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SAN SEBASTIÁN 2020 Out of Competition

Rodrigo Sorogoyen • Director of Riot Police

“This show is the most ambitious thing we’ve ever done”


- Rodrigo Sorogoyen distils all the strengths of his previous work into Riot Police, a brutal and compelling six-episode series screening out of competition in San Sebastián

Rodrigo Sorogoyen  • Director of Riot Police
(© Jorge Fuembuena/Festival de San Sebastián)

Returning to the San Sebastián International Film Festival after competing in the official selection in 2016 — with May God Save Us [+see also:
film review
interview: Rodrigo Sorogoyen
film profile
— and with May in 2018 — with The Realm [+see also:
film review
interview: Rodrigo Sorogoyen
interview: Rodrigo Sorogoyen, Isabel P…
film profile
— this year Rodrigo Sorogoyen (Madrid 1981) is focused on the small screen, with a series filmed and produced for Movistar Plus+. Comprising six episodes and shown out of competition, Riot Police [+see also:
series review
interview: Rodrigo Sorogoyen
series profile
stars Vicky Luengo, Raúl Arévalo and Roberto Álamo.

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Cineuropa: This series takes your breath away.
Rodrigo Sorogoyen: I’m not a big fan of series. I find them boring and I don’t tend to watch them, but I’m so glad to hear you say that about mine. I’m really happy with how it turned out, although it’s for the public and the press to judge. It blows my mind what we achieved, and I think it’s strong all round: script, performances, music... It’s the most ambitious thing we’ve ever done, both in terms of length and the number of extras involved. It was a colossal amount of work and we were completely shattered by the end of it, but the fact that it was so tough just makes it all the more satisfying. We’re now working on a new series, because I enjoyed this kind of format: a story in 300 minutes.

It’s an electrifying story…
It is; in the last episode there is a particularly brutal scene that we shot towards the end, after four months of filming, and it was so stressful that two of the actors broke down in tears because of all the pressure we’d been under — cast and crew.

Riot Police takes us back to the less salubrious side of Madrid you introduced us to in May God Save Us
The setting was dictated by the story. I try to do whatever the project demands, and for this series those kinds of places were the right fit. We had the idea for Riot Police back when we were filming May God Save Us: you start with a couple of low-life guys on the street, mean as they come, roped into doing some very violent work, and you end up knee-deep in systematic corruption. My co-writer Isabel Peña and I had been mulling it over for some time, and so when it came to the writing, we drew on our own ideas rather than real-life cases.

Were you able to experience that world of everyday policing that we see on screen?
Yes, that was a must for us: first through the script and later through the direction. We wanted to understand what went on in these neighbourhoods and what the people were really like. Once you get to shooting you need to bring the actors in, the set and costume crew, so they can get a sense of how these people see the world and how things are for them. It’s a wonderful part of the job.

You and Peña go back a long way, but on Riot Police you were joined by Eduardo Villanueva. Was this to do with the longer running time?
Yes, although I also know Eduardo through my production company (Caballo Films) and we’ve been friends for a long time, so we knew how he works. We’ve partnered with him in the past on TV projects and we wanted to do it again, because a six-part series is like three films back to back. We were also worried that I might have to disappear at short notice to deal with directing matters and I didn’t want to leave Isabel on her own. The three of us made a phenomenal team.

Why is every episode named after one of the characters?
To begin with, we named each episode after the name of the operation, so the first was called Calle del Olivo, for example, and the second was Lavapiés. But one of the names didn't sound right, because the street had an ugly name and I wasn’t comfortable with it. Instead, I suggested using the characters’ names. It isn’t original but it does emphasize that it’s a character-driven show: we go into these people’s homes to see how they eat, sleep, do the ironing... The character arcs are the most interesting aspect of the show, not the plot as such. Of course, it keeps you on the edge of your seat, but what most sticks in the mind are the people.

It’s important to humanize the police, because we don’t often realise that underneath the uniform is a person who might not always agree with the (violent) orders they’re given…
Completely, and I’m sure that they try not to think too much, that’s what any of us would do, because thinking could drive us to depression. At the same time, there’s always a little voice inside that asks, is this the right thing to do? I think being in that position must be quite hard.

The entire cast is excellent, but Raúl Arévalo’s performance is incredible…
I can’t wait to work with him again — I think he’s the best actor of his generation. We have a mutual admiration for one another.

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(Translated from Spanish)

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