Dani de la Torre’s debut film “Retribution” (“El Desconocido”) arrives at MIA after a successful run on the fall film festival circuit, beginning with a prestigious opening-night slot at Venice Biennale sidebar Venice Days and including a high-profile gala screening at San Sebastian in the run-up to its Spanish release. Starring Luis Tosar (“Miami Vice”), the action thriller tells the story of Carlos, a high-flying banker whose company has orchestrated a fraudulent junk-bond scheme that has left many investors penniless. Carlos is already having second thoughts about his involvement when, during the school run, he receives an anonymous phone call telling him that there is a bomb in his car that will explode if he or either of his two children try to escape. The bomber demands a hefty ransom; Carlos’ attempts to access such large sums bring him to the attention of the police, resulting in a high-speed car chase across urban Galicia.
“Retribution” is co-written by Alberto Marini, as a scribe (“Sleep Tight,” “REC”) and now director (“Summer Camp”), one of the driving forces on Spain thriller/genre scene.
Sold by Film Factory at MIA market after proving one of the hottest sales tickets in Venice, distributed by Warner Bros in Spain, De la Torre’s film benefited from good word of mouth that saw it hold steady in the face of competition from Alejandro Amenábar’s “Regression.” At the time of going to press, it has taken €2,157,516 ($2.5m), making it the sixth highest-grossing Spanish release of 2015, and counting.
How would you describe your film?
“Retribution” is a frenetic film, with a lot of action but also a huge social message. It’s a film with a lot of layers: the public can be entertained but also think about some ethical dilemmas.
Is it a script you developed yourself? If not, how did it come to you?
The script was developed by Alberto Marini, but, nevertheless, I was able to put my own ideas into it. I showed it to Vaca Films and Luis Tosar; they liked it, so the producers hired Alberto and we both worked on the script together.
What appealed to you about this story?
Spain suffered a lot with the crisis – the banks defrauded a lot of people. Most of them lost everything, so this story was a way I found to show my outrage.
What were you looking for in your leading man?
Well, the protagonist is not a typical man. He is a bank director who isn’t very well liked by the public. He conned people, he is not a good guy. But all I tried to show was a simple man, who made wrong decisions in life, who didn’t think about others, or if he was being harmful to everyone. This is a film about people who make the wrong decisions and harm another people.
Where did you shoot, and were there any problems with locations?
The film was shot completely in A Coruña, in Galicia, in the north west of Spain. The local authorities helped us a lot, and the local citizens were really kind and patient with us. It’s a proud feeling to work in your country and then show it to the world. Cinema is magic because it’s universal.
The film deals explicitly with the financial crisis. Do you see the film as a cautionary tale in any way, or is it simply a reflection of the modern age?
The film is a reflection on our society. Fortunately, an extreme situation like this hasn’t actually happened, because we are a really tolerant and patient society and, in spite of all the corruption and robbery by the banks and corrupt politicians, Spanish society has shown its indignation in a civic and democratic way. Cinema, apart from being entertainment, is also a mirror of our world, and it can show situations that didn’t happen but could have. It’s a way to show something that could happen and it should make us think about it.
What are your hopes for the film?
I hope a lot of people will go to cinemas to see it. And I also hope that our audience is satisfied with it. I would like to start a debate, to make people think about a social problem, and I would like my film to stay in the spectator’s mind.
What’s next for you?
I’m working on a new movie, a new thriller with Alberto Marini, Vaca Films and Atresmedia Cine.