My grandmother’s village
CON EL VIENTO is a fiction movie with a documentary approach. It is a story based on real emotions, both the protagonists’ and my own.
It is a personal story. My grandfather died in 2005, and later that year I went to live in Buenos Aires. When I came back after two years living there, I needed to make a portrait of my grandmother and her village, a village that is about to disappear.
The film also relates the real stories of the two main actors: Mónica García, a 47 years old contemporary choreographer, and Concha Canal, an 88 years old villager. They are both non-professional actors who have done a great job both during the working process and on screen!
The film focuses on the return of Mónica. Through her relationship with her mother, the film delves into family bonds and the issue of distance – physical and emotional distance, the distance between the two characters and Mónica herself being distant. Dance is the place where Mónica always finds a physical and sensitive expression of her inner transformations. CON EL VIENTO is an intimate film about silence and isolation that speaks of family and the difficulties of country life in one of the most unknown regions of Spain. The arid and vast landscape of Castilla echoes the emotions of the characters.
CON EL VIENTO is a film about searching: searching for roots, for reconciliation, for a past that is disappearing and a present that is reclusive. It is above all a film that, through its characters, aims to approach reality.
As both a filmmaker and a viewer, I treasure films that one feels, and that make one feel things, that get under your skin and burrow into you; that leave something inside you that keeps you thinking. They are films that live with you.
I am interested in cinema that allows you to inhabit a reality, to live it. I am interested in honest, intimate stories that are simple and genuine. There is something about them that moves you deeply and transforms you. It makes you look for the right images, the exact gesture, the essence of the story. That is what, in my opinion, makes cinema so complex and beautiful. When this happens, a movie can be infinite. (Meritxell Colell Aparicio)
Conversation with Meritxell Colell Aparicio: “We always worked on what would not be seen on screen”
What was your inspiration for the film?
Meritxell Colell Aparicio: The motor behind the film CON EL VIENTO was the personal desire and impulse to film my grandmother and her village, a town in northern Spain with only six inhabitants left. And although she does not actually appear in the film, my grandmother has been the motivation, not only at the beginning, but throughout the entire process. Her stories, her personality, her way of facing life and her relationship with the village have been a permanent inspiration. Also the space: the house, the landscapes, the mountain that rises above the town, and its transformations throughout the seasons, have all contributed to the creation of the atmosphere of the film.
CON EL VIENTO is your first feature-length film as director. How was making this different from your experience making short films or editing documentaries?
Taking the step from working as an editor and documentary director to making my first fiction feature film has been a very organic and natural process as well as a long and emotionally intense experience. Both the film, due to its nature, and myself, needed time to find each other.
The most complex parts were beginning to write and dealing with directing the actors, precisely because I felt the most insecure in those two aspects.
Learning, discovering and experiencing first-hand all the processes and phases one goes through when directing a feature film makes you grow as a filmmaker and as a person. Directing means being permanently exposed and attentive, both to the reality that one portrays and to the people with whom you share the process. It’s deeply enriching.
How did the film get off the ground? What was the process of getting the film made?
The idea for the film came in 2008, but it was not until 2013 that I seriously started working on it. They were years of stops and starts, where I combined writing and filmed research with my work as an editor and my involvement in Cinema en curs, a film creation project in primary and secondary schools, where children and young people discover cinema through screenings and filmmaking experience.
In January 2014, I met Mónica García and in that moment I knew that the movie would come into being. I was able to put a face to it. We began shooting the film in the autumn of 2015. It was essential to shoot throughout the seasons (autumn, winter and spring) and to do so in chronological order. CON EL VIENTO is a film about the coming together of characters both in terms of performance, as well as filmmaking technique, where the camera gets closer to its subject as the relationship develops. It was important to play with ‘the first time’ of the main actors who were cast: to incorporate the tensions and uncertainty typical of the beginning of shooting in relation to the filmic device within the fiction. Doing so, as the film progresses, the viewer can feel how the actresses are gaining confidence with the device while the fictional relationship between them also becomes closer.
Both the editing process and sound design took us another year (with breaks in between to be able to get distance). As it is an open fiction with a strong sensory approach, we decided to give ourselves some time. That allowed the film to rest and find its final shape.
Over these years it has been wonderful to share the whole process with friends, colleagues and professionals, all with very different points of view.
The cast did not read or have access to the script, and there are only two professional actresses in the movie. Why did you go for this strategy and how did you approach directing the actors?
It was important to work with people who shared a life story, or a way of understanding life, with the characters. From the beginning, I wanted to incorporate relatives and local people whom I esteem deeply in the supporting cast. It was also fundamental that a professional choreographer and dancer played Mónica, and that a woman from the area played Pilar. On the other hand, the fact that non-professional actors shared the screen with professional actors, such as Elena Martin and Ana Fernández, ensured the dramatic tension of the family scenes. They always provoked something in Mónica and Pilar, and vice versa. That was really interesting.
We rehearsed the scenes that would never be shot. In a way, we always worked on what would not be seen on screen, on what would happen ‘in between’. It is a film with many ellipses of time. To prepare the scenes, we focused precisely on what happened in them. Mónica García and Elena Martin wrote diaries of their characters during the filming and also during their time off. At the same time, I would write text for them about everything that happened to the characters while they were not appearing on screen. It was not a psychological approach but a way to focus on the emotional situations they were going through. In this sense, we discussed a lot how each of the characters would react to certain circumstances to make them more alive, so that the characters that were written could be shaped and become closer to them as actors. I did not want them to be ideas of characters, but to incorporate something of their personal self, something true to them – precisely because the criteria for choosing them came from a very strong desire to film them, to know them more deeply. In this sense, we worked with patterns, moods, atmospheres and movements but they had the freedom to set the pace and find their own words.
How long was the shoot? Where did you shoot?
The shoot lasted a total of thirteen weeks spread over a year. We shot most of the film in the villages and landscapes within Las Loras, a UNESCO Global Geopark located in the provinces of Burgos and Palencia in northern Spain. After we began editing, a year after we started shooting, we went to Buenos Aires for a week to shoot the beginning of the film.
(Interview: Polar Star Films)