Rodrigo Pla on the Guadalajara Premiere of 'La Demora' (Q&A)

The Uruguayan born director talks with THR about going back to his native country to shoot his latest work.

GUADALAJARA, Mexico -- Rodrigo Pla was 9 years old when he and his parents packed their bags and headed to Mexico to flee the brutal military dictatorship in his native Uruguay in the 1970s. They settled in Mexico City, where he later studied filmmaking at the CCC, one of the nation's top film schools. In Mexico Pla met his wife and screenwriter-to-be Laura Santullo, also an Uruguayan transplant.

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Together they moved back to Montevideo to work on Pla's third feature film, La Demora (The Delay), which will have its Latin America premiere at the Guadalajara International Film Festival this week. A poignant story about a strained father-daughter relationship, La Demora is a character-driven plot dealing with emotional dysfunction and guilt.

Pla's previous films have fared exceptionally well on the festival circuit. His first movie, the thriller La Zona, won the Luigi de Laurentiis Award in Venice for best first work. His sophomore feature, the Cristero War drama Desierto Adentro (The Desert Within), swept the Guadalajara film fest in 2008 with seven prizes, including best picture.

Pla recently talked with The Hollywood Reporter about the making of La Demora.

The Hollywood Reporter: La Demora is arguably your most moving film yet. Does that have anything to do with the fact that it's the first film you shot in your native Uruguay?

Rodrigo Pla: I don't think so. The story is actually based on a true-life anecdote that occurred in Mexico, however, we transported it to Uruguay. It seems to me that it's a film that's more centered on the characters, so even as the plot develops that's not what's drives the film. The sequences allow for more time in getting to know the characters. But of course, working in Uruguay was a lovely experience.

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THR: You've said that La Demora uses a different narrative style when compared to your previous works. What makes it different?

Pla: The truth is we (referring to himself and screenwriter Santullo) don't have a defined style. We've done three films that are all very different, but we always try to stay true to what we're living in the moment. In this film we tried to depict the lives of these characters in detail and we tried a different type of structure, so it comes across as a story told in two acts, which is different from our other films.

THR: You describe a key turn of events in La Demora as an 'emotional accident.' Explain what you mean by this and what it is that provokes the central character to commit such an unexpected act of cruelty?

Pla: We use the word 'accident' because in one way or another that's what happens. It's a crisis situation that blows up, but internally. So the character reacts in a way in which she's not prepared to deal with it. That's why we refer to this as a car crash, because it's a crash of emotions. It's something that disrupts reality and changes it.

THR: Your three films are very different thematically but all have strong symbolism behind them. Would you say that's a common element?

Pla: It's hard for me to say what the similarities are. It has a lot to do with one's own personal history. I'm a son of psychologists and I very much like to analyze what's happening. I want to understand every act, every movement, and I need a justification to place a camera in every position. I'm an analytical person, so it's more about that. So if one finds symbolism (in the films), it's not a coincidence.

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THR: You've worked with your wife Laura on all three projects. Do you ever find it difficult to work with someone you're so close to? 

Pla:  Any relationship has it difficult moments and even more so when you work with that person. Of course we have our differences and we argue, but we have a closeness that allows us to share many things. In the case of this film, Laura participated more than she has in previous occasions. And that's why I would say it was a collaboration, because she was there when we were filming and casting and she had a lot to offer.

THR: Your feature film debut La Zona is a portrait of a divided Mexican society experiencing a lawless situation. Looking back on it, what are you thoughts on the film now that security concerns are such an important issue in Mexico?

Pla: If the film still has certain relevance then the problems are still there. It's a very complicated situation in Mexico when it appears that there's no end to the drug war. We say it's a film that deals with a type of imminent future. It touches on many themes: the polarization continues, as does the fear and the absence of state control.

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Vital Stats

Birthdate: June 9, 1968

Nationality: Uruguayan and Mexican (dual citizenship)

Filmography: La Zona (2007), Desierto Adentro (2008), La Demora (2011)