“Every film is a world of its own”
by Alfonso Rivera
- SAN SEBASTIAN 2016: After the success of Marshland, Sevillan director Alberto Rodriguez is back with an ambitious political thriller, Smoke and Mirrors, based on true events
Smoke and Mirrors [+see also:
interview: Alberto Rodríguez
film profile] has just had its world premiere in competition at the 64th San Sebastián Film Festival, a week before it is released in Spain. Forty-something Sevillan director Alberto Rodriguez’s previous film Marshland [+see also:
interview: Alberto Rodríguez
film profile], which was also selected for the Basque festival two years ago and took home two awards (Best Actor for Javier Gutierrez and Best Photography for Alex Catalán) received huge acclaim from audiences, critics and juries, so hopes are high for this new thriller.
Cineuropa: In our last interview, just before Marshland was released, you said that you already had Smoke and Mirrors in the pipeline.
Alberto Rodríguez: It’s a project I’ve been waiting to do for a long time, an almost ill-fated project that was pitched to Enrique Urbizu and others first. When he turned it down, they handed the reins over to me, just as I was finishing Unit 7 [+see also:
film profile]. Sadly, we weren’t able to secure funding and the project was put on hold. It started back up again when money and opportunities came flowing in. So in the end, the film took years and years of work, but for me, it was all worth it. It was also the professional change that I was looking for, as this project doesn’t have much in common with the previous one and it’s very difficult, after such huge success, to repeat such a special experience, so I saw a good opportunity here to do this for myself and go in a new direction.
The film was also made on a big budget.
The story, which is very complex, called for a big budget, because it unfolds in a number of different locations. In an ideal world, we could have even done with a bit more money, as is always the case. They had me read the book by Manuel Cerdán, Paesa: el espía de las mil caras, as I only had a vague recollection of the affair. What really stood out for me is that even though the story takes place in 1994, as I read the text I realised that the whole thing could just as easily be happening in 2011. I liked that aspect of it, as well as the stir that the Roldán affair caused and the little known details that the book presents, above all the fact that people only dimly recall the Paesa and Rodán affair: they remember it as it has gone down in collective memory, skewed and altered.
What did you have to lose, adapt or modify from the book in the film?
A lot of things, because the book is a journalistic text, whilst for us, it was about creating a piece of fiction based on true events. We had to build a fictional story with a central subject. During the documentation stage, we naively tried to come up with something that would seem real, but we soon realised that that was impossible. The number of versions provided by people we interviewed and by books we had read on the subject led us to conclude that nobody, with the exception perhaps of three or four individuals, knew the real story, and we would never be the exception. So my co-screenwriter Rafael Cobos and I decided to tell a story that could have happened. A lot of the events happened as we tell them, and were well-documented, but we invented others, because we wanted to convey what happened, not make a documentary. It’s a story that someone tells you, or rather a story full of all the truth and lies that come with any story.
For this film you reunited the team you worked with on Marshland.
Yes, the team has stayed practically the same ever since my debut film, The Pilgrim Factor. It has simply grown as my films have become more complicated.
Is it an imposition that a project as huge as Smoke and Mirrors requires shots in so many foreign countries?
Yes, it’s complicated. We worked places we’d never been to into the screenplay. You can gather together as much information as you like about a place, but the reality on the ground is always surprising. For example, in Singapore, I was expecting to see a clear blue sky, but ended up finding myself in a huge city with giant buildings that block out the light before it can even get to you. In Malaysia, they burn the fields, which creates so much smoke that it leaves a dreadful permanent fog: that’s why in the film it always looks overcast. In each place, the team was different, but that taught me a lot, because in the end, every film is a world of its own.
(Translated from Spanish)