Sundance 2019: Lucía Garibaldi and Romina Bentancur on Their Accomplished Debut THE SHARKS

Romina Bentancur as Rosina in Lucía Garibaldi’s  The Sharks

Romina Bentancur as Rosina in Lucía Garibaldi’s The Sharks

By Josh Gardner

The Sharks / Los Tiburones is the impressive debut feature from Uruguayan filmmaker Lucía Garibaldi, making its World Premiere in the World Cinema Competition at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Bolstered by its striking cinematography, this captivating coming-of-age tale follows the story of broody teen Rosina (Romina Bentancur), who spots a shark on the otherwise calm waters of a remote coastal Uruguayan town. With delicate performances and a synth-heavy ‘80s-inspired score, The Sharks is sure to make a splash at this year’s festival. TropicalFRONT sat down with Garibaldi and Bentancur just before the premiere  to discuss this collaboration.

The Sharks is a beautifully rendered portrait of the complex internal life of its protagonist, Rosina (Bentancur). Garibaldi revealed that the idea for the film originated with “a collection of sensations and emotions that my friends and I had about how it felt to grow up and try things for the first time. The last thing that came [to me] was this specific storyline and plot. But, I always loved the idea of a girl tempted to do the wrong thing. If you’re given the choice to do one thing or the other, she would always choose the wrong one. Almost like a little villain.”

Bentancur was taking high school drama classes when Garibaldi reached out and brought her to a casting session. “I think the main reason I initially chose her was very shallow--it was her body, her voice, the way she moves. In the casting I remember she was cracking her knuckles and body parts the whole time and she had this attitude like she just didn’t care. Yet, she was very charming at the same time.” Bentancur was quick to retort, “I’m like the character, but I don't feel like her. I'm so much nicer! And funnier!”

Garibaldi and Bentancur spent two years working together before the film shot. The pair have an easy and endearing rapport. They playfully teased each other and finished one another’s sentences throughout our interview. Garibaldi elaborated, “I was always chasing her around with a camera and different ideas. So the relationship that we built was strong before we started filming.” Bentancur explained that since  “[Garibaldi] wanted to do the movie with me, we had to rush to get the money to be able to film it before I grew up any further.” Their hard work paid off. Bentancur is a revelation in the role, mining the depths of her sometimes distant and complicated character.

Garibaldi also spent two years with the cinematographer Germán Nocella, storyboarding the film and composing the stunning shots that would eventually make up her debut. Although frames were meticulously planned, Garibaldi eventually learned to give in to the moment. “One day we got to the beach to film and the water was blood red. It was some sort of algae in the water. It wasn’t in our plan, but we understood that sometimes the film wins and you just have to listen. Despite thinking you have it all figured out and planned, you have to be open.”

Refreshingly told from the female point of view, Garibaldi and Bentancur guessed that the film would resonate most strongly with women, but were anxious to discover how their film would be received by Park City audiences. As the first Uruguayan film in Sundance competition history, the two women feel an enormous amount pressure to represent their homeland to US audiences. “I mean, Uruguayan films are more in the spectrum of the European art house, so this is really, really strange for Uruguay--for us to be here. We are also really proud. We can't believe it. I hope that this keeps happening,” Garibaldi explained.

With talents like Garibaldi and Bentancur, there’s no doubt we’ll be seeing more remarkable Uruguayan films on our shores.