Everybody Knows (Todos lo Saben) press conference with Asghar Farhadi, Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Ricardo Darin and crew
Kicking off Cannes Film Festival 2018, Iranian auteur Asghar Farhadi’s new feature Everybody Knows (Todos Lo Saben) is a universal tale of the bond between parent and child set against a distinctly Spanish backdrop. We heard from the director – along with producer Alexandre Mallet-Guy – as they spoke about the challenges that come with setting the movie within a different culture. Stars Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem and Ricardo Darin also discussed their relationship with their characters and the themes of religion, paternity and women’s rights.
Mr Farhadi, I admire the way you write, not only for things that take place in your country but things that take place in other countries. It’s got to be difficult making a film in a different culture and a different language. When you made your films in France and Spain, did you have the actresses in mind and how do you go about structuring a story for a different culture?
Asghar Farhadi: Of course, it would have been extremely difficult to transpose things into a different culture if I was working with something very local. Contrary to what the media says, human beings are not different when it comes to emotions and feelings, we’re basically the same. We’re very similar: love, hatred, they’re feelings that you feel in all four corners of the world, it’s just the modes of expression that differ. These films can show how close we really are, in fact. I think we all share common roots, therefore I think it’s very important to insist on these commonalities.
In the case of this film, I knew I was writing this story for these actors. I met Javier in Los Angeles and Penélope later in Madrid. They helped me a great deal, much more than actors usually do. They were real friends, providing me with staunch support in the creation of this film. It was a wonderful experience.
My question is for Alejandro: how did you go about developing the religious dimension that’s present in your character?
Ricardo Darin: I’m not religious so we had to work on it. I had to embrace some kind of faith because, indeed, it’s thanks to a religious belief that I survived all of the problems my character encountered in the past. We worked on the character in this respect because it was an important dimension in the character and in the story in general. When the daughter is kidnapped, he embraces religion to cope with his troubles.
The ending of the film seemed to be quite different from your other films. Was this a conscious choice, and despite the film being shot in Spain and in Spanish, was there an Iranian element to it? Did it feel like an Iranian-Spanish production?
AF: In terms of the end of the film, indeed, the ends of my films are often times very open-ended. When the tale of the film comes to an end I want another tale to open up in the spectators mind. I want, when the spectator leaves the room, for another plot to take shape in the spectator’s mind. I think the films we love and that stay with us depict characters you want to stay with beyond the end of the film, and that is the spirit in which I did this film. I didn’t want to do anything particularly clever; everything comes from the bottom of my heart.
As to your question as to how Iranian the film is: it’s a totally Spanish film but it has an Iranian soul. In classical Iranian art, the creator disappears from the link between the spectator and the work. That’s an extremely Oriental thing but what counts is the work, not the creator.
Penélope Cruz: Two years ago he moved to Spain. He had a Spanish teacher, he was living the culture. It’s a very different way from how most people work. He was really like a sponge. People ask how he can identify our mistakes because although he’s studying Spanish he doesn’t have that control over the language; he doesn’t sleep so much and in the night he was up studying our lines so you could never trick or fool him! I respect so much the way in which he’s worked. He didn’t take the fact that he was coming to another country and working in another language lightly. He put many many years of his life and total dedication into it.
Regarding the themes in the film, you have the issue of paternity which is quite the topic in 2018. Was this a subject you felt was compelling when you joined the project?
AF: Of course, it’s a thriller, which means that it deals with topics that are important as a person. I think, what would I have done under the circumstances of the film? What choices would I have made? These are questions I ask myself. The father-daughter relationship is a very conventional subject. You also have the dimension of the idea of ownership of land and property– who does it belong to? Does it belong to the original owner or to the person who farms it? And what about the daughter; is the father the person who conceived the child or the person who raised her? Is it biological paternity that counts or the education of the child? These are the questions asked in the film.
We’re talking so much about women’s rights this year, so this question is for Penélope and Javier: did you get an equal salary for this film?
PC: Yeah. Is that the only question?
Alexandre for you, what are the differences in logistics when working on this film and Asghar’s previous one, The Past.
Alexandre Mallet-Guy: The Past was a far more ambitious project. Having made the film in France it helped this time around because it was his second experience working abroad. It made the operation more comfortable for him. A lot was also at stake in terms of financing. The Spanish market is quite complicated; for an arthouse film in Spanish we had a huge budget, and are absolutely thrilled to be invited to Cannes. I also want to announce that we just sold the film to Focus in the US so things are looking extremely promising for the film.
Penélope and Javier, you’ve worked together in the past but considering the heavy subject matter, did this project have any kind of effect on your relationship?
PC: No, we don’t take the characters home at the end of the day. We’re similar like that. When I was younger I thought that the more I would torture myself and stay in character for months, the better the result would be but I’ve found it’s not true. I have my life and I have my job. I love the beautiful dance from reality to fiction but it’s not something we plan on doing all the time together. Once in a while is enough.
We’re used to seeing male characters in Asghar’s films that make decisions based on honour and not feelings. But Javier, your character Paco seems to be different.
Javier Bardem: Honour makes us make mistakes. You can kill out of honour. Many crimes that are committed today because of that macho mentality; honour takes you nowhere. My character is caught up in a lot of emotions. He’s not an intellectual, he wants to do the right thing. Not for himself but out of an emotional generosity.
Mr Farhadi, one of the first moments in the film is Paco picking up a bunch of grapes in one hand and a glass of wine in the other and stating, “the difference is time.” For you, can time be measured in this way?
AF: One of the questions I ask myself as I grow older is the passing of time. I believe there are two kinds of people: one who, for them, time builds up over time, or one who experiences time as a countdown. With everything you do, you change your definition of a being in the world. Time is something that obsesses me.
Will this film be screened the same as it is in the US in Iran?
AF: I hope so. I hope that all my films will be screened in my homeland without being edited differently. I will do my best and I hope I’ll be successful.
Farhadi closed the conference with a statement of solidarity regarding fellow Iranian director, Jafar Panahi, who is currently banned from making films and forbidden from leaving Iran. The festival is set to appeal to the Iranian government to request his presence at the festival. Farhadi expressed the wish that “he should be able to be here to see his work.”
Everyone Knows (Todos los Saben) does not have a UK release date yet. Read our review here.
Read more reviews from our Cannes Film Festival 2018 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Cannes Film Festival website here.
Watch the trailer for Everyone Knows (Todos los Saben) here: