MUBI is exclusively showing two new, brilliant and unconventional films from Spain: Luis López Carrasco's El Futuro (April 11 - May 10) and Ion de Sosa's Androids Dream (April 12 - May 11). We asked the two filmmakers—friends and collaborators—a few questions about their work. For an in-depth exploration of the two films, we recommend Michael Pattison's article, Back to the Future: Androids Dream and El Futuro.
NOTEBOOK: How did you each manage to bring your projects to life?
LUIS LÓPEZ CARRASCO: After living in Berlin for a few months through a scholarship program, I came back to Spain in 2010 fully energized with the aim to set up a production company, finance my own projects and support friends whose work I deeply admire. The international success of Los Hijos Collective led me to believe that there was an opportunity for us to develop both professionally and from a business standpoint.
Unfortunately, in May 2010 the recession kicked in and around 80% of the funds destined for film development or business incentives that I could have applied for were slashed. For a whole year, I tried to set up a production company but the unemployment situation in which Spain found itself made that impossible.
In parallel, Luis Ferrón and I were trying to bring this film to life, but after a year of desperate attempts, we had to let go of the idea, which was incredibly painful. Ion de Sosa asked for a dossier of the film to look for financing in Germany, and a month later he called me up again to say he liked the idea so much he was willing to put his own money against it. This contribution led to then getting participation from Elamedia and Encanta Films, which with their own donations made possible a film shoot that lasted only 3 days! It was as long as we could afford. The whole process was a reactive chain of events.
ION DE SOSA: The shooting and editing of True Love, my first film, meant three years of working with autobiographical material, looking at my daily life in Berlin as a waiter, my heartbreaks. Whenever I presented the film at festivals I suddenly started re-living my memories and my past, having to talk through time and again how miserable I had been throughout those years.
One day, I was in Mexico City having a beer with a friend and I decided to call it quits, I’d had enough of just talking about myself. Whatever project I was going to focus on shooting next would be something fun and that wouldn’t have me necessarily involved as part of the story, preferably something more to do with science-fiction, to go opposite ways from True Love. I also had plenty of archived material of my family that I thought would be suitable as false memories of the murdered androids. So I kicked-off a completely different way of shooting, developing a sci-fi script, with a bigger crew, with actors, with a proper shooting plan. However, I still maintained a certain way of working that was very comfortable and familiar, surrounded by friends, like in my previous film.
At first we started filming without any financial support whatsoever, purely based on personal investments and help from friends. I was finding it hard to wait until getting all the funds and support we had applied for. I’m not sure if it’s that same impatience or the necessity of jumping on that impulse, that initial energy. When the film is planned out I need to just grab the camera, travel to those places and start filming. The film’s financial contributions come from private investments from Spain and Germany—my company on the German side, Luis López Carrasco and Luis Ferrón’s company on the Spanish side.
It all started with a small private investment and shooting an initial teaser alongside my German collaborators, Karsten Matern and Nadja Smith, which led us to elaborate the project on paper and apply for an Experimental Cinema Fund Program in Berlin. Thankfully, we got it.
And while in post-production phase, Spanish production company Bravo Tango Zulú decided to support with resources and investment as well as Madrid’s Film School Off Ecam program decided to handle the distribution.
NOTEBOOK: Both films have amazing locations. They often seem like essential characters in each story. What was the process like for deciding where and how to shoot?
DE SOSA: The location of Benidorm is key in the film. It’s a city that could be effectively, anywhere in the world: a huge, decadent space, ideal because of its festive atmosphere, it’s architecture and also because of the great disposition the people & cultural institutions have. Our objective was for the sea to never be seen, so the city felt as though it was completely isolated, in the middle of nowhere. We used the architectonic surroundings of Benidorm to portray a world where all progress and development seemed to have stopped. Everything looks the same as in 2014. Given the high influx of tourism Benidorm receives is mostly people aged 60 or above, we imagined a world where young people don’t exist anymore (they have either died or left to live elsewhere) and all the survivors that are left are the elderly that continue with their daily entertainment routine.
In the case of Androids Dream, I think because we used amateur actors, people from Benidorm that were effectively playing themselves and natural lighting within the interior/exterior scenes, it gave an inherent freshness making the parallelism more evident between the idea of the future within the film and the reality faced in Spain.
LÓPEZ CARRASCO: Summarizing the 80s in Spain as a big party full of young people, where the music beating is so loud that you are practically unable to listen to any sort of dialogue, was a very conscious decision. We wanted a location that was real, that had some history behind it, so the cast would instantly absorb the ambiance of that big house, the home of a woman in the 50s and where now, no longer alive, her grandkids are partying hard. The space is able to tell that story. Those old apartments in Madrid are full of stories, and my producer, Luis Ferrón, looked at about a thousand houses until we found the right one.
