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Interview: Lino Escalera • Director

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“I wanted to explore the codes through which families communicate”

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- Can't Say Goodbye is the first feature by Spanish filmmaker Lino Escalera. An intricate family drama, the film is now screening in competition at the Malaga Spanish Film Festival

Interview: Lino Escalera • Director
(© Lorenzo Pascasio)

Can't Say Goodbye [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Lino Escalera
film profile
]
(No sé decir adiós) depicts a family faced with a limited window of opportunity for resolving some deep-rooted conflicts. Starring Nathalie Poza, Juan Diego and Lola Dueñas, the film was directed by Lino Escalera — his feature-length debut, following a number of shorts and countless advertising spots — and has been selected to compete in the official section at the 20th Malaga Spanish Film Festival.

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Cineuropa: This film has been a long time in the making, is that right?
Lino Escalera: It took us years to get it off the ground, and there were times when we thought it would never come to anything. I met Pablo Remón in 2009; I had finished my short film Elena quiere and I was looking for a fresh new writer untainted by my style of filmmaking. At that stage, I just had the initial concept in mind: a father and daughter, both of them unwell — he physically, she emotionally. The characters would be on the run, trying to escape death, and over the course of this journey they would find closure and acceptance. Having seen Casual Day, I knew I liked Pablo’s way of handling dialogue; I’m not good at writing dialogue, but he is.

The dialogue in No sé decir adiós really shines.
Pablo is one of the best scriptwriters this country has. He builds up the characters through how they speak. I also love the way he uses humour — how he blends it so perfectly with drama. We spent two years working on the project together before presenting it to the Ministry of Culture, which awarded us a development grant. I was working in advertising and he was busy with other scripts, and so the writing stage dragged on a bit longer. Various production companies got involved in the project, but they all fell through. Eventually, in 2013 we received funding from the ICAA, but only after a lot of rejections. All of these years, this film has always seemed to get back on its feet at the very last minute; it’s kept us on tenterhooks the whole time.

What made you decide to film in Almería?
I wanted to create a visual connection between the terseness and brusqueness of the characters and the landscape around them. I had already made a short film there, and it occurred to me that it would be a perfect setting in which to lay down the roots of this family. It’s a very beautiful place, but it’s also utterly unforgiving. Once production took off in Catalonia, we also filmed some scenes in Barcelona and Girona.

This interest you have in the dramatic charge of the family — where does that stem from?
I was interested in the way that the central characters are able to turn their backs on reality and build a shell around themselves. They don’t see the very thing that is hurting them, and that’s intriguing to me. I also wanted to explore the codes through which all families communicate, each in their own unique way. It’s complicated by internal barriers, the weight of the past and emotional wounds, but, faced with approaching death, everyone has a strong desire to communicate with and be close to one another, despite everything that has gone before.

Yet the film doesn’t reveal much about this family’s complex past.
We don’t need any further explanation: the mother is mentioned a few times, it’s clear that she has died, and that provides a clue as to how the divisions in the family might have come about. The past is broadly hinted at, but we didn’t want to get too bogged down in it. From what is said in the film, we can tell that there is some past trauma there.

(Translated from Spanish)

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