“Ane Is Missing,” the feature debut of Spain’s David Pérez Sanudo, begins with a fixed shot of a woman security guard sitting in a hut on a construction site. For a full 45 seconds absolutely nothing happens until a firebomb suddenly flares outside the hut. Lide, the security guard, grabs a fire extinguisher. Later, having picked up a far younger man in bar, she returns home and in another extended, two-and-a half-minute shot, the camera creeps round her apartment, building like a horror film as Lide discovers that her teen daughter, Ane, has not spent a night at home.
From there on, Lide sets out with her ex-husband to find Ane, discovering that she knows very little about her daughter, as her life and the public context of increasingly violent protest against a high-speed-train project for which Lide works increasingly collide.
Produced by based Amania Films, developed at the Madrid Film School ECAM Incubator, backed by Basque public broadcaster EITB, it won three prizes at the Malaga Works-in-Progress in April. It was selected for San Sebastian Festival’s New Directors sidebar, where it won two more awards, the Irizar Basque Cinema Award and best Basque screenplay prize.
Variety chatted to Pérez Sanudo during the American Film Market, before the film screens next week at Malaga Festival’s Spanish Screenings.
I sense that at the heart of “Ane” is a mother-daughter relationship drama, in which the mother won’t recognize her age and has returned to a second youth, picking up young men at bars. She won’t recognize either the age of her daughter, who is now a young adult, with her own opinions and life… Could you comment?
Lide is adrift, at the limit of her tether in that her environment is hostile, her family situation complex. She was a mother at a young age, at 17, and she has a certain need to recover lost time, or a time that she couldn’t take advantage of when she was supposed to. The movie unspools, then, as a journey towards maturity of a mother who will start to play the role she’s meant to thanks to the disappearance of her daughter.
One of your challenges is to create physical correlatives for the relationship. Ane’s absence is evoked near the beginning of the film as the camera crawls around the flat; or the barriers between the two is seen near its end as riot police attack a bar district, separating Line and Ane by several fences. Again, could you comment?
The conflict of the film, the social and political conflict, the arrival of a high-speed train that means the expropriation of land and properties, serves as an icon, a visual image, to reflect on communication. That’s why the moments you speak of become so transcendental, they’re emphasized, especially that final moment, that final image of the dividing line of the railway tracks separating the two bodies. Since the beginning of script development, that image has been part of film’s discourse.
Your direction seems highly flexible, often using sequence or extended shots, but taking advantage of the dramatic possibilities of each scene, or the opportunity to describe socially context. But would you agree?
It might seem that way but really that apparent flexibility stems from mixing genres. The film straddles the line between a drama and a thriller. It’s a border film in all aspects, not just because it’s on the border of two genres but also because it’s frontier land. The train project raises frontiers. Ane’s age, 17, marks another frontier. There’s a border between what happens inside and outside of the home; so the style has to reflect this fractured sense.
This year’s San Sebastian Festival took place with over half the directors in Zinemira up for the Irizar Award first- or second-time directors. Do you get the sense of belonging to a new generation of directors, which are now building in the Basque Country?
Yes, I believe there’s a new generation of Basque directors, it’s also true that not all new Basque directors can be included in the same movement because what we do is very different. However, there’s a series of directors that have developed or that have launched at San Sebastian that do have elements in common. Films like Koldo Almandoz’s “Loreak,” “Handia,” “Amama” and “Oreina”; Telmo Esnal’s “Dantza”; Imanol Rayo’s “Bi Anai” or “Hil Kanpaiak”; or even Lara Izaguirre’s cinema; and surely also “Ane,” our film, are part of the same movement, the same generation. They have aesthetic links and stylistic relations.
You also directed the TV series “Alardea” which will premiere at the Malaga Festival. There is now a huge demand for Spanish-language drama series. But do you see this affecting in any way Basque TV fiction as well?
We’re at a moment of change. For the first time in many years Basque public television, ETB, is producing fiction. They are launching with four series and we’re going to see in the next years if they manage to keep up this momentum. It’s too soon to talk about results.