Airing on Amazon Spain and Paramount Plus in Latin America from this August, “Parot” is produced by ViacomCBS International Studios (VIS), Spanish broadcaster TVE and production-distribution house Onza Ent.
Its title refers to one of the most controversial pieces of legislation in recent Spanish history. The Parot doctrine was inspired by a 2006 Spanish Supreme Court decision abrogating Spanish laws reducing the maximum terms of imprisonment for persons convicted of serious crimes.
The doctrine was struck down by a European court decision in 2013, sparking the liberation from Spanish goals of a wide spectrum of inmates whose sentences extended well beyond the 30-year maximum of the time. Their release sparked bitter debate between the families of victims and defenders of human rights who saw little gain in life imprisonment.
“Parot” takes place as a motley bunch of maximum offenders walk free, and Isabel Mora (Adriana Ugarte), a resolute policewoman who years ago was victim of sexual abuse is assigned to investigate the murder of a number of ex-prisoners, all linked to the Parot doctrine. Her principles are further challenged as the man who raped her (Ivan Massagué) is set free with clear intent of revenge.
Directors Rafael Montesinos (“Stolen Away”) and Gustavo Ron (“Velvet Collection”) herd a menagerie of characters who are constantly struggling with the ethical debate thrown up by the annulment of the doctrine, in a cat-and-mouse thriller between Isabel and her victimizer. In 10 gripping episodes created by Pilar Nadal, co-creator of Spanish classic “Red Eagle” and a story co-ordinator on “Periodistas,” the show juggles the emotional repercussions of extreme violence and the often complex grey areas between what is legal and what feels just.
Variety interviewed Montesinos and Ron as “Parot” airs on Amazon Prime.
From the get-go, the show tables a gamut of issues which drive its story, setting the stage for viewers’ own questioning of laws, how justice is imparted and society’s complex relation with sexual abuse. How did you approach these matters?
Ron: We did a lot of research at the beginning, we’d seen each other’s work and luckily had time to talk about it extensively – as is required when dealing with such conflictive issues as rape, as criminals being set free before their due time. But we were very clear from the get go that we were telling one very specific story and wouldn’t set out to serve a wider judgment. We really stuck to our storyline, viewing subjects through the characters, and letting them guide us.
Montesinos: Our aim was to take one and only one case, with all the characters that it took in. This one had the peculiarity that the case investigator is already a victim, but that was bring these issues into focus and experience them through our protagonist. That focus would make those questions more forceful and clearer.
You introduce a broad cast quickly. They’re often efficiently characterized never slowing the show’s rhythm. What was your process when handling this variety of characters?
Ron: We were lucky to have time between the screenwriter, ourselves and the actors to develop a strong focus on each character. Each one is very different. Maybe the biggest challenge was to balance those with a strong charisma and those who apparently didn’t [have this appeal] so that the show didn’t drag whenever a character was not on screen.
Montesinos: Even though we were always pressed for time, there was enough for us to develop with each actor and to find from their point of view an arc, to take their own personal conflict and carry it through the series. We had many conversations. Then of course a shoot is a living organism that suddenly shows you the way forward.
Rape is unfortunately a subject our society has to deal with everyday, with rising numbers and the haunting understanding that said numbers don’t represent by far the real figure. What was your approach to this matter? What research did it entail for you as men?
Ron: Our main guideline was always the characters and their experience. This affected of course how the violent events were shot as we often relied on long lenses because we wanted to be as close as possible with the characters, almost focusing entirely on their gazes. In the final analysis, it’s misguided to think that because we’re not women we cannot understand their suffering as much as thinking that a woman cannot comprehend certain masculine behavior. We’re filmmakers, fiction storytellers and our specialty is to dive deep into the hearts and minds of a character to heighten as much drama as we can from their experience, to make it as human as possible so that the viewer can be touched, regardless of their gender, and can deeply empathize.
The series is a clear bellwether of what’s to come, being produced by VIS, TVE and Onza Entertainment. How do you feel those synergies as the Spanish industry grows and both the content and the ways of producing it are changing?
Montesinos: I enjoy immensely interesting fusions. Working with Viacom has been a privilege and developing a strong concept has brought us limitations which I gladly embrace. I function on a creative level with limitations. To me in the challenge and the conditions lies the potential. Co-production, mixing cultures, is increasingly interesting because that’s the reality nowadays. To come out of one’s shell and realize how broad and diverse reality can be, how much there is to narrate.
Ron: We’re ever more specialists in creating beautiful things against the clock. That’s what the platforms ask of you because they need more and more content. The upside’s that you can do more than one project per year which before was unthinkable. But you also sometimes lose the time to give attention to each detail as required. Above all else, however, this has been an enriching work of collaboration in which they’ve helped us immensely and allowed us to play and move back and forth, to create the rhythm and tone that we wanted for the series.