AGORA A film by Alejandro Amenábar A MOD PRODUCCIONES, HIMENÓPTERO and TELECINCO CINEMA production, with the participation of CANAL + ESPAÑA Production Notes International Press Contacts: Focus Features International Oxford House, 4th Floor 76 Oxford Street London, W1D 1BS Tel: +44 207 307 1330 Anna Bohlin Manager, International Publicity firstname.lastname@example.org www.filminfocus.com AGORA A film by Alejandro Amenábar. A MOD PRODUCCIONES, HIMENÓPTERO and TELECINCO CINEMA production, with the participation of CANAL + ESPAÑA. CAST Hypatia……………………………………………….. RACHEL WEISZ Davus…………………………………………………. MAX MINGHELLA Orestes………………………………………………. OSCAR ISAAC Ammonius………………………………………………. ASHRAF BARHOM Theon………………………………………………….. MICHAEL LONSDALE Synesius……………………………………………….. RUPERT EVANS Aspasius………………………………………..…….. HOMAYOUN ERSHADI Cyril………………………………………………….. SAMMY SAMIR Olympius………………………………………………. RICHARD DURDEN Isidorus……………………………………………….. OMAR MOSTAFA Medorus………………………………………………. OSHRI COHEN Peter……..………………………………………………. YOUSEF SWEID CREW Director Alejandro Amenábar Screenplay Alejandro Amenábar Mateo Gil Producers Fernando Bovaira Álvaro Augustin Executive Producers Simón de Santiago Jaime Ortiz de Artiñano Line Producer José Luis Escolar Director of Photography Xavi Giménez Production Designer Guy Hendrix Dyas Costume Designer Gabriella Pescucci Music Dario Marianelli Casting Director Jina Jay Editor Nacho Ruíz Capillas Visual Effects Supervisor Felix Bergés Special Effects Supervisor Chris Reynolds Sound Designer Glenn Freemantle Production Sound Mixer Peter Glossop Make up Designer Jan Sewell Hair Designer Suzanne Stokes-Munton Make up and Hair Designer for Rachel Weisz Graham Johnston Length 126 minutes Format Scope 1:2:35 Sound Dolby Digital, SDDS and DTS Shoot March 17th to June 30th, 2008 Location Malta SYNOPSIS 4th century A.D. Egypt under the Roman Empire… Violent religious upheaval in the streets of Alexandria spills over into the city’s famous Library. Trapped inside its walls, the brilliant astronomer Hypatia and her disciples fight to save the wisdom of the Ancient World… Among them, the two men competing for her heart: the witty, privileged Orestes and Davus, Hypatia’s young slave, who is torn between his secret love for her and the freedom he knows can be his if he chooses to join the unstoppable surge of the Christians. AGORA ACCORDING TO ALEJANDRO AMENÁBAR “Four years ago, after The Sea Inside, which was such an intimate experience for me, I would never have imagined that my next film would be about Romans and Christians in Ancient Egypt. But that’s the beauty of this profession: you can let your curiosity run free and explore worlds as fascinating as 4th century Alexandria; imagine its streets, temples and people. And find the passion – and the money – to bring it all to life.” “I’d never been interested in science. For me, the wonderful thing about this project was to come into contact with the world of science from a spiritual and emotional point of view. Our goal, with this film, was to apply emotion to what happens in the universe; all the emotion that comes from trying to unravel the mystery of the cosmos.” “We ended up telling the story of Hypatia in the 4th century, in Alexandria, through a very elaborate process of selection. It was, at first, a story that spanned 2000 years, from the geocentric system to Relativity, and we researched every detail. As we studied Hypatia and the period she lived in, we found there were many connections with the world we live in today, and this piqued our interest. Alexandria symbolized a civilisation slowly destroyed by different factions, specifically religious factions. For many, the period in which Hypatia lived marked the end of the Ancient World and the beginning of medieval times.” “From the beginning of the project, my goal, formally-speaking, was to make the audience feel like they’re following a CNN team documenting something that happened in the 4th century. That sense of urgency, like breaking news, was the basis of my approach. I wanted to break with some of the established norms of period films; not just shoot the larger format, wide angle shots and grandiose music. AGORA is a blend of rigour and spectacle.” “I wanted to get away from the formal perfection normally found in this type of film. So, when we witness an encounter in the street, it must appear that the camera can’t encompass everything with imposed perfection, so we get something closer to reality, to suggest that reality prevents us from arriving at perfection.” “We opted for being direct witnesses to what happens, not contemplating things from close-up, but from a corner. And, most of all, violence is not made a spectacle of.” “This film was pitched from the outset as an international project, to be shot in English, basically because we’re talking about 50 million euros. It would be suicidal to think that a project of such magnitude could be conceived purely in Spain, shot in Spanish, with only Spanish actors; and then hope to recover the investment. That, coupled with the fact that Alexandria was a melting pot of culture and language, made me think that English could easily be spoken in its streets.” “AGORA is the story of a woman, of a city, of a civilisation and of a planet. The Agora is the planet upon which we must all live together. We tried to show the human reality within the context of all the species of the Earth, and the Earth within the context of the Universe – seeing human beings as ants and the Earth as just another little ball, spinning beside many other stars. That’s why we played with the change in perspective.” “Sometimes I wish I could look through a peephole and see the past exactly as it happened, even if it were only possible for five seconds or five minutes. That is also something we tried to do in this film, offer the audience the chance to look at the past through a peephole for two hours.” “I want my films to be a journey. This one is a journey in time and space. The entire experience has been extremely passionate, from the moment Mateo Gil, Fernando Bovaira and I started dreaming about this project, to where we are now, in the final phase. I can only hope that the audience will feel as passionately about it as we did. AGORA is, in many senses, a history of the past, which obliquely addresses what is happening in the present. It’s a mirror for people to gaze into and observe from the distance of time and space, and see how little the world has changed.” BIOFILMOGRAPHY Chilean-born Spanish director Alejandro Amenábar’s career has been truly meteoric. Born in Santiago de Chile in 1972, Amenábar quickly attained international prestige which has only increased with every film. His two previous films, The Sea Inside (2004) and The Others (2001) have won him international acclaim. The Sea Inside, starring Javier Bardem, won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film as well as 58 other international film awards. The Others, starring Nicole Kidman, was his first film shot entirely in English. The Others was extraordinarily popular with audiences, worldwide and also received rave reviews from critics. Since his debut feature film, Thesis (1996), Alejandro Amenábar has connected with both audiences and experts alike. Thesis was considered the Best film of the year by the Spanish Film Academy, and was also successful with non-Spanish audiences, winning awards at several international festivals. One year later, his second film, Open your Eyes, was a huge box office hit in Spain and was released worldwide. The American remake, Vanilla Sky, directed by Cameron Crowe, starred Tom Cruise, Penélope Cruz and Cameron Diaz. As Director and writer 2009. “Agora” 2004. “The Sea Inside” 2001. “The Others” 1997. “Open Your Eyes” 1996. “Thesis” As composer 2004. “The Sea Inside” 2001. “The Others” 1999. “Butterfly”, by José Luis Cuerda 1999. “Nobody knows anybody”, by Mateo Gil 1997. “Open Your Eyes” 1996. “Thesis” As producer 2009. “El mal ajeno”, by Oskar Santos 2009. “Agora” 2004. “The Sea Inside” PRODUCTION NOTES A CHAPTER OF HISTORY NEVER BROUGHT TO THE SCREEN “Fernando Bovaira, Mateo Gil and I were plunged, for three years, in history and astronomy books. We became completely immersed in the Egypt of 1700 years ago. It’s surprising that such a legendary world - the Library of Alexandria, The Canopic Way, the Lighthouse - seems condemned to oblivion, especially by the cinema.” After his Oscar for The Sea Inside, Alejandro Amenábar now invites the audience to “experience the reality of a remote civilisation.” AGORA is a singular journey to the Egypt of two thousand years ago, to the mythical city of Alexandria and to the dramatic destruction of its Library. The film is inspired by real events which have never before been brought to the screen. It is the director’s fifth film, a huge scale production fraught with remarkable energy. The director explores the individual experience of the people of Alexandria, their pleasures and passions, in a period of great turbulence. A revolution has taken root in the streets of the city, further fuelled by the decline of Greco- Roman civilisation and the steady advance of