×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Jacques Leonard, el Payo Chac

A forgotten man and his photographs are brought back from oblivion in the fascinating docu "Jacques Leonard, el Payo Chac."

With:
With: Alex Leonard, Santiago Leonard, Jesus Ulled. (Spanish, French, Catalan dialogue)

A forgotten man and his photographs are brought back from oblivion in the fascinating docu “Jacques Leonard, el Payo Chac.” The remarkable life story of the titular photographer, writer and adventurer is told largely through his stunning photos of the gypsy community in which he chose to live. Pic compresses enough into its short running time to merit twice its length as it touches lightly on memory and forgetfulness, the breakdown of cultural barriers and the search for one’s roots, all universal themes that should help this well-crafted, evocative item find a deserved home in fest sidebars.

In 2010, thousands of photographic negatives were rescued by Leonard’s sons Santiago and Alex, the film’s main interviewees, from boxes in the attic of the house where Leonard, a talented but private man who had cared little for marketing his considerable skills, died in 1995. (Helmer Yago Leonard is the photog’s grandson.)

Along with Leonard’s unpublished memoir, the photos tell the story of a life spent traveling the globe, working as a furniture restorer and film editor (with Abel Gance, according to one interviewee), becoming part of the Madrid intelligentsia after the Spanish Civil War, and meeting and falling in love in 1952 with Rosario Amaya, a beautiful Barcelona gypsy whom he married — and who proudly turned down an offer to pose for Salvador Dali, glimpsed in some of the photos. The development of their relationship is described via wonderfully evocative extracts from Leonard’s memoir.

Docu is structured achronologically, so that secrets from Leonard’s past are revealed only after viewers feel they’ve gotten to know him. The explanation of why he chose to marry into a community where non-gypsies are at best unwelcome reps an authentic surprise, as does another family development that yields the pic’s most emotionally intense scenes.

Footage mainly consists of reminiscences with family and friends, but the black-and-white images depicting a Romany way of life that’s now largely disappeared haunt most. Beautiful as art and invaluable as testimony, Leonard’s shots are rare period examples of photographs taken from within the community, free of the eroticizing tendencies that mar other records of gypsy people at the time. Inevitably prevalent among them are dozens of images of the striking Amaya.

The attractive flamenco-based music by Lisandro Rodriguez, sometimes jaunty and sometimes lyrical, is crucial to defining the mood. Regarding the title, “El Payo Chac” was Leonard’s gypsy name, and literally means “Chac (Jacques), the non-gypsy.”

Jacques Leonard, el Payo Chac

Spain

Production: A Curt Ficcions release of a Curt Produccions, TVC, TVE production. (International sales: Curt Produccions, Barcelona.) Executive producers, Carmen Isasa, Jordi Ambros, Andres Luque. Directed by Yago Leonard. Written by Nuria Villazan.

Crew: Camera (color/B&W), Carles Mestres; editor, Pau Atienza; music, Lisandro Rodriguez; sound (Dolby Digital), Marc Soldevila, Marcos Rodriguez. Reviewed at Cine Berlanga, Madrid, June 1, 2011. Running time: 61 MIN.

With: With: Alex Leonard, Santiago Leonard, Jesus Ulled. (Spanish, French, Catalan dialogue)

More Film

  • Game of Thrones Season 8 Production

    'Game of Thrones,' Netflix VFX Among Those to Be Featured in SIGGRAPH Production Talks

    VFX pros behind the final season of “Game of Thrones,” the blockbuster film “Avengers: Endgame,” Pixar’s upcoming “Toy Story 4,” last year’s Oscar-winning “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” Netflix series, including “Stranger Things,” and more will give SIGGRAPH 2019 attendees a behind-the-scenes look at their work during the conference’s Production Sessions. There will even be a [...]

  • Lionsgate Planning 'Hunger Games' Prequel Movie

    Lionsgate Planning 'Hunger Games' Prequel Movie

    Lionsgate has begun working on a “Hunger Games” prequel movie, based on a forthcoming novel from writer Suzanne Collins. “As the proud home of the ‘Hunger Games’ movies, we can hardly wait for Suzanne’s next book to be published. We’ve been communicating with her during the writing process and we look forward to continuing to [...]

  • Siberia Keanu Reeves

    Saban Films Turns 5: How the Indie Studio Grew While Rivals Faltered

    Saban Films doesn’t make the most noise. It doesn’t have the splashiest premieres or parties. But the indie film label just quietly did what many of its early rival failed to pull off. It celebrated its fifth anniversary at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. “We stuck to our plan,” Saban Films founder Bill Bromiley told [...]

  • Emanuel

    Film Review: 'Emanuel'

    Mass shootings continue to be a shameful stain on contemporary American history. They strike at such a frequent rate that the way they occupy news cycles before losing the public’s short-spanned attention has become appallingly routine. With his somber documentary “Emanuel,” released by Fathom Events in theaters for two nights only (June 17 and 19), [...]

  • Men in Black International

    Box Office: 'Men in Black: International,' 'Shaft' Add to Summer Sequel Slump

    As “Men in Black: International” and “Shaft” join the growing list of under-performing sequels this summer — an ignominious group that includes “Dark Phoenix” and “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” — worries of franchise fatigue are beginning to simmer in Hollywood. “Franchises that don’t up the ante or bring anything new into the fold are [...]

  • Song Ge

    Beijing Culture's Song Ge Urges Mainstream Directors to Toe Government Line

    The publicity-shy chief of Beijing Culture, which has backed such Chinese mega-hits as “Wolf Warrior II” and “The Wandering Earth,” openly urged film directors Monday to stick to material pleasing to the Chinese state, for the sake of their investors. “If you’re shooting an art house or smaller budget films, it’s no problem — say [...]

  • Iran presentation at Shanghai film festival

    Shanghai: China-Iran Heading Towards Co-Production Treaty

    “China has signed co-production agreements with 22 countries. Similar agreements between Iran and China are in the works, and will be signed by the end of this year,” said Miao Xiaotian, GM of the China Film Co-Production Corporation on Monday. Miao was speaking at the Shanghai International Film Festival, which is hosting a six-title Focus Iran section [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content