Two by two

Directors Adán Aliaga and David Valero on working with home town friends to make Noah's Ark.

by Rebecca Naughten

Noah's Ark
Noah's Ark
The D'A Festival has gained a reputation for championing homegrown filmmakers and its fifth edition proved to be no exception. Although Spanish and Catalan films could be found throughout the programme, there was a particular concentration of local talent in the (Im)Possible Futures strand, an exploration of low voltage sci-fi being made in straightened times but with no shortage of imagination or humour.

Among those films was Noah's Ark, a sweet-natured comedy depicting Spain in the not-so-distant future. It's 2020, Mariano Rajoy is still prime minister and the economy is stuck in a near-apocalyptic downward spiral - the solution of two newly-redundant security guards (played by Fran Gomis and Miguel Chillón) is to build a machine for inter-dimensional travel to find an alternative reality. I asked the film's directors how they came to work together, on growing up in the same town, and about the improvisational nature of the performances...

You've each made films on your own in the past - why did you decide to work together on this project?

Adán Aliaga: We've known each other for a while and have collaborated on various projects. Co-directing was something so organic that we hardly talked about it...we started shooting straightaway.

Noah's Ark directors Adán Aliaga and David Valero
Noah's Ark directors Adán Aliaga and David Valero
David Valero: The need to tell stories is always inside you but the waste of energy in each project is huge, so you have to be careful when the time comes to put together the machinery in order to raise a project. When Adán proposed co-directing Noah's Ark with the premise of having fun, freeing our creativity and picking up the pace of work - in addition, of course, to working with someone I admire as a professional and person - I decided that it was time to start-up the machinery.

How did you meet each other? Am I right in thinking that you grew up in the same town?

AA: We are from the same town, Sant Vicente del Raspeig [the location where Noah's Ark takes place].

DV: Yes, we live in the same town. I really could not tell you when I met him. What I can tell you is when I first saw him. I bunked off school because someone was giving a talk on cinema in the town auditorium as part of a now-defunct local festival of short films called "Opera Prima" [First Work], and it was Adán who gave the talk.

How did it work, having two directors on one film?

AA: It was very easy, once we found all we wanted for the film it was so much easier.

DV: The working dynamic was very smooth and this was an advantage as we were the only crew - this helped to share tasks between the two of us. In addition, we presented our views to each other about each frame to decide what was most appropriate for the story.

What was the starting point for the project?

AA: We wanted to make a very intuitive, instant film, in our town and with our people, family friends. We had a little story...

DV: Adán was the one who took the first step in this project. The motivation that led to it all beginning was to shoot something in our village, surrounded by friends, and especially being free to take the time to let out what we had inside.

If the film was semi-improvised, how did the narrative develop?

AA: We had a very simple base - a little story that we enriched during the shooting. We were shooting and editing at the same time.

DV: Although the film was born of improvisation there were narrative pillars, sequences that had to exist in order for the film to make sense or not. In order to dispense with a literary script during filming, that [improvisational] function had to supplement the editing phase, where the film really came alive.

How did you find the actors?

AA: The actors are mainly our friends, although some of them, such as the girl [Alicia Santonja] and the faith healer [Fran Gomis], are actors. So at the start, we were thinking of something that they could do...

DV: Paco [Gomis] and Miguel [Miguel Chillón] are friends of Adán's - I think from childhood - and later they were my friends. Adán and I had always talked about the potential that these two extraordinary people had. Of their inner world and that one day the planet would have to know about them. Alicia is also a friend of Adán's. He had worked with her on some short films. She was an actress who had not developed her acting talent due to illness. So we decided to put all of them and much more into the ark.

"Although the film was born of improvisation there were narrative pillars, sequences that had to exist in order for the film to make sense or not."
"Although the film was born of improvisation there were narrative pillars, sequences that had to exist in order for the film to make sense or not."
I have a more general question about recent Spanish cinema - there is always cinema being made on the margins (outside of the film industry), but why do you think that there has been a resurgence in this type of cinema in Spain? Is it simply due to the economic situation, or are there other factors involved as well?

AA: It is an interesting question. Obviously in recent years a number of small Spanish productions have had a significant impact at international film festivals around the world. But, for example, we're still waiting to see a Spanish film in the official selection at Cannes. However, obviously if we think of the quantity of filmmakers who have come out of the many film schools across Spain - along with the way in which the film production sector has been severely affected by the drastic reduction of financial aid - this has generated a very powerful independent film movement in Spain as a result, but the phenomenon is much more complex and eclectic than that.

DV: My opinion is that many creators who cannot get the necessary financing to kickstart their films through normal channels (subsidies, sales to television...) due to the economic cutbacks have seen in new technologies a support for continuing to tell great stories outside of the industry.

Finally, what are you working on next? Will you be working together again?

DV: Right now I have several open projects that I hope to shoot in the near future. And I hope to repeat the experience of filming together with Adán.

AA: We are planning Noah's Ark 2!

Translation from Spanish by Rebecca Naughten.

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