A Catalan independence flag flies from the balcony of Can Llambí, a former stately home dating back to the 12th century in the small community of Llagostera, in Catalonia’s Girona province. Such a show of support for regional sovereignty is unremarkable around these parts, but in this case, it is part of a backdrop for a scene in the sequel to Ocho apellidos vascos (or, Eight Basque surnames), the 2014 Spanish romantic comedy about regional identity that proved a runaway domestic box office success, making more money than any other film in Spain last year and winning three Goya film awards.
We are under a lot of pressure, because however well we make this second film, something will be missing” Director Emilio Martínez Lázaro
Currently being shot by the director of the original, Emilio Martínez Lázaro, in several locations throughout Catalonia, the sequel reunites the actors from the original, Karra Elejalde, Dani Rovira, Clara Lago and Carmen Machi, with newcomers Berto Romero, Rosa María Sardà and Belén Cuesta.
The film’s working title is Nueve apellidos vascos (Nine Basque Surnames), but screenwriters Borja Cobeaga and Diego San José assure that they haven’t simply translated the original story to Catalonia in order to show the cultural clashes and clichés between Basques and Catalans.
Shot on a budget of just €3 million, Ocho apellidos vascos was a comedy of errors about Rafa, a boy-next-door type from Seville played by Dani Rovira, and Amaia (Clara Lago), a spirited pro-independence Basque, that poked fun at cultural differences in Spain as its Andalusian hero tried to pass himself off as a pure-bred Basque (hence the reference to the eight surnames).
This time, the family saga sees Amaia break up with Rafa and take up with a Catalan hipster called Pau. Her father, scandalized, travels with Dani to Catalonia to rescue her and avoid “a sacrilege.”
During the 30-second scene shot last week, Pau takes Clara, her father, and Dani to visit his grandmother, Roser, in the family home, which has clearly seen better days.
The film is also being shot in other localities in Girona, such as Monells – where Rafa takes part in the building of a traditional castell human tower in the main square, which is named after former Barcelona soccer player and coach Pep Guardiola – as well as Vulpellac, and the railway station in Girona’s historic Jewish quarter. From June 18, filming will take place in Madrid and Seville – for a scene recreating the Andalusian capital’s famous Holy Week festivities. The shoot is due to wrap on July 5.
Neither the cast nor the director are prepared to say much about the characters or the storyline, so as to maintain the surprise factor, which helped the original. “We are aware this aided the success of Ocho apellidos vascos and that we are under a lot of pressure, because however well we make this second film, something will be missing and viewers will say they have already seen it. It will be very difficult to repeat the success of the previous film, but we are going to try,” says Martínez-Lázaro, seated in a field in Llagostera with the cast.
We hope we don’t offend anybody, and if we do, we don’t really care” Director Emilio Martínez Lázaro
With him is Paolo Vasile, CEO of TV network Telecinco, which is jointly producing the movie with La Zona films: “Beethoven wrote nine symphonies and they were all good. This film will be better than the first, without doubt.”
Actor Berto Romero adds that the sequels to The Godfather, Star Trek, Mad Max, and Terminator were all big successes.
Martínez Lázaro says he does not believe that Catalan sensibilities will be offended by the film. “We didn’t intend to laugh at the Basques, but at everything. We hope that this is a film that makes everybody happy and doesn’t upset anybody. It is true that Catalonia’s differences are in the film and we joke about them, which is obviously what’s going to happen in a comedy. We hope we don’t offend anybody, and if we do, we don’t really care. The most difficult thing is to do things well, because you can only really tell if you’ve made a comedy well at the end, when people laugh,” he says.
When they decided to make a sequel, nobody was sure if Catalonia was the right choice, he adds: “There was a bigger problem with the left-wing nationalists in the Basque Country, but nothing happened in the end. Everybody understood except for a few, and the same will happen here. People are less prejudiced than they seem.”
“We have a sense of humor, as can be seen by the way we put a man taking a shit next to the baby Jesus in a nativity scene,” says Berto Romero, referring to the traditional caganer figurines added to Catalan Christmas displays.
No release date has been officially announced yet, although Christmas is the most likely time. “This is like one of those press conferences organized by politicians, in which we don’t say anything,” says the director, who has not yet decided if he wants to make further sequels: “It’s a bit soon to say.”