MADRID – Originally planned to premiere alongside fellow Movistar Plus Original “La Unidad” at this year’s MipTV, “La Línea Invisible” will now instead screen for international buyers digitally in an online showcase hosted by the Spanish broadcaster on Monday.
From “What the Future Holds” creator Mariano Barroso (“The Wolves of Washington”), the six-part series is the origins story of Spain’s Basque terrorist organization ETA, and its first assassination of José civil guard Antonio Pardines on June 7, 1968 by the young group leader Txabi Etxebarrieta, later the organization’s first member killed in action. ETA would be responsible for another 828 murders before agreeing to a final extended ceasefire on Sept. 5, 2010.
“La Linea Invisible” boasts some of Spain’s most-awarded cinematic talent in front of the camera as well, including Antonio de la Torre, a recent Spanish Academy Goya and Platino Award winner for his tour de force lead in “The Kingdom”; Alex Monner (“Unauthorized Living”), Anna Castillo, a standout in Iciar Bollaín’s “The Olive Tree”; and Patricia López Arnaiz, one to watch for after standout performances in “The Plague” and Alejandro Amenábar’s “While at War.”
Originally set to bow on its pay TV/SVOD service in Spain on April 17, Movistar Plus advanced the series’ debut to April 8, when its first two episodes will be made available, for free, to audiences online.
Barroso discussed making TV for a global audience, moving the series’ premiere during Spain’s coronavirus lockdown, and adapting still-contentious recent history for TV.
Has the popularity of Spanish series abroad changed the way you make series? Are you thinking about a larger, more diverse audience than you might have years ago?
Spanish series are doing well everywhere, and the work of our actors, writers and technicians is of the highest level. The language of the audiovisual industry has been universalized for a long time, and the stories we tell seem to attract all kinds of audiences. I think we have adapted to the expectations of the public and are evolving with the times. “La Linea Invisible” tells a very local story, but it’s one that everyone will understand. Unfortunately, both Franco’s dictatorship and the ETA phenomenon are well known everywhere.
Can you briefly talk about the process of pushing forward the release date? What was required logistically and how was the decision made?
It is a decision from Movistar Plus as part of its policy towards reinforcing content for the weeks of this exceptional situation. It required us to speed up the final processes of post-production, mixing the latest episodes and the final touches to digital effects.
Two of this year’s highest-profile releases in Spain are about ETA, although they tell different stories set in different stages of the organization’s existence. Why do you think there’s this sudden interest in looking back at such a polarizing organization today, nearly a decade after the final ceasefire?
I don’t think it’s so much a sudden interest, but rather an unresolved matter. The ETA phenomenon was traumatic for our country, probably the most important movement since the Civil War. It is certainly something that is still in the collective memory and unconscious. To investigate, deepen, recreate what has happened in our recent history, which scarred generations, is one of the missions of cinematic or audiovisual storytelling. Now, maybe we have the perspective to dive into it, and perhaps the waters are calmer.
How much of this story is based on real people and events, and how much was invented for the series?
In general, stories have as many versions as the number of individuals who lived them. The story of the origin of ETA similarly has many possible ways to be told. “La Linea Invisible” is not a documentary series, nor is it a report. We don’t try to recreate the events that occurred to the letter, objectivity is impossible. Our series is based on the characters and the social, historical, and political context of the time. Stories are moved by the characters, so we focused on the characters’ longings, impulses, dreams and motivations. Human motivations often obey selfish, self-centered, sometimes very pathetic questions, which almost always can’t be confessed. The more hidden and trivial elements can lead to the biggest wars. It happens that way all the time. In “La Linea Invisible” it’s the characters, on both sides, and their complexities which drive the plot. Ours is a version of what happened based on rigorous research by writers Alejandro Hernández and Michel Gaztambide, based on the works of Abel García Roure.
How much could they lean on actual historical documentation, and what roles did rumor and anecdote play?
We should view “La Linea Invisible” as a work of fiction. This is clear from the opening of the series. We say that it’s inspired by real events, but that some characters and situations have been fictionalized. It would be impossible to comprehensively recount all things as they happened. What is true is that the Basque people, and by extension the Spanish people, experienced a historical tragedy. That the inability to empathize, the trivialization of evil, contempt for the pain of others, the contempt for the life of the other settled within them easily. When this happens in society the consequences are devastating.
This series shows a period of Spanish history that still casts a shadow over the whole country. What was your mindset when deciding how to portray such a controversial organization and time period?
What interested me most about this project when it was proposed to me by [Movistar Plus head of contents] Domingo Corral, was that it told the story of before. The years before, when ETA’s project was not what it would later become. It was a minority group of boys who didn’t even understand the issues with Franco’s police. ETA started [killing] as this series ends. How does a tragedy begin? The best tragedies are those that start with a wedding, just like the best comedies are the ones that end with a wedding. Even the worst nightmare started out as a dream. That’s how it all started.