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SAN SEBASTIÁN 2018 New Directors

Celia Rico Clavellino • Director

"The film came out of a sense of unease"


- SAN SEBASTIÁN 2018: Spain's Celia Rico Clavellino presents her first film in New Directors — the very intimate Journey to a Mother’s Room, starring Lola Dueñas and Anna Castillo

Celia Rico Clavellino  • Director
(© Lorenzo Pascasio)

Until quite recently, Celia Rico Clavellino would turn her hand to just about anything, from script writing to assisting with production and even direction under Claudia Llosa in Aloft [+see also:
interview: Claudia Llosa
film profile
. Although she had directed one short, 2012’s Luisa no está en casa, she always stopped short of attempting a full-length film — until now. Her first feature, Journey to a Mother’s Room [+see also:
film review
interview: Celia Rico Clavellino
film profile
, features superb performances from Lola Dueñas and Anna Castillo and has just had its first airing in the New Directors section of the 66th San Sebastián International Film Festival.

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Cineuropa: Why did you shoot the film in a village near Seville, when there’s only one street scene that could be anywhere?
Celia Rico Clavellino: Just imagine how much I had to justify bringing the entire cast and crew to the place I was born, to then film hardly any exterior scenes... What did we come here for? Some people asked, but eventually they got it. Apart from the fact that I wanted Lola Dueñas to learn to sew with my mother, to come to my house and spend time in her workshop, I also wanted everyone to sit round the brazier table [a round table with a heater underneath, common in southern Spain], because practically nobody knew what one was. I wanted them to understand the relationship I have with my family and the place I grew up, and that double-edged quality of small places, where you turn up and everybody loves you, dotes on you and wants to take care of you, and then at some point you start to feel suffocated. The cast got to experience that for themselves, particularly Anna Castillo, which was hugely important. Before we started filming, we deliberately blurred the boundaries between real life and fiction, so that later all of that was already set up. And we did the read-throughs around a brazier table, eating doughnuts made by my mum and my aunt. 

So you could have called it Journey around a brazier table...
Yes, they suggested that in Berlin; it’s somewhat lacking in poetry though. But yes, the film is a journey around a table. 

Was it inspired by that sense of claustrophobia you sometimes get in small communities?
There’s a lot in the film that’s personal, and it’s based on my experience and my feelings, but it’s not an autobiographical film, although all writers reveal something of themselves through what they choose to write about. The film came out of a sense of unease. I’m right on the boundary between being a daughter and potentially becoming a mother, and that puts me in a position where I can still step into the role of a daughter, but with questions on my mind about what a mother is, what’s behind that label, what we stop being when we become mothers and how we can get back to that once our children no longer need us. It also links back to that moment when you decide to leave home: you set off full of dreams and you have no idea what’s going to happen— it’s like standing on the edge of an abyss. These decisions shape the rest of your life. I left, and now when I visit my family I miss being on my own, but there’s this immense contradiction because when I’m far from home I feel guilty for not spending more time with my parents. Sometimes I just don’t have time for them, but they make time for me. 

Maybe our roots aren’t as strong as we think.
They say that after five years away from home, the ties have already become very fragile. You start to wonder what will happen when your parents are no longer around, because although they’re not part of your day-to-day life, you feel like you’re protected just because they exist. And... what do you do with that love when they’re gone? 

The film also shows the influence of our parents’ example.
At the start of the film, the generation gap is very clear: the mother has ceased to be a role model for the daughter and wants her daughter close by, because she’s afraid of being left all alone, so she tries to find her a job near home. I tried to show the dressmaker/seamstress profession in way that dignified it, and I’m not dismissive of it, but I can’t stand not having the space to become your own person, to get to know yourself and find your vocation in life. I was trying to bridge the gap, because when you’re used to one role and then you find yourself in a different one and you become a parent, you realise that we’re not terribly different. If we shed those labels and relate to one another as individuals, these generational differences melt away... There’s not that many of them.

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(Translated from Spanish)

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