At the premiere in 2013 of the documentary The plague, by Neus Ballús, He was accompanied by a huge mediatic and festive noise from his first screening at the Berlinale. He had a successful passage through various events, he prefaced the wave of a generation of Catalan directors that has revolutionized the most independent Spanish cinema, and it seemed that the director was opening the doors of a quick financing of his next project, which would star in "a Spanish family of tourism in Senegal ", as he said then.
However, it has taken more than five years to see on the screen Staff Only, that premiered this Sunday in the Panorama section of the Berlin festival. "I have needed a lot of time to gather the budget and to rewrite the script, which, being my first fiction project, needed to be solid," says Ballús (Mollet del Vallès, 38 years old). "Formally the two films are very different, and their process of creation, too, I did not realize that until I finished editing, because I did feel like I was repeating myself on the basic themes: the relationship with the other, the reflection on the origins and the social and economic differences … I worry about the same things ". Ballús, on the other hand, has used a more documentary method in the investigation, based on his own experiences or that of his co-writer, Pau Subirós, to tell the story of a divorced father -Sergi López, the only professional actor in the film-, travel agent, with her two children, a girl about to turn 18 and a younger child, in a resort in Senegal. "The events that take place in this place have been seen, lived or told to us", summarizes the filmmaker. "We have done a lot of field work," he recalls, probably pushed by the teachings of Joaquim Jordà, your teacher in the Master's Documentary of Creation of the Pompeu Fabra University. A Senegalese friend from Ballús, who is dedicated to recording videos for tourists in these recreation centers, showed him images of customers dancing in disguise as if they belonged to an African tribe. "Suddenly, I thought: 'Here is a movie.' And so he has recreated it with a wild Sergi Lopez.
Actually, the protagonist is Marta, the daughter, who plays Elena Andrada. "I had no experience in film and for me it is the natural way to work, because that is where I came from, I am passionate about this methodology of using non-actors in a fiction for what happens to them be real". Marta begins a relationship with one of the guides, who records the excursions on video, and with one of the hotel room maids. With the second he laughs and shares conversations, with the first he starts his first love. "It was also Elena's first trip abroad and she also discovered all the feelings that are awakened in her character," says Ballús, who found Andrada in a high school Castelldefels after seeing more than 1,000 girls. "I was not clear about the age range, but I did want to tell you that moment when you think you are older but you are not, and you end up being an adult".
For a year he was doing tests, seeing how his self-confidence grew in certain situations. "Her Marta does things as a spoiled girl, who has never lacked anything, although she suddenly turns around and sees her profile as a mature woman. Staff Only Count that trip, in which you will make a big mistake and will be able to realize and try to fix it. "
The next Ballús movie will not take long: it's already in the pre-production of Six running days. "It connects more with The plague, with its hybrid genre, because it reflects the work of a real team of three plumbers, "says Ballús." My father is a plumber, and I realized as a child that he has access to people's private lives in a privileged way, with situations that we do not normally see. My film revolves around prejudices: worker-non-worker, issues of gender, even of origin, because one is Moroccan … They are very fleeting relationships, which sometimes cause a lot of conflicts ".
While the competition section of the Berlinale is projecting movies as leaden as the sky over Berlin, in Panorama, with its mix of risky films and interesting titles from other festivals, the sessions give more joy to moviegoers. If the first yesterday distributed a three-course menu with a perfect movie of festivals -thematic and form-, the Macedonian God exists, his name is Petrunya; with a thriller conventional, The Operative, with German agent (embodied by Diane Kruger) of the Mosad who repents of his wanderings by Tehran, and with the typical film of historical recreation -Mr. Jones, of Agnieszka Holland, the trip of a journalist to the USSR of 1933 to tell the famine that was ravaging the country-, in Panorama was projected Staff Only or the bright Mid90s, a story of teenage friendship between skaters that supposes the debut in the direction, with great success, of the actor Jonah Hill.