There is a strange and even beautiful irony in the title of the film that has opened the Zinemaldia San Sebastian Film Festival. It's called Model 77, and in it Alberto Rodríguez once again dives into the sewers of the Transition. He already did it in the essential the minimal island, that with the excuse of a thriller told how the police services sheltered and perpetuated Francoism in the institution. The title of his new film refers to,. evidently, to the Barcelona prison where Franco's prisoners were crowded. It was there that Salvador Puig Antich was assassinated. There were political prisoners, homosexuals, drug addicts... everything that the dictatorship wanted to hide or annihilate ended up in their cells. It is inevitable not to think that Model 77 is also a title full of bad milk that calls into question that Transition that we were told was a 'model' for the rest of the world.
Alberto Rodríguez, with the help of his faithful screenwriter Rafa Cobos, write their most difficult film, due to the great time span it covers and because they free themselves from the ties of the genre to deliver a film that is much more than a prison drama. His promotional phrase makes it clear, "this is not the story of a prison, it is the story of a country." The story of a country that sold modernity, but that had its prisons full of political prisoners. A country that declared an amnesty that they sold as "everyone and for everyone," but that did not reach those whose crime was stealing a few pesetas to buy drugs.
A film with a beastly rhythm, complex, intelligent, that focuses on COPEL, Coordinator of Prisoners in Struggle, who from different prisons like La Modelo pressed for amnesty, and for it to reach them as well. They did it by associating, demonstrating, putting their bodies up to be beaten, cutting off their arms, going on hunger strikes... everything is told with fidelity, strength and a staging that shows that Rodríguez is one of the great directors of Spanish cinema. With a perfect cast, from Miguel Herrán as protagonists to Javier Gutiérrez. But we must not forget the secondary that surround them. Jesús Carroza eats, as always, his scenes by mouthfuls, and it's been a while since we've seen Fernando Tejero so well.
Alberto Rodríguez laughs at the possible double meaning of the title, and although he makes it clear that "he comes for jail", he also explains that precisely that place was defined in the same way as the Transition. "It is true that the Model was said to be exemplary when it opened, it was a prison that had a stream of individual cells, but it seems to me that it lasted ten years. Obviously that prison was not a model of anything," he says of a project that he began to concoct in 2005, when "the Transition was untouchable". "It seems to me that it is not bad to look back and take into account that some of the things that we believe are untouchable were agreed with people who came from a dictatorship," he ditches.
Model 77 is more than a historical film. It is one of those demonstrations that confirm the saying that 'from those powders these sludge'. The film reminds us that the institutions inherited the structure of Francoism and that they looked the other way. For Rodríguez, it is important to underline a message: "the prisons continue to be there as a kind of scourge, as a failure of society." The film does not judge its characters, we do not even know the crimes they have committed, a smart decision that reinforces the message that they all deserved the same rights they were denied.
"There is one thing that we find very interesting about the history of COPEL, and that is that some prisoners who are there, annulled and swept away, were able to unite even over their own bodies, because they cut each other, ate springs, they did barbarities, for a collective good, to look for something that was impossible in theory but that they thought could be achieved. Important things move because people come together, and that seems to me to be current today and I hope it will be for the the entire history of humanity, because we need very important changes and soon," he adds.
It is the film that has cost him and Rafa Cobos the most to write, "the most elaborated script", because they wanted to tell "many things" that came out after a long and demanding documentation process in which they read a lot and met with workers de la Modelo and prisoners and members of COPEL who recounted in first person what they suffered inside. "The prisoners told us things and at a certain moment you were talking to your partner and we started to cry. I don't know, because emotions are multiplied by a thousand in situations as screwed up as this one."
One of the great challenges was to choose what counted and what was left out, and the decision was based on trusting everything to the point of view of the prisoners: "In the end, the decision was good. These are the events, but the most important thing is the characters and that's where we're going to put a bit of focus. Let's put ourselves in their point of view. What they see is what we see". Through his eyes we see the entrails of the first years of democracy from a place where freedom had not arrived and from which fiction had never arrived. An excellent opening for the Zinemaldia that once again confirms the great year of Spanish cinema.