Los mutantes: The chiaroscuros of the learning process
by Alfonso Rivera
- Gabriel Azorín brings us a black-and-white reflection on whether it is possible to learn the art of film, accompanying Madrilenian pupils as they study something that is elusive at best
Black turns to white, purity turns to disappointment, and hopes and dreams hurtle towards a headfirst collision with reality. In between, there are reflections, doubts, comradeship and a routine of decision-making and constantly questioning oneself. This is what students at the ECAM, the Film and Audiovisual School of the Community of Madrid, must go through. It was here that Gabriel Azorín trained, and it is also where the member of the lacasinegra collective returns to film its inner workings, thus spawning his feature debut as a solo filmmaker: Los mutantes [+see also:
film profile] has been presented for the very first time in the Resistances section of the 13th Seville European Film Festival, which is forever on the lookout for the most audacious underground trends in Spanish cinema.
But the film is far from being an advertorial, or an update of Fame. The producer of the movie and head of the ECAM, Gonzalo Salazar-Simpson, gave Azorín absolute freedom to shoot whatever he wanted, edit it and turn it into a feature, even without knowing whether the raw footage would lend itself to such a project. The result is a film split into four acts, in which the different facets of what people do in a film school are laid bare, separated by fades to black.
In the first chapter, we witness the moment a shoot wraps and the production-design team sets about cleaning a wall that had been decorated for filming; the scene is peppered with snippets of everyday conversations, and the collusion builds, eventually resulting in a huge number of people getting stuck into the task, having been infected with team spirit and a sense of camaraderie. In the final act, shot with a jittery mobile phone, in stark contrast to the fixed, tripod-mounted camera used in the first, we see the countless repetitions of a shoot and the chaos that ensues. In between, we are just another student attending a session where completed and screened works are analysed: teachers such as Sergio Oksman (the director of On Football [+see also:
interview: Sergio Oksman
film profile]) pick apart, criticise or praise the work of some of the students, while the pupils themselves defend or explain the decisions they made as they crafted their creations.
Shot in black and white, and at times unsettling and by no means warm or welcoming, Los mutantes is a reflection on the process of becoming a filmmaker, a journey that begins with one’s doubts and longings to blossom as an individual with a unique voice that can stand out from the crowd. The people we see here are in search of some kind of epiphany that will help them to mould their ideas, using an instrument – an audiovisual instrument – that begins to evolve through its very use, transforming much like the aspiring filmmaker does during the time that he or she attends an educational institution.
This is therefore a non-fiction film that attempts to show that maturation process that any artist needs in order to be free. It has not yet been shown at the ECAM itself, where it was filmed: it will be interesting to see how those in charge are also reflected in the analyses of the students that appear in the film – that is, if Azorín has successfully managed to capture the near-elusive process of becoming an artist, which is something that can be totally at odds with that most sacrosanct of concepts: discipline.
(Translated from Spanish)
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