CEU graduate Patty Bonet, director of a short film about living with albinism

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A CEU Journalism graduate, she’s a real cinema buff and she defines herself as a storyteller who decided to take her story to the screen. Yesterday, Patty Bonet presented her short documentary film ¿Lo ves? (“Do you see?”), which she wrote and directed. The film shows the everyday situations faced by people with albinism.
Patty, who also has this genetic condition, stresses the need to have dreams and to realize that the only limits out there are the ones we place on ourselves. We talked to her about many issues, including her film, the news media, normalization and disability, the cinema and the future of those in the communication industry.

  • Funded by ONCE, and sponsored by the Fundación Divina Pastora, the Asociación de Ayuda a Personas con Albinismo and CIBERER, ¿Lo ves? premieres on 17th November at the Ocine Aqua cinema in Valencia

¿Lo ves? is about albinism, and more particularly about how you deal with it in your everyday life. Why did you make this short documentary?

There’s not much information out there about this genetic condition. The few documentaries that exist usually look at the issue of albinism in Africa. That’s understandable because the situation there is both sad and difficult.

But what about people with albinism who, like me, live in western countries? That was the idea that drove me to make a film on this issue, and then, when I was looking for stories to focus on, a friend of mine said that my story could be the one. So, I started to think about how, very often, even members of my own family weren’t sure about what I could or couldn’t see.

We used a point-of-view camera angle, so that the audience can really put themselves in the shoes of people with albinism and see the world how we see it.

The thing is, even though awareness of albinism is increasing, few people know that it comes with significant visual impairment and photophobia.

Do you think this short film will help people with albinism?

Yes. It’s true that there are many types of albinism and degrees of visual impairment, and of course this documentary only shows my case, but I think that many people can identify with it.

The aim of making the film was to raise awareness of what we face on a daily basis, both among those who come into regular contact with people with this genetic condition and among society in general. So, we’re talking about everyday situations which are routine for most people, but which can be a real challenge for people with albinism.

Tell us why we should see the film.

You’re probably one of those people who’s fortunate enough to have normal or near-normal vision. You’re used to seeing everything in focus and not needing help.

I’m A GREAT BELIEVER IN THE IDEA THAT WHERE THERE’S A WILL, THERE’S A WAY. THE ONLY LIMITS ARE THE ONES WE PLACE ON OURSELVES.

But what would it be like to always see everything blurred and saturated with light? Would you have the courage even to go to your local supermarket? How would you feel when you get to a crowded restaurant and you don’t know where your friends are?

¿Lo ves? is shot using a point-of-view camera angle, so that the audience can really put themselves in my shoes and those of other albino people, see the world how we see it and feel what we feel in certain situations.

You live in Madrid, you work (a lot) and, apart from driving, you live an otherwise “normal” life. And yet those barriers are still there…

Of course. And in the workplace too.

I worked once for a company who told me that they were thinking of letting me go, because I sat too close to the computer, but in fact I was able to do the same work and at the same pace as my colleagues.

In the acting world, I have had to put up with hearing things like, “if you can’t see, you can’t study here” and “can’t you control the movement of your eyes? It doesn’t look right on camera.”

i’d like to see a series with a character with albinism, but with their albinism being just another facet of who they are.

Now, there are still people who ask me how I can direct if I can’t see the images in focus. But that’s what Miguel does – he’s my companion on this adventure called Flare. I tell him what kind of shots I want and then he does everything that’s needed to do it. There’s more to being a director than just that.

I’m a great believer in the idea that where there’s a will, there’s a way. The only limits are the ones we place on ourselves. Fortunately, there people out there who want to make difference something normal. Let’s hope that we keep on progressing like this.

The Journalism graduate presenting the trailer at the Fundación Divina Pastora

Looking at the next projects you have lined up, we can see that you don’t place too many limits on yourself. Tell us about them.

(Laughs) The premiere for ¿Lo ves? will be on 17th November at the Ocine Aqua cinema in Valencia. We want it to be useful. We’ll present it at festivals, look into whether it can be sold for broadcast on TV and also make it available for screening at conferences and congresses. All so we can raise people’s awareness of albinism so that they can better understand what those who live with it every day have to face.

We’re also looking into funding to make another documentary to be filmed in different countries across Europe, working with the ALBA association to dismantle the myths surrounding albinism.

We’re also putting the finishing touches to a corporate video, we’ve got two video projects in development and we’re also thinking about trying to produce a play. You have to go for it!

I also combine my work at Flare with my job doing the subtitling of the news broadcasts at Telemadrid, hoping to make the news more easily accessible to everyone. Another thing is that I’m part of the cast of Cáscaras vacías, a play produced by the Centro Dramático Nacional which will open in October…

The cinema, the media – do you think they can help to raise awareness across society of the reality facing people with albinism?

Of course. The best solution would be to achieve normalization.