Christianity. A symbol of cross- cultural tolerance, Alexandria seems immersed in the type of convulsion that usually presages the beginning of a new order. Shot in English, AGORA boasts an international cast. Rachel Weisz, (Oscar for The Constant Gardener), plays Hypatia of Alexandria. Young actor Max Minghella (Syriana) plays Davus, the slave. Around them, a very solid cast: Oscar Isaac (Body of Lies), Rupert Evans (Hellboy), Ashraf Barhom (The Kingdom), Sammy Samir (Nativity) and the veteran French actor Michael Lonsdale (Munich). “It all began when we started taking an interest in the Theory of Relativity, as a hobby,” the director recalls. “We wanted to know more about concepts so closely linked to the cinema as time and space. That initial curiosity was a window that later opened to many other things.” As Mateo Gil recalls: “We got to the story of Hypatia when we were investigating a larger project, about people who managed to rise above the circumstances of the moment of history in which they lived by looking up at the stars and wondering who we are, where we are and what it all means. We found that Hypatia, her story and the society around her – the Alexandria of her time – summed up the project in its entirety.” Alejandro Amenábar and Mateo Gil thoroughly investigated Hypatia and the historical period in which she lived. They were initially surprised by how little is known about her today. The more they learned about the character the more they saw how relevant she is to today’s world: a woman, swimming against the tide, defending the values she believes in, risking her life if necessary. The circumstances in which Hypatia died are as extraordinary as the rest of her biography. The climate of violence and confrontation that gripped Alexandria and Hypatia’s stance against the socio-political debacle have made her into a myth which contemporary spectators will no doubt identify with. “One of the things that surprised us most during our research was discovering that there were two libraries in Alexandria. The first was burnt down when Julius Cesar arrived. The film is about the second library, and Hypatia was one of the leading figures in the story of its destruction. It is a period that has not been dealt with in cinema and we thought it could fascinate the audience,” says Alejandro Amenábar. “There is very little documented information on Hypatia,” says Mateo Gil. “We read everything we could get our hands on. But all the scientific work she did has been lost. We only know that she was a good mathematician and an even better astronomer, that as an astronomer she surpassed her father, and that she was quite an acclaimed mathematician.” “Alexandria was the hub of all intellectual learning at the time. People came from all corners of the earth to discuss theatre and philosophy and Maths and astronomy and it was a time of incredible learning and a passion for learning. And then towards the end of her life Alexandria became part of the Holy Roman Empire and it went under Christian rule and it was essentially the beginning of the Dark Ages. So she really straddled a very interesting moment in history, from the most enlightened time to perhaps one of the least enlightened times,” says Rachel Weisz. After all the reading came the verification stage, when all the facts gathered by the two writers were checked with experts. The services of different external advisors were enlisted. Recognised specialists in their respective fields helped Alejandro Amenábar and Mateo Gil towards even more precision in their depiction of their historical adventure. “The consulting process took several phases and focused on different things,” explains Fernando Bovaira. “Elisa Garrido, a recognised specialist in the history of women in the ancient classical world, consulted on historical aspects during script development. Later on, Justin Pollard, who also consulted on films such as Atonement and Elizabeth: The Golden Age and himself wrote The Rise and Fall of Alexandria: Birthplace of the Modern Mind, became involved during the final phase of pre-production. He came to Malta, met all the heads of the different departments and spoke with Alejandro about the details for the art direction.” Justin Pollard certified the authenticity of everything that was being done, and its coherence with the era the director wanted to reflect. “I think authenticity has to be the goal. You can’t claim to be completely accurate when there’s so much we can’t know. The important thing isn’t whether or not you agree with every single academic detail; the question is whether or not the audience believes the world they’re seeing is real. They suspend disbelief and really think they’re walking through the streets of Alexandria, a spectacular city on a spectacular scale. It’s a great, ancient, sweeping city. It’s where Alexander the Great was buried. It was one of the centres of the ancient world, the greatest port in the Mediterranean. It has a physically huge scale and the story mentally and emotionally has a huge scale,” says Pollard. Apart from experts on the Ancient World, Fernando Bovaira, Alejandro Amenábar and Mateo Gil also spoke to two researchers and scientists, Javier Ordóñez and Antonio Mampaso. “Javier Ordóñez offered us a brilliant geometric solution to the mystery Hypatia is trying to solve, through the Apollonian cone,” Mateo Gil recalls. Antonio Mampaso was present in the entire process of development of the film, from the script to the shoot, where he supervised the use of the astronomic instruments that appear on screen, and served as scientific coach for Rachel Weisz. He also took a trip with producer, director and co-writer that proved decisive for the shaping of many of the details of the film. “I always think it is absolutely necessary to visit the places where my stories take place. It’s very stimulating to explore a place you know was actually familiar to the character your film is about,” says the director. “Antonio Mampaso is an eclipse hunter and he suggested we go with him to see one in Egypt. We eventually decided not to include any unusual phenomenon in the story, but it was a wonderful experience. The trip allowed us to find certain elements that later helped in the visual pitch of the film, such as the amazing Al Fayum portraits, and, most of all, the mixture of Egyptian, Greco-Roman and Christian elements. That combination is very present in AGORA.” HYPATIA OF ALEXANDRIA Daughter of Theon, the last director of the legendary Library of Alexandria, Hypatia lived in the 4th century A.D., when the decadence of the Roman Empire set in and the world began its change towards a new order. Astronomer, mathematician and philosopher, Hypatia was a noted scientist and a symbol of tolerance in her native Alexandria. Although her scientific works have been lost, the image of her that lingers in history is that of a strong woman who devoted her life to the search for truth. “We tried to contrast everything that is known about Hypatia,” says Alejandro Amenábar. “A lot is known about her death, about what she meant in the city at the time, about her as a character and about what she symbolises. But little is known about her work. Introducing an astronomical sub-plot, through her character, allowed us to speculate about the range of her studies, and even about the heights ancient civilisation might have reached had the Middle Ages and the fall of the Roman Empire not occurred when they did, as stumbling blocks, and had the world not been paralysed for 1500 years.” British actress Rachel Weisz, Oscar winner for The Constant Gardener and well known for films such as The Mummy, plays Hypatia, the brilliant astronomer. “I’d never heard of her and I was amazed when I started to read about her and started to discover things about her, and found that she wasn’t in every day vocabulary,” says Weisz. “She was an amazing woman and had such an extraordinary life. She definitely was mythical in XVIII century Europe amongst the romantic poets. They idealised her and idolised her, wrote poems about her and she was a romantic heroine. I guess because she was a symbol of passion and learning and reason and she was killed by fundamentalists.” “Hypatia embodied two very interesting conditions,” says Mateo Gil. “On the one hand, she clearly represented the Greek mentality, the search for truth through thought, in a world in which religions had a great deal of power in people’s daily lives, and constantly sought to increase that power. On the other hand, she was a woman in a world of men. She was a woman who wanted to lead her life as a man would have, with the same freedom to do research and devote herself to philosophy, like her father. Hence her decision never to give herself to any man - so she would never be robbed of the freedom she needed…” A fundamental aspect of the character that Alejandro portrayed very effectively is that philosophers were expected to always contain their emotions, which could make them seem distant or cold to us on screen. Rachel Weisz plays a Hypatia who is passionate about knowledge but must react serenely before any situation that arises because of her dedication to