Subverting old tales from the future, part 2

Crumbs director Miguel Llansó on the "other Spanish cinema" and what's next for him.

by Rebecca Naughten

Miguel Llansó: 'I think that the industry in Spain - and when I say industry, I'm talking about production, the press - the big industry is behind the times'
Miguel Llansó: 'I think that the industry in Spain - and when I say industry, I'm talking about production, the press - the big industry is behind the times'
In the second part of our two-part interview with Crumbs director Miguel Llansó - which played at the East End Film Festival this week - we talk to him about the creation of a new type of cinema and new ways of making films, plus his own plans for the future. Read what he said about his Ethiopian-set science fiction film in part 1.

RN: I'm interested in this "Other Spanish Cinema". There's always cinema in the margins (made outside of the industry), but why do you think that there's currently a resurgence of this type of cinema in Spain? Is it simply because of the economic situation, or is there something else going on as well? Because it seems to me that these types of films are becoming more visible, but I don't know whether that's just because I'm purposely seeking them out or...

MLI'm exactly the same - I don't know whether there has been a resurgence or whether they've always been there and it's simply that now that we're within it, it seems important... I don't know. For example, I have only known about Spanish independent filmmakers very recently. I lived in Ethiopia and before that I didn't know about it. It has been through international film festivals - for example, I met Ion de Sosa (director of Androids Dream) in Locarno, Luis (López Carrasco - director of El Futuro) I knew in Madrid, and I met a lot of people in Rotterdam.

So there is a series of Spanish filmmakers who - more than being on the margins of the industry - I think are trying to create a different kind of industry, perhaps very small at the start, and it has to be a worldwide industry. It's connected to identification, where do we know each other from, or with music as well. I believe that globalisation has permitted many people, from many parts of the world, to get in contact with each other through common interests.

RN: Social media as well.

ML: Exactly. I mean, I hate Facebook, but thanks to that you can stay in contact with various parts of the world and at least have small conversations with, for example, programmers in Brazil who have the same interests as you. "Let's talk for ten minutes" - you chat for ten minutes and that creates a sense of community. And I think that's what is happening, that the Spanish filmmakers who, at best, are a bit lost putting on their films in Madrid, they are starting to find related spaces with [other] filmmakers and lovers of cinema from across the whole world. They can show their work to the world and create a community.

RN: I've realised that if I want to see these types of Spanish films then I need to go to film festivals and last year I saw a range of Spanish titles like El Futuro, Coast Of Death, Falling Star, The Creator Of The Jungle and others at UK festivals. Why do you think these films are having so much success at festivals, particularly those outside of Spain? I don't know whether there's a sense of being undervalued in your own country - which seems to be a normal attitude at a national level, certainly in the UK we're quite critical of British filmmakers - or is it that if you find success elsewhere, you can then return home with more attention paid to you?

ML: I think that the industry in Spain - and when I say industry, I'm talking about production, the press - the big industry is behind the times, which is normal as it has its own dynamics that have been established over the past 20 years and that are difficult to change. A film for them is a film made industrially with 40 or 50 people - and the institutions are still like that as well. The majority of those of us who have applied for grants from the institutions are never considered. Because there's still a tendency to consider cinema as something made industrially in order to be shown on television, for example, with actors from the television.

So what the best of the international film festivals have allowed to happen is still delayed in Spain... people are slow to change their ways of writing for the magazines. For example, with Crumbs, there was an article in The Hollywood Reporter and Variety, but here the biggest magazines - in my own country - not one. There was something in The Guardian not long ago... I mean there are pieces in smaller magazines here that specialise in auteur cinema, of course, but the big media remains [oblivious]. And I think that it's a dynamic that comes from the past. So leaving allows you to develop recognition and a series of relations that sooner or later reach Spain. But cinema is changing its course - there's another type of cinema, there's another way of doing things, with much smaller crews.

Coast Of Death
Coast Of Death
RN: So, what you were saying about actors from television - and this need in the eyes of the Spanish industry to have recognisable names - does that not matter so much elsewhere, because if they're not aware of what's going on in Spain (and who's who) then it's all equal?

ML: Totally. In fact, if you think about what happened this year at Cannes, Rotterdam, or Berlin - the biggest festivals that there are - our presence [i.e. the likes of Crumbs and Androids Dream] is greater than that of the Spanish industry productions because those films are made to satisfy the television audience much of the time and the general Spanish audience.

So they're not made as works of art but as consumer products, and they can be well made, I'm not saying that they're not, but they are consumer products. I think that what we're trying to do with our cinema is go beyond entertainment, and to try to think about society, to create aesthetic values... and a lot of the time this is hard, and the spectator has to have the will to understand what you're saying. A lot of the time, the big Spanish industry is trying to create for many people, and those people don't have the time to dedicate themselves to our cinema because their job is hard work, the economic crisis - if you come out of eight hours of work, and take yourself to see Coast Of Death... what a nightmare! People are tired, so if there's not that will on the part of the spectator to ask, "Hey, what does this want to say to me? What values is it trying to transmit? Where are we going?" then it's not going to work. This cinema won't work. The big industry aims to make commercial productions and we - as artists - have a different responsibility, one that is small individually but big collectively.

ML: Do you have other projects lined up, or stories that you'd like to make?

Yes. I'd like to make a film about the 1960s in Ethiopia because I think that the Sixties in Ethiopia were the moment when, above all, Addis Ababa was somewhere very cosmopolitan and very in tune with other places in the world. The students took references from the Black Panthers, from the Parisian students and revolution from 1968, there was a spirit of rebellion, social changes. I would like to make this spirit, not transmitting historical veracity because I don't want to talk about history but the spirit, and mix it with science fiction. So a retro-futuristic film about the cultural revolution. But I don't have the money!

In the first part of our interview, we talk to Llansó about making an anti-Cinderella.

Translation from Spanish by Rebecca Naughten

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