"Yes, I'm stunned," admits Neus Ballús. As well she might be. Not only has the Catalan filmmaker made a great movie, La plaga (or, The plague) - a carefully crafted fictionalized documentary set in her native district of Gallecs in Barcelona province, and featuring local residents - but she has also just become the sixth Spaniard to be nominated for the European Film Awards' Discovery prize for best upcoming director.
Ahead of the announcement of the main nominees in Seville on Saturday, the winners of several technical awards - such as Spaniard Paco Delgado, who was named Best Costume Designer for Blancanieves - and the finalists in a number of other categories have been made public. Ballús, a graduate of the documentary Masters program at iDEC-Pompeu Fabra University, has been nominated for a debut feature that took her five years to complete and was released in Spain in September.
"I first spent two years with the lead actors, while I was finalizing the financing plan. And I only shot once there was enough trust between everyone. As I am a beginner, I didn't know how much time was needed to make a film."
La plaga revolves around five people: farmer Raül; Moldovan wrestler Iurie, who works with him; María, an old woman who has to leave her house because of physical problems; her Filipino nurse Rose; and Maribel, a prostitute. "With María and Raül it was love at first sight. And the rest of the characters emerged from them," she says.
"I don't want to bore"
"It started from reality, and from an area that I know well, that I feel qualified to show, even to manipulate. It's something I already did with my first short film, which was about my grandfather. Afterwards, I started to make things up. We're making cinema, we change things. And documentaries don't have to bore viewers, and I think the audience is grateful for these interventions. I don't want to bore."
The film has already been nominated for the European Parliament's Lux Prize and won the awards for Best Screenplay at Toulouse's Cinespaña festival and Best Direction at the Opera Prima festival in Tudela.
In Berlin on December 7 Ballús will find out whether she will be the third Spaniard to win the European Discovery Award, after Pedro Almodóvar in 1989 and Achero Mañas in 2001.