philosophy. This quality was required of philosophers and the wise. That is why they played an important role, as do intellectuals today, in advising politicians who govern,” says Elisa Garrido. Hypatia of Alexandria entered history shrouded in legend, much of it related to her personal life. Admired for her intelligence and respected for the outstanding position she came to earn in the social hierarchy of the city, she is portrayed by sources of the day as a woman of great beauty who inspired passion in those around her. “Hypatia died a virgin. We know from some of her students’ letters that she inspired incredible devotion amongst her pupils. Some of her pupils may or may not have been in love with her. One gets a sense that one of her favourite pupils probably was in love with her but she was very dignified and noble and never crossed the teacher/pupil boundary. But it seems that there was something about her that really inspired her students and they were fiercely loyal towards her and it was pretty unusual for a woman to be teaching in the library at that time. Her relevance could very well be due to the moment in which she lived and the city in which she was born,” comments Rachel Weisz. In AGORA, two men are trying to win her heart: her slave Davus and Orestes, one of her students, who later becomes Prefect of Alexandria. “Davus is a character we invented,” says Alejandro Amenábar, “but he is a key to showing us the workings of the city, Hypatia’s environment, Greco-Roman society, and the ancient world in general; how slavery was perceived in the 4th century. Davus isn’t sure whether or not to become a Christian. We see Christianity in its early years through his eyes, how it evolved from a persecuted religion into a dominant one. Davus becomes a Parabolano, a religious faction very characteristic of the era, a group of monks that started off as an order that helped the needy, and ended up being an armed appendage of the Church.” The young British actor, Max Minghella, plays Davus. He came through the exhaustive casting process conducted in London under the supervision of Jina Jay, (responsible for casting for projects of such magnitude as The Reader, Atonement and Munich) and who had previously worked with Amenábar in The Others. “Davus is quite in love with her, and it is very unreciprocated. It’s essentially about how these two characters cross and interact in each other’s lives during a very dramatic time in history,” says Max Minghella. “Alejandro’s idea that Hypatia’s slave should convert to Christianity in the film was a master stroke,” says Mateo Gil. “This allowed us to link the two worlds we were talking about.” “Hypatia is definitely part of the nobility, the upper class of Alexandrian life, and what’s fascinating about the culture is that they were thinking about everything. They were thinking about the trajectory of the moon and the sun and the stars and they were deeply humanist. But they had this one total and complete blind spot, which was slavery. They had an entire class of people who were slaves, who they considered not even to be human. They were considered to be next to animals. Which is an extraordinary thing when you consider how deep-thinking and humane they were,” explains Rachel Weisz. The actor of Guatemalan origin, Oscar Isaac, whom we recently saw in Body of Lies, undergoes a remarkable transformation in the film. At the beginning, when we first meet him, he is one of Hypatia’s more idealistic disciples. In the course of the film, he takes on the military and political responsibilities of the city, becoming the visible head of the Roman Empire in Alexandria. “Orestes is a typical example of what the aristocratic youth at that time would have been like – these boys who are being groomed to be leaders of tomorrow. Some of them are very ambitious and some of them are skating by on mum and dad’s money. I think Orestes starts as one of these guys, not sure what he wants to do; he’s smart, a little arrogant, a little headstrong, and he falls in love with his teacher Hypatia and he tries to seduce her,” explains Oscar Isaac. “Orestes allows us to recount one of the most famous anecdotes circulating about Hypatia and her relations with men,” the director recalls. “But Orestes also has a key role in the second part of the film: he personifies dialogue and reconciliation in politics.” “Hypatia has one of the great love affairs in history, but it’s with the cosmos,” explains the actress. “Her relationships with men were not documented. Sources say she was beautiful. But Hypatia’s true love was her work. She gave herself passionately to her studies, she was obsessed with science. She felt small before the immensity of the universe and her goal was to unravel its mystery.” The tension amongst the three is constant; it is a romantic triangle that can only explode when the in-fighting begins in the streets of Alexandria. The conflict that afflicts Hypatia’s world spirals into a profound transformation during the second part of the story told in AGORA. The protagonists also change. The work of costume designer Gabriella Pescucci is key to the understanding of this evolution. Winner of an Oscar for The Age of Innocence and Costume Designer as well for films no less outstanding, such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Adventures of Baron de Munchausen and Once Upon a Time in America, the Italian designer explains her treatment of colour for the different characters in the story. “I depart from the principle that colour is fundamental in my work. In the first part of the film Hypatia wears clear, luminous clothing because she lives in a Greek world of philosophers and students. Pagans also wear clear colours. Christians can be distinguished because they wear grey clothing. This difference was a suggestion from Alejandro, on which we totally agreed. After the siege of the Library, Hypatia is a stronger woman and she starts to wear deep colours because the destruction of the Library has been very painful for her. I took weeks to decide on the last dress Hypatia was going to wear. I had close to 200 different tones of red. In the final scene, when Hypatia is surrounded by the Parabolani, this red dress in the midst of the blackness of the group transmits not great physical strength, but strength of thought,” explains Gabriella Pescucci. A film about a society of such rigid hierarchy, as was Alexandria of the 4th century, had to have a very clear visual structure, something that transcends colour and draws on history. It also required exhaustive research. “During the first years of the feminist movement, there was much talk about Hypatia,” Gabriella Pescucci recalls. “When Alejandro spoke to me about his project, I remembered that. She is Greek, but she also is the only woman in the Library, and she works in a male world. In Hypatia’s costumes there are, of course, Greco-Roman references, but there also are masculine references; the toga she wears is a masculine toga. She was a very brave woman, who was trying to live in the same way as men. That’s why, in the film, she doesn’t wear a veil, for instance. There are characters, like Cyril, whose physicality is determining. For Sammy Samir, the dark colour was particularly suitable, because it reinforced his hierarchic aura, inspired by God. In contrast, for Synesius, the inspiration was clearly Byzantine, though brought closer to today, which is something I often do in my work.” “The film is definitely the story about a woman who refuses to compromise her ideals and she is a greater woman than I,” explains Rachel Weisz. “She is a greater woman than most people. I think it’s a very rare thing that someone is willing to lose their life because of what they believe in. It’s an incredibly noble and admirable thing. She believes in reason and doubt and she is not willing to step down from that. It’s pretty bold.” DAVUS – MAX MINGHELLA Davus was one of a dozen slaves a family of privilege like Hypatia’s could afford. He helps the philosopher not only in the most intimate aspects of her daily routine, but also accompanies her to her classes. His presence in the classroom allows him to incorporate the teachings of his mistress into his own education. “Max has the typical features of the Al Fayum portraits (often used as burial masks in Egypt in the first century),” explains Alejandro Amenábar. “And like all the other actors in this film, he has the intellectual depth necessary to play a slave who knows he’s smarter than the people around him suspect. Because Davus wants desperately to be a part of that circle and cannot. We looked for a sophisticated slave with a touch of tenderness, an actor who would also be believable as a Parabolani in the second half of the film. Someone rough, silent, with a certain melancholy about him because he still feels out of place. That is what the character must endure, he spends the entire film looking for himself but never finds himself.” “Being a slave, Davus knows he’ll never get what he wants. It’s interesting to note that his interest in learning is so closely tied to his desire to be accepted and loved that we never know how genuine his desire to