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Interview: Daniel Guzmán • Director

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"It's essential to have a sense of humour"


- Big winner of the 18th Málaga Spanish Film Festival Daniel Guzmán lifts the lid on the secrets of Nothing in Return

Interview: Daniel Guzmán  • Director

Daniel Guzmán, the big winner of the 18th Málaga Spanish Film Festival – snagging Best Film, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor and the Critics' Award – lifts the lid on the secrets of Nothing in Return [+see also:
film review
film focus
interview: Daniel Guzmán
film profile
, his heartfelt feature debut.

Cineuropa: What did your parents say to you when they saw themselves portrayed in your film?
Daniel Guzmán: They gave me a hug and we were unable to speak: they got very emotional, and just with that, no more needed to be said; all of the meaning and content was right there.

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Was the movie cathartic for you?
Yes – thanks to the film, I've made peace with myself and with my past. Distance, time and the movie itself have given me the answers I needed. From the basis of my experience, I tell a personal story that many people have lived through, and sharing it can make you see everything from another point of view, as I believe it is universal and it's better to talk about what you know about in your first film, because you have more involvement and you can go into more depth.

Nothing in Return oozes truthfulness; it is a stripped-back, sincere film…
It's not okay for me to say it, but that's what I think: it has its imperfections and flaws, and if I were to shoot it now, I would do it differently in certain respects, but I am happy about the connection with the essence, with the heart and with the soul of the movie, how that truthfulness and authenticity carry you away and make you forget other very improvable aspects. It's an intergenerational portrait of my relationship with elderly people, specifically with my grandmother, who is a role model of mine.

In the film, you speak about something fairly dramatic, but you manage to inject a type of humour into it that makes everything flow very smoothly…
Yes, I suppose unwittingly I do it in order not to call attention to things, because I don't like to explain too much, and that goes for acting, too: when I tell a story, I prefer to be suggestive, and I think a sense of humour gives life meaning, having the ability to laugh at oneself. The term "social" has a big stigma attached to it: when someone says a movie is a social film, it seems like it's dark, about a depressing or marginal segment of the population – but no, it comes from our relationship with others, and there is colour, humour, light, human relations and happiness in every neighbourhood.

The dialogue is brilliant and very natural… where did you fine-tune this talent?
From my cinematic influences, from the screenwriters I like, from my life in the neighbourhood, from my connection with the streets and even from all that time spent working as an actor for so many years, from having read a lot and knowing what works when you say it out loud, and knowing that expository dialogue does nothing to let the story move forward. I like to write the screenplay in a concise way, using plays on words and irony, because I use that when I talk.

You had to act as an executive producer in order to get your feature debut off the ground… so winning the Goya Award for Best Short Film in 2004 wasn't much use?
It was no use whatsoever. It's true that I'm the one responsible for dragging out the processes. I didn't know it was going to take me seven years to finish the script and another few to look for funding: it also coincided with the social and economic context not being ideal, and as I didn't have any backing from any television channels, nor from the Ministry of Culture, I had to fund it through investors. Obtaining a budget like that was really difficult: if it hadn't been for the individuals who put their capital into this film, with such low tax incentives as well… I don't know how I managed it. I speak to producers and they ask me how I pulled it off, and right now I just don't know. I found out on the fly: that's also why it took me so long.

Is there any chance that the film will be seen outside Spain?
We are looking for international sales agents. For me it would be important to share this story with other cultures, to see how it works. I didn't expect Warner Bros Spain to distribute it – that was a surprise, and it's getting very much involved in supporting it: it's a reward for so much effort and hard work, as was the very special day of the premiere at the Málaga Film Festival with my family and friends.

It is being released in Spain on 8 May, coinciding with the eighth Fiesta del Cine that week (see the news).

It's an extremely important event in order to share it with youngsters and with a number of people who, if it weren't for that initiative, would not bother going to the movie theatres. I hope the film can break through into the collective imagination and awaken the public's desire to see it.

(Translated from Spanish)


international title: Nothing in Return
original title: A cambio de nada
country: Spain
year: 2015
directed by: Daniel Guzmán
screenplay: Daniel Guzmán
cast: Miguel Herrán, María Miguel, Luis Tosar, Antonio Bachiller

main awards/selection

Málaga Film Festival 2015 
San Sebastián International Film Festival 2015
Made in Spain

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