“I love comedies, I love to be able to do really funny films, making the audiences laugh is something very interesting and very difficult, but at the same time I wanted to have a serious film to talk about stuff that really matters to me.”

For his feature directorial debut, Francisco Varone mined very real experiences from his life in Argentina to make the road-trip comedy/drama Road to La Paz, screening this weekend at the Sydney Latin American Film Festival. Making the trip himself from Buenos Aires to Bolivia that the film’s same characters set out to accomplish, on his second outing Varone accidentally flooded his car in a river, inspiring a key sequence in the final cut.

“When I finished my first draft I decided to make the road-trip myself to do some research, find new ideas… That was how I started to understand which places I wanted to have in the film,” explains Varone, who discovered the picture’s soundtrack in a restaurant en-route; the owner himself playing tunes for the guests and inspiring one of the movie’s many true-to-life features.

The story of a young man (Rodrigo De la Serna) working to make ends meet as a taxi driver, Sebastian agrees to drive an elderly acquaintance Khalil (Ernesto Suarez) to Bolivia to see his ageing brother; the unlikely pair, forced to share a cramped car and quarters, forming a touching bond on the trip. Inspired in part by an out-of-work best-friend who took up work as a driver, Varone took the film’s thematic edge from an encounter with an old friend who informed Varone that he had converted to Islam.

“He invited me and I spent a whole day during their prayers, while they read the Quran, while they cooked, had dinner, they were very open and it was very interesting to show to other Argentinians and Latin Americans this Islamic culture we have in Latin America,” said Varone. “I thought it was the opportunity to show Islam from other than the traditional way we are used to seeing it in news and TV at least these days.”

The dynamic shared between the distinctive travellers both humourful and very moving at times, Road to La Paz has played at Film Festivals around the world in countries including the US, Mexico, Brazil and Greece, and has now made its way to audiences in Australia.

“It kind of surprises me but usually the reaction to the film is very similar in many countries. People see some kind of feeling or message about relations between two different people and how if you have time and the will to know, to really know other people you can have a deeper bond with that person, even though you are different,” commented Varone.

“I think maybe the sensation they will have at the end of the film has to do with this long voyage the young character has in the film and has to do with growing, leaving behind some fears and leaving behind his comfort zone to deal with something unexpected but that in the end is rewarding.”

Road to La Paz is screening as part of the Sydney Latin American Film Festival – for tickets head to the Festival website