Filmmaker Q&A: Matthew Salleh, Pablo's Villa
Friday, 07 June, 2013
Five questions for Matthew Salleh, director of
the short Pablo's
Villa (which screens with A River Changes
What filmmaker most influenced your own
It was the European masters of the '60s that got me excited
about film for the first time. All the usual suspects: Fellini,
Antonioni, Truffaut, Bergman. My biggest influence in documentary
is Errol Morris, particularly early works like Gates of
Heaven and Vernon, Florida, where his style was very
minimalist and pure.
What inspired the development of Pablo's
My partner Rosie and I have an online film project called Portrait
Mode, where we interview people from all walks of life. Sometimes
we will interview a person for hours, but we always edit each
'portrait' down to a single uninterrupted take.
On a world trip last year, we planned to film portraits in every
country we visited. We read about Villa Epecuén (the setting of the
film) whilst on our travels, and decided to venture down there, in
search of more portraits. When we discovered Pablo, we ended up
making a whole film.
Discuss your production methods on Pablo's
Villa. What in your view was most successful?
Portrait Mode has allowed us a lot of creative freedom. Quite
often the documentary filmmaker is forced to stretch a story or
idea to its limits, after they promise investors a full-length
film. Rather, we always go in search of small, intimate portraits,
and only extend the story into a film when we feel the narrative
can sustain it. This is exactly what happened with Pablo's
With myself directing and on camera and Rosie producing and on
sound, we have a great deal of versatility. We filmed Pablo's
Villa with a pocket-sized camera - all our sound and camera
gear fit into a backpack. The digital revolution in filmmaking over
the past five years has been profound - and although the
highest-end equipment produces amazing content, it's the cheap,
small, almost disposable cameras that allow us to find stories in
the strangest of places, and capture honest moments without a
larger crew following you around.
What was your biggest challenge?
By far the greatest challenge of this film was the language
barrier. We were fortunate that the first person we made contact
with in the neighbouring town of Carhué was a professional
translator, who had returned to her home town to spend time with
family. Without her, we would not have been able to truly capture
What direction are you planning to take with your film
We still plan to produce more portraits for our online series,
and use it as a way to travel and find unique stories. If the
stories grow into short films, then we'll shoot short films. If
they grow into features, then we'll shoot a feature.
What is your favourite recent film?
Just before we went to Argentina we were in New York, where we
saw a few documentaries that were only in limited release. The
Central Park Five, a film by Ken Burns, was great. It was
interesting seeing Ken Burns tell a story that wasn't from a
hundred years ago. I think the academic rigour he had developed in
his longer works could definitely be seen. By contrast, with
West of Memphis, a film similar in its content and
purpose, you could see the point of view of the filmmakers drown
out any sense of objectivity; it made the film difficult to