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FILMS / REVIEWS

Review: Renaceres

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- Despite the looming shadow of the pandemic, Lucas Figueroa’s debut documentary is a thing of great beauty, offering messages of hope and wishes for positive change

Review: Renaceres

At first glance, it might look like the audiovisual equivalent of a self-help book, or scare off viewers unable to stomach a film where COVID-19 and its repercussions permeate every scene. But Renaceres [+see also:
trailer
interview: Lucas Figueroa
film profile
]
, directed by Lucas Figueroa, turns out to be a triumph of sensitivity and hope, deftly sidestepping the pitfalls of trite dramatisation in a beautifully handled portrait of the positive things that might yet emerge from this fierce battle we have all been waging, against a reality that has left us shell-shocked for months on end.

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Filmed using 8K technology (read more here), the documentary unfolds into an homage not only to the city of Madrid, where most scenes were filmed (interspersed with the odd bucolic hillside) but also to its people, who have always been synonymous with resilience, hospitality and heart. We see them presiding over empty hotels and restaurants, gazing straight into the camera, face mask in place, or simply going about the essential business of the city — unrelenting, as always — such as policing, sweeping streets and emptying bins.

The main attraction, however, is Figueroa’s sweeping depiction of Madrid’s streets and squares, suddenly draped in an eerie shroud of silence. Anyone familiar with this city knows that it is usually teeming with life; finding a space to be alone is a fool’s errand. Madrid’s energy is as contagious as any virus, but like everywhere, the pandemic and subsequent lockdown confined its people to their homes, as the world kept turning outside the window.

Figueroa’s film differs from that of Hernán Zin, whose recent pandemic-themed documentary, 2020 — now on general release in Spain — was styled as a piece of human-interest reporting, documenting the essential work of nurses, doctors and even pet-rescue teams (read the article here). Instead, Renaceres [+see also:
trailer
interview: Lucas Figueroa
film profile
]
takes this desperate situation and turns it into art, poetry and visual and literary beauty. Through a series of poems, all but one written by the director himself, he reflects on this enforced hiatus and the imprint it might leave on our lives.

The voices of actors including José Sacristán, Pedro Casablanc, Blanca Portillo, Ester Expósito and Imanol Arias, joined by the musician Alejandro Sanz, accentuate the contemplative mood of a film whose title credits (as well as expressing thanks for the many permits required to film in airports, theatres, theme parks and recycling plants), reveal no surnames. It’s just one more small detail that serves to humanise and familiarise the people behind this profoundly moving and empathetic film — because the subject is all of us, witnesses to a world where the current of life has slowed, but still flows vigorously in search of an outlet from this crisis, and a better future to come.

Renaceres was produced by Mr. Monkey and New Frequency, in association with Scope Producciones. It is scheduled for release in Spain on 18 December, distributed by New Frequency.

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