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Pilar Palomero • Director of Schoolgirls

“Throughout the shooting, with my actresses, I felt like a little kid again”


- Pilar Palomero premiered her first film, Schoolgirls , at the Berlin Film Festival, and is now the clear favourite to win the 23rd Málaga Film Festival

Pilar Palomero  • Director of Schoolgirls
(© Pedro J. Pacheco)

Aragonese filmmaker Pilar Palomero cannot hide her excitement in the light of the flattering words received for her debut film, Schoolgirls [+see also:
film review
interview: Pilar Palomero
film profile
, which before competing at the 23rd edition of the Málaga Film Festival premiered at the Berlinale in the Generation Kplus section. We talked to her at the sun-kissed Mediterranean village.

Cineuropa: How are you living this journey, from Berlin to Málaga?
Pilar Palomero: I have accepted things as they came. It was a real shock to see that the Malaga Film Festival was postponed and to learn that other festivals where the film would be exhibited were either cancelled or moved online, which meant we couldn’t participate in them. We had to come to terms with the film’s new reality. That was not the journey we had planned for it, but this was the reality. Nevertheless, since I could not travel due to the pandemic, I made the most of my time and wrote the script for my next project.

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What do you feel when your film is compared with Summer 1993 [+see also:
film review
interview: Carla Simón
film profile
From the very beginning I assumed that this would happen, since we share the same production company and certain similarities, but I had no doubt that the character and the plot of the stories would be completely different. That said, I am pleased with the comparison because I admire the work of Carla Simón, who has joined me in the creative process of Schoolgirls. She is a unique person, and having such a great success happens very rarely. In that sense I did not want to establish a comparison between both films.

Was it difficult to find girl actresses? By the way, they are all superb…
It was a long process, a six-month selection process. Almost one thousand girls auditioned in Zaragoza and Barcelona. I worked very hard with the casting director but it was an enriching experience: we were actually looking for girls with a profile similar to that of the characters portrayed and so indistinguishable that they would be genuine throughout the shooting. It was wonderful to find Andrea Fandos, the main character, who is extraordinary and has a special gift for drama. She is empathetic and says so much with just a look. I was inspired by the enthusiasm of all the actresses and thanks to them I felt like a little kid again throughout the shooting.

Did you study at a convent school, like the schoolgirls of your film?
The idea of the film comes from a religious course book I found from the time I studied sixth grade at school, and that book is actually heard in the film. When I read it I wondered: were we really taught this in 1992? I had the idea that we were more modern and open-minded but talking to my family, friends and schoolfriends I started building the idea of the education our generation had received, and memories started to flourish. I realised we received contradictory stimulus which bordered on the schizophrenic: sex was not mentioned in class but you would see an ad for condoms preventing AIDS at the bus stop. I felt the urge to explain how I had lived that experience, what those memories where like and how they have shaped our generation. I think this idea is shared equally by those who went to a convent school or to a Catholic boy’s school, and also if you studied at a secular school. To me this was a reflection that was worth sharing: to what extent that kind of education followed the trace of that received by our parents.

That education perpetuated male chauvinism and sexual repression…
One of the most revealing aspects of this process, and which is not just the fruit of writing the script but also of the reality we have lived, is that I found that even I had internalized sexist ideas I was not even aware of. I have reread essays I wrote at 14 and I can see that back then I had old-fashioned ideas in me. Seeing that sexism in me has helped me to correct those ideas.

The film talks about a personal journey but also about a social journey.
With the film, I have tried to show that we were in two minds: on the one had we, as a society, had the burden of education received from our parents, but on the other hand the country was in a state of euphoria with the Olympic Games in Barcelona and the Expo World Exhibition in Seville, looking for a modernity we did not have and which didn’t yet exist.

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(Translated from Spanish by Marcos Randulfe)

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