“You cannot keep culture paralysed”
by Alfonso Rivera
- Director Gracia Querejeta, the new vice-president of the Spanish Film Academy, is bringing out Felices 140 and criticises the Spanish government's cultural policies
Cineuropa: Like many recent Spanish film projects, you also opted to shoot Felices 140 [+see also:
interview: Gracia Querejeta
film profile] in Tenerife.
Gracia Querejeta: The tax relief on the islands was definitive and a deciding factor. And then it worked out very well, as in the end it seemed plausible that the action could be taking place there: it could have been shot in Burgos, for example, but that slightly wild landscape on Tenerife and that house served us very well. We took full advantage of the situation, but it was Gerardo Herrero, the producer, who came up with the idea of going to the Canaries, owing to the tax advantages there – and because of that, certain businesspeople took an interest in investing in the film.
Despite the severity of its message, in Felices 140 you do leave some room for hope...
We made up the ending on the fly. Seeing as the shoot didn't involve shifting between different locations, but rather it was all very relaxed, very free and easy, with that set and that house, it gave me time to alter some of the sequences and rewrite them, and I thought it would be more realistic if at least one of the characters had at least some integrity, and that would thus generate a little bit of hope.
You are working with the same lead actress, producer and screenwriter. Are you comfortable with this cast and crew?
I'm like my father, Elías Querejeta, in that respect, as he showed me the way to do it: when you have a team that works... why change it? As long as we're comfortable working together, we'll carry on doing so. My next project will also be with Gerardo Herrero: it will be a bright romantic comedy with plenty of humour. It will be another change in direction: it won't have anything to do with Felices 140, after painting such an extreme portrait of human beings, but it was about time that I told this story.
You are working once again with Antonio Mercero, your co-screenwriter.
We've been partners for years, although we have worked on projects separately. We share the same world view, which is really important. We understand one another, and that's no mean feat: when you write a screenplay, you talk about a lot of personal things, and a co-scriptwriter can end up being the other person's confessor. It has to be like being in a couple: there has to be feeling there, and you must have the same concerns and interests. A lot of the time you bare your soul, and at other times you almost demand a seal of the confession. One has to let it out, and then you wipe the slate clean, you get rid of it and you go back to the start. You have to be comfortable with the other person, without being afraid and without feeling like you're being judged, in an atmosphere of complete and utter freedom.
This is the third time you've worked with Maribel Verdú...
Her role in Seven Billiard Tables wasn't written specifically for her, but the other two roles were. I'd made my mind up that Maribel would play the lead character, and I also thought of Antonio de la Torre, although later it becomes very much an ensemble film: but Verdú's character experiences both fortunes and misfortunes.
You are premiering the movie one week ahead of the start of the 18th Malaga Spanish Film Festival, which you have attended several times: but not this year.
I thought it would be strange to go back to Malaga after having won there twice: I'm the only director to have done so. Malaga forces you to release the title afterwards, in May or June, and we thought it was better to do it before that. And you have to leave some room for the others: there is an interesting new generation, and I hope there will be a change in the film-funding model.
A change... in what direction?
Today, apart from with television, people consume audiovisual content differently; we have to ensure that VAT for culture is lowered and we have to put an end to all this piracy... we have to look for a system through which cinema ends up funding cinema, a system that starts with the audiences themselves. When I was 30 years old, it wasn't as difficult to find funding, but it's not like that nowadays. Now I write, and I wait and see if the project moves forward: it's all very different. And I feel lucky to have got on board the TV train: it's a kind of shelter and it's taught me a lot. If I didn't have that, I would have found myself in a tricky situation, as many filmmakers do.
Will 2015 be a year of change?
You cannot keep culture paralysed: it makes no sense. The Partido Popular doesn't want audiovisual content to take on any importance at all.
Do you think the current Spanish government sees cinema as one of its enemies?
When the sector spoke up and protested as a majority, that's when the punishment was dished out.
(Translated from Spanish)