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Asier Altuna • Director

"It doesn't make any sense for someone else to decide your fate"


- SAN SEBASTIÁN 2015: Cineuropa spoke to Basque director Asier Altuna, the man behind Amama, the second film in Basque ever to compete for the Golden Shell

Asier Altuna  • Director

Amama [+see also:
film review
interview: Asier Altuna
film profile
by Basque director Asier Altuna is the second Basque-language film, following Flowers [+see also:
film review
film profile
, which was presented here last year, to compete in the Official Section of the San Sebastián International Film Festival. Cineuropa chatted to the director about his drama on deep roots and family conflict, set in a small Basque village, yet with universal implications.

Cineuropa: You produced the film yourself: was this out of necessity?
Asier Altuna: Our production company, Txintxua Films, was started ten years ago in order to get my documentary Bertsolari [+see also:
film profile
off the ground: it was vitally important to have control, because the film required a very slow production process. We never imagined back then that we might be able to produce a feature-length fiction film. It was quite natural, and it’s an advantage being able to manage and control the time frame. My partner Marian Fernández is a producer who takes great care with films and treats them with great affection: Amama is austere, with a small budget, but meticulously made.

Where did the idea for the film come from: external inspiration or personal desire?
I have always been interested in the rural world, for a reason very close to home: I'm from there, as I was born in a small village, although I live in the city. It seems to me to be a source of conflicts: it is a very cinematographic world. It’s a subject that I was drawn to, and I felt the need to depict this end of a certain type of life: country folk who are going to stop working in this way. Small villages are like islands, the centre of the world, self-sufficient in every way: economically and spiritually. It is a world of hands that are going to stop being so rough – I wanted to place a camera in this world that's coming to an end. The plot of the film came to me by way of a poem by Kirmen Uribe, which talks about a relationship involving a lack of communication between a father and a daughter; each of them lives at an opposite pole, and the daughter thinks that her father doesn't have feelings because he's never said "I love you" to her. But in a craftsman's manner, using his hands, her father communicates in a very beautiful way... Later I gradually embellished the idea with forests and trees.

You also talk about imposed roles within the family.
Yes, the many heavily laden burdens that people have carried around for life! Not just in the rural world, but also in the city, in family businesses... There's something logical in the fact that this world is ending: today it doesn't make sense for someone else to decide your fate. Two generations ago, it was still very common, although now it isn't so explicit: some of all that gets to you, as it gets inherited. Hence the image in the film of the grandmother (Amama) being carried on the shoulders of her grandson, as we all carry the weight of our ancestors.

The grandmother observes all of these changes silently.
The change that has occurred in the last few decades has been brutal. Sometimes I think the film has got here a little late, but at the same time it hasn't, because these contrasts still exist: you see these women at 90 years old who go around the city, and you think, where is their world? What universe does this woman really live in?

You filmed it in Basque because it lends credibility to the plot, but isn't it limiting when it comes to selling the film elsewhere?
I believe in credibility, and I set stories in a certain place: if Spanish were spoken there, I would film it in Spanish, or in English or in Chinese... Given that it takes place in a village in Gipuzkoa, it made complete sense for the characters to speak in Basque, and for its distribution in Spain it’s going to be released subtitled and also dubbed, because there are cinemas that don't screen subtitled films. We've taken a lot of care with the dubbing: we've done it with bilingual actors.

(Translated from Spanish)

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