Few producers in Spain have earned more festival prizes than Barcelona-based Luis Miñarro, whose credits range from Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Cannes Palme d’Or laureate “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives” to Karlovy Vary top prize winner “The Mosquito Net” and Rotterdam Tiger Award winner “Finisterrae.”
So Miñarro’s support for Spaniard Ainhoa Rodríguez’s debut feature, Rotterdam Tiger contender “Destello bravío” – which he’s boarded as a co-producer in post-production – has made more discerning festival pundits take note.
Lead produced by Tentación Cabiria, Rodríguez’s Extremadura-based label, the film employs a studied, composed but highly-imaginative mise-en-scène, often with fixed-camera set ups, to depict a small country town in southwest Spain. But this portrait laced with surrealism, humor and even a sense of suspense. “There are movies that surprise; others, simply, bite. ‘Destello’ belongs to the second category,” Miñarro comments.
The great Spanish director Luis Berlanga once said, when charged that his movies had an element of surrealism, that he was just faithfully depicting Spanish reality. “Destello bravío” has the same heart.
“Destello bravío” portrays a rural and distinctively Spanish region. What should international audiences expect to experience in this, your feature debut?
By utilizing such a specific environment, “Destello” tackles universal issues such as the need for transcendence through fables or faith – be it faith in heaven or in magic, patriarchal legacy, or the need for tradition as a rock to cling onto in these convulsive and changing times. Considering the loss of identity that marks our globalized world, I do believe that beyond the basic layer of attractive local Spanish exoticism, the international spectator will find something relatable in the story.
“Destello” is a sort of a social “still life” mixing documentary elements with surrealism and suspense. What led you to this combination?
I think it is a way to decipher the world from an agnostic perspective and with a peculiar sense of humor. The movie is the result of my nine-month stay in a small town in Extremadura trying to unveil the daily lives and eccentricities of its inhabitants, their brazen truths, fabulous lies and their Catholic and exoteric faiths. This led to an enduring co-existence of naturalism, magical realism and surrealism.
The female characters in this film feature prominently. Was that intentional?
My aim was to make a kind of cinema in which characters move away from the atrocious masochism that surrounds us in stories of hegemony. The women of “Destello” are not candid beings of praiseworthy behavior, they have dark and light. If the viewer perceives them as victims, it’s because they are a victim of a patriarchal inheritance perpetuated through history, beyond whether they’re good or bad.
You’ve worked with non-pro actors who take on some scenes which would be challenging even for experienced professional actors. How did you handle this?
With two tools: Intuition and time, and by building an important personal bond. A professional actor adapts to the suit that the director has created, but, in this case, when you work with non-professional actors, you are the one who must adapt the dress to their characteristics until everything fits like a glove. This way, they feel comfortable and secure and can make their attire yours for the camera, feeling what they say and how they say it to be their own.
It’s a resolutely independent movie. You began producing it on your own. Did you encounter any difficulties at the start?
I wanted to make a film with non-professional actors in a small rural town in Spain’s Extremadura and felt the need to experiment and play with the least possible pressure… getting away from market laws in terms of time and budget and certain other rules that are assumed to be written in stone. I started producing it and only someone like Luis would board such a project, as he did during the post-production. We need more producers like him.
What cinema are you interested in?
Cinema made from the gut and with the greatest freedom possible. Brave propositions that transgress repetitive hegemonic stories. I’m aware of Europe’s new auteur cinema, but need as a creator to look at classic cinema from another perspective, to bend it. This is a mission that women must undertake to a greater extent. We been left out when it comes to directing for a long time. I’m not talking about making the “feminine version” of anything. We arrived late to the party but can dance with the same vigor and in many different ways.
What’s your next project?
It’s still at very early development. It’s called “Niña, no jugar” (Girl, No Playing). It focuses on the sexuality of a woman with a disability through a mother-daughter relationship. It’s set in ‘80s Spain. In some way, it depicts a universe of child fantasy that surrounded me as a girl. It’s a kind of a western with touches of “quinqui” cinema.
(Spain’s “Quinqui” movies, which flowered in the ‘70s and early ‘80s in Spain, turns on the crimes, heists and drug excess of mop-headed, small-time delinquents – one of their heroes was Bruce Lee – living fast and dying young on big cities’ working class outer radius.)
John Hopewell contributed to this article.