Barcelona’s Gadea Films, co-producer of Laura Herrero Garvin’s Mexico City-set documentary “La Mami,” a hit at IDFA, is reaching across the Atlantic once more, linking to Colombia’s Rara Colectivo Audiovisual on the production of Cordelia Alegre’s “La Unión.”
Put through this year’s Screen-Incubator at the Madrid Film School (ECAM), “La Unión” marks yet another feature debut from a Barcelona-based female director, this time a fiction film.
“La Unión” also turns on one of the key leitmotifs of movies made by Spain’s newest generation of filmmakers, weighing in as an identity drama marked by a return to the protagonists’ and director’s roots.
Also written by Alegre, in “La Union,” Cecilia and Juliana, 18-year-old twin sisters, travel from Barcelona to their birthplace, their mother’s home village in Colombia, where they attempt to find traces of their family history and discover some of its secrets.
The project has been put through the Ibero-American Screenwriting Residency at Cali in Colombia, and the Novos Cinemas Lab.
Jaime Guerrero is producing for Rara Colectivo. Its involvement – on board “La Unión” from its beginning, even before Gadea – is not just a question of finance but also for the film to have Colombian creative input, becoming a “non-colonialist” vision of Colombia, Alegre said.
“La Unión” could be seen as a coming-of-age tale. The sisters do change as a consequence of their visit, Alegre said. But she hopes the film is more than that.
“It’s a journey they make to understand themselves, their family, where they come from, and how that affects them, what they’ve left behind,” said Alegre.
The union of the title is the bond the sisters share, weighted by a growing realization that they may just have one other.
Alegre’s mother is Colombian. She commented: “I felt a real need to know more about my grandparents, to understand my mother and through her myself.”
The need for a sense of self may reflect a response to an age of galloping globalization. At the same time, it comes in at the phenomenon of immigration from the angle of two sisters discovering the life they might have had in Colombia if their father hadn’t died, forcing their mother to migrate.
In terms of influence, Alegre admires 2011 Locarno Golden Leopard winner “Back to Stay,” from Argentine-born (and Swiss-raised) Milagros Mumenthaler, and Argentine 2020 Berlinale Generation entry “Mum, Mum, Mum,” both movies that, like “La Unión,” “talk of absence,” here of a father, the presence of somebody who isn’t there, but is in another way,” she observed.
Writing about a subject close to the director’s heart is also one hallmark of a new wave of Catalan female directors whose ranks are still welling and with whom Alegre says that she identifies. She trained at one of Spain’s foremost film institutions, Barcelona’s Pompeu Fabra, returning for a Master’s degree in documentary filmmaking, where she co-directed as her graduation film a feature doc, “The Distance of Names.”
“Another subject which really interests me is memory,” Alegre recognized. The documentary turns on four graduates from Pompeu Fabra who set out to locate, 75 years later, in present-day Spain, the children sent by humble Republican families to foster colonies in Catalonia during the Spanish Civil War, simply so that they could have enough food to eat.
“We wanted to record their memories, while that’s still possible,” Alegre said. “‘La Unión’ is slightly similar: About two sisters recuperating their family history, before it’s erased.”