Originally the story took part in different areas of the house, but it was in the editing room where we decided we would have almost all the focus set on the living room. The space starts becoming smaller and darker, the faces are almost unrecognizable, there are people lying on the floor. When leisure is way too extended it acquires almost like an added layer of thickness, and so the duration applied to each shot eliminated gradually that festive feeling. Why are they still in there? How long have they been inside? What are they dancing to if they seem to no longer hear the music?
The fact of the film losing its sound at the end and seeing everyone dancing in silence, like ecstatic zombies, for us was like a connection to films like The Exterminating Angel, by Luis Buñuel. We wanted to reflect that sensation of being locked-up (voluntary in this case). We wanted the audience to ask themselves: Is the sun never going to rise?
NOTEBOOK: What are the films that influenced you the most? Can you talk about what particularly inspired parts of your creative process?
Elephant (Alan Clarke, 1989): A 38-minute-long telefilm, produced by the BBC, in which you see as an enumeration and without any previous explanation, 18 firearm homicides. Sometimes you see the victim first, some other times the assassin; they all die: a man in a gas station, a cleaner of the toilets of a public swimming pool, a man that went for a walk, two men that seem to be having a meeting regarding something clandestine when a third one appears and kills them both. And it keeps going until it has happened 18 times. A radical proposition, an incontestable form. An impersonal, mechanical and sharp way of narrating that Gus Van Sant adopted in his homonymous work, and from which I took inspiration when describing the routine of the killings in the life of our protagonist at the beginning of the film.
66 Scenes from America (Jorgen Leth, 1982): The director is a Danish guy that describes the United States from 66 organic postcards he generates by using only his camera, still, without movement, to capture landscapes, people, slices of life and cocktails. The way of describing life indoors, in the homes of our futuristic city, is completely taken from this film. Sometimes to explain Androids Dream to someone who did not know anything about it I used to say: Elephant + 66 Scenes from America + Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, and even if there are more references, this way you can get a pretty good idea of what you are going to see.
Vivir en Sevilla (Gonzalo García Pelayo, 1978): This long unknown work was fortunately recently rediscovered, and is one of the few examples of Spanish modern and avant-garde cinema that still stands, as if the French New Wave had penetrated in Seville. Vivir en Sevilla is a container of ideas and concepts, a film that makes you want to make films. I love it because it does not give up on the breath of what’s local, it puts the autochthonous at the foreground and is not ashamed of it, no questions asked. Films that are faithful to their roots are always unique.
Paper Tigers (Fernando Colomo, 1976): Often and wrongly described as a light comedy, Paper Tigers offers a lucid, pungent and sometimes devastating portrait of the Spanish young generation whose anti-Francoist illusion cracked with the arrival of democracy. The film dissects the contradictions of a group of thirty-somethings that want to join the sexual liberation of the previous decade without taking into account the subconscious burden that forty years of fascist, totalitarian and Catholic fundamentalist dictatorship bring with them. Their efforts to feel “free,” European, modern and unprejudiced in their aim to consolidate an open love triangle—at that point divorce wasn’t even legal—offers many clues about how confused society was. That abyss—between what these youngsters want to be and what they really are—was a key starting point for my film.
Faces (John Cassavetes, 1968): The two dance, nightlife and music scenes of Cassavetes’ masterpiece connect with personal moments of my adolescence. They awake memories in me. That bustle, that chaos, those exchanges of looks and desire, of frustration and vulnerability, tell me so much about those characters, about that society, about their expectations and horizons... And not even one line of dialogue is necessary. The soundtrack is chock-full of noise. Could I make a film in its entirety like this?
Gimme Shelter (Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Charlotte Zwerin, 1970): I think this is the most violent film I’ve seen in my whole life. The Rolling Stones were never too lucky with cinema, go ask Robert Frank! On one hand, during the shoot we were interested in applying a strategy of mixed dispositive, influenced both by direct cinema and by cinema verité. We wanted to hide behind a corner, with the long lens ready, stealing images from the actors (that were chatting, dancing and drinking and unlikely to know they were being captured), put ourselves in that position, having a non-participative look, like a voyeur, as Albert Maysles does with his subjects.
On the other hand, I was looking for faces from hell, estranged faces, fragments of Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights. People that would look as if they had crossed several thresholds and that would literally be out of their minds. I don’t think I got this last bit right, as it would have meant to put the health of my actors in danger.
Interview translated by Chiara Marañón and Tania Sutherland.