With a delicately morose charm, Spanish actress-turned-director Liz Lobato is presenting her debut feature project, “Tierra de Nuestras Madres” as part of the 11th Sanfic Industria’s Ibero-American Work In Progress strand.
The farcical fable scrutinizing globalization takes place in the village of La Mancha, where residents know each other thoroughly and tend to their routines like clockwork. There, beloved curmudgeon and central protagonist Rosario makes the rounds selling drug-laced fig salt to her neighbors as the town’s unknowingly sold out from under them by a bankrupt mayor.
Shot in black and white, the film gives far more than it takes and absurdly relays the somber tale of corruption and a community bound to its roots so tightly its willing to sacrifice a soul or two to stay put, as futile an endeavor as that may be.
The project is a co-production between Nieves Moroto of Spain’s Me Lo Creo Cine (“Valentina”), who served as executive producer on Imanol Uribe’s Málaga-award-winning title “Miel De Naranjas,” along with Miguelina, TFT and Madrid-based La Bestia Produce (“En Las Estrellas”).
“Despite the difficulties in obtaining financing, Liz has achieved a work whose uniqueness amazes me. The story of the film is simple, but very deep. Her ability to talk about the importance of roots, people and their customs is surprising and at the same time she avoids all solemnity and makes us laugh and cry,” stated Maroto. “The film is an almost impossible mix of Italian cinema from the 1950s and the best Spanish Luis Berlanga tradition, with some echoes of Pedro Almodóvar’s cinema from La Mancha.”
Ahead of the film’s screening, Lobato spoke with Variety about its narrative, how life prepared her for the director’s chair and where her creativity will take her next.
The choice of narration really elevates the narrative. How did this idea of the goat as narrator come about?
The goat’s an animal that lives in austerity, that survives in the wild and has those half-human eyes that look at you from another place. The narration of the goat emerged once the first cut was over: before, the goat was talking to Rosario and watching from a distance. After seeing the first cut we thought we wanted to hear more from her point of view.
The film is partly about globalization. An important topic that you handle with precision, almost satire. Can you talk about that portion of the narrative?
It’s clear that we live in a world in which the exploitation of the poor and their resources is increasingly accepted, a submissive world in which the decisions of large corporations are viewed as farmers used to look at the sky, subject to the future that it would bring them. “Fight” is a word that’s not handled, and less so among young people. Could the old ones save the world? In “Land of Our Mothers” the farmers who look at the sky are from La Mancha, they face the storms that come with the irony of a dry and hostile land in which we’ve learned to laugh at our shadow, in order to survive. There, in La Mancha, there’s a Don Quixote and a Sancho Panza willing to right wrongs. In their own way.
The cast plays into each character effortlessly. They bring you to the town and make you feel at home as you watch each scene. Aside from the narration, how did you achieve that sense of authenticity?
At first, all the actors were going to be people from Villacañas. Then the 80-year-old protagonist got sick, and Saturnino García joined the cast, a great actor who comes from a small village and integrated perfectly with the people of the town. Before shooting we had several discussion sessions on the topic we were dealing with, hidden truths in the past and present were revealed. In general, the actors identified with the topic, so when we started rehearsing, the circumstances were there at hand.
How have your studies and your career acting prepared you to write, produce and direct?
Philosophy prepared me for critical thinking and for an (sometimes unfortunately) eternal questioning of what appears as reality. Script studies prepared me to judge what I write. But what prepared me the most for direction and production was acting, both studies and experience. Put the focus on the story and search, as my teacher Juan Carlos Corazza taught me, for the expressive, leaving aside the illustrative to work on the invisible.