BARCELONA — A coming-of-age told from the perspective of a six-year-old orphan who is forced to live with her aunt and uncle, “Summer 1993” is the first feature of Barcelona-based Carla Simón. Received by critics as a luminous, moving –but never sentimental– debut – Variety called it a “delicate sleeper” – that represents Spain in the foreign-language Oscar race, “Summer 1993” that broke out at the Spanish box office for co-producer/distributor Avalon Films to a highly creditable (€970,000) $1.2 million in Spain this summer, making it one of the most successful Spanish first features in recent years. It is now cumulating plaudits – critical, awards – on the international film circuit. Produced by Valérie Delpierre’s Inicia Films in co-production with Avalon and sold by Warsaw-based New Europe Film Sales, “Summer 1993” premiered at Berlin’s Generation Kplus section), winning the first feature jury’s top prize, scooped the Golden Biznaga at Spain’s Málaga Film Festival and has just made the five-pic cut for the European Discovery 2017 Fipresci Award at the European Film Awards.
Simón and Delpierre belong to a young Catalan generation of auteur filmmakers and producers that has managed to emerge and excite during and despite Spain’s economic downturn.
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Do you feel like a member of a young generation of primarily women Catalan filmmakers including Neus Ballús, Mar Coll, Meritxell Colell, Nely Reguera, Roser Aguilar…?
In a certain way, yes. When I first saw “Three Days With The Family” [Mar Coll’s first feature, 2009] it was really inspiring. It was just before I went to London Film School and Mar Coll became a reference for me, being so young but able to do that movie. It was a window open to hope. I think I share with many of the directors you mention some aspects of watching and making cinema, although the formal resolution can be very different. There’re many women without doubt in this generation and we all deeply link making cinema with our own lives. We observe our surroundings and tell very personal stories.
“Summer 1993” has received positive reviewers and audience reception outside Catalonia from very different audiences. Have you any explanation?
It’s a question I’m asking myself everyday. It’s a big satisfaction when people from different cultures, like for instance India, where I’ve recently been, come to me and say they’ve been moved by the film saying ‘it’s so like my own childhood. How is that possible if you don’t live in India! I believe there’re many common aspects in childhood everywhere –the games, how the adults’ world is seen from a different perspective. Besides that, I believe the feature delivers a positive sense about life that sometimes we all seek at the movies. But not in a sentimental way, as often happens in this kind of cinema. Anther reason is the children…
Children aren’t easy to work with. How did you handle the actors?
We worked a lot with them. They enjoyed the work but it was a very long process from the casting itself where we searched for a couple of girls with the singular power relationship as shown in the story. Finally, they had conversations even on the shoot that could have been included in the feature, they fitted in perfectly. We worked a lot creating the relationships and the intimacy between all the characters in rehersal letting them improvise a lot. However, after that, we tried to stick to the script. I wanted to tell the precise written story.
Could you talk about the cinematography, and d.p.?
Santiago Rascaj [also a d.p. on Carlos Vermut’s “Magical Girl” and Fernando Franco’s “Dying”] is becoming the d.p. of independent Spanish cinema. I had very specific images in my mind when I was developing the script. But at the end, they weren’t very feasible to shoot, because I wouldn’t achieve the tone I was looking for. It was very difficult to give up those images, but Santiago’s was crucial in simplifying a lot. We tried to use long shots adjusting to the children’s spontaneity, but it that presented a new problem since it meant asking the children for excessively long performances. But the adapted step by step.
Do you feel any pressure being Spain’s submission for the Academy Awards with your first feature?
The truth is that I am not very aware of that, because I am traveling a lot presenting “Summer” at festivals. At the festivals you’re nobody, people discover your movie there and I am very much into that. It’s true the pressure is there but I hope I can avoid as I prepare my next project.
Which is about?
I would like to keep exploring my work with actors. Aside from that, I’m now in a process of developing two different ideas, both of them inspired by my family stories. One of them is set in a very rural area of Catalonia, the other on the Galicia coast. I will probably develop the Catalan one first.