Interview with Luis Rojas and Natalia Castrillón

This Life and the Other by Luis Rojas

Esta vida y la otra (or This Life and the Other) is an intimate portrait of the siblinghood of Natalia and Sergio Castrillón, two musicians born in Colombia and based in Helsinki, Finland. The film is directed by Luis Rojas, a director and motion graphics artist with more than ten years of experience in the film industry in Buenos Aires, London, Paris, New York, Berlin, Zurich and Bogotá. Esta vida y la otra is a poetic tribute to their friendship, divided into three acts and shot with a 16mm camera, revisiting the siblings' childhood memories and landscapes of their hometown Manizales.

Luis Rojas

Luis Rojas

Your film is a poetic, intimate portrait of siblinghood. How did you meet Natalia and Sergio Castrillón, and why did you decide to capture them in your film?

Luis Rojas: I met Sergio and Natalia in Buenos Aires back in 2007 when Sergio was studying a Master’s program in Composition and Contemporary Music and I was studying animation and film. Natalia was visiting Sergio at the time. We got along and became good friends very quickly and we always had the idea of creating something together. Later Natalia and Sergio moved to Helsinki and we didn’t see each other for many years. However, we were in touch every now and then and we stayed connected. In 2021 we were all in Colombia and I travelled to the mountains in Manizales to meet them and the idea of making a film came organically. I think that our friendship and the good timing we had to be in Colombia at the same time gave me the access and inspiration to smoothly capture the creative process of their new project as musicians and siblings.

Nature plays an important part in the film. But, what role does it play in the concept of the film?

L.R.: Nature was the main inspiration for the concept of the film, being surrounded by those majestic mountains and the sounds of nature. We wanted to integrate their performance with the universe so it could blend in a very organic way. It’s also connected to their childhood, it’s the region where Natalia and Sergio are coming from.

Natalia Castrillón: The mountains in our hometown Manizales are one of our most familiar landscapes. They are part of our memories and upbringing. Likewise, our music has been influenced by their beauty and the sounds of the living creatures inhabiting there. (Insects, birds, the sounds of the trees, rivers, etc.) That’s the place where our roots come from and therefore, it was important to give it that essential role that nature represents to us.

This Life and the Other by Luis Rojas

What does “Esta vida y la otra” - or This Life and the Other - denote?

N.C.: Sergio, my brother, came up with the title of the short film. “Esta vida y la Otra” is an idiomatic expression used in Colombia that refers to a situation that requires a long time to take place or “a lot of something”. Also, we thought of this expression as a poetic way to represent “the lives”, experiences, and memories that we three (Luis, Sergio, and I) have built in the different countries where all of us have lived. Luis has lived in Colombia, Argentina, Switzerland, and Germany. Sergio has lived in Colombia, Argentina, Sweden, and Finland and I have lived in Colombia, Denmark, and Finland. All of these places can also speak for This Life and the Other :)

Natalia, you and your brother are the main protagonists of the film. How did you feel when Luis approached you and during the shooting itself?

N.C.: The fact that I had met Luis many years ago through Sergio made me feel that Luis was not only a friend but also a witness of our musical and personal development. Also, since Luis is Colombian and has lived in several countries, we share a lot of things in common. All of this made the process very smooth and organic and it became a collective project where we all contributed from our personal and professional vision and connection. It was really easy and pleasant to work together and to get to know each other better through the realization of this short film.

This Life and the Other by Luis Rojas

The film is shot on 16mm. Why did you decide on this technique?

L.R.: Shooting on 16mm has always got this timeless and nostalgic aesthetic that the celluloid gives you. I also love to shoot on film because it really makes you focus and engage in any decision you make. This medium also gives you a chance to experiment with the mistakes, which end up beautiful most of the time.

Luis, you’ve been involved in many film and music-related activities. What would you say are the particularities of music documentaries and music-related films?

L.R.: I love to tell stories and work with people and with music, especially. I think the collective creation with artists is always an experimentation with the narrative, also, having the freedom to play with the form and break it makes one explore more deeply the feelings that connect people. That’s why music plays a really important role in the film. It complements it, so I think the most challenging part of the process is to be able to create an intimate and honest universe; then the technique is a second layer to the process.

This Life and the Other by Luis Rojas

And lastly, what are you working on right now?

L.R.: During the past two years, I have been involved in a few projects like fiction, documentaries, music videos and some experimental forms, but I would say the main project I’m working on at the moment is my first feature film which is a hybrid documentary/fiction. It’s a Colombian story that talks about the myths and how this magic realism has been connected to the raw reality of the life of farmers and how violence pushes people away from their land. It’s going to be shot in my grandfather’s town with non-actors with a very realistic narrative. The other project is a series of short films in different cities that explore characters and how they perceive a city through music. I also do a lot of collaborations with friends in many different ways.

N.C.: I’m working on the composition of a new album which is part of my personal/solo project called The Global Harp, a transcultural journey. I'm composing pieces for harp and voice and then there’s an artist interpreting the pieces I compose. For example, on my debut single, “Lo efímero” Sergio, my brother, plays the cello and Luis made the music video for it.

Besides my career as a composer, harpist and singer, I work in a cultural association in Helsinki called Interkult Ry, which promotes intercultural collaboration through artistic initiatives such as music festivals, art-oriented summer camps for children, visual art workshops and performances, film, dance and music events lead by foreigners living in Finland. I also work as a freelance harpist in multidisciplinary projects.