SAN SEBASTIAN — Paris-based sales agent Loco Films has acquired world sales rights outside Spain and France to “Journey to a Mother’s Room,” a flagship first feature from the Barcelona-based writer-director Celia Rico, part of a young generation of often women directors who are lending new energies and focus to Catalan cinema.
Alfa Pictures will distribute the film in Spain. “Journey to a Mother’s Room” will world premiere in competition at San Sebastian’s main sidebar, its New Directors section, a launchpad for other notable women talents such as, reaching back to just last year, Switzerland’s Lisa Brühlmann (“Blue My Mind”), Colombia’s Laura Mora (“Killing Jesús”) and France’s Marine Francen (“The Sower), its eventual winner.
Loco Films will introduce the film to buyers at the San Sebastian Festival, which starts Friday. After that, “Journey to a Mother’s Room” will segue to the BFI London Festival.
Sparking a good buzz at pre-San Sebastian press screenings, “Journey to a Mother’s Room” traces an evolving mother-daughter relationship. Leonor has decided she wants to leave her village in Andalusia, take an au-pair job in London. Her mother, Estrella when she finally tells her, doesn’t want to her to leave, is riled when Leonor grates at her suggestion she takes a job at a the same local seamstress where she did many years. Estrella leads a solitary life since becoming a widow, has only her daughter for company.
But the originality of “Journey to a Mother’s Room” would seem to lie in this being no life-scarring confrontation between a tyrannical mother and cowed daughter but rather how the two navigate with sensitivity Leonor’s inevitable departure from home, what demands and obligations one can reasonably have towards the other, and how each in a new period of life can become a source of strength, not a burden, for the other.
“Yasujirō Ozu said that the tragedy of life begins with the bond between parents and children. Loving well, without stifling the other and without losing one’s self in another, might be one of the hardest parts of parent-child relationships,” Rico writes in a director’s note.
She adds: “Cecil Day-Lewis wrote in a poem that selfhood begins with a walking away and love is proved in the letting go. This film endeavors to capture those delicate moments in life in which love is revealed through knowing when to walk away, through letting go.”
Estrella is played by Lola Dueñas, who took best actress at the Cannes Festival, as part of the female cast of Pedro Almodovar’s “Volver” and a double best actress Spanish Academy Goya winner for “The Sea Inside” and “Yo También,” which also brought her a Best Actress Silver Shell at San Sebastián. Memorable in her lead role in Iciar Bollaín’s “The Olive Tree,” Anna Castillo plays Leonor.
“Journey to a Mother’s Room” is produced by Ibón Cormenzana for Arcadia Motion Pictures and Josep Amorós at Maoris Pictures. Sandra Tapia, Jose Alba, Mar Medir and Rico executive produce. Pecado Films, Sisifo Films and Noodles Productions co-produce.
The sales deal was closed by Loco Films’ Florencia Gil and Arcadia’s Tapia and Ignasi Estapé.
“Celia Rico is definitely a mise-en-scène [directoria] talent to follow. Her debut feature succeeds in sensitively buildig an intimate space, where mother and daughter have to rediscover how to live,” said Gil. “Cannes winner Lola Dueñas and emerging talent Anna Castillo bring blood and veins to the story with stunning performances,” she added.
The film’s mother-daughter relationship “could seem a priori to be simple and a day-to-day affair, but what Celia Rico has achieved in her first film is marvelous and complex,” said Tapia. She added: “Her story strikes straight to the heart, transmitting honesty, love, tenderness, and does so through familiar small gesture and details which are known and recognizable to everyone and thanks to two prodigious actresses.”