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netribution > features > interview with lee santana > page two

On speaking to people after the screening, a variety of opinions emerged concerning the ending and the relationship between the soldiers. There was debate about their screen time and some thought that the widow's reaction at the end wasn't really necessary. How do you respond to these views?
I loved the amount of screen time between the two central characters, Jose Francisco and Mark. It would have been great to have given this more attention, but time, money etc held this back. As for Jimena's reaction at the end, we did opt to overstate this, so we got the point that the Brits had sent back a photo of them around her partner. Though, I do think that we got the balance right despite book-ending it with a very similar take to the opening. It was never going to be a Disney ending!

Did you just find a great and moving story or are you commenting on war atrocities and human nature in extreme circumstances?
First and foremost we wanted to tell a great story. Generally when I write, I do so with a governing narrative idea about where we should go with the story, but it's all the connecting themes that you discover along the way that makes writing so exciting, difficult, and unifying. I think this contributes to the depth of a screenplay greatly. I didn't set out to make a statement, but one aspect which influenced the script's direction was the line between killing in combat and the definition of a war crime. This, set against the values of human nature under pressure, is the heart of the film. I also had the added benefit of provoking patriotic sensibilities, political if you will. But this is not really a war film which bashes Great Britain. It could happen in any arena of conflict, but also we should not be afraid as a nation to accept, examine and make amends for our wrong doings. Surely that is the test of a civilised society?

Does the finished piece differ from the original script?
After we finished the film, I did go back and look at the script and was surprised that it didn't vary that much from the film. This is despite the fact that we wanted to give our cast the creative freedom to move about and improvise within the framework of any given scene. The sparse dialogue was essential to spinning the story around and driving the narrative, but outside of that it was extremely creative. I learnt loads about acting, but confess that some of Gael Garcia Bernal's (Amores Perros) Spanish improvisational work was lost on me at the time - shame on me, especially with a surname like Santana!

How has the film fared so far?
So far we haven't had much exposure since the BAFTA nomination and the Kodak Short Film event. The film was rejected, rather it was not selected, by the Buenos Aires Independent Film Festival, Cannes, Toronto and the Vila do Conde Short Film Festival in Portugal. But it has been selected for the Cinema Jove Festival in Valencia next month. It's also been entered into a raft of other festivals, so hopefully we'll get some exposure if these play out. One great benefit however, more important than gongs and festivals, is that we've been approached by a number of industry organisations to pitch our current feature and others on our development slate. With resources drier than a desert nomads' sandal, we'd love to get some kind of development deal out of this opportunity.

What 's your five year plan
See movies we'd love to make and make movies we'd love to see.


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