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“The biggest challenge of my life is to make a good comedy”

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María Ripoll • Director


- Spanish director María Ripoll opts for romanticism, action and interculturality in Ahora o nunca

María Ripoll  • Director

Barcelona-born director María Ripoll goes for romanticism, action and interculturality in Ahora o nunca [+see also:
film review
interview: María Ripoll
interview: María Valverde
film profile
(lit. “Now or Never”), a film starring Dani Rovira and María Valverde. Cineuropa chatted to her.

Cineuropa: Were you in the mood to shoot something a bit more light-hearted after the drama Traces of Sandalwood [+see also:
film review
film profile

María Ripoll: Yes, because even though stories may be dramatic, I like to raise a smile. Ahora o nunca is a comedy, but what the main characters go through is dramatic. Although it’s more difficult to make people laugh than to make them cry, shooting a good comedy is the biggest challenge of my life. With this film, you laugh, you cry and you have fun. I’m also interested in the exchange and fusion of cultures: Spaniards in Europe, Bombay in my previous film… I’m always keeping interculturality in mind. This is the first 100% comedy that I’ve shot in Spain: with If Only… and Tortilla soup I took a risk and worked with English-speaking actors because they have a knack for spontaneity that I couldn’t find here; now that has changed, and Spanish is very well prepared to make comedy from a foundation of drama.

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What has been responsible for that change?
Comedy has always been a secondary genre: it has never garnered much respect from the institutions, from festivals or from their juries… at last, there is now a comedy award in the European Film Academy, as it’s beginning to be more highly valued; it has been proven that it is also increasingly reaching audiences, and my main motivation to film Ahora o nunca was: the world today is very complicated for a lot of people, and making a comedy is a filmmaker’s duty, so that the audience can forget about their dramas and have fun, as happened with Spanish Affair [+see also:
film profile

You’re also working with producer Francisco Ramos again: this is your third collaboration...
He is intuitive and knows very well what’s going to work. He showed me Dani Rovira, before he starred in Spanish Affair. Paco could sense that he was going to be successful: Dani is a perfect actor for comedy and action, and he knows how to convey emotion. He’s a handsome man who feels close and sincere: people feel like they can identify with him; he’s almost like family. And María Valverde is natural and delicate, and she had never done any comedy before.

How did you manage to maintain the comedic tone in so many different settings?
This is the most complicated film I’ve ever made, owing to the number of locations and actors. We had to recreate four airports as sets: three in the Fira de Barcelona and Amsterdam airport in the terminal of a shipping company… all that was shot in a week. Each day was more complicated than the last. Even England is recreated in the movie, in a town in Catalonia that has four English houses: the one that worked the best, because of its enormous garden, was hideous inside, so we transformed the whole thing. Initially we had thought about going to Asturias, but it was more expensive to transport the crew than it was to redecorate that house. In total, it was a seven-week shoot, and I finished the film 15 days ago: I’ve been working 18 hours a day since September 2014 because, since the film has three storylines, it was a nightmare of a jigsaw puzzle to edit.

What are the keys to making a good romantic comedy?
I brought it back to what I know about: we women know how to talk about emotions without putting too much emphasis on flamboyance, and this movie contains some very jokey elements. People will feel like they can identify with the girls or the guys, or with the people who are on the bus. The main difference is narrating things with a smile, not losing the gag and never leaving love by the wayside, as it is love that makes the world go round.

For your next project, will you continue in comedy mode?
Yes, I feel comfortable with this genre: it’s based on No culpes al karma de lo que te pasa por gilipollas (lit. “Don’t Blame Karma for Being an Idiot”), a fantastic novel by Laura Norton. We’re working on the screenplay. It also unfolds in Madrid and Hong Kong: travelling to other cultures, through cinema, is an obsession of mine. The world is enormous and we have to open up: we can learn from everything.

(Translated from Spanish)

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