learn really is. I wanted that question to remain unanswered in the film and I think that decision benefited the character,” says Max Minghella. “Davus converts because he wants a home, a family, to be accepted. He never wants to serve anyone again. He wants to be loved. In the end, he loses his way because he ends up suspecting that he has chosen the wrong family.” ORESTES – OSCAR ISAAC Orestes represents another axis in the privileged city of Alexandria: that of political power. He comes from a wealthy family that can afford to educate its children among the most prestigious wise men (and women) of the time. Orestes stands out for his impulsive dedication to both knowledge and physical experiences. He’s a born leader who is cast immediately into that role, shortly after the civil uprising in the city. “We combined two true stories in Orestes,” says Alejandro Amenábar. “On one hand we know that one of Hypatia’s students was in love with her, constantly pursuing her. Hypatia tried to convince him to dedicate himself to the stars and later to music, until she appeared in class one day and gave him a handkerchief stained with blood from her menstrual cycle. This true story really stands out because it gives us an idea of how determined she was to dedicate herself to science. Later we have Orestes’ own story, how he later became Prefect of Alexandria. We joined the two true stories into one. We needed someone capable of covering those two stages. Oscar is perfect because he has a naivety about him and at the same time he has the sense of humour and charisma to make us believe he could be tenacious enough to become a leader and, of course, that he could be a part of the Library elite. Although history would later remember Orestes as the one who lost. In that game of chess played by the Prefect and the Bishop, he came up short. He didn’t see Cyril’s greatest move coming.” “It was important for me to give the character a sense of humour, especially because Orestes had the potential to seem arrogant, high-handed, a thug. So I wanted to break away from that upper-class attitude, at least in certain moments, to strengthen his humanity by showing a little irony. I honestly think Orestes is the type of moderate believer who sometimes looks at himself from a distance, enabling him to find irony in the things happening around him,” says Oscar Isaac. THEON – MICHAEL LONSDALE The last director of Alexandria’s second library also happened to be Hypatia’s father. A philosopher and mathematician, Theon educated his daughter as a talented student, without regard for her gender. She even co-wrote some of his most important scientific works. Very little is known about Hypatia’s mother, except that she was a prestigious musicologist in Alexandria where music was considered an important form of knowledge tied to philosophy and science. “Theon insisted on educating his daughter in the ways of philosophy,” says Alejandro Amenábar. “He must have had a very special mind for his time. In the film we portray Theon to be somewhat disoriented, an old man reaching the end of his life who sees things happening much too quickly around him. He doesn’t understand that he is the last representative of a world that is coming to an end, that of the philosophers. Michael Lonsdale was ideal to play him because he is not only a great actor, but also a man who paints and writes. He understood the social and political reality reflected in the film perfectly and really understood the script. You look at him and believe he would have educated his daughter as he did.” “Theon is a man who deeply abhors fanaticism. He is of pagan origin, and remains philosophical as different religions grow more powerful around him because he is by nature a tolerant man. Yes, he’s a philosopher, like his daughter, and he looks to the heavens for the meaning of life: man, the world, the stars, mathematics,” says Michael Lonsdale. SYNESIUS – RUPERT EVANS The presence of Synesius in Hypatia’s classes confirms that the philosopher didn’t discriminate against students for belonging to one religion or another. Synesius was one of Hypatia’s most brilliant pupils and he was a firm believer in Christianity. Once he became the influential Bishop of Cyrene, he maintained an extensive friendship with his teacher through hundreds of letters. In them he always referred to the other pupils who shared her classroom as his “brothers.” “A great deal of what we know about Hypatia comes from the letters written by Synesius,” says Alejandro Amenábar. “We took certain dramatic license with him because he had actually already been dead for some time when Hypatia was murdered. But prolonging his life in the film helped us show how her circle was closing around her, how she was being more and more isolated socially for refusing to convert to Christianity. Rupert Evans, besides being a very intelligent person, has a great deal of humanity, which keeps his character from becoming a bad guy. Synesius suffers because he wasn’t able to convince Hypatia to join his group.” “When I read the script I was surprised to find out it was based on a true story. I found it interesting and I was fascinated by the moment in history it reflects. Synesius is a man who lives on the borderline. He’s a man of faith and at the same time he’s very diplomatic. In AGORA there are many characters with strong ideas, while he is an unusual example of a politician (who later becomes a bishop) trying to understand the world and why its inhabitants belong to the religions they belong to. Hypatia has taught him the need to seek the truth,” says Rupert Evans. CYRIL – SAMMY SAMIR When his uncle Pope Theophilus dies, Cyril takes over as Bishop of Alexandria and the city enters a new stage characterized by intensified civil confrontation. Like Hypatia and Orestes, Cyril comes from a family firmly anchored in power, in his case religious power. The bishop’s post was commonly handed down to members of the same family. “Today Cyril is considered a Saint, one of the fathers of the Church,” says Alejandro Amenábar. “Sammy Samir and I argued because he didn’t want to play the bad guy in the movie. His resistance, however, allowed him to give his character an added layer of richness. It has never been proven that Cyril gave the order directly for Hypatia to be killed, but it is clear that he contributed to the belief that she was diabolical, a witch who used perverse artefacts, and ended up being murdered by a group of Christians. When his uncle died, he waged war to succeed him, in the middle of a tremendous bloodbath which killed many Christians. He then brought about the massacre and expulsion of all of Alexandria’s Jewish population, and after Hypatia’s death he continued to instigate bloody wars until he managed to gain control of the entire city. At the very least he was a controversial figure. He was not exactly the kind of person we would consider a Saint. If this film pays tribute to Hypatia, someone who didn’t believe in violence, its antagonist is Cyril.” “Many scripts seem like great stories loaded with depth the first time you read them. But not the second time around. The more you read AGORA, the more meaning you find between the lines. Cyril is, without a doubt, a leader. A leader who tries to fortify the power of the Christians in Alexandria, but little by little his desire to strengthen and unite is transformed into the need for power. Cyril’s influence on the development of Christianity is deep and Alejandro was able to get close to him without judging him, without making him a good guy or a bad guy. Let the audience decide,” says Sammy Samir. AMMONIUS – ASHRAF BARHOM Ammonius the monk performs a variety of functions for the Church of Alexandria, accompanied by the Parabolani. He casts a profound influence over Davus and the decisions he makes. “Ammonius represents the best and worst of Christianity,” says the director. “He’s one of the leaders of the Parabolani. He’s based on a real person: the monk who threw the first stone at the Prefect. We looked for someone very charismatic; someone capable of attracting new followers, capable of convincing Davus that Christianity was based on compassion and charity. But also someone who might get carried away and end up letting his ideals lead him to acts of violence. He’s not just a bad guy. Ashraf is a truly gifted Palestinian actor. He was very adamant about not wanting to make a film that would offend Christians. I did my best to convince him that this is not a film against Christianity. I think it pays tribute to a forgotten moment in history and to a character lost in time. But it is a film against fundamentalism, against those who defend their ideas with weapons. It’s not against Christians, and most certainly not against the Christians of today.” “AGORA is a very deep and harsh story about trying to find God through religious or by other means. We’re living in very Pagan times in which money determines almost everything. And this film makes us look back at the role religion has played in history. Ammonius is not an easy character to understand, it’s not easy to get inside his head. He’s a manipulative man. I’ve had to