The rise of rural cinema that the Spanish film industry is experiencing in recent years is undeniable. A new wave of young female directors are taking the lead and betting on that cinema that returns us to our origins, to the land, to connect with our roots and to forgive any family quarrel that might remain unanswered. The latest example of this trend has materialized with ‘Secaderos’, Rocío Mesa’s debut feature that narrates, with non-professional actors and actresses, the pros and cons of living in Vega de Granada for a city girl and a village teenager. Between boredom and innocence, both must find their essence when a creature made up of tobacco leaves approaches the drying sheds run by both families that will soon cease to exist due to the developments that are being created on those lands. With the director and with Ada Mar Lupiáñez, the leading actress, we have had the opportunity to chat in an interview for eCartelera.
eBillboard: ‘Secaderos’ is a very humble film that, however, has gone through many festivals. Seville, San Sebastián… How was this experience with your first film and how did you find each other?
Rocio Mesa: “It has been a beautiful journey because opening in San Sebastián in Nuevos Directores is already a gift and after the international premiere we have done it at South by Southwest, the second most important film festival in the United States, where we have won the prize of the audience. In between we have gone through many cities and countries receiving as many awards and the warmth of the audience in many cases. It is being precious because when you make a first film as in my case, and also small, with a low budget, which you never know what is going to happen. So many films are made in Spain that many remain invisible. I feel very privileged.”
Ana Mar Lupiáñez: “I discover something new every day. At all the festivals the movie goes to, it always has good reviews, awards, and I’m a little freaked out. I’m still in shock.”
MRI: “It’s just that it’s the first time she’s stood in front of a camera at a professional level.”
eC: That’s what I wanted to ask you. For you, Rocío, your first opera; for you, Ada, your first professional interpretation. I imagine that you have traveled many first paths together.
AML: “With Rocío it has always been super easy. She always created a great connection between her and the actors.. He always made sure that there was good vibes and that we had a good time. This has resulted in a film that you see and say ‘This could happen to me, I’m the one talking to my friend'”.
MRI: “In fact, it is very curious because she has had a personal journey very similar to her character because we filmed in her town a character who looks to the future outside her town. She with the money she earned from the movie in the At the end of the shooting party she told me ‘I’ve looked for a flat in Granada, I’m leaving my parents’ house’ Almost in parallel, her character and she had the same life. That is the magic of doing a casting with non-professional actors, you are already looking for people who are very similar to that character.. All feelings intensify. It has been a very nice learning experience for everyone, this is a film that is close to a type of cinema in which the process is almost as important as the result. We have developed innovative techniques for acting, where the actors had only read the script once. We worked from emotion and not from memorization, we were there present. This has created very strong bonds between us.”
eC: As for your influences, Rocío, reading the synopsis I assumed that this was a kind of ‘My neighbor Totoro’, and then it is something else very different; it’s that mixed with ‘A monster comes to see me’ and ‘Alcarràs’. What are your influences?
MRI: “Well, although cinema is super important in my life, I don’t know if I feel so influenced by cinema itself or by life, literature, music. I grew up in the region where we filmed the movie, and When I was a child, those tobacco dryers that seem like fairy-tale cabins to me were the dens of monsters, of spirits of the earth. It is an image that has accompanied me since I was a child. It is true that later they have commented on it a lot with ‘My neighbor Totoro’ and it is something that flatters me and touches me strongly, but it is a reality of my childhood. As an adult, my connection with those dryers has been more sociopolitical, I have understood the economic crisis more, the disappearance of a culture. You mentioned ‘Alcarràs’, Carla Simón and I shot the same summer. It’s very curious, I think they are concerns of the collective imagination of my generation of artists, of directors, we wanted to go back to our roots, probably in opposition to the digital age. A search for the primitive, an approach to the original seed of who we are and where we come from. On the other hand, working with non-professional actors is not something I advocate, but for this project, it helped a lot. For example, seeing an accent from Granada, seeing a person lisping on a psychedelic trip… that’s strong. As an Andalusian, that seems powerful to me, whenever we appear on the screen it is to be funny. I am influenced by the desire to empower the Andalusian, to talk about my land, about invisible farmersmore than cinematographic referents”.
eC: I just wanted to ask you if you felt part of this movement of directors like Simón herself, Alauda Ruiz de Azúa or Estibaliz Urresola Solaguren who return to that cultural heritage that we have.
MRI: “Without a doubt, and I feel so privileged. This was unthinkable 10 years ago. Sometimes I am aware and I say, what a beautiful time I have had to live, what incredible colleagues I have, how we support each other. There is no competitiveness, only there is joy for each other. We love each other, I admire them all and I feel super privileged to live this moment in which women are the focus, the protagonists and we are given the space to tell the stories we wanted to tell the way we wanted to tell them.“.
AML: “I’m not so involved in his world but the truth is that I am super grateful that this is taking a change because I needed it, because women also exist in this world.”
MRI: “And as an actress, knowing that you are going to have the opportunity to be directed by women. Because actresses in the past would still say ‘what a road to gentlemen lies ahead of me'”.
eC: In ‘Secaderos’ rural life is confronted with urban life and it has reminded me, saving the distance, of ‘As bestas’. From the prism of the city, it looks like a vacation, while from the perspective of the town, it looks like a cage.
MRI: “There is a clear intention when Vera and Nieves are the two protagonists. That Vera represents that girl from the city who comes to town and for her everything is a paradise. That Nieves, the adolescent, sees the darkness that is in small places. Then other characters such as grandparents who have an unconditional love for that place. Being from a small town and having experienced that dual relationship with the rural, I think it contains a lot of that. It has that ying and that yang of being able to give everything the beauty or put you in dark places, and I wanted to explore that. I think it’s something that is part of my own life. I grew up in a small town and now I live in Los Angeles. I wanted to approach it without judgment, without teaching, but just touch those keys . I dare to say that ‘Secaderos’ is a very reconciling film. It’s really what it is about, you reconcile with your family, with your family’s past, with the landscape“.
eC: As for the creature, you worked with DDT for the design. It’s a huge company, how was working with them?
MRI: “I visited their studios thanks to El Capricho, our producers from Catalonia, thinking that I was going there to visit like someone who goes to Disneyland. I thought that we had no chance of working with these people with the four hard budget we had. However , they read the script and fell in love with the story, they fell in love with the creature we affectionately call ‘Nico’, from nicotine. They decided to go in as associate producers. We were caught in the middle of the pandemic, which gave us a lot of time to designing the creature and it was a beautiful process, completely new to me. I wanted it to be an old lady who is in front of you at the fish market, who gives you a lot of tenderness. We wanted her to be genderless, non-binary, or closer to femininity, as opposed to other examples we’ve seen in monster history.. The head is an animatronic and the whole body is made sheet by sheet by hand. There’s a lot of love put into that creature.”
AML: “The first time I saw it, it was on the sly, I felt a tingle in my chest. It was so huge and so adorable. David Martín, the creator of the creature, was so excited that he is the actor inside. You didn’t need to see it pretend, it was like you didn’t need to act in front of her because it just came out.”
MRI: “The practical effects give you that magic. You don’t have to work from the emotion because the emotion is already there.”
‘Dryers’ is currently in in theaters.