The Guipuzcoan Manu Gómez makes his debut directing a feature film with ‘Once upon a time in Euskadi’, presented in the New Directors section of the 69th edition of the San Sebastian Festival and that arrives this October 29 to Spanish theaters. “One round” to the director’s childhood, being a story about four preadolescents aged 12 during the summer of 1985 in the Basque Country. “It is a tribute to my childhood, to that of my friends, to the relationship I had with my parents when I was little “declares the filmmaker.
The film is set in a town in the Basque Country where the school year has come to an end. The holidays arrive and Marcos and his three friends, José Antonio, Paquito and Toni, seek to enjoy the summer, despite not knowing where, how or when. The crew will walk the streets of the area and spend the idle hours using their imaginations to play and have fun, despite living during the lead years in which the terrorist group ETA provoked terror in the region.
Set in the 80s, Gómez wanted to escape the idealization of the decade, very common in Hollywood productions. “We have tried to return to that time from our own memories, of what we lived. It is still a tribute to those Andalusian immigrant families and the day-to-day problems they had. For us, the liberalization of the Basque Country was not a problem, it was not being able to make ends meet“, declares Gómez in an interview for eCartelera.
Some 80 real and far from the idealization of Hollywood
In addition to paying tribute to the families that immigrated to the Basque Country, the so-called ‘maquetos’, Gómez does not hesitate to show the context of the 80s in the region, which was affected not only by terrorism, but also by other global problems such as heroin or the AIDS pandemic. “I never considered doing a sociopolitical x-ray of the situation in the region, in the lead years. These are present, it is the context, but the film is the story of the four children”, details.
“It was impossible to escape from it, it was very present, that’s why the context is. Not to mention heroin and AIDS, which wiped out an entire generation of young people, both in the Basque Country and in the rest of Spain”, add and highlights the power of childhood to enjoy childhood despite adversity. “After those demonstrations, that extreme violence, with the firefighters putting out fires. Under that rubble, we found our treasures, which were the police rubber balls so that we could play with them“, manifests.
“At that time, you live with happiness, you do not pay much attention to the context. It is true that childhood and adolescence have a great capacity for resistance, precisely for that reason you have to be careful with it, it is essential that they know how to communicate and say what they are living and how they are. I think that aspect, in which parents and children speak more, is more present today “, Luis Callejo exhibits, who embodies Jesus in the film.
“It was a difficult time, but there was optimism for the future.”
The Segovian actor reveals that his character was partially inspired by the filmmaker’s father. “He barely gave me data, he did tell me that physically he was very similar to his father and mother, who was in front, he agreed with him”, declares.
“It was a very difficult time, although there was optimism about the future. We felt that everything was still to be invented, there was hope. There was even a political emergence and a generalized illusion within it, of wanting to change and move forward”, shares Vicente Romero, who plays Anselmo in the film.
The Sevillian actor also values the importance of portraying the reality of those Andalusians who emigrated to other regions of Spain such as the Basque Country or Catalonia. “It is known, it is real but in fiction it has not been seen on a regular basis, neither in Catalonia nor in the Basque Country has it been seen in a profound way, when it was a very large phenomenon”, he argues.
Filming had to be paralyzed by the coronavirus
The filming of the film took place during the summer of 2020, shortly after the opening after the first confinement, although it was not without restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. “Filming was delayed due to the outbreak of the pandemic, we started filming it in the summer, just after the first lockdown, but we had to stop again due to the restrictions in the area”, reveals Gomez.
The director was afraid that these new stoppages would cause the project to fail. “There we did feel that there was risk with the project, since it was delayed a lot, we ran the risk that the protagonists would grow up and that it would be noticed in the film”, he points out.
Starring Asier Flores, Aitor Calderón, Miguel Rivera and Hugo García, complete the cast of ‘Once upon a time in Euskadi’ Marián Álvarez, Luis Callejo, Arón Piper, Ruth Díaz, Yon González, Vicente Romero, Pilar Gómez, Vicente Vergara, María Isasi, María Alfonsa Rosso and Josean Bengoetxea. The film is in theaters from this October 29, by the hand of eOne Films Spain.