do a lot of research and read a great deal to understand what he does and how he does it. I tried to find out as much as I could about what life was like in a Mediterranean city in the Roman Empire in the 4th century and what would lead a monk like Ammonius to legitimise violence if the orders came from the leaders of his church, who he believed to be directly connected to God. Ammonius truly believed he was protecting God,” says Ashraf Barhom. A MYTHICAL CITY, AN EXTRAORDINARY PRODUCTION The city of Alexandria undoubtedly plays a crucial role in AGORA. The mythical city was, (Alexander the Great ordered it built and it was later named after him), from its very beginning, completely devoted to the pursuit of knowledge, and determined to attract the most reputable men of wisdom of its time. Strategically situated in the north of Africa, its commercial wealth quickly grew, along with its cultural wealth. It was famous throughout the empire for the great diversity of its citizens, for its majestic lighthouse, for the singularity of its port, for the length of its Canopic Way and for the energy and vitality of its market. Quite a challenge for the art department of the film… “Alexandria was the first city ever designed,” explains the director. “Little or nothing of the original Alexandria remains. Now, much is being recovered from the sea. Alexandria was dominated by Greco-Roman culture because Alexander the Great wanted to bring Greece to Egypt. If you visit the ruins of the Library today - the second library, the one that was in the Serapeum - you’ll see the Pompey column, which is absolutely Greco-Roman, surrounded by sphinxes: a perfect combination of the two worlds.” “It’s a melting pot. And they lived in a time that was emotionally and politically difficult. There had been a lot of political problems. People were nervous, a lot of people were extremely poor; there was a huge difference between the rich and the poor in the city. But the city’s great strength had always been that it was very eclectic; it was the great mix, a melting pot, as its founders had intended. Nevertheless, the diversity that made it great also eventually led to its destruction,” explains Justin Pollard. “In Hypatia’s Alexandria many elements coincide, which are interesting not only in themselves,” says Mateo Gil, “but also because they bear such striking resemblance to our time. On the one hand there is the character of Hypatia, who wishes to be guided by reason, and constantly wonders why things are the way they are, and seeks the truth; she wants to investigate, to discover, to think, to doubt. On the other hand, there is a whole melting pot of religions and interests with many internal power struggles, which make the 4th century an exciting time. Films that have been made about ancient times have a tendency to seek periods of more purity. The Hollywood of yesteryear would never have been as attracted to this period as we are now, because it shares much more in common with the world today than with the world 40 or 50 years ago. The difference between the classic sword and sandal adventure films and AGORA is this film is really more about what’s happening in the world today than it is about the Roman Empire.” To make this melting pot of sensibilities a tangible architectural reality, Fernando Bovaira and Alejandro Amenábar entrusted the production design of the film to the British production designer Guy Dyas, responsible for the visual construction of films such as Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull and Superman Returns. No stranger to sizeable challenges, Dyas has worked on both sides of the Atlantic, and he gladly accepted Alejandro’s offer to build a legendary city in which the actors would feel at home. Because AGORA is a classical film, everything that appears on the screen can be touched. “Guy is a perfect combination between research (he uses many real references) and imagination,” says the director. “Today, there are things I still recall with amazement, like Orestes’ throne, an original idea of his, with lions inspired in an ancient design. And I cannot overemphasize how he made the most of the money. For example, in the Agora, wherever you place the camera you’ll always find something interesting, you can always find perspectives. Guy works a lot with visual dynamism. There never are completely straight lines; he is always playing with angles, which give great visual dynamism to the frame.” The AGORA team went to Fort Ricasoli, in Malta, to place the grandiose sets of the film into a context of reality, in a setting that includes Greco-Roman style buildings, the great square to which the title of the film refers, a Roman prefecture, pagan temples, Christian churches, a Greek amphitheatre, Hypatia’s lecture room and the mythical streets of Alexandria with its legendary Library. “Alexandria was sort of the centre of education, the centre of knowledge; it was a real sort of cultural hub. To convey that to a modern audience it was necessary to show the sort of architecture that would have been around at that time. I mean clearly there are elements left in Alexandria which give us clues as to what was going on.” Guy Dyas explains. Guy conceived Alexandria as a monumental, decadent city,” says the director. “We insisted a lot on the decadence, on worn-out stone, on chipped, flaking paint. That’s why the use of colour in the architecture was so crucial. It is a known fact that in the ancient world both sculpture and architecture were painted. We opted for a kind of washed-out painting which gives great richness and authenticity to the set, but we were careful to wash it so it doesn’t look like a film with sets from the fifties.” “There was a lot of research involved in this project,” says Dyas. “There always is when you’re trying to reproduce the past. And one thing that was incredibly helpful was that Alejandro had himself created a sort of a booklet or dossier that had a lot of the key sets in it in terms of visual reference and architectural direction. Interestingly enough, at the time the architectural direction was very Roman in flavour. Which is very interesting, because we ended up producing a lot of work that obviously looks very Egyptian”… For the choice of actors and extras to embody ancient Alexandrians in the film the director always had in his memory, as a reference, the portraits of the graves of Al Fayum, an important Egyptian archaeological site from the 1st century. The mummies found in Al Fayum have the faces of the dead painted on them. “The quality of these portraits is something you can’t imagine until you see it,” says the director. “After seeing how little remains of ancient Alexandria, it was exciting to find these portraits, which were like photographs; it was like someone had dug back 1600 years into the past and brought you the faces of its inhabitants.” The other characters who played an important role in Hypatia’s story also occupy the streets, temples and palaces of Alexandria, as imagined by Alejandro Amenábar and Guy Dyas. Characters of varied origins: Hypatia’s father, Theon, (played by French actor Michael Lonsdale); Synesius, another of Hypatia’s faithful disciples, (played by Rupert Evans), who later became the Bishop of Cyrene, one of the most valuable sources of information on Hypatia that has survived through the years thanks to the letters he exchanged with the philosopher; Cyril (Sammy Samir), Bishop of Alexandria and, according to some sources, the instigator of her tragic end; Ammonius (Ashraf Barhom), the Parabolano who captivates Davus; and the Parabolani themselves, one of the most surprising new elements of the film. It is a cast of great actors who, like the fictional characters they play, come from the most diverse parts of the planet. “The Parabolani were a kind of militia formed by monks who at first performed a great public service,” says Mateo Gil. “They took care of the sick, lepers and the dead. They helped in all sorts of public tasks. But they soon became the guardians of public behaviour and even did the dirty work; they were murderers. They told people how to dress or how to deal with their private affairs and they acted as an organ of control.” “The casting process was particularly complex,” explains Fernando Bovaira, “because Alexandria was a melting pot of cultures and we wanted to reflect that in the film. We needed actors of different nationalities, to bring different visions of what was being told in the film. We worked with Jina Jay, and the results couldn’t be better.” “It was a unique experience to be filming in Malta,” affirms Rachel Weisz. “People from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds all together on this set. So I think it was very international. It was European, South American, Middle Eastern, lots of representatives from different parts of the world, and all that being helmed by Alejandro, from Spain. Filming with such an international cast did give a feeling of the big melting pot that Alexandria was.” “We strove to avoid a diversity of accents,” says the director. “We played to the convention that the world of the Library and the Roman world speak English, with