When the Venice Film Festival offers Pedro Almodóvar, above, a lifetime achievement award, the festival will be honoring not one, but two careers. Though he’s often shied from the spotlight, producer Agustín Almodóvar has worked in lockstep with his older brother for over 30 years. The siblings founded production house El Deseo in 1986, and together have produced films for Guillermo Del Toro, Isabel Coixet and this year’s Venice jury chief, Lucrecia Martel. Variety spoke with Agustín; Pedro received the award Aug. 28 at the Venice Festival.
Can you share some of your thoughts about the award?
It is both very touching and very rewarding to receive this kind of honor. Working long years in this field means donating large parts of your mental health to film festivals, with all the stresses and pressures they entail. To attend and participate in industry events while submitting your own film to criticism and competition can take a heavy toll on the nervous system — so when a festival already awards you in advance, that is a true gift from heaven!
Your brother will receive his honor in front of jury president Lucrecia Martel. As a producer for both directors, how does that make you feel?
Of course it’s very exciting for Pedro to receive this award from Lucrecia Martel, but it’s also very fitting. In my mind, Pedro and Lucrecia are two of the most independent and untamed filmmakers on the international scene.
How did you did you develop your relationship with Martel?
We were astounded by her first film, “La Ciénaga,” which had a very modest Spanish release. As soon as he saw it, and without even knowing Lucrecia personally, Pedro started promoting the film among his friends and colleagues. We also relayed our admiration to Lucrecia’s circle, offering our help should they need production partners in Spain. And that’s how our collaboration began; we helped produce her follow-up, “The Holy Girl,” and have participated in all that she’s made since.
Up until “Pain and Glory,” we rarely got a glimpse of the director’s personal life. From your perspective, could you talk about Pedro Almodóvar as a brother?
Fraternity is a recurring subject in Pedro’s films. As a relationship, brotherhood can be very intense and, at the same time, quite difficult to explain. Blood ties can be mysterious. In our case, our brotherhood enabled us to build a lasting partnership in so complex a field as film production, and to do so over many years without significant conflicts.
When Pedro Almodóvar explores elements of his past, he’s also exploring elements of your own. Could you talk about your emotional experience with something so personal, both as a producer and as a spectator?
“Pain and Glory” is a self-referential film that does contain stories about our family. Pedro is tremendously receptive and his siblings know it. Any personal story you tell him can end up in one of his screenplays! You can only feel flattered when this happens, knowing you’ve helped inspire and stimulate Pedro’s creativity. And at the same time, your intimacy remains intact, because, as Pedro says, when a story becomes part of a screenplay, it has already become fiction.
Your brother has expressed interest in working in television, or making something in America. Is that something that interests you as well?
Pedro loves so many American actors and actresses and he has never ruled out the possibility of working in English, or in the United States. As for television, while that’s not his exact priority right now, he would like to work on projects that challenge the traditional feature format. Which is to say, projects with different durations —either films that are very short, or, conversely, very long, requiring them to split into episodes.