Chechu García-Berlanga • Director of El joven Berlanga
"Luis García-Berlanga really knew how to live”
- The great-nephew of the great Valencian maestro has presented a documentary in the city of their birth that recounts the first 25 years in the genius' life, when his unique personality was formed
Chechu García-Berlanga has written, produced and directed El joven Berlanga [+see also:
interview: Chechu García-Berlanga
film profile], a non-fiction film based on interviews and archive material that has been one of the special screenings of the 37th Cinema Jove, a festival that closed last Saturday in the city of Turia. That same day we spoke with the relative of the Valencian genius Luis García-Berlanga (Placido, The Executioner).
Cineuropa: What will happen now with the film? Will it be available on platforms or in cinemas?
Chechu García-Berlanga: The documentary was born out of an impulse to tell the story of the maestro's youth in Valencia, before moving to Madrid. I made it with friends, very independently. I have no idea where it can be seen and what its future will be: at the moment I have no contract or pre-sales, from neither television nor platforms; I am open to everything. I studied forestry engineering because, although I was a hardcore film buff, I thought that my surname could weigh heavily when it came to making films professionally. I am also a tourist guide and in 2003 I made my first short film and then I started making silly audiovisuals with friends, called El indefinido and El capitán clítoris, which Luis would have loved: about a Valencian superhero who provoked orgasms just by touching women, so everyone was envious of him. A couple of years ago I won a prize at the Mostra de Valencia with a documentary about Niño Miguel, the best flamenco guitarist in history according to some experts. From there I went on to make my second serious documentary, which is now being shown here.
El joven Berlanga shows how the personality of a genius is formed.
It’s complicated to tell the story, but we can give it some touches here and there, taking into account the environment in which he lived, the political and social situation of his own city and the rural setting that he enjoyed through his father's family. The influences he also had. Unfortunately, there is no one left alive from that era, from 1921 to 1947. So I decided to give Luis a voice, looking for articles, newspapers and biographies, making a fun selection.
This is where key issues appear in his filmography, such as sex or politics...
His grandfather was a great politician and was replaced by his son, a lawyer who succeeded his father in his party. Luis comes from the union between the great confectioners of Valencia and the great politicians of Utiel: put together sweets and politics, and you get a filmmaker.
How did you structure the script: were you guided more by the themes you addressed or by the chronology?
By the time, although there were chapters we went into it more, such as the influences or the Fallas, but it is a chronological film. The script began as half fiction and we built it up as we went along, with interviews and press clippings that we came across. In the interviews there was always a question about the “Mediterranean-ness" of Luis' films: this is where studying how the place where he was born has influenced the films he later directs comes from.
What have you discovered about Luis García-Berlanga in this process that you didn't know before?
Many things, especially family matters. We are talking about a person who has known how to have fun all his life and has succeeded. He has managed to combine very well being a mischievous, prankster, hedonistic person but with limits, without taking it too far, being also very intelligent and hard-working, knowing how to have fun and, at the same time, work, and create a product that is also a lesson without being pedantic, saying things with subtlety. Luis' filmography and El joven Berlanga open the door for all of us to find a certain balance between having a good time, working and being restrained, without polarising ourselves: Luis ended up being independent, without joining any associations or affiliations, always getting on well with everyone, whatever party they belonged to, because he understood human beings and biology very well and the causes that can lead each person to behave in a certain way, up to a point, because no one can put up with certain things. All this is reflected and said in the epilogue: that Luis fought for it. He really knew how to live.
(Translated from Spanish)
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