a British accent, and the world of the slaves and the world of the Christians speak with a Middle Eastern accent. We have Israeli, Palestinian, Egyptian and Iranian actors. We wanted to avoid even more mixtures.” “While shooting, there were people from very different places, we were a very large and diverse team, with a young director at the helm, and everything worked like a machine because Alejandro showed remarkable leadership, and was greatly respected by all. That was one of the challenges of the film,” says Fernando Bovaira. ALEXANDRIA: THE CENTER OF THE WORLD “During that period, Alexandria was a colourful place, as we might say nowadays about cities like New York, London or any other large European capital. People wanted to go there, that fed the mix. Not all the consequences were positive, but the miscellany worked. Back then, in ancient times, people didn’t travel like they do now. The overwhelming majority probably only travelled a few kilometres from where they were born. So visiting a city with people from everywhere (Africans, northern Europeans, Latinos, Indians, people from the Near East) probably made it one of the most cosmopolitan places on Earth. A city with a lot of nightlife, a place to try new things and meet different sorts of people. It’s no surprise different philosophies coexisted in Alexandria because people went there to exchange ideas.” Justin Pollard. “The film is incredibly realistic. But when I read the script I always situated Alexandria in a modern context, fed by scientific, philosophical and religious worlds revolving around each other. That’s why I imagined Alexandria like New York and also like Palestine right now. I felt the film should be neither modern nor ancient, but situated in a universal time frame, because we’re talking about the universality of mankind and human emotion.” Xavi Giménez. “In Hypatia’s Alexandria it wasn’t easy to distinguish social groups, the rich from the intellectuals. Educated people were of a social and economic position that allowed them access to education. There were very few cases of people born into poverty who could prosper; the social mobility we enjoy today didn’t exist. The classes were much more defined. An intellectual was automatically an aristocrat or someone from a privileged family, and vice versa, because they were the only ones who could read and write. It was precisely during that time that the clergy emerged, a group that admitted the poor and uneducated, who at times managed to rise within the hierarchy. Many learned to read and write so that they could read the sacred texts at mass. Those who wanted to could go far, although the higher clergy members always came from wealthy families.” Elisa Garrido. “It was a city with a lot of maritime and commercial activity. Apparently the Library grew and became a legendary place, in part thanks to a symbolic tax paid by ships that visited the city: they had to leave a copy of any books they were carrying. Almost everything was lost in the fire that burned down the first library. The one that appears in the film was also magnificent, but still smaller by comparison to the first, which burned down when Julius Caesar arrived.” Mateo Gil. “I think that to win over today’s audience you need to show something more than just the style of architecture that was abundant during that period. Of course there are elements of Alexandria’s lost architecture that give a clear indication of what the city must have looked like back then. But it’s more important to show that the city was an enormous melting pot of cultures that brought very different styles of architectures to its streets. We’re talking about Greece, Rome and of course Egypt (where it was built). And I think the interesting thing about this project is that we could go deeper and deeper into what this meant during the process of designing it.” Guy Dyas. “The Parabolani existed exclusively in Egypt. They imposed Alexandria’s church doctrine by force. In the East several ascetic movements emerged because people were convinced for a long time of the idea that Christ was coming back. And they needed to be prepared to greet the triumphant Christ by atoning for their sins and by doing penitence to obtain salvation. The desert also offered the perfect opportunity for penitence and many anchorites from Egypt and Syria renounced everything. They came from humble classes, rarely were they educated people, rather mystics who preferred to abandon public life to wait for Christ. They helped others, fasted for long periods of time and never engaged in sex. They even did penitence for the sins of their brothers. They didn’t live in one place, they were scattered throughout the streets and ruins. People let them sleep in their hallways.” Elisa Garrido. “The curious thing about these places that attract such diverse people is that it made them as strong as it did weak. Plenty of whimsical emperors ordered massacres of the Christian population. But not in Alexandria. Alexandria was the home of the Library, the city of ideas. Only when an individual group tried to identify and classify those differences did problems arise. We see that as well in Germany in 1930. People could be best friends one day and mortal enemies the next morning simply because they had been singled out.” Justin Pollard. “Cities aren’t suddenly built and finished overnight, they evolve little by little. The inspiration for the city’s design came from what Alexandria must have looked like; we didn’t base it on Rome or Athens. In my opinion, cities tend to look more alive and realistic if you give the audience more than just ruins, if you show them what it was like to live there, how it grew and grew.” Guy Dyas. THE SCIENCE OF CINEMA: ALEXANDRIA AND THE SKY ABOVE The logistics necessary for that entire complex machinery to work depend to a large extent on the line producer, Jose Luis Escolar who has vast experience in international productions, (Kingdom of Heaven, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen). “My first aim when I read the script was to find a place where we could reconstruct Alexandria, ancient Alexandria today,” recalls Escolar. “We visited locations in Spain, Turkey, Tunisia and Morocco, but Malta had a higher percentage of what we needed in terms of light and space. Fort Ricasoli proved inspiring for the film. Furthermore, the faces of the people who were potential extras were magnificent. And since big productions such as Troy and Gladiator had been shot there, it also had craftsmen that are very technically and artistically prepared to build the sets, as well as people very experienced in shoots.” AGORA is one of the most ambitious European film productions of all time. It is an undertaking that has been possible thanks to the human capital brought together for this production. It required an assembly of the very best professionals for the achievement of excellence. “Malta was fundamental in this film. We wouldn’t have been able to do it anywhere else,” says Bovaira. “It also allowed us to create an atmosphere of work beyond borders that was very beneficial to the project. When we started to work on the film it immediately became clear that it should have an international projection. It was too big and too ambitious a project to be shot in Spanish. We decided to create a multinational team, mainly European, and I think we’ve managed to give the film a work climate that transcends the notion of nationalities.” “There is a very naturalist focus, in the story as well as in the production,” says Mateo Gil. “The audience is going to find the actions and reactions of the characters very credible and natural, which is very important for a story as big as this if it is to really reach the audience. But beyond its naturalism, the angle given to the characters, the narrative focus of the film is very classical. It draws on a genre, Classic Epic, but also updates it by narrating in a more contemporary way. It is a very interesting experiment; the masses of people we see moving in the streets are real. It isn’t some computer drawing. Everything you see has a very important texture of reality.” To create this both naturalist and contemporary tapestry, Xavi Giménez’s vision was fundamental. He has worked as director of photography on such films as Transsiberian and La gran aventura de Mortadelo y Filemón. “I chose Xavi because his work over the last few years has been spectacular,” says the director. “Furthermore, I was looking for someone of a similar spirit, who understood the harshness of the sun. Someone who knew how to use the sun we were inevitably going to have in Malta, someone who could play with it and use it to our advantage. It’s a sun that dazzles, that generates a strongly contrasted image, which I think is beneficial to the film.” Xavi Giménez: “Normally, the director of photography comes into the project when the aesthetic base of the film has already been established. It was not the case here. Here, it was perceived from the very beginning that the DOP was going to be a figure of notable weight. Alejandro, Guy and I met several times during the preparation, and the aesthetic was gradually