Why only Wonder Woman can visit the dunes of Fuerteventura

Locals on the Canary Island are angry about a road closure to the Corralejo Dunes National Park, which coincides with the shooting of the Warner Brothers movie

Aerial view of the road to the beaches of the Corralejo Dunes National Park.
Aerial view of the road to the beaches of the Corralejo Dunes National Park.Getty images

From this week on, only superheroes will be able to reach the beaches of the Corralejo Dunes National Park in Fuerteventura. The sole road that passes through the protected space will remain closed until October 6 thanks to a decision by the Canarias Coalition and Socialist Party (PSOE) local government. In this period, movie producer Warner Brothers will film part of Wonder Woman 1984, the sequel to last year’s superhero blockbuster Wonder Woman.

The shoot is expected to bring €20 million to the island

The island council claims the road has been closed in order to complete a socioeconomic study on how such a closure would affect the area during high season. But opposition parties, residents and local hotels suspect the decision is just an excuse to allow Warner Brothers to film in the tropical paradise with fewer interruptions.

Photos from locals show that the film set for the next Wonder Woman film is already being built. According to roads and public works councilor Edila Pérez, Warner Brothers requested to film at the protected site at the beginning of the year and has now spent “more than a month and a half” on the island organizing castings and sets. Shooting will not begin until September, she said.

The mayor of La Oliva, Isai Blanco, says Warner Brothers has been granted a “municipal permit” to film for 11 days. Blanco and Pérez argue the movie production will have enormous economic benefits for the island with Fuerteventura expected to receive up to €20 million from the shoot.

Blocked road to the Corralejo Dunes National Park.
Blocked road to the Corralejo Dunes National Park.A. V. Parque Holandés-La Caleta

But not everyone is happy about the arrival of Wonder Woman. “The island council is privatizing a public asset,” argues Rafael Méndez, a spokesperson of the local residents against the road closure. The lawyer says that locals will be forced to drive kilometers more to get home and argues there will be more traffic jams as a result. Those who ride a motorbike or have no form of transport will be even harder hit by the closure, he added, as will tourists who will only be able to get to the dunes by foot.

Méndez is convinced the environmental study is not the main reason for the road closure and believes the council lied by not admitting the decision was in fact a concession to a private company. He is also worried the film shoot will “damage” the famous sand dunes.

Warner Brothers has spent “more than a month and a half” organizing castings and sets on the island

Fuerteventura’s island council officially approved the road closure on July 30, announcing that 11 kilometers of the FV-104 highway would be shut in the municipality of La Olivia. The council explained the move was needed to study the effects of a potential closure on traffic, tourists, economic activity and locals in high season and provide hard data to stop the road from being permanently shut. In 2005, the regional Canary Island government ruled that the road would have to be closed once the new FV-1 highway, scheduled to be ready in 2018, was completed.

Around 27,000 people live in La Olivia and more than 16,000 people visit between August and September, according to the most recent data.

Film set of ‘Wonder Woman 1984.’
Film set of ‘Wonder Woman 1984.’María Rodríguez

Antonio Vicente, the president of the island’s hotel association, worries how tourists will be able to visit the dunes and believes a less difficult time could have been chosen for the study. While he believes the temporary closure “can more or less be overcome,” he says a permanent road closure would be a “catastrophe.”

Pérez claims that request to film Wonder Woman 1984 “appeared” just as the paperwork to close the road was underway. The councilor, who is also president of Fuerteventura’s film commission, responsible for “supporting movie, short film, television and publicity shoots,” said she decided to temporary close the road during the filming period to avoid two separate road closures. But with “a film like this one, which is the biggest production to have ever come to Spain, there would have been enough justification” to close the road, she added. Pérez says she just stumbled into the position as head of the island’s film commission and does not believe there are any “conflicting interests” with her role as councilor for public works and roads.

Locals protest against the road closure.
Locals protest against the road closure.A. V. Parque Holandés-La Caleta

Movie producers have to ask various public and private bodies for permission to film, explains Pérez. “What we do is sell our locations and spaces.” Both Pérez and Blanco agree the decision to temporary close the road could have been better communicated to the residents, who for now will have to be content with walking to the beach.

English version be Melissa Kitson.

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