Sicixia: Mapping out the sounds of Galicia
by Alfonso Rivera
- The new film by Ignacio Vilar takes us on a tour of the Costa da Morte, encompassing its people, its manners of speaking and its unique sounds, using the format of a doomed romance
Ignacio Vilar is the man behind one of the biggest unrivalled success stories of Galician cinema: A esmorga [+see also:
film profile], which ended up being a finalist for the 2015 Goya Awards, in the Best Adapted Screenplay category. Now, this seasoned filmmaker is presenting his latest feature, Sicixia [+see also:
film profile], in competition in the official section of the 54th Gijón International Film Festival; it hits Spanish screens on Friday 25 November. The film is perched on the boundary between fiction and documentary, and its main character is a sound engineer who goes around with his microphone recording the various sounds of nature and the speech of the people in the extreme region of the Costa da Morte (lit. “Coast of Death”), while simultaneously striking up a romance with the woman who is serving as his guide to the area.
This woman, Olalla (Marta Lado, voted Best Actress at the 21st Cinespaña Festival in Toulouse), is a married seaweed gatherer. Xiao (Monti Castiñeiras) also has a partner, but neither is particularly happy in their relationship. And so social pressure (“Everyone knows everything in the villages,” assures a supporting character) will serve as the trigger for the most serious conflict in the dramatised section of Sicixia. But it is during Xiao’s field work, as he interviews old sailors, shellfish gatherers and fishermen’s wives, that documentary-like reality starts to seep into the movie and, through the things we hear, complements the development of the romance between Olalla and Xiao.
Vilar regales us with a love poem for his homeland, peppered with rituals, customs and (fascinating) legends that spill from the mouths of its elderly inhabitants’ weather-worn faces, filmed up close and with the high degree of confidence enabled by digital technology. Countless hours of shooting were dedicated to making the men and women who appear on screen feel more comfortable in front of the camera, thus allowing Vilar to obtain sublime natural and spontaneous moments.
But more than anything else, it is the sounds of nature – the wind, the swell of the waves, the animals and so on – that lend the film a special energy: while the movie’s sound technician recorded what was going on in front of the camera, the main character made his own recordings, thus producing a thoroughly absorbing acoustic atmosphere that whisks the viewer away to the landscape captured in Sicixia.
Furthermore, with this film, Vilar makes an appeal to preserve the rich linguistic legacy of the Galician language, which is still used by the locals (according to the filmmaker, the accent in some remote parts of the Costa da Morte varies between locations separated by just a few kilometres), passed down from generation to generation. The shoot was adapted on the fly, depending on the emotions and whims that the crew experienced each day, capturing that same freedom that one lives and breathes in the natural expanses seen on screen, in stark contrast with the closed-minded and macho attitudes of some of the inhabitants of the smaller townships.
Sicixia (which, in Galician, means the alignment of various stars in the same gravitational system, as occurs during an eclipse) proves to be an intense experience for the senses and a recognition of popular culture, produced by Via Lactea Filmes SL, which is also in charge of its sales and distribution.
(Translated from Spanish)