If you are a fan of coming-of-age tales in the vein
of Lucia Puenzo's XXY and Celine Sciamma's Tomboy, you might want
to get hold of a copy of Julia Solomonoff's The Last Summer of La
Boyita, a sumptuously-shot ode to childhood summers past, executive
produced by Pedro Almodovar.
The film, which is out on DVD next Monday, is
an Argentinean drama featuring a
tender portrayal of the unexpected revelations that affect two
children as they begin the transition to
The 'La Boyita' of the title is a little
bubble-shaped caravan which has always been a place of refuge,
games and confessions for Jorgelina and her older sister Luciana.
As Luciana enters puberty she begins to seek privacy and
independence from her adoring sibling. Rather than tag along after
her sister at the beach, Jorgelina decides to spend her summer
holidays with her father in the country. There she develops a close
friendship with Mario, a local farm boy and jockey. As the children
explore the sun-drenched Pampas prairies and each other, they begin
to question the similarities they share, and what makes them
Here's what the director, Julia Solomonoff had to
From where did the idea for 'The Last Summer of La
I had heard a conversation between my parents that left me
unsettled: my mother, a gynecologist, consulted with my father, a
psychiatrist, about her patient, a country boy who was
menstruating. A boy was slowly turning into a girl, or so thought
my curious and confused 11-year old mind. I myself was beginning
the transformations of puberty and with all those confusion and
fears, the story struck me hard. Over the years, I inquired about
that boy and researched the subject, and in 2003, I wrote the first
draft of what would become this film.
Why did you set this story in the
Because this character, Mario, belongs to the Entre Rios
countryside, a place which I know very well. I think that the movie
was an excuse to return to this place, to a childhood moment of
unescapable summer heat, of ripening bodies, of life and death. It
was a place of immensity, a time of discovery and freedom. This is
why it bothers me when people reduce this place, this type of life,
to only its brutality. To me, it is arrogant to suggest that city
life is better, more open and evolved than life in the country. In
fact, if Mario had been born in the city, he probably would have
undergone surgeries or hormone treatments in the name of normalcy.
In this sense, at least Mario made it to puberty with his genitals
intact. In some ways, even if Mario's father does react violently
to his revelation, it is a lesser form of violence than
However, the tone of the film is subdued, far from
I really like melodrama, but I like it toned down, without the
stridency, without the "bah, bah, bahm!" I tend to focus on a
detail or work a subject more from an tangential angle. I believe
there is something, a pudor... a certain shyness or modesty in how
I approached this movie. I think this restrain, takes the movie
away from the predictable, the falseness and the potentially low
blows of the subject.
It's only after 30 minutes into the film that the first
sign of the films real conflict appears. Why the
It was very important for me that when the main conflict does
appear, we are already fully within the world of Jorgelina, the
protagonist. I wanted the viewer to be looking through her eyes,
understanding her recent experiences, her unfamiliarity and
curiousity. And since the film is more about the evolution of her
point of view than about a certain "subject", it should take some
time to be established. That's why it frustrates me when some
press, in their struggle to find a headline, use the word
'hermaphrodite'. First, why put a label, an answer, on something
that I, very carefully and intentionally, posed as a question?
Second, why not let the viewer discover the story with and through
the characters? And third, because it's erroneous. Mario is not a
hermaphrodite, he has congenital suprarenal hyperplasia. But above
all, what this label implies (and even worse, promotes) is a
strictly biological view of gender, which reduces gender to just
genes and hormones.
Each character reacts in their own way when faced with
In his own family, the reaction is either violence or denial.
Jorgelina's father reacts from a medical and scientific position,
he sees it as a clinical case and this is why Jorgelina rejects his
explanation, covering her ears. Jorgelina's mother trivializes it,
it becomes a conversation topic at the beach. Jorgelina, on the
other hand, without prejudice, is able to embrace his difference.
Mario, with the support of Jorgelina, participates in the horse
race to prove that he is a man, like in a Western.
Let's talk about casting...
Tuto (who plays Mario) has a magnetism, a very strong relation to
the camera. I was immediately fascinated by his presence, his look.
He has a mystery. I was introduced to him in 2003 through a photo
series about the German townships of Entre Rios by Sebastian
Ingrassia. In 2006, I began to visit him regularly and to write the
character thinking of him, even though I didn't know if he could or
wanted to act. I approached it cautiously until I had earned his
trust and was able to build an affectionate bond. We had
established another type of communication, one of silences, of
monosyllables, of certain gestures and at times, simply a presence.
Maria Laura Berch played a decisive role in the preparation of Tuto
and Guadalupe (Jorgelina). It was very moving to see Tuto with his
brothers and sisters at the fisrt public screening. It was the
first time he had ever been in a movie theatre and there he was, on
the big screen, surrounded by an applauding audience. We were very
concerned about the reaction of the people from the village, about
the impact of our movie in Tuto's life. And it's been amazing. I
may make better or worse films in the future, but I doubt that I
will go through such a compelling life-changing experience...
I brought in Mirella Pascual (Mario's mother), a Uruguayan actress
I had admired in "Whisky", because I knew that when the moment
arrived, she could put into words the silences of Mario and his
father. Then, I re-wrote the script with her in mind. She figured
out how to mimic the landscape, how to walk into the skin of a
character in such an organic and profound way. People tell me that
they really thought she was Tuto's own mother.
The Jorgelina character was difficult to cast because she had to
carry the film, demonstrate a real growth and sensibility and have
a certain physicalness. She needed to be urban but without being
turned off by mud, frogs and horses. We looked at more than 600
girls in Rosario and Buenos Aires and we finally found Guadalupe
almost at the point of desperation. It was impressive to see her
grow with the character, with great intelligence and
"It's a private matter" is the phrase that Jorgelina uses
to end the tale...
Yes. The first time that the word 'privacy' is used is when her
older sister closes that bathroom door. It is the word that
excludes Jorgelina. When we did the casting of the sisters, we
asked the girls about the idea of privacy. The younger girls
defined it as something that their siblings or parents demanded
when they wanted to be alone...and the older girls (12-13
year-olds) defined it in the first person: 'privacy is when I want
to be alone'. I confirmed a hunch that this kind of discovery or
demand for privacy begins at puberty. Privacy seems to be one of
those rights that we give up, waive everyday, be it for safety,
peer pressure or comfort. It seems beautiful, almost heroic to me
that a young girl discovers the value of her own private space and
demands it for herself.
The Last Summer of La Boyita is out on DVD Monday 23
Available here for £14.99