Speaking by phone from Hong Kong where his film The Gilded Cage is screening at festivals, Ruben Alves is surprised at how his film crosses cultural borders.
“Here in Macau they are loving it, which is cool! Travelling around the world with the movie has really been unbelievable. The film is about émigrés, a Portuguese family in Paris, but I have been surprised that it seems to appeal to people everywhere. It is dedicated to people who leave any country, who emigrate from any country, to try to find something better.” Having worked as an actor in France for over a decade, what was it that made Ruben take the leap into becoming a director? “I suppose you could say that I’ve always been a director as I like to create. My best friend is a producer, so we would always be taking a camera with us everywhere, and then making a movie every year just for our friends and us in the summer. I suppose that that means that being a director has always been something I wanted to do. “When I was 20 I was an actor and I was making shorts, but when I was 30 my producer said, ‘Ruben, why don’t you write about your family and your Portuguese community?’ I had written a script about a French family in Portugal, and he thought that it was cool, but he said, ‘Why don’t you write instead about Portuguese people in France?’ At first I thought that might be too personal, but then I thought that maybe the time was right and that it could be a homage to my parents. It’s not autobiographical, but it is inspired by my parents’ lives.” Alves’ directorial début is very ambitious, with lots of characters and shifts in tone. “I took three years to make the movie, as the writing took a long time. And yes, so many characters! I was directing the scene where the big Portuguese family is having lunch, and there are all those characters, and I was thinking to myself, ‘Why did I write it like this?’ Eleven people, all talking, all acting! But I do like it like that, and I never allowed myself to think that anything would be too hard. I also wanted there to be comedy in the film, as life is like a drama, and you need to have humour to get through it.” And what about Alves’ own small role in the film (as Miguel)? “It’s very small! Some people say that it’s me doing a Hitchcock!” Preparing to act in a forthcoming French biopic, Yves Saint Laurent, Alves is looking forward to his second feature film as director. “I do want to direct again, but I don’t know when I will. I hope that I can make another movie like this, which seems to unite audiences around the world.”