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FESTIVALS Spain

Gijón: Rabadán’s dramatic story makes it to big screen

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In Spain, in 1994, 19-year old Andrés Rabadán killed his father with a crossbow before turning himself in. Diagnosed with schizophrenia, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

In jail, Rabadán began a new life: he married, published two books, started painting and exhibited his works. He also co-wrote Las dos vidas de Andrés Rabadán, the feature debut by Ventura Durall (see news), presented out of competition today at the Gijón Film Festival.

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Durall, previously only a documentary filmmaker, first became interested in Rabadán’s story after attending one of his exhibits. “I was touched by his work and [eventually] met him in jail,” he said. “I was intrigued…I wanted to know how a person could do something like that”. The idea for a film soon followed, with Rabadán becoming involved in the writing process.

The resulting film tries hard not to justify Rabadán’s actions but to contextualize them within a family setting. It also questions the prison system, pushing the debate to the public sphere.

Jumping between the present and the past – and introducing imaginary scenes as the only possible evasion from a suffocating reality – the director sidesteps the traps of family melodrama, demanding tough performances from his cast – which he gets.

Rabadán is played by Catalan actor Álex Brendemühl (The Hours of the Day, Yo), who despite not being a fan of biopics says the role was “one of the most ambiguous and multi-faced…I have been given the opportunity to play so far.”

The preparation process was intense. Adds Brendemühl: “I read his books and spoke to him several times. He seemed to be a pleasant, clever guy who once committed a big mistake. As for being a schizophrenic, that is one of the issues we ask in the film: is he or is he not?”

Besides Las dos vidas de Andrés Rabadán – to be distributed in the upcoming months by its production company Nanouk Films – Durall also directed a documentary on Rabadán, El perdon, which will air on television parallel to the film’s release.

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