It’s utopian maybe, but I’d like to see the day where there’s a series with a character who has albinism, but with it just being another part of who they are. But for that to happen, you have to get the scriptwriter and producers on board. And there’s still a lot of fear of that not being “profitable”.

MY ADVICE TO COMMUNICATION STUDENTS WOULD BE TO KEEP GOING, TO KEEP ON EDUCATING yourselves AND TO MAKE MISTAKES, BECAUSE THAT’S HOW YOU LEARN.

Whenever you see an albino character, it’s always in the role of the bad guy or as some kind of demon, and that, frankly, doesn’t help with normalization. And even then, they prefer to bring in actors with darker hair and then dye it, rather than get albino actors.

Let’s talk about two things you’re passionate about. You studied Journalism at CEU and you’re a real movie buff.  

Yes, when I was thinking about which degree to choose, I was stuck between Journalism, Audiovisual Communication and Dramatic Art.

Sometimes, choosing between different options like this can be bewildering. That happens a lot when people are choosing a degree, but you can’t let it get on top of you. The world will keep turning whatever you choose: you should let life surprise you.

Anyway, what I’ve always liked to do is to tell stories. Until now, I’d always done that via journalism (on the radio, on the Canal 9 TV channel, and so on) and now I’m doing it through film, because I’ve written the script and I’ve directed it. But I haven’t left journalism and the communication industry behind. I present some events and there’s also the subtitling work that I mentioned earlier.

my time at ceu was the most beautiful period of my life.

And you’re the co-founder of Flare Producciones.

Yes. When my contract at Canal 9 ended, a year before all the redundancies, I went to Madrid. I did an acting course for people with a disability run by Globomedia and Atresmedia, and there I met Miguel Camino, who’s a great cameraman and cinematographer. With him, I decided to try my luck and make my first short film, De puntillas. It was a fantastic experience. That experience and the fact that we got on so well together meant that we decided to set up this, for now, small production company. We’ve filmed some internet commercials, events and also made two short films with which we were finalists at Notodofilmfest.

With the career you’ve already had, we’re sure that your advice would be very useful for Journalism and Audiovisual Communication students. What would you say to them?

I’d say that you shouldn’t lose heart and shouldn’t pay too much attention to what people say, things like “it’s a closed shop”, “you have to know someone to get anywhere” and “it won’t pay the bills”.

If it’s something you’re really passionate about, then you need to keep going, keep on educating yourself, and to get as much as practical experience as possible. You should make mistakes – and plenty of them. Because that’s the way to learn. I’m still learning every day!

And you should try different things out and not get too obsessed about particular roles. A few years ago I would never have said that you would find me working behind the camera, but here I am! They should let life surprise them, because I’m sure life has a lot of interesting things in store for them.

Here’s the question you knew was coming. What was your time at CEU like?

It was the most beautiful time of my life. I always say that I’d never go back to school, but I wouldn’t hesitate to go back to CEU. It was a time that was very rewarding personally, as I felt like just another student alongside my classmates, and there was never a problem from the lecturers when I asked for help. And then the facilities and technical equipment at your disposal there means that you feel ready to take on the world when you graduate.

We’ve been talking for a while now, but there are so many questions to ask. We hear that you’re such a movie fan that you’ve even organized your own Oscars ceremony. Is that true?

(Laughs) Yes. I’m a real Oscars nerd – I’ve kept a close eye on the awards since I was a kid. For me it’s such a special, magical night. Every year, I go out and get an elegant dress during the sales and then some years I organize a party and get friends over to watch the ceremony with me.

My dream would be to attend the ceremony itself and I know that, for a small fortune, you can do that, but that’s not the way I want to do it. If I ever make it there, I’d like it to be because of something I’ve achieved in my career. I know that sounds pretty optimistic, but that is what drives me. I heard someone say once that if you dream of going to the moon, you might not get there but end up in the stars – and that would be great! I think it’s important to have a dream and to do everything you can to make them come true.

MY DREAM WOULD BE TO go to THE OSCARS CEREMONY because OF SOMETHING i’VE ACHIEVED IN MY career.

What’s your take on the film industry in Spain and in the Valencia region?

The film industry in Spain has undergone some changes in the last few years, but I think it still needs to take more risks. Regarding Valencia, I think the region has great potential, especially the city itself, but I think that that potential is going largely untapped.

When we were preparing the filming of ¿Lo ves?, we needed to hire some equipment and it was very difficult to find a place that could give us what we needed, despite the fact that it was something quite basic. And that’s a bit sad. That’s an area where there’s a lot of room for improvement.

We need a final scene for this interview.  What is cinema for you?

It’s magic, an escape and happiness. It’s always there for me. Whenever I have a bad day, going to the cinema and losing myself in the story of a film is the perfect pick-me-up. As soon as I see the logo of the production company, a shiver runs down my spine and I immediately feel better. And now that I’m a bit of an insider, I like to look at every detail, but I still feel that magic that makes it so special for me. I still cry at a sad scene and shake with fear during a scary movie. It’s important not to lose that.

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