Lucía Alemany • Director of The Innocence
"My film would look very different without The Screen"
- The Innocence, one of the first films to emerge from the incubator program at ECAM’s The Screen, is our first introduction to debut director Lucía Alemany
Lucía Alemany (Traiguera, Castellón, 1985) graduated in Audiovisual Communication before enrolling at the Cinema and Audiovisual School of Catalonia (ESCAC), where she studied direction and production. The Innocence [+see also:
interview: Lucía Alemany
film profile], her first full-length feature, received production support from both The Screen and ECAM (see news). We sat down with her to chat about her experience of making the film, shot in her home town with dialogue in the Valencian dialect and set to be unveiled in the New Directors section at the 67th San Sebastián International Film Festival.
Cineuropa: What was it like to be a part of The Screen?
Lucía Alemany: My experience was a bit atypical because by the time we got to ECAM we knew that we would be filming in just a few months. We had received a first round of financing, but there was still plenty to do. I had spent three years working on the screenplay along with Laia Soler, and Mar Coll [one of her mentors from the inaugural edition of The Incubator, the program that supports feature-length productions within The Screen] sent me an email asking me how I was intending to approach it. My reply said: “I need you to help me focus, because I tend to shoot off on tangents.” So, she showed up with our screenplay packed with notes, scene by scene, and she sat with me for a long time going through each one. It was just what I had asked for. At that point, I cut back on some of the sub-plots and concentrated on the main story and the central character. Later, at the editing stage, we pared back even more. The film would look very different without The Screen; it helped me immensely. I needed it, too: it got me to a place where I was able to shoot the film in just three months.
What was it about Carmen Arrufat, your very young and unknown lead actress, that stood out for you?
I chose Carmen because she exudes a sense of truth. Also, as this was her first film, she had no fixed technique and so was very pliable. We had to be very pragmatic during casting because we were short of time. Carmen came in for five auditions, which effectively became rehearsals. She had such a look of innocence about her; she reminded me of the actress from Blue is the Warmest Colour [+see also:
interview: Abdellatif Kechiche
film profile]. I don’t think we would have found anyone better suited to the role. She approached everything with enormous enthusiasm but she was quite timid at the same time. She didn’t bring any judgement to the part and was very much an open book.
Is the story you tell in The Innocence based on aspects of your own life?
Yes. I began by writing a biographical story; at 30 years old and without much of a background in film — I grew up on the streets of a small town — I felt that if I was going to tell a good, honest story in a realistic way, it would need to be about something I had actually experienced. But once the actors had breathed life into the characters, it no longer felt so much like my story.
The film captures the atmosphere of a small Spanish town wonderfully, with its festivals and close-knit community.
I know exactly what it’s like to live in a small town. In my case, when I was 18 years old, I felt like I was in a cage, a prison, and I got as far away from home as I possibly could. I spend a good number of years resisting my home town, until I came to do my final degree project at ESCAC. I had a lecturer who taught us that the most important thing for directors is to tell a story that only you can tell. I realised then that it was time to go back home and make peace with my roots. I made a short film there, and then this film. I moved back, and the town saved me. I couldn’t have made this film anywhere else, not without the generous help of the local people. It’s possible that a lot of what I resented was in my own mind, but it is hard to live in a small town — when people are talking about you and you don’t feel free.
The central character gets a lot of criticism from her neighbours because of the way she dresses...
Yes, at one time I had dreadlocks and people had never seen anything like it. I would walk around town and hear all kinds of comments; nobody held back.
Another key theme is the lack of communication between parents and their children.
I’d like to believe that this is becoming less and less of a problem. In the film we see a family that’s patriarchal and sexist, but there’s hope that those attitudes are fading. Perhaps I’m being overly optimistic, but I like to think that we are moving away from all of that.
(Translated from Spanish)
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