shaped as we advanced in the project, because a film is something organic. AGORA gradually developed into something pictorial, which could be touched, symbolic even. The references for this film are based more on emotions and sentiments than on visual parameters seen in other films.” “Hypatia was the aesthetic centre of the film, and quite a different one at that,” says Giménez. “That’s why Hypatia’s philosophical point of view influenced how the film was visualized. Hypatia is the film’s source of light; she illuminates everything around her. She’s the Lighthouse and she administers the beauty of the film, even though destructive things occur around her. Hypatia is the transmission of knowledge, she represents thought and beauty, she teaches and learns at the same time. We didn’t give her beautiful lighting because she’s the main character. We gave her different brightness, texture and colour because we wanted her humanity to stand out, based on doubt. She is the sun of the film, and through her eyes we discover what is happening.” “This film is a tribute to scientists in general,” says the director. “We wanted the film to show the line of thinking followed by all astronomers over the course of two thousand years, which is thrilling because after all they are people who simply looked up at the sky one night, just like any of us. I look at the sky and I feel fascinated by what I see, I ask myself all sorts of questions but I’m unable to find any answers. That is what scientists have done: find answers over the course of thousands of years.” In order to understand Hypatia’s discovery, Antonio Mampaso’s contribution was crucial. Since then, the skies and astronomers have changed a great deal. “When Hypatia was alive they were already enjoying the fruit of years of scientific research. The movement of the planets had been documented by Ptolemy and Hipparchus, and precise instruments had been invented that allowed their theories to be tested. For the first time these two factors coincided. The astrolabe, one of the most important astronomical instruments ever created, was developed during that time and Hypatia would have certainly been aware of it. The measurements supplied by the astrolabe and other instruments eventually allowed them to perfect the sky model and discard the previously established geocentric model, replacing it with the heliocentric model, which we know today to be correct. This discovery propelled not only astronomy... it was revolutionary also in a social context, because cosmological and scientific theories had taken root and greatly influenced society through social and religious order. We’re talking about the moment the system changed,” says Antonio Mampaso. That journey to the past with present-day references greatly informed the way the entire film was pitched from the outset. From the work of the various art departments to the visual effects. AGORA is a contemporary fresco with innovative production. “Gabriella, for example,” says Alejandro Amenábar, “works a lot on present day references, which I find very interesting. To portray the world of 1600 years ago, she prefers to look for elements we can still see today in cultures that are somewhat distant to us, and blend that with the stereotype we have. In this case, we have the Roman world, the Egyptian world, and a Christian world, as a forerunner to the Middle Ages. For example, I think the way she combines the abundant description that exists of the Parabolani with the world of the Taliban is spectacular. I thought that was a remarkable touch.” “The people you see in the film are real,” says José Luis Escolar. “The architecture as well: everything you see in the film has been built. Although technological tools have been used here like they have never been before, production and shooting are in keeping with the classical way of doing things.” “We decided to physically construct and shoot as much as possible,” says the director. “What was digitally enhanced was done so with great care and respect for shooting conditions. Not a single detail of what was added or retouched could in any way undermine the credibility of what was being proposed.” “540 shots are going to be introduced via digital retouching, 150 of which are really big,” explains Felix Bergés. “All of this can be done because Alejandro has a privileged brain, and he had a clear picture of the film in his head before he started shooting. Of course, in a shoot there always is improvisation, but the really important things were conceived beforehand and shot as can be seen in the computer graphics. Another tool fundamental to the achievement of that total experience the director strives for is the soundtrack. On this occasion, the music for the film was done by Dario Marianelli, composer of the music for films such as Atonement, (which earned him an Oscar) Pride and Prejudice, and V for Vendetta. “I asked Dario Marianelli to do the music for AGORA because I wanted new energy in my cinema in that area,” says Alejandro Amenábar. “I think it is more and more important to trust collaborators. It is important to have a good cast of collaborators and not impose a sole vision, no matter how clear in your own mind things might be. When you get into a film as big as this, you understand that a musician such as Marianelli opens up new spaces to the film, spaces I certainly wouldn’t have got to.” “The realistic element is very important in the visualisation of this film,” Dario Marianelli explains. “But it might seem strange, in terms of music, to talk about trying to be realistic. The bigger the film, the more the music has to help you to get into the story. AGORA is a big film, which needed a big orchestra and powerful voices to amplify the feeling of being within the screen, of participating in that massive maze of things, to feel that you’re inside the conflict or travelling through crowds.” “Agora has a lot of drama, it is very, very dramatic. It is a very big, grand, period movie. There are a lot of action sequences, it’s thrilling, there’s a kind of thriller aspect to it. I think it’s exciting, there’s love, a little drama... and some unrequited love. It’s incredibly unusual because it’s about this female heroine that really lived. It’s a true story that’s been buried in the mist of time and it’s now being told for the first time,” says Rachel Weisz. “As in my previous film, The Sea Inside, AGORA has given me a kind of peace, because it allows me to see things with a relative dimension,” says Amenábar. “It is wonderful to be alive and even more so to feel alive; but we’re rather small in the midst of the universe. And the sort of vertigo and unrest born out of being surrounded by outer space, full of stars, stimulates me a great deal and I hope it does the audience as well.” TRAVELLING THROUGH TIME: THE 4TH CENTURY WITH 21ST CENTURY TECHNOLOGY AGORA offers the audience a unique visual experience after 35 weeks of sophisticated post-production work. Felix Bergés is responsible for the digital effects. A digital effects designer of international fame, he has been behind recent films such as The Oxford Murders. He worked with a team of professionals that at times reached as many as 60 people, as is commonplace in a production of this magnitude. Part of that team, an entire department dedicated to the development of designing a digital model of ancient Alexandria, a key piece for the many panoramic shots of the city and the zoom angles used in AGORA. Magoga Piñas coordinated the digital reconstruction of the city, a job that began inevitably with her reading many books on ancient architecture due to the total lack of any graphic testimony. This process began with the recreation of the geography of the area in the 4th century, drastically changed today due to several earthquakes, floods, draughts and wars. “Alejandro wanted Alexandria to look completely normal, natural and realistic. He wanted the certainty of knowing that if one day he was shooting with sunlight or with dust, he wanted to see Alexandria as it really existed, as if we’d shot in a modern city. We also had to recreate Alexandria on every scale. There are aerial shots of the entire city, satellite images from space of the Nile River delta, which zoom in and you can see it from every scale. We see Alexandria at night, in the afternoon, basically at every possible hour and angle,” says Félix Bergés. “We had to recreate the landscape, not only the city, but also the geography. We generated the islands and rivers from that time,” explains Magoga Piñas. “First we had to create a geographic map to determine the location of Lake Mariout (separated from the Mediterranean Sea by the narrow isthmus on which the city of Alexandria was built). Then a series of canals were built as a base to the landscape, and after that we started reconstructing the city.” From there they followed the map of ancient Alexandria. Very few of the streets of the original city commissioned by Alexander the Great remain today. “It was very important to recover the original ground plan of the city, so we contacted the Graphic Design Department at Madrid Polytechnic University. They put us in contact