“Spanish cinema has always been precarious”

The five directors of the movies nominated for Best Film at this year's Goyas talk about their work

From left to right: Franco, Martín Cuenca, Sánchez Arévalo, Trueba and Gracia Querejeta.
From left to right: Franco, Martín Cuenca, Sánchez Arévalo, Trueba and Gracia Querejeta. SAMUEL SÁNCHEZ

Five films — David Trueba’s Living Is Easy with Eyes Closed; Fernando Franco’s Wounded; Gracia Querejeta’s 15 Years and One Day; Manuel Martín Cuenca’s Caníbal; and Daniel Sánchez Arévalo’s Family United — are vying for the Best Film prize at this Sunday’s Goya Awards. The creators of four of them are also competing in the Best Director category — the debuting Franco is nominated for Best New Director. EL PAÍS recently brought the quintet together to chat about awards, production, the crisis, neighborhood fame and, of course, cinema.

David Trueba. Cinema is always the same. In industry terms we are suffering the worst times of living memory. I’m a veteran and I remember the end of the 1980s, which were just as difficult, when people weren’t going to theaters. But the level of quality is being maintained...

Manuel Martín Cuenca. Spanish cinema has always been precarious. [...] But the thing is, you have to add uncertainty to that, not knowing what the model is, how to do things. Everything has atomized and we don’t know how we are going to get things made.

Gracia Querejeta. I have a feeling: I’ve devoted many years of my life to something as simple and as complex as writing and filming, writing and filming. Now I’m writing... but when will I film it? I don’t know.

Famous five

David Trueba (Madrid, 1969). Living is Easy with Eyes Closed, named after a line in The Beatles' song Strawberry Fields Forever, is his sixth feature. The writer, columnist, screenwriter and TV director — brother of Oscar winner Fernando Trueba — is also working on his ninth novel.

Gracia Querejeta (Madrid, 1962). Also nominated with her sixth film, the veteran filmmaker is the daughter of late producer Elías Querejeta, whose memory will be very much present at this year's Goyas ceremony.

Manuel Martín Cuenca (Almería, 1964). With four features behind him — he has also made documentaries — the director says he is currently treading "fallow ground."

Daniel Sánchez Arévalo (Madrid 1970). A long-time screenwriter, renowned short-filmmaker and the director of four features, Sánchez Arévalo is now writing his next film, which has a thriller element and is once again set to star his golden trio: Quim Gutiérrez, Raúl Arévalo and Antonio de la Torre.

Fernando Franco (Seville, 1976). Wounded, which won the Special Jury Prize at last year's San Sebastián Film Festival, marks the directorial debut of the prestigious editor. He is currently preparing his second feature while continuing to edit other movies.

Daniel Sánchez Arévalo. It also worries me how all of this noise is going to affect those of us who then go home to write. On the one hand, we have to immerse ourselves in what is going on and tell it on the screen; on the other, so much “everything is going so badly in this industry” paralyzes me a bit. You don’t write certain scenes because you know you won’t be able to film them.

Fernando Franco. In the case of my film — which was more complicated to produce, given it was a debut work — I thought about whether the story was interesting to me and if it was viable. Now I am writing something even smaller so as to be able to get it off the ground.

G. Q. The other day a young producer told me that now it’s no longer low-cost film, it’s no cost.

F. F. That label legitimates the precariousness. People have always made films because they want to, with friends. But to go from that to installing it as a model... I earn my living as an editor and I have to get paid. There are a few films with commercial ambitions made for nothing.

M. M. C. Nobody thinks it’s cool to go to work for free in a Peugeot factory, but they do on a film shoot.

D. T. Sorry for repeating myself: it is happening to us as it is to society, it affects us like the rest, even if a section of those in power want to send the message that we are at the margins and live like rich people. [...] And there have been mistakes by people in the film industry: giving away DVDs with newspapers is one of them. It is easy money, but it has destroyed the DVD market. People have learned, and rightly I think, that if they give it away with a newspaper it has no value. Why pay 10 euros if in three months you can get it for one?

G. Q. The DVD market is dead. I feel sorry for the people who sell pirated DVDs on the street, because now not even that is left.

M. M. C. The other day I bought Caníbal on the street.

D. T. To get rid of it?

M. M. C. No, to have it as a souvenir.

F. F. I’m not even on the street sellers’ blankets.

D. T. Let’s talk about the awards, which is what brings us together at ceremonies and allows us to chat and have a few beers in a relaxed way.

G. Q. Any prize is good because in the days after the ceremony they help you get your next project going.

D. S. A. And because they get you respect in your neighborhood, the respect of the baker.

D. T. That’s right! And in the market. [...] The Goyas have incredible value to people who don’t work in film.

D. S. A. When Family United was preselected for the Oscars, one of my neighbors congratulated me like I had won. And I hadn’t even been nominated!

D. T. My greengrocer told me the other day: “You’re there in the Goyas, with one.” I replied “No, with seven.” And he said: “With seven films?” [Laughs] Deep down it doesn’t matter.

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