Elisa Cepedal • Director of El Cine, 5
“My work in the past few years has been an attempt to understand my own identity and political commitment”
- The Asturian filmmaker has crafted a cinematic love letter to a past she grew up with
Born in Barredos, a mining town not far from Gijón, Asturian filmmaker Elisa Cepedal is well acquainted with the history of post-industrialism. For her feature El Cine, 5 [+see also:
interview: Elisa Cepedal
film profile], which world-premiered in the Retueyos Competition strand of the Gijón Film Festival, she interviewed neighbours, friends and acquaintances, who shared their stories of the time. She then paired the testimonials with a rich archive of pictures documenting the life, work and strikes of miners taken by her grandfather, who was a local photographer.
Cineuropa: It's not like your film needs any external legitimisation, but I can imagine that premiering a movie about precarious labour in Gijón’s most opulent theatre was something special.
Elisa Cepedal: I am quite proud of the place that I come from, and I think my work in the past few years has been an attempt to understand my own identity and political commitment, coming from a mining town and having grown up seeing strikes and so on. Barredos is tiny, but the people have had a big impact on me and the way I make films, even. They are here for the premiere, and it is important for me to involve them in the process of creating something that starts out as personal, but becomes something collective.
What was the impetus for starting to make the film and conducting the interviews?
When I finished my previous film, I knew I wanted to make one about my village. I wanted to pay homage to my grandfather, who was a local photographer between the 1950s and 1970s, during the dictatorship. He was also a miner. I was quite proud of his archive: some neighbours had boxes of small prints that he had made and sold to them. I would then take them home, scan them, take them back, and then I started interviewing people and accumulating material, images and testimonies.
But first, there were the images?
Yes, the images were the start of it all. I would bring my computer and scroll through the pictures, and let [the people] engage with their own memory. It was quite interesting, and in fact, it was one of the reasons that I decided to have my own voice in the film, because I also became a witness to the story. They're not just telling the story; they're telling it to me, and they all know me quite well – and have done since I was little.
There's a sort of intimacy and familiarity that reminds me of looking at family photo albums. Even if you can't name the people, despite you trying, there's also a political stance in that because you bring the archive to the surface.
Yes, it's quite important to try to construct the political memory of a people, collectively. I thought my grandfather was only a photographer for communions, weddings and family events like that, but then I discovered that he also documented protests and miners’ funerals. It's quite personal at first, but then it becomes political the moment it becomes collective.
The film’s visuals are very minimalistic and somehow pure.
I always shoot with static frames because I'm interested in the movement within them. But alongside the archive and images of the present, I wanted to revisit the places where the images were taken and see what was happening today.
The film’s ending is very evocative in that way. Did you always plan to have this procession close El Cine, 5?
I started filming before the pandemic, and while every town has its own festivities for a saint, during COVID-19, none of that was happening. So in 2022, they did it for the first time in quite a few years, and I literally came the next day, shot and went back. My grandfather took a lot of photos of that procession back in the day. So, I was there with my camera, and when I saw the band come in, I already knew that was going to be the end of the film. I shot a lot that day, but I didn't even edit it together. As soon as I saw that shot, I knew I wouldn’t need anything else.
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