It is very difficult not to wrap oneself in the cloak of the mystical when talking about a film like "dryers", by Granada-born director Rocío Mesa. And it is that, in psychedelic passion and with spells of magical realism, the director makes her debut with a film that is given to the fantastic from the ritual. It is said, less and less for whatever reason, that the apodictic is that in which there is no room for discussion, and that is where the good hand of the director shines: Faced with the certainty of the death of agriculture, here in the form of finite tobacco plantations, the doubt of the future; before the immeasurable passage of time, the uncertainty about the future, whether it be with reggaeton, with adolescent hickeys or with a job that, who knows, may be lost forever.
"We were very lucky, because I wrote the first draft of the script in 2017, but just a week later i walked into the sundance lab. It is very difficult for something like this to happen, which allowed the film to sail with a recognizable international quality seal," explains Mesa, in the Film Academy cafeteria, before addressing the financing of the film: "Looking for money is always complicated. The aid has a limit, which is causing lIt takes between five and seven years for new female directors to carry out their film", claims the director, who finally premieres "Secaderos" in theaters after successfully passing through the San Sebastian Festival and the American SXSW, where she won the audience award.
A lysergic "coming of age"
The narrative explanation of the film, yes, is more complicated, since again in a game of appearances, Table articulates "Dryers" thanks to two axes: that of the real, with a family begging for the viability of tobacco in the Vega de Granada, and that of the fantastic, with a kind of monster made of leaves of the same plant, which runs through the screen as a diegetic entity, becoming a the wind that blows or the gravity that exerts its force. It is there where the life of Nieves passes strenuously, where the ancient time, that of hanging the harvest so that it becomes a blonde vice, collides head-on with the new days, those that call for a party, long drinks and the occasional furtive kiss. In that friction, that of the costumbrista tradition and the most lysergic "coming of age"Mesa is able to find a resounding, free and certainly indisputable film about the end of innocenceabout the last days of childhood and the first days of an adulthood that feels raw.
"Only in the body of the creature is there 1,219 sheets, handmade, one by one", Mesa explains about the technical aspects of the process, which here has had the collaboration of Montse Ribé y David Martin, famous for their participation in films such as "Pan's Labyrinth" and who also come in here as producers. And it is that only in this way, pulling craftsmanship in front of and behind the cameras is how the triumph of a film like "Secaderos" is explained: "Since I grew up in the Vega region, I did it surrounded by those tobacco dryers, which were monoculture for a good part of the 20th century. My imagination as a child, when I saw those gigantic cabins, I believed that magical creatures lived. But me and all the children in the area, of course. And there is something dark there, because of how light enters, how things hang. That image has stayed with me for years, but then I faced that landscape in an adult way. And that's where I see architectural ghosts that are being engulfed by a beastly real estate expansion, in a rural area that is losing its personality. In addition, it is an ecological disaster, reclassifying land at the foot of the Sierra Nevada, with what this means for irrigation," claims the director.
And it is that beyond the ethnological study, of course, there is in "Secaderos" a force that is political and manifests itself through its characters: "It was clear to me that it had to be a dual film. With a character that would take us down the path of fascination for the purest nature and another that would take us to be careful with people, who can sometimes trap us", completes the director . This is how the dialogue with movies like "Water", by Elena López Riera, makes much more sense. Two directors, two migrants, who have had to develop part of their careers outside our country to be valued -not understood- by those who truly have the capacity to carry out their projects. "There is a generational portrait, of course, with the voice and strength of the feminine. I liked to think of my characters, my women, as if they could all really be the same at different historical and personal moments," adds Mesa.
But how does the director approach the reality of her "coming of age"? "I have been that girl. And although I am not that teenager, I empathize with the character. I empathize with everyone, because they have been my mother, my sister, my neighbors. I am a diehard fan of "coming of age"and that is coupled with the fact that I have been living in California for 12 years. That causes me to carry, perhaps, something of the emigrant syndrome. When you live off your land, you crave it to the point of almost punishing yourself for not valuing it. And that is where those passions that are very much alive in me and in the film come into play", says the director, who here signs with a firm hand one of the first films of the year in Spanish cinema.