La extraña elección: Seeking happiness in the country
by Alfonso Rivera
- Following screenings at festivals in Valladolid, Gijon and Guadalajara (Mexico), the documentary by Carmen Comadrán is getting a release: it is an ode to the virtues of rural life
Produced by Tierravoz Producciones (owned by the director herself) and in collaboration with Televisión del Principado de Asturias, La extraña elección (lit. “The Strange Choice”) will at last be shown to the general public after having been selected for SEMINCI, the Gijón International Film Festival and the Guadalajara International Film Festival (Mexico). The head of this project, Carmen Comadrán, knows what she’s talking about, having lived in country towns before. Her rural experience is captured in this portrait of three central characters and the people who surround them: active people fighting against rural discrimination linked to the hypothetical benefits of buying property in big cities.
La extraña elección gives voice to the necessary dialogue between urban and rural communities, their exchanges back and forth, and looks at their mutual dependence. Much like in the comedy by Álvaro Fernández Armero, Las ovejas no pierden el tren [+see also:
film profile] (lit. “Sheep Don’t Miss the Train”), various people in this documentary choose to move to country towns, to the astonishment of those around them. Certain conditions in these places make some tasks more difficult, but once overcome, in the long run, there are more positives than negatives to be found. As they say, “Here, you regain control of your life.” The three people are: Fran, a journalist who manages and distributes a daily regional newspaper in the mountains near Madrid; Andrea, a German artist who has settled in Aguilar de Campoo in Castilla-Léon to share her creations with her neighbours; and Flo, a Franco-Belgian woman devoted to ecological agriculture on Asturian land. Three examples of life at its most dynamic, interesting and gratifying, beyond the limits of our cities.
Comadrán shows us the daily reality of these choices, making it clear that not all are easy, especially if one attempts to pursue a modern job in a rural setting: the internet connection drops in and out (or doesn’t exist at all), renting a place to live proves complicated and travelling long distances from one town to another is impossible without a car. Access to healthcare isn’t always easy either, and social policies are generally geared towards major population centres, as they guarantee a greater number of votes. This is why the filmmaker shines a light on these somewhat unfashionable places (which lie beyond rural tourism), devoid of any government interest and having worn the badge of bad press and disrepute for decades.
With her simple directing, punctuated by animated imagery (creations by French artist Myleine Guiard-Schmid) that show a maze – a symbol of coming together and reflection for rural/urban understanding, and the break with the subservience that prevents us from attaining global sustainability – the director wanted to express in this multimedia project how honest and direct human contact (shared experiences, projects, traditions and pleasures abound in the film) is the greatest gift given to those who have made the unusual decision to seek happiness in the country.
(Translated from Spanish)