Catalan auteur Carla Simón, a 2017 Berlinale Generation Kplus winner with “Summer 1993,” is preparing her third feature, “Romería,” which has been selected among 17 new feature projects to be offered at Rotterdam Film Festival’s CineMart co-production market, to be held Feb. 1-5.
“Romería” (the Spanish name for a popular pilgrimage) will be produced by María Zamora at Avalon, the producer of Simón’s “Summer 1993” and “Alcarràs.” Based in Madrid and founded by Stefan Schmitz, production-distribution outfit Avalon includes Zamora and Enrique Costa as partners.
Having previously participated at the TorinoFilmLab Next program, “Romería” follows Frida, a teenager whose parents died when she was only a child. Adopted by her maternal uncle, the girl loses contact with her father’s side of the family. Wanting to understand the reasons behind the absence of half her family, and more specifically in order to learn about her own past, Frida decides to travel to Vigo in order to meet her paternal family.
“ ‘Romería’ will close Simon’s trilogy about her three family branches, touching on themes such as loss, belonging and memory, all told with the humanity that Carla brings to the screen,” Zamora told Variety. She is also currently producing Álvaro Gago’s “Matria,” the feature follow-up to his eponymous 2018 Sundance Grand Jury Prize winning short, in co-production with Barcelona’s Ringo Media.
When Frida meets her uncle Xacobo, her aunts, grandparents and other members of her “new” family, she is frustrated when they are unwilling to answer questions about the past, still holding resentments related to drug use and sexually transmitted diseases. A breakthrough finally comes when Frida discovers letters written by her mother when she was still living in Vigo.
“I conceived ‘Romería’ as an exploration, a trip through my own memory but also through the cinematographic way of expressing it,” Simón said, adding: “The visual challenge of this film resides in the inventiveness [needed] to invoke inaccessible images, in recreating research of people, places and moments that don’t exist anymore.”
Simón explained that she will stick with the realistic tone of “Summer 1993,” but with a more inventive approach at times. “I imagine a more aesthetic camera, more poetic. Departing from my neorealism, I want to explore surrealism.”
“Romería” will also be a portrait of the Galician city of Vigo, where Simón’s own parents lived, and the city’s harbor, old town, taverns, Toralla islet, the ferry crossing the Ría, the Cíes islands, the Atlantic Ocean and the area’s unique climate.
Simón and Avalon started developing ’Romería’ when they had to postpone shooting on Simón’s second feature “Alcarràs” due to the COVID-19 crisis. “Alcarràs” is now scheduled to shoot in early June.
With her debut feature, Simón helped bring down the flag on a Catalan new wave of women filmmakers that had broken out to considerable box office and festival play. Other names in this new generation include Pilar Palomero (“Las niñas”), Neus Ballús (“Staff Only”), Meritxell Colell (“Facing the Wind”), Belén Funes (“A Thief’s Daughter”) and Clara Roquet (“Libertad”).