Mario Sibaja, congratulations for "A Twins’ Seance" and for being shortlisted for “Best Super Short Film”! Why did you go for the short film format?
- Thank you so much. It means the world to me to be a finalist in your festival. I am currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in film scoring at Berklee College of Music, and I have been taking a couple of cinematography classes as part of the curriculum. The final assignment in one of the classes was to make a short film. I liked how the project turned out and decided to submit it to a few film festivals. This is my debut short film, so I am excited to see what comes of it.
In your view, and if you give free rein to your imagination, what would the rest of your story look like? What would you not like it to be?
- Honestly, I am not sure (laughs). I love composing music, but I also feel like I have found a new passion for filmmaking. I love writing compelling stories that have a visually artistic and cinematic appeal. I am looking forward to creating more and seeing where it takes me.
How did you learn your craft?
- I learned a lot from researching online, but I didn’t realize how much truly goes into it until I took a class called 'The Language of Film and TV,' which taught me to appreciate the technical aspect of the craft. I also took another class called 'Introduction to Digital Cinematography' that was more hands-on, and I really enjoyed the process of writing, producing, and directing. Before that, I didn’t understand the psychological intentions that are applied to the technical aspect, so I created shots unintentionally just because 'they looked cool.'
I learned that one of the big differences between an amateur filmmaker and a professional filmmaker is that a beginner or amateur often creates shots without motivation. Master filmmakers are intentional with everything they do. You must think about the 'why' in everything you see and hear.
What does the shot communicate, and how does it serve the story? What type of lens would you use to achieve that shot? Why did you use that camera movement? What is in the shot, and why? How does anything we do visually and sonically communicate about the characters? Are we being intentional by adding elements that describe the background or psychological intentions of the characters? How does the lighting help the mood? What are we trying to achieve with the music score, and how does it make the viewer feel? I think being very intentional and meticulous with each aspect improves the quality of the craft and how it impacts the audience.
Would you define yourself as a Spanish-speaking filmmaker, and how?
- Not necessarily. I have lived in the USA for 13 years and have had more opportunities to make films in the English language. However, I do think that as a native Spanish-speaking filmmaker, making films in Spanish will resonate more culturally with my target audience. For example, in the same way that it would be difficult for a white filmmaker to tell a black story, I think telling the stories of your own community serves the film, making it more authentic and truer to the story.
When you tell the stories of your own people, you can make better and more educated decisions regarding the direction of the film. With that said, I would love to continue making films in Spanish for the foreseeable future, but I am not closing the door to creating stories in English.
Does your story bear the mark of the Iberian or Latino female figure?
- In a way, it does, even though there are no women acting in the short film. I had limited resources, and it was hard to find Spanish-speaking women in Seattle (the shoot location) who could act in Spanish with a Madrid accent. That made me change the story a little bit to fit what was available to me. However, the story does bear the mark of a notable matriarch (Alberto and Jose’s mother). You can see how much their mother influenced them as she is the center of their psychological intentions, even after her death. Their mother became more of a backstory, but she influences the entire film.
I personally believe that Spain and Latin America share the idea that many women are “matriarchs” as they are considered the motor of many families. The perception that many women in Latin America are considered matriarchs can be attributed to several cultural, historical, and social factors prevalent in those regions. While it is essential to avoid generalizations and understand that not all women fit this description, some factors such as gender roles, expectations, family-centric societies, the influence of matrilineal societies, the high value placed on motherhood, female empowerment, leadership, and historical struggles and resilience - especially in families with a missing father figure - have contributed to the perception of women as matriarchs in certain communities.
A Twins’ Séance is fueled by this perception. Alberto and Jose’s mother is an imperfect yet highly influential mother as her twin sons seem to value her intentions and do everything possible to get answers from her, even though she is gone.
Abhijit Naskar, who wrote The film testament, said: “Whatever genre you deem suitable for your taste – romance, comedy, action, mystery, sci-fi or anything else, make sure it has the plain everyday human kindness”. Would you say your art belong to any specific genre?
- I think 'A Twins’ Séance' is a classic mystery. If it ever became a full feature, it would be a mystery thriller with influences of suspense that borrow certain aspects from the horror genre, but I wouldn’t consider it a horror film.
What are your upcoming plans for the foreseeable future? And any comments on the climate crisis and what is its impact on Costa Rica, your country of origin?
- I would love to delve deeper into the filmmaking world. As an independent musician and producer, I am no stranger to the difficulties of finding funding to create art. It can certainly get expensive, and the more intricate your projects become, the more expensive they get as well. But there are ways to get creative, and I am looking forward to seeing what I can do with the available resources I have.
Yes, I do have comments on the climate crisis. I don’t consider myself an expert on the matter in any way, but I do know that the climate crisis in Costa Rica can be complex and interconnected. While Costa Rica has taken significant steps to address climate change and reduce its own carbon footprint, it is also affected by global climate trends, which may require international cooperation and collective action to mitigate effectively. Some of the ways we are being affected include the presence of extreme weather events, changing rainfall patterns, rising sea levels, the loss of biodiversity, and agricultural challenges.
And finally, what is your vision of post-Covid cinema? A short statement.
- I am brand new to the industry, but I am aware that film studios and distributors are exploring hybrid release strategies, combining theatrical releases with simultaneous or staggered digital releases. This approach allows them to cater to both traditional cinemagoers and audiences who prefer streaming options. I am not in the industry to make any profit, and I am exploring the craft simply because I love it. This is not an industry you get involved with to make money. At least not until you get a big studio contract. I think most of us making independent films simply love the art and are passionate about the craft.
I know many independent filmmakers faced considerable challenges during the pandemic. I am hoping post-covid cinema sees a renewed focus on supporting and promoting independent films, possibly through streaming platforms and curated online festivals. I would say one of the good things that came out of covid was that the pandemic emphasized the importance of diverse and inclusive storytelling.
Post-covid cinema may see a continued push for more diverse representation in front of and behind the camera.
Director & Producer
Mario Sibaja is a Costa Rican multi-instrumentalist, music producer and composer, and filmmaker based out of Seattle, Washington.
He currently attends Berklee College of Music where he is majoring in film scoring. Mario works in many different areas on a variety of projects and is always looking for exciting new opportunities that force him to think outside the box. Mario loves applying his musical creativity and pushing the boundaries of what he's capable of doing by bringing his carefully crafted visuals and experience in sound design together in a perfect;
A Twins Séance (2023): Writer, Producer, Actor, Composer, Sound Designer, Director.
© ITV 2023 Isabelle Rouault-Röhlich