Teresa de Pelegri and Dominic Harari are not your usual film directors. First of all, they don’t behave as such when I meet them. They are certainly enthusiastic about their work, in this case promoting their screwball comedy Only Human and talking about the themes contained in the film. But there is something un-director-ly about them, in the sense that they don’t put on airs to add gravitas to the holy office of film directing. They are also married and only work together.
But don’t film directors have egos and often aspire to being called auteurs? So how does it feel to share the directorial spotlight? "We operate as one ego," says Theresa. "It’s a healthy collaboration and we have no intention of going solo," says Dominic. "We never have any major conflicts, like couples who thrive on conflicts," Theresa adds. Dominic chips in: "It’s a creative conflict! We spend our energy on more creative discussions."
The couple met as film students in New York (Theresa is Spanish and Dominic is English). They initially made short films together, and even after they became involved, their work partnership came first. Their different nationalities means they work in two languages. "I love that because when we translate we get fresh view on the text," says Theresa, who tells me they write for other people in various genres. "We are influenced by all styles," says Dominic. "But of course, we really admire classic screwball comedies," adds Theresa – a shared admiration which was used as the template for their latest film.
Only Human, says Theresa, broke new ground in Spain as the first film to be set amidst a Spanish family. "The Jewish community welcomed it and a lot of Spanish people became aware of their presence," says Dominic. "They liked it even though we portray a very dysfunctional family," he says, breaking into one of his many infectious bursts of laughter. There’s a serious side to the film, though. "We also wanted to create a discussion about the Israel/Palestine conflict, which is, in a way, like a dysfunctional family affair," says Theresa.
She says that the original plan was to set the film in London, but due to several practical reasons, that didn’t happen. "It was good in the end because by shooting it in Spanish we managed to cast Norma Leandro." The film also stars Spanish superstar Guillermo Toledo. "We were a bit worried about him at first," says Dominic, "because of the types of roles he’d played before, often very extrovert characters. Rafi needed to be serious, he’s a professor. But in the end Guillermo did a fantastic job. He’s a great actor, very versatile."
Despite the specific milieu of the film, families are families and their internal workings and relationships are familiar to everyone. "A lot of people say they saw their own families on the screen. It is very universal, particularly the fact that different members of a family play different roles within the family dynamics," says Theresa. Interestingly, the marketing of the film has focused on different aspects of it, depending on the country.
"In Spain, they shied away from the political aspect of it," says Dominic. "maybe because of the Madrid bombings." Theresa adds: "They tried to sell it as a summer comedy, but it is not summery, it’s actually very autumnal, the light and the colours. In France, they did the opposite and really focused on the Palestine/Israel angle." But, as Dominic says, "It doesn’t matter. Audiences like the film for their own reasons, regardless." In the meantime, while Only Human makes its way across the globe, they are working on their next project. "It’s called Eating Disorders. It’s about how food affects relationships," says Theresa, who says it is also a comedy. "We like all genres," Dominic says, "but comedy seems to come to us easily."