Filmmaker Alexander Berberich is in Costa Rica, if he gets lucky, for two straight weeks, maybe a month, at a time. His busy schedule keeps the New York native constantly traveling to the United States and Europe.
But Costa Rica is home.
“Costa Rica centers me,” Berberich said in a phone interview from New York, where he is producing a fashion show. “I love going home to Costa Rica, and being at peace. And when I’m at peace, I’m able to pursue my creative ventures.”
That creativity has been channeled into Berberich’s short films, the latest of which have been filmed around Costa Rica. One of these films, “Bella,” shot on a beach just south of Jacó, on the central Pacific coast, has been accepted to Britain’s Raindance Film Festival, a festival for independent filmmakers.
Berberich, 32, first moved to Costa Rica in 2002 after visiting the country several times. The deep-green mountains and numerous beautiful beaches drew him here, and the country began to provide a haven from a “hectic” lifestyle, Berberich said.
I can be “completely alone with nature,” he said.
Costa Rica’s nature provided the inspiration for “Bella,” a movie in which a woman reflects on life while walking on a beach.
“I had never taken advantage of the beautiful locations,” said Berberich, a former Tico Times photography intern. “I realized that’s kind of foolish, so I came up with ‘Bella’ and shot it.”
San José’s city streets, though, have provided the backdrop for most of Berberich’s shorts in Costa Rica.
The fact that Berberich calls Costa Rica home, rather than the more common locales for young directors such as New York or Los Angeles, intrigued Karen Young, a veteran stage, television and film actress.
She met Berberich when they worked together on a play in New York, and the young director was a teenage stage actor. More than 15 years later, Young ran into Berberich on aNew York City street
, and he told her about moving to Costa Rica.
“I just found that the shift of going someplace else was really compelling,” Young said from her home in Manhattan. “The short he had made in Costa Rica, that was really impressive. He couldn’t have done it in New York because of the costs involved.”
Later on, Young and Berberich met for coffee and exchanged e-mails, one containing a link to the young director’s short films, which helped Young sign on to Berberich’s feature-length directorial debut, “Bonne année,” an expanded version of one of the shorts filmed in San José.
The feature-length movie was shot in Argentina because of the limitations of Costa Rica’s small film industry, Berberich said. But post-production will be done in studios around San José.
Although Costa Rica’s film industry is small, Berberich said in terms of post-production – audio and film editing – he is able to do everything here.
And it’s cheaper, said Drew Irwin, Berberich’s friend and editor of “Bonne année.” He and Berberich have collaborated on a half-dozen projects, Irwin said.
Irwin described Berberich’s projects as “challenging,” explaining, for example, that “Bonne année” is made up of ten one-take shots, something unusual in the movie business.
But Berberich’s attention to detail, Irwin said, made the production go smoothly and quickly – which is important for a film on an independent budget.
“Bonne année” was filmed in one week. Young,who is known for her stage work in New York and for her supporting part in the HBO series “The Sopranos,” said she was a little envious of Berberich being free to leave behind the crazy life of the film industry in the United States.
For Berberich, the friends he has made here add to Costa Rica becoming his home. He said he hopes to film his next feature film here to help the local economy, among many other reasons.
In a few weeks, Berberich will be back in Costa Rica to continue overseeing post-production of his movie, to get away from it all, and find his inner muse.
“I only write in Costa Rica,” he said.
About Berberich’s Films
“Bonne année”: Two hit men discuss their lives on New Year’s Eve, only to die shortly afterward. The movie retraces their steps. In post-production. Cast: Karen Young (“The Sopranos”), Thibaut Landier, Benjamin Banks.
“Bella”: A young woman thinks about life while strolling on a beach. Screened at the Raindance Film Festival in Britain. Cast: Ampora Marie Sapp. To view Alexander Berberich’s short films shot in Costa Rica, visit www.xber.org.