comes with the fleeting memories, whether they are past, present and future.”
The film’s ambiguous yet intricate visuals, complex yet soothing narration, and enticing music really make it an experience rather than just a video. Zaragoza describes Leaves that fall off the tree as the impossibility of the body to grasp the pleasure of eternity. He asks: What happens to the human when the body stops feeling, when it becomes unstable? He then adds “I believe it to be a resistance to death of some sort: a changing in form.”
Although the conceptual process that underpins the film was very complex, and full of difficult and complicated questions, the experience of making it was nothing but pleasant. He surrounded himself with friends: Ivan Fund helped on the project, and Mekkin Fridriksson produced it. The narration decidedly provided the framework for the film’s structure, but then “Mekkin found images and a setting that would balance everything and complement it. So I started with a very elaborate, vague idea that was all thoughts and questions, and with the help of the team, it became a concrete, simplified film.” Gabriel is very thankful for the wonderful team he had the chance of working with.
When asked about his goals in life, as far as filmmaking is concerned, Gabriel says: “My only wish in cinema is that I never grow old”. Never becoming irrelevant - that is the struggle of many artists. This might not appear to be a problem, as he is already working on his next film.