«Fear, desire, and beetles: A neuroscientific exploration in documentary cinema»

Exoesqueletos, dirigida por Mariana Castiñeiras

In her latest cinematographic endeavor, director Marina Castiñeiras ventured into a captivating world where fear, desire, and beetles intertwined to explore the relationship between neurology and the human experience.

Exoesqueletos2 Reducto
Exoesqueletos, directed by Mariana Castiñeiras

The journey from the original idea to the project:

Marina shared with us that the project didn’t have a clear vision initially. As the creative process unfolded, the themes began to connect with one another, which was fascinating for her. Documentary filmmaking allowed her to navigate through the darkness and discover surprising points of convergence.

The evolution of the initial idea:

The director reminisced that the original idea was completely different from what ultimately became the project. Only the first scene remained true to the treatment that had been written. Initially, it was intended to be a dialogue-free documentary, focusing heavily on sound and visuals. The idea was to «bend the rules of reality» and introduce more surreal or fantastical elements. She drew inspiration from Cortázar’s story «Axolote», in which a man regularly visits an aquarium to observe an animal and eventually transforms into one. Although her intention wasn’t to depict a literal transformation into an insect, she wanted to play with the possibility.

Choosing to narrate the story through a documentary format:

Marina shared that the short film was her graduation project for the Doc Nomads master’s program, a two-year program in creative documentary filmmaking across three cities: Lisbon, Budapest, and Brussels. Despite her interest in the blurred line between fiction and documentary, she had a framework to work within.

Facing fear and overcoming it:

According to Marina, that was never the premise. Fear acted as a narrative trigger, and during the filming process, it evolved into an unconscious process. She had a somewhat clear understanding of why she had made those decisions, but in a way, she needed to begin with the focus on Sandor, the character she encountered in the documentary. What made it interesting was the failure in an attempt that may have been more pretentious, something she aspired to, but didn’t necessarily reflect her true self or how she viewed the world.

After the failure, she had to roll up her sleeves and question herself more. It wasn’t easy, as the fear was very real and she somewhat found it ridiculous. The goal wasn’t to suppress the feeling, but rather to explore it like an enemy, dissect it, and break it down into parts to see if she could at least find some humor in it. Having the camera in her hand made everything feel more effortless. It turned into a secure mediator, a form of protection.

Becoming a character in the documentary was almost accidental. At one point, Marina felt that it was only right, that if someone opened the doors to their most precious treasure and to an obsession that was hard to understand and easy to judge, then she also had to offer something in return to maintain a balance. She laid bare her vulnerability. What happened afterwards was a much more human and honest approach, according to her.

Moments of adversity and beauty in the project:

Marina experienced significant frustration when she realized that the initial idea wasn’t working. She found it difficult to come to terms with reality and say, «This doesn’t work, but look at all of this, something else emerged». That was the beauty of the unpredictable. One of the most beautiful moments she experienced was when she saw the footage filmed during the night. It was like unwrapping a Christmas gift. That’s when the idea of composing music based on insect sounds emerged, thanks to the generous work of her friend Nicolás Bouchez. The moment of revealing the work to Sandor was also beautiful, despite the fear she felt. During their encounters, they had many discussions about the project, but seeing oneself through the eyes of another, especially someone they barely knew, was intimidating. In the end, the encounter turned out to be very special and both of them loved it.

Exoesqueletos 2 Reducto
Exoesqueletos, directed by Mariana Castiñeiras

Marina Castiñeiras’ project, with its bold examination of fear, desire, and beetles through the lens of neurology, showcases the significance of delving into uncharted territory and questioning our own barriers. Her documentary invites us to reflect on human vulnerability and the beauty that can arise from failures and unexpected encounters.

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