Armando Ravelo: Between identity and the box office

Armando Ravelo: Between identity and the box office

Armando Ravelo affirms that he is a shy guy and that this conditions his pose. Perhaps that is why he does not make much noise when asked about the results of his film 'Once Upon a Time in the Canary Islands', released last week in theaters of the Yelmo chain and which has found the extraordinary answer - for these times - of 120 spectators per pass.

'Once Upon a Time in the Canary Islands' is Ravelo's second feature film after 'The Skin of the Volcano'. In it, the island filmmaker once again sticks to the territory to address a key term in the history of the islands almost since the time of the Conquest. The migration. Of those who fled. Of those who arrive.

That hallmark has been well received at the box office. Extraordinary news in times of political polarization that threatens diverse perspectives. «I have met people who assure me that the film has changed them. It's something that surprised me. People who already had a view focused on the social problems of migration, and with this film they do not only see that chronicled photo of the migrants with the Red Cross blanket thrown on the ground. In this film they see it from the perspective of the migrant, why they come, what happens to them here, from the point of view of a Senegalese woman who comes to the Canary Islands, when the perspective from which it is usually told is that of the white gaze from here. », says the director.

'In 'Once Upon a Time in the Canary Islands', the young Senegalese Nola embarks on a boat heading to the islands to try to find her father. A canary she has never met. On that trip he feels on his skin the vicissitudes of those who arrive on our shores with the hope of a vital light that becomes dark with reality.

Limiting the relevant term to an artistic manifestation is an overused cliché. But at a time when the migratory phenomenon is once again being faced with tension on the islands, Ravelo's film fosters an unavoidable dialogue. «It is a conversation that should not continue to be avoided. A part of the island society has treated the issue as if they were simply numbers and not people, lives that exist behind that. "This creates a certain feeling of moral and material superiority that is not real and separates us from what is most human, which is looking into the eyes of others and asking how they are, how they feel and what they need," he emphasizes.

Ravelo began to visualize this trip a long time ago and managed to form a cast that lived up to what he had imagined. Diarra Douf, Thimbo Samb, Mingo Ruano, Yanely Hernandez, Alex Garcia, Kike Perez and even Manolo Vieira, in one of her last appearances before her death, participate in a film that aspires to move those who measure themselves up to her. «The cinemas are full of superhero and horror films and the fact that a different proposal suddenly sneaks into the island theaters, in which we talk about a self-centered proposal, with a problem and a social chronicle that is currently coexisting with us is very important. As a starting point for communal reflection,” says Ravelo.

These are strange times for expression. In any of its formats. In his last two projects, Armando Ravelo has measured the wounds of the Conquest, the Civil War and contemporary corruption, in that triptych that was 'The Skin of the Volcano', and now he does so with the migratory phenomenon in 'Once Upon a Time' in the Canary Islands'. Of course he has received his fair share of hate along the way. «But that motivates me more. Because I am also sure that many of the people who criticize me for the topics I discuss have not even stopped to see the film. "They don't know from what points of view I approach these issues," says the Canarian director.

And those coordinates continue in his cinema and will continue to be so as long as he believes that retaining walls are necessary. «For me it is important as a creator who lives here to nourish myself with what I see. And what I see right now is a change in Canarian society derived from political issues, above all, that are greatly polarizing the discourses that are greatly changing the essence of what the Canarian people have always been. The Canary Islands is a place that is made up of people who were fleeing, created to welcome and not ask. And a virus that comes from outside has been inoculated and is taking hold, which is why I think this film wants to return to the essence of caring about the person who arrives," he says from his perspective.

A moment from filming.


Ravelo, in addition to being shy, considers himself an observer, something that in his view is intertwined. "In the end, an artist is someone who steps out of line and observes before returning to the line to tell what he has seen from other perspectives."

The island filmmaker assures that from that starting point he ends up describing the worlds he wants to tell in his films. «In 'Once Upon a Time in the Canary Islands' I portray a lot of the world of those who live on the streets or of the additions. And that also starts, perhaps, from sitting in Triana and seeing what happens. How they pass, how they serve people. "That goes a lot in that way of observing that I mentioned," he points out.

Despite that introspection that he claims is part of his attitude to life, there is an unavoidable communication process to get in front of a cast and direct a scene. «One thing is Armando Ravelo, director, and the other is in person. It's the same thing that happens in movie presentations, I prefer to talk to a thousand people than to talk to one. And I think I have that ability to unfold myself. Because I feel that my work is not me at all. Which is a kind of speaker through which I tell things. A kind of hollow reed through which stories pass. Because if it were me it would be a disaster. There I sublimate, so to speak, because I feel supported by an entire team. I am very tribal when working, with team leaders, for example. Or I usually use the same actors, so I feel at home », he emphasizes.

While 'Once Upon a Time in the Canary Islands' faces a second week in the theaters of the islands, Ravelo continues working on different creation processes always attached to the territory in which he was born and lives. An endless exploration of identity and its origins that will be seen in the form of a television documentary in the coming months and other projects that will take him back to the big screen.