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Hablar: Theatre as protest, in the middle of the street


- Joaquín Oristrell helms this experiment based around ad-libbing actors, using the spoken word as a weapon of social protest, and shooting in a single take

Hablar: Theatre as protest, in the middle of the street
Raúl Arévalo and Álex García in Hablar

Joaquín Oristrell does not mince his words: in 2003, along with such acting accomplices as Elvira Mínguez, Javier Cámara and Juan Diego Botto, he put together the film We Hereby Sign, a pacifist manifesto against the absurd Iraq War that a number of no-less-irrational politicians had led us into. Now, 12 years later, and in collusion with Cristina Rota and her Sala Mirador – a drama school that gave rise to a whole host of performers – the filmmaker is back on the offensive, once again yelling and bringing up something as incendiary and disturbing as the confused, stupefied, jaded and desperate frame of mind of a Spanish society that is dying to say, “Enough!”

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Hablar [+see also:
interview: Joaquín Oristrell
film profile
is composed of intertwining stories, little fragments of life embodied by around 20 actors who come in and out of shot during a single take – with no trick photography – which begins at the entrance to the metro of Madrid’s Lavapiés Square and winds up on the stairs of the aforementioned Sala Mirador, 500 metres away from where it started. Sergio Peris-Mencheta (in the role of a streetwise prophet), Estefanía de los Santos (a poor alcoholic woman), María Botto (a desperate mother) and Raúl Arévalo (who has organised a blind date with a stranger on the internet) open the curtain for this recital of – on the whole – accomplished performances by such icons as Marta Etura, Mercedes Sampietro, Goya Toledo and the ubiquitous Antonio de la Torre, among others. The problem is that a lot of the actors also wrote the lines that they recite… and not all deliver the same degree of risk and emotion.

Melodrama, protest and even comedy gradually collide with one another (an especially memorable segment is the one about the cyber-sex addict) in front of Oristrell’s camera, and the director needed just four attempts to accomplish what he was aiming for. The viewer will take great pleasure in watching this parade of well-known faces who, much like a piece of street theatre, stage a tableau based on the brush strokes of what the population of Spain has been going through over the last few years, right there on the pavement. Corruption, helplessness, robbery and dehumanisation thus pepper a film that is, as Oristrell himself readily admits (read the interview), more a jigsaw puzzle than a concise whole. This agglomeration of diverse stories results in the fact that the film just hobbles along; it could have stretched so much further if it had sacrificed its supposed spontaneity in favour of a more finely tuned script, one in which the characters went into more depth in their analysis of the “whys”, “hows” and “to where” this society is leading us, a society that is already engulfed in a perennial crisis, in which we seem to be wallowing.

The movie, which opened the most recent edition of the Málaga Spanish Film Festival, does not yet have an international sales agent, but a good number of French festivals have shown an interest in it. It is an Aquí y allí Films and Sabre Producciones production (both of which were behind Magical Girl [+see also:
film review
film focus
interview: Carlos Vermut
film profile
), with the collaboration of Producciones Cristina Rota, the teacher of all the actors who appear in Hablar, who honed their skills in the Sala Mirador, where this get-together of good buddies comes to an end.

(Translated from Spanish)

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