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Annecy: Spain’s Salvador Simó on Buñuel, Turtles, Surrealism, Animation

Director and producer of ‘Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles’ presents a sneak peek at the Annecy Festival

ANNECY, France—Much awaited, “Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles” is produced by prominent Spanish animation producer Manuel Cristobal, producer of Ignacio Ferreras’ “Wrinkles,” at Sygnatia in co-production with The Glow Animation Studio and Dutch outfit Submarine. Producer and director Salvador Simó will unveil excerpts and diverse material illustrating the process of conception and production of this singular movie at Annecy’s WIP showcase.

“Buñuel” chronicles the days that surrealist  Luis Buñuel spent in Spain’s remote mountains of Las Hurdes, shooting documentary “Land Without Bread,” regarded as one of his masterpieces, about the hardships of one of the poorest parts of Europe. The movie is an origins tale: a personal approach on Buñuel the man and artist,as he found his own  voice, and social conscience and about his friendship with sculptor Ramón Acín who was able to finance “Land” after winning a lottery prize.

Simó is also developing his second solo feature, an adaptation of Óscar Pantoja’s graphic novel about another towering art figure Gabriel García Márquez, “Gabo: Memoirs of a Magical Life,” which will be a co-production of Cristóbal’s Sygnatia and Colombia’s Rey Naranjo.

Expected to be finished in July, “Buñuel”‘s distribution is scheduled for winter this year. International sales are handled by Antonio Saura’s Latido Films.

Are you ready to answer all the questions that people are going to ask about Buñuel?

I don’t consider myself an expert on Buñuel. But among the many books I read, the Spanish Academy gave me one published years ago including interviews with people who worked with him. A huge tome. The book became my bedside reading. One day, when I woke up I called Manuel Cristóbal: ’Manuel, I have just met Buñuel; I had a coffee with him’. I really dreamt it that night and I felt as though I had met him and spoken about trivial things. This got me focused.

What is documentary and fiction in the film?

We did not want to make a documentary at all. To a large extent a big part of the story of our movie might have happened in real life; some other episodes didn’t. There are things that are evidently fiction, for example, when Buñuel dresses as a nun or some story details with Ramon.But ultimately we had to dramatize, construct a plot to hook and entertain audiences.

Did you feel freer, tackling the story via an animated feature?

The supposed freedom of animation is absolutely fictitious.  If I had made a live-action movie I would have done it exactly the same way. It is rather a question of planning. In animation, there’s no room for improvisation. Buñuel himself worked this way too, doing at the most a couple of takes for every shot. I believe that the main difference between animation and live-action, especially in this movie. When you are going to watch an animated movie is like when your grandfather told you a story. You know that this is fiction and you’re ready to believe everything. You end up in a state of fantasy, of suspension of disbelief.

You’re preparing now a movie about Colombian writer García Márquez. It’s inspired on a comic book by Óscar Pantoja who said, “animation films are pure magic realism.” Does animation link to Buñuel’s surrealism and García Márquez’s magical realism?

Yes, precisely because of that, because they take you to a different dimension. Although I need to be cautious about that. Nowadays, you can do everything with live-action images. What is the difference? The perception of the spectator. It’s easier to enter into a surrealistic, fantastic world through animation, because the spectator is willing to.

When deciding the story’s visual treatment, was one of the challenges to find a balance between the surrealism impregnating Buñuel’s universe and the human and political commitment involved in the shooting of “Land Without Bread”….

Undoubtedly. I could not have made a movie like Buñuel would have, who at the time searching for his own personal voice. And I have searched for mine, but you cannot totally avoid being influenced by Buñuel’s character. In a way, I have worked with him, I have known him.

The French avant-garde was an inspiration for experimentation and provocation. Do you believe that always –even now– art, cinema remains provocative, and aims to takes steps forward?

Nowadays, we have a different censorship to battle with than back then. We usually watch very commercial cinema, expect it to comply with certain formulae, rhythms, where everything has to be made in a certain way, where –sometimes– directors, voluntarily or not, end up making almost the same film. With my limitations, I’ve tried to move in a different direction. But when you make a movie, you also have a responsibility towards people who paid to watch it. You must thrill them, give audiences a good time.

CREDIT: Salvador Simó

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