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“My film rejects all artifice”

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Gustavo Salmerón • Director

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- KARLOVY VARY 2017: Spain's Gustavo Salmerón has taken 14 years to shoot his first feature film, the documentary Lots of Kids, a Monkey and a Castle, which is competing in the Czech festival

Gustavo Salmerón • Director
(© Lorenzo Pascasio)

Gustavo Salmerón (Madrid, 1970) is one of the known faces of Spanish cinema: He has acted in hit films like The Red Squirrel, Todo es mentira (lit. Everything is a lie), Asfalto (lit. Asphalt), Mensaka, Queens and Amar [+see also:
trailer
film focus
interview: Esteban Crespo
film profile
]
, among many others. In 2001, he screened his directorial debut, the short film Desaliñada (lit. Disheveled), which took home the Goya in this category. At the Karlovy Vary Festival 2017, he is presenting his first full-length film: the documentary Lots of Kids, a Monkey and a Castle [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Gustavo Salmerón
film profile
]
, which stars his own family. We spoke with him at the premiere.

Cineuropa: When did you realise that you have a such a Berlanga-esqe family and an Almodóvarian mother?
Gustavo Salmerón:
Right from my childhood, I felt like I lived in a house that was totally chaotic, but at the same time, very creative: We were given a lot of freedom. In the 1980s, I started filming my mother and I realised that she had tremendous potential: Something that I had been trying to achieve for many years as an actor – being totally present and authentic, and my mother did this automatically. If you ask her to improvise on a topic or repeat a sentence, she does it without a hitch. I realised, while filming her, that I had a Gena Rowlands before me: It is a pleasure to film her; I have 400 hours of material, most of which is very good.

Perhaps your acting talents come from your mother…
Yes, the film, at the end of the day, is dedicated, among other people, to my mother for teaching me acting, and to my father for teaching me patience.

It has been 15 years since your short film Desaliñada, why did you go for so long without directing anything?
I did some work as an actor and I was also intermittently shooting this documentary. Sometimes, you have cycles in life and now I am also working on a fiction film that I will direct and is more in line with my short film.

Is everything shown in Lots of Kids… real or did you recreate bits of the past?
I wanted to be strict about this and I have shot a 100% documentary: Nothing has been recreated because while I love fake documentaries, that is not what I was trying to do. Lots of Kids… rejects all artifice: I tried to see if something fictional fit in and it did not work. I was also clear from the beginning that I did not want any voice-overs; I included them but then got rid of them as well. So, the final result is a sequence of home videos: They have been shot on a mini DV, something that is totally obsolete but which has a unique texture, and without a film crew, which gives it a different dynamic. It’s just me and the camera; it was like a guerrilla film – without any time to prepare, I had to get the camera out and start shooting.

But were you clear from the beginning that your mother would be the star?
From the very beginning, 14 years ago: It is impossible to compete with her. Even when she does nothing, she dominates the scene, she has real screen presence as well as the spontaneity and authenticity of great actors like Philip Seymour Hoffman: She has this ability where you forget everything else – detachment to the fullest – she has no qualms and this is brilliant for an actor. From the first moment, I positioned the camera half a metre away and never looked at her: She had this innate consciousness that the camera was there, but as though it were not. She only looked at it when she had to, offering a wink, like Woody Allen.

(Translated from Spanish)

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