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Jaime Puertas Castillo • Director of Tale of Shepherds

"Neighbourhood meetings are totally anti-establishment"


- The young Spanish filmmaker discusses his unclassifiable and surprising debut feature, which explores his hometown

Jaime Puertas Castillo • Director of Tale of Shepherds
(© Ana Belén Fernández/Festival de Málaga)

Tale of Shepherds [+see also:
film review
interview: Jaime Puertas Castillo
film profile
is not an easy film to classify, by genre or style, but it is a manifesto of the ideas bubbling away in the head of Jaime Puertas Castillo. The 27-year-old filmmaker debuts with this film that premiered in the Bright Future section of the latest IFFR and is now competing in the Zonazine section of the 27th Malaga Film Festival. We chatted with him there.

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Cineuropa: Was your interest in cinema a vital impulse?
Jaime Puertas Castillo:
It was a need to find a place as well. In my village I used to go to breakfast with my grandmother's friends and I listened with admiration to the stories they told me, some of them about the farmhouses in the countryside. So, I decided to pick up a camera and we did something together, organically. It was a celebration, a meeting to make the film among friends.

In this way the film loses seriousness and is full of humour.
But we took shooting very seriously. Friendship is a tool to deflect clientelistic relationships, and one to watch out for.

Did that lead to you shooting a film with complete freedom?
That has been a blessing. We got together with friends from the film school and the executive producer María Riera Peris, to make it from this desire and celebration, and being able to self-finance it. It's nice because this film was born at the same time as Películas María, which is our company. So, we were doubly excited.

Does your film not belong to any genre?
We always wondered from where we were doing it, because we were working from the fantasy that is to do with the everyday life of the people of my town. I believe that genres help create a collective portrait of that community. I grew up between village and city, Granada and Barcelona, but my camera has always been in my village, not in the city. It's about spending hours with people I admire and from whom I always learn, about shared time. In my village I can find a vision that I can identify with more. And the possibility of boredom is fundamental to speculation and fabulation. Working with the fantastic doesn't come from cinephilia, but from boredom and moments spent waiting, from there comes adventure and fantasy.

But you must have seen a lot of film...
Yes, I've been in good company with filmmakers I admire a lot. It’s a dialogue. Film gives us tools to walk through a territory. I remember the films of the Japanese animation studio Ghibli with special devotion, as they have had a great impact on me, as well as literature. And also Steven Spielberg, Alice Rohrwarcher and Abbas Kiarostami.

Are all the actors in Tale of Shepherds natural?
Yes, and relatives, from my grandmother to a close friend of my mother. I spent a lot of time with them so that the camera would inhabit our meeting spaces on a daily basis. They are no longer surprised if they see someone filming as the camera has become an element of our relationship. Cinema and the possibility of a film have greatly strengthened our bond. Rather, it’s so nice for a project to have that power to bring you closer to people and create some very special bonds that we wouldn't have had without it. The possibility of a film has allowed us to spend time together, to get to know each other and to be there together.

And from being there together, a creature has emerged from all of you...
Yes! This is also important. The film is possible thanks to all of us working together and coming together. Sometimes there is a tendency to individualise, and that makes me angry because it’s not a reflection of how we’ve done it. We’ve all participated together, both the villagers and the technical team.

The film's humour is very small-town, isn't it?
Yes, completely. It is one of the things that unites us most, somewhere between a joke and a shudder. It's a very refined outlook on the world, born out of resistance and the underground, and that inspires me.

Like those legends you hear in villages on summer evenings in their cool streets...
Meeting and gathering places are so important! Whether it's a street or a courtyard, a cinema or a square: they are becoming more and more confined. And that scares me because they are really places of contrast, dialogue and contradiction, and are so important, far from the institutionalised discourse, that strives for a closed narrative with all voices in unison. In that sense, neighbourhood meetings are totally anti-establishment.

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(Translated from Spanish by Vicky York)

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