with Daniel Aragoneses. He worked on a plan that included all the latest discoveries: the Yale studies and Frank Godio’s excavations in the sea, to establish a framework that was as exact as possible. He worked on two scales: the first, very general, and another that was real scale because we wanted to recreate the architectonic typology of the area. It was a difficult challenge because it was a large city without tall buildings and it was tremendously important,” says Magoga Piñas. If the ground has changed, the world’s ceiling has as well. The crew submerged itself in the history of science to offer the audience an exact image of the sky in the 4th century. Modern references were also necessary, and Félix Bergés contrasted all of that information with data from NASA, recent studies and Antonio Mampaso’s expert opinion. “The sky we see in the film is the real sky,” explains Antonio Mampaso. “We tried to recreate the sky as it was seen by Hypatia and her peers. Today’s sky is not exactly the same. The position of the planets has changed, and some of the changes occur over long periods of time. The stars of the constellations we’re used to seeing (Ursa Major and Scorpio) change little by little due to what we call individual movement. Also, since 1600 years have gone by since Hypatia was alive, some of the stars we see today were not visible at that time (and vice versa) and all of them have slightly changed their position in the sky, due to another phenomenon called precession of the Earth’s axis: the axis points north, but follows a small circle around that position. This is why the axis of the Earth today (which coincidentally points at the North Star) is not the same as it was in Hypatia’s time: the sky is different. All of this was taken into account because the man who recreated the sky, Félix Bergés, is an astronomer as well as a digital effects expert and he meticulously incorporated all of this into his work.” “For me this film was a gift because I’m an astrophysicist,” says Bergés. “We did some shots that look very much like what the audience would see if it could observe space with the most powerful telescope in the world. What we want is to give the spectator the sensation that he can see what is happening in the universe. Not so much that you’re travelling through the cosmos, but that you have the possibility of seeing and getting to know the universe. So you can’t make do here with conventional solutions, like fading to nebula; you require something more subtle. Spectacular yes, but subtle.” As is customary in Alejandro Amenábar’s films, sound effects also play a major role. The man behind them here is Glenn Freemantle (Slumdog Millionaire) and the sound effects are at the level of the very best international productions. The director considers sound a facet of cinema crucial to the total experience of the spectator. “He’s passionate, and you can see it in the way he shoots; he’s very stylish, he’s very sensitive, in areas of the film other directors would not pay attention to. He works at a fantastic pace and he talks you through everything. His films are a process of collective growth and he trusts his crew,” says Freemantle. “Science has advanced and has become incredibly specialized, but humanity hasn’t changed very much. AGORA is the story of a conflict that shook Alexandria during Hypatia’s time, but much later, in the year 1600, Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake and Galileo was banished for life for defending the very same model of the universe that Hypatia defends in the film, the heliocentric model. Enough astronomers have been killed for their beliefs; nowadays nobody gets burned at the stake for saying that the Andromeda Galaxy rotates to the right or to the left. Today it is the science of life, not of astronomy, that has the most impact on our beliefs and fears. People today argue about stem cell research, but down deep the conflict hasn’t changed. This is something we see in AGORA,” says Antonio Mampaso. MOD PRODUCCIONES MOD PRODUCCIONES is a recently created audiovisual production company. The company is, at present, involved in its first three projects, which are at different phases of production. AGORA, Alejandro Amenábar’s latest film, starring Rachel Weisz, will be released in the autumn of 2009. Biutiful, starring Javier Bardem, is directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu. The film was shot in its entirety in Barcelona, Spain. Currently in post-production. EL Mal Ajeno, by Oskar Santos, with a cast headed by Eduardo Noriega and Belen Rueda. Also currently in post-production. HIMENÓPTERO Created in 1995 by Alejandro Amenábar to produce his own short films. The company’s first feature production was The Sea Inside (2004), directed by Alejandro Amenábar, which won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar in 2005. It is currently involved in the post-production of El Mal Ajeno, Oskar Santos’ first feature film, with Mod Producciones and Telecinco Cinema as production partners. TELECINCO CINEMA Telecinco cinema, the film producing arm of Telecinco television, has been behind many of the biggest box office Spanish films of recent times, such as “Pan’s Labyrinth” – a film by Guillermo del Toro, which won three Oscars; “Alatriste”, by Agustín Díaz Yanes, which starred Viggo Mortensen; “The Orphanage” by Juan Antonio Bayona, the biggest box office success of 2007 and the second biggest Spanish box office success of all time; “The Oxford Murders”, by Álex de la Iglesia, recent winner of 3 Goyas. Last year, Telecinco Cinema participated in two super-productions on the figure of Ché Guevara, directed by Steven Soderbergh: “Che, The Argentine” which earned Benicio del Toro Best Actor at Cannes 2008, and “Che, Guerrilla”. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- SELECTED FILMOGRAPHIES – RACHEL WEISZ – Hypatia 2008. “The Brothers Bloom”, by Rian Johnson 2007. “My Blueberry Nights”, by Wong Kar Wai 2006. “The Fountain”, by Darren Aronofsky 2005. “The Constant Gardener”, by Fernando Meirelles Oscar for Best Supporting Actress Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress 1999-2001. “The Mummy” and “The Mummy Returns”, by Stephen Sommers MAX MINGHELLA – Davus 2009 “Hippie, Hippie Shake”, by Beeban Kidron 2009. “Brief Interviews with Hideous Men”, by John Krasinski 2008. “How to Lose Friends & Alienate People”, by Robert B. Weide 2006. “Art School Confidential”, by Terry Zwigoff 2005. “Syriana”, by Stephen Gaghan OSCAR ISAAC – Orestes 2008. “Body of Lies”, by Ridley Scott “Che, The Argentine”, by Steven Soderbergh 2007. “The Life Before Her Eyes”, by Vadim Perelman 2006. “The Nativity Story”, by Catherine Hardwicke “PU-239”, by Scott Z. Burns ASHRAF BARHOM -Ammonius 2007. “The Kingdom”, by Peter Berg 2005. “Paradise Now”, by Hany Abu-Assad 2004. “The Syrian Bride”, by Eran Riklis “Ahava Colombianit”, by Shay Kanot MICHAEL LONSDALE-Theon 2007. “La question humaine”, de Nicolas Klotz 2006. “Goya's Ghosts”, by Milos Forman 2005. “Munich”, by Steven Spielberg 1974. “The Day of the Jackal”, by Fred Zinnemann. 1962. “The Trial”, by Orson Welles RUPERT EVANS-Synesius 2008. “Haze”, by David Doak 2004. “Hellboy”, by Guillermo del Toro SELECTED FILMOGRAPHIES CREW MATEO GIL (Co-writer) 2005. “El método”, by Marcelo Pyñeiro 2004. “The Sea Inside”, by Alejandro Amenábar 1999. “Nobody Knows Anybody” (writer and director) 1997. “Open Your Eyes”, by Alejandro Amenábar 1996. “Thesis”, by Alejandro Amenábar FERNANDO BOVAIRA (Producer) 2009. “Biutiful”, by Alejandro G.Iñárritu 2004. “The Sea Inside”, by Alejandro Amenábar 2001. “The Others”, by Alejandro Amenábar 2001. “Sex & Lucía”, by Julio Medem. 1999. “Butterfly”, by José L.Cuerda 1997. “Open Your Eyes”, by Alejandro Amenábar JOSÉ LUIS ESCOLAR (Line Producer) 2006. “Kingdom of Heaven”, by Ridley Scott 2003. “Imagining Argentina”, by Christopher Hampton 1992. “1492: Conquest of Paradise”, by Ridley Scott 1989. “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”, by Steven Spielberg 1988. “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen”, by Terry Gilliam XAVI GIMÉNEZ (DOP) 2008. “Transsiberian”, by Brad Anderson. 2006. “Summer Rain”, by Antonio Banderas. 2004. “The Machinist”, by Brad Anderson. 2003. “La gran aventura de Mortadelo y Filemón”, by Javier Fesser. 2001. “Intacto”, by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo. GUY HENDRIX DYAS (Production Designer) 2008. “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”, by Steven Spielberg. 2007. “Elizabeth: The Golden Age”, by Shekhar Kapur. 2006. “Superman Returns”, by Bryan Singer. 2005. “The Brothers Grimm”, by Terry Gilliam. 2003. “X.Men 2”, by Bryan Singer. GABRIELLA PESCUCCI (Costume Designer) 2007. “Beowulf”, by Robert Zemeckis. 2005. “The Brothers Grimm”, by Terry Gilliam. “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, by Tim Burton. 2004. “Van Helsing”, by Stephen Sommers. 1993. “The Age of Innocence”, by Martin Scorsese. DARIO MARIANELLI (Music) 2007. “Atonement”, by Joe Wright. “Goodbye Bafana”, by Bille August. 2005. “V for Vendetta”, by James McTeigue. “The Brothers Grimm”, by Terry Gilliam. “Pride and Prejudice”, by Joe Wright.