Women have made huge strides in the entertainment industry in recent years; ones which are notably long overdue. Fair treatment, fair pay, and the widening of the roles they are allowed to play have the resonating impact of effecting the way that society at large perceives women and their paths in life. Their male counterparts on this mission are ahead of the curve in perceiving the strength of these women; filmmaker Alvaro Giron being one of these. Alvaro’s award-winning Indie film Breathe the Night (winner of Best Short Film and Best Actress at the FilmGate Miami Festival) was acquired by Warner Media and is currently available on the HBO Max platform in the USA. The uniqueness of this film is immediately apparent in its visual language and storyline. Many years in the making, Alvaro wanted to create a film which he states, “From the beginning the idea was to present a pivotal moment in the life of a brilliant woman. I grew up surrounded by some of them, have had the privilege of being close friends with quite a few, and was compelled to try and capture the resilience one can find in women under difficult circumstances.” Rebuking the traditional funding routes via grants or collaborating with large production companies in favor of creating the film the way he wanted, Mr. Giron has attained that most aspired status of creating a film that is completely set apart from the din of commonality so often found among mass marketed films. The film community has lauded the film and its creator for the inspiring yet relatable tale of a woman who seems like someone we all know.
Creating this film was a compulsion for Alvaro, an action that he was unable to deny. The story was born of his witnessing the relationship between his life partner and his own daughter who relocated to Canada to join them. He confides, “The negotiations of their roles and spaces, the moments of profound connection, the way you find in front of a mirror to question your very identity when you’re in charge of a kid, all of that engaged my awareness of something beautiful and challenging that I wanted to convey in the form of a simple story.” The filmmaker continues, “It is incredible, being able to come up with an idea born out of your own experience, nurture it until you can share it, and then finding not only the right people but the myriad other elements necessary to bring it to life. It was a project that felt like a necessity, a story I really needed to tell, and the end result stays very true to the first impulse to put it to paper, that’s beyond satisfaction, it makes you feel you have a voice and some things to say.”
Most of Breathe the Night follows a woman named Elisa who is in her mid-thirties working in a vintage clothing store in Toronto. What the audience witnesses is a brief slice of Elisa’s week but what is truly communicated is the experience of a strong woman who is a single parent, an immigrant, and taking command of the situation she find herself in. Elisa is far from a trope or any stereotype and in this, Alvaro Giron has manifested that most difficult of all goals, a truly unique character who is also very “human.” Via the framing, the direction, the editing, and acting, Mr. Giron has allowed us to see the magnificence of the modern woman through his eyes; a person who is both quite relatable and worthy of immense admiration. The filmmaker has reminded us with his vantage that there are remarkable women throughout so much of society and we should pause to recognize them. In this sense, Breathe the Night is very much a feminist approach to storytelling.
The cast of Breathe the Night is quite minimal, featuring only half a dozen actors. The many years of conceptualizing and writing the film is a facet which allowed Alvarado to approach the film this way to its betterment. He relates, “It is important for me to create a peaceful environment on set where nothing is taken for granted, so that the connections between everybody on set, cast and crew alike, stay close to the purpose we share. On the other hand, the unhurried writing process gave me time to realize once and again that I wanted to tell a very simple story, with a deep focus on the relationship between not only the main characters, but also for Elisa to convey her turmoil and determination on the blank canvas of a town where she’s completely unknown. A small cast connects better with a production in which continuous, constant communication is key to develop ideas in a fruitful way. I was lucky to surround myself with a perceptive, intuitive team who offered their love to the project and engaged with it in creative ways.”
Writer: Arlen Gann