Juan Soto, Chiara Marañón • Directors of Elena dio a luz un hermoso niño
“On one of the reels, I saw Franco going down a staircase, and that made me wonder, ‘Who was this family?’”
by Matthew Boas
- We sat down with the winners of the Spanish strand of Zinebi Networking to discuss their project based almost entirely around a family’s striking home-movie footage
The 64th edition of Zinebi, which wrapped at the weekend, organised a fresh iteration of its industry strand, Zinebi Networking, which featured extensive and in-depth pitching sessions. This year, it doubled its prize money to €20,000 – half of which went to a Basque project and the other half to a Spanish one. We caught up with Juan Soto and Chiara Marañón, the directors of the winner of the latter pitching session (see the news), to discuss their Spanish-Colombian project Elena dio a luz un hermoso niño.
Cineuropa: Could you please give us a summary of what your project is about?
Juan Soto: While at a residency at the Filmoteca de Catalunya three years ago, I discovered a collection of reels from a Catalonian family. They started in 1944 and went up to the end of the 1950s. And in one of the reels, I saw Franco going down a staircase, and that made me wonder, “Who was this family?”
Chiara Marañón: Most of the material was just typical, domestic home movies, like holidays, weddings and so on, and then in the middle of that was Franco!
JS: I started doing some research, and then Chiara joined me, and we found out that not only did the family have material from the 1940s and 1950s, but they also had footage from the 1960s up to today, virtually. When the parents died, one of their kids carried on filming in Super 8, then in VHS, then in digital. So eventually, we had this huge collection from a single family, starting from the dictatorship, passing through the transition and then going into the democracy. And you could see all this from a single family. From those very domestic images, in the cracks and gaps left by time, you could see the political situation of the whole country emerging.
How do you intend to split the directorial duties?
CM: This is mostly a film that doesn’t really require shooting, even though there are minimal parts of it that will. For instance, we shot for one day in the family’s house because they are going to sell it, and we thought we might want to do that just in case we want to use it. But we didn’t intend to include any new footage. It will be written in the editing room with the help of the sound team. It’s going to be 50% images and 50% sound, and the sound needs to recreate all those things that Juan was talking about – everything that’s happening off screen. We need to construct the political context in which those images were taking place, which is in dialogue with what happens in the images. So a lot of that will come through the sound. As for us, Juan is an editor and I’m a screenwriter, so we thought this would be the ideal combination in terms of writing this film in the editing room. So we will be working on that together and with an external editor.
JS: We have been working together for 15 years, and even though we haven’t co-directed anything yet, we’ve been working on each other’s short films from the very beginning, when we started together in Cuba.
CM: So we’re used to collaborating. Originally, this was going to be Juan’s project and I was going to help in any way I could, but then, we just decided to make it together. But we think it’s important to work with a third editor, someone who is external to our collaboration, with no attachment to the images or the family.
What stage is the project at, and what is the predicted timeline?
JS: So far, we are very advanced with the research. We have got the full collection ordered chronologically, and we are using some [audio] interviews to add a layer of family history in that chronology and the different points of view of each family member. Then we’ve hired a researcher to be in charge of contextualising each moment of the collection in terms of what was happening in the town, in the country and in the world at the time. So now we need to enter the editing room to discover what the film is going to be about.
CM: Not “about”, exactly, but what it’s going to be like, what the structure will be, where will it start and end. We have ideas about a lot of different narrative devices that we want to explore with sound or with text, and we just need to get on with it.
How useful will the Zinebi prize be for the project?
CM: I’ll put my producer’s hat on now: this is a Spanish-Colombian co-production; it’s 80% Spanish and 20% Colombian. The Spanish funding is mostly in place, from various sources, and we have some more pitching sessions coming up, so we hope we will get that. For the Colombian share, we haven’t been that lucky, and that money is not in place. So the Zinebi prize will help to bridge that gap.
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