Goya Awards, the surprise of Álvarez and Bencomo

If 'Song without a name', by the Peruvian Melina Leon, wins the statuette for the best Ibero-American film at the ceremony of the 36 Goya Awards to be held in Valencia next Saturday, February 12, the names of Patrick Bencomo and Rafael Alvarezpartners of the Canarian company MGC, will go on to write themselves in capital letters in the history of cinema in Canary Islands. No film produced in the Canary Islands has ever achieved the coveted statuette. In fact, it is the first time that a Canarian fiction feature film has been nominated for best film in Goya Awards.

“The origin of participating in 'Canción sin nombre' arose in 2015 at an informal dinner with Melina Leon in New York, my brother-in-law introduced it to me,” says Patrick Bencomo on the other side of the screen. “She We were very interested in her thematic and aesthetic approach and we propose to help her obtain the financing that she lacks. “Thus, we obtained public aid for Ibero-American cinema (Ibermedia), that of the Government of Spain and the support of Canarian Television”, points out Rafael Álvarez. 'Song without a name' is a co-production between Peru and Spain with a 20% share of the Canary Islands through the company MGC. The companies that make up the other 80% are the Peruvian companies La vida misma and La Mula. Participating as associated producers are the American Torch Film and the Swiss Bord Cadre Films. Filmed entirely in Peru, from the Canary Islands are two of its secondary actors, Maykol Hernandez and Ruth Armas. The sound engineer, Ángel Fraguela, is also from the Canary Islands. In Tenerife, an important part of the sound post-production of the film was carried out.

Only once has a Canarian producer won the Goya Award for best film. It was Andrés Santana from Gran Canaria, for 'Numbered days' (Imanol Uribe, 1995). The other Canarian producer nominated for best film in a fiction film is Adrián Guerra, for 'Buried' (Rodrigo Cortés, 2010). These two films were made without the participation of Canarian production companies. If we count the films financed with money from Canarian businessmen through tax incentives for cinema, 'Champions' (Javier Fesser, 2018), partially shot in Tenerife, won the Goya for best film at the 33rd edition of the awards. Tax incentives also added to the production of Andrés Santana's film 'No one wants the night' (Isabel Coixet, 2015), which was partially shot on a set in Tenerife. It was nominated for best film in the 30th edition.

Robert Perez Toledo

“Rafael Álvarez and I met on a shoot in Tenerife and we created MGC in 2006 to develop projects inside and outside the Canary Islands”, explains Bencomo. "On the one hand, a 100% Canarian cinema and, on the other, Latin American co-productions," Álvarez details. Bencomo was born in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, while Álvarez is from Madrid with long periods of residence in Santa Cruz and El Medano. "Although now for family reasons I am in Madrid, my idea is to reside in Tenerife permanently," he points out.

Among the works already completed by MGC, Álvarez and Bencomo highlight the feature film 'The island of the wind' (Manuel Menchón, 2014), about the exile of Miguel de Unamuno to Fuerteventura in 1924, and 'Canción sin nombre'. In addition to being nominated for the Goya Awards, Melina León's film was selected in 2019 for the Cannes Directors' Fortnight, one of the main beacons of auteur cinema. To date, the Peruvian film from the Canary Islands has garnered at least 17 selections at international festivals, including Havana, Istanbul, Thessaloniki, Munich, Viña del Mar, Boston, Biarritz, Sidney and Montreal. He has won awards in 15 of them.

The videoconference takes place just two weeks before the unexpected death of the Canarian filmmaker Roberto Pérez Toledo in Madrid. Álvarez and Bencomo had participated with the Lanzarote-born director in his third feature film 'Like the foam' (2017) and in the short film 'Before the eruption' (2021), a preview of what was to be Pérez Toledo's fifth feature film, 'Eruption ', which was scheduled to film in 2022. “Roberto is one of the most talented filmmakers I have ever met,” Álvarez writes. “I admire his ability to create inspiring stories and manage to capture situations that seem to be taken from real life. We don't see any kind of future for 'Eruption' without him”. For Bencomo, “Roberto is an exceptional person, attentive, committed and with a vision of reality that transcends what the rest of us usually capture. His cinema is an extension of him, of his experiences and his positioning in front of the world and manages to capture and transmit life situations in a close and poetic way at the same time. Its a big lost".

In addition, MGC is participating in a feature film that will be released next April, 'El rezador', a co-production with Ecuador and Colombia whose rights have been acquired by HBO Europe. He is also preparing the first feature film by Patrick Bencomo, "A long way home" and will shoot the project 'Semillas', directed by Eliana Nino, in 2023 in Colombia.

Pure Life

Set in the 1980s, 'Canción sin nombre' tells the drama of an indigenous mother whose daughter is stolen at birth. The film, which can be seen on the Filmin platform, stands out for its virtuous black and white photography and its crude realism with heartbreaking moments and others of great poetic intensity. Its leisurely rhythm gives it a documentary veracity. Due to her photography and certain situations that occur and environments that she portrays, she has been compared to 'Rome' (2019) by Alfonso Cuarona film that won the Goya Award two years ago in the same category as “Canción sin nombre”.

Bencomo and Álvarez coincide in highlighting their favorite moment in the film: “It is the pain that the main character of Georgina (played by Pamela Mendoza) suffers at the moment of losing her daughter. The heartbreak that she suffers, her desperation, is the axis of the film and the most emotional moment, which also connects with the heartbreak of the country in those 80s. The film has many nuances, it is very multifaceted. The role of Maykol Hernández is exquisite. The end of the film is equally beautiful”, they affirm in unison.

In addition to being a producer and director, Patrick Bencomo works as an assistant director. It is the reason why he will not be able to be at the Goya Awards ceremony. "I'm going to be filming in Granada," he says. Álvarez will try to go to the gala if sanitary conditions allow it, "although right now I have my mother who is 93 years old and she is the only thing that worries me." Expectations are high. "That it is nominated is an award and a climax to the film's journey," says Bencomo. "From Peru they are supporting in a special way the promotion in the Goya", concludes Álvarez. "From our distributor, Begin Again, we have been told that there is not a very high strength of competition, but, well, this is a lottery."

If Patrick Bencomo sings and Rafael Álvarez sings bingo on Saturday, it will be the first time that a Canarian feature film has won a Goya Award for best film, although two films from the Islands have already managed to win a statuette. The first was the Goya for the best photography of 'Mararía' (Antonio José Betancor, 1998), for the Basque Juan Antonio Ruiz Anchía, and second for best animated short film for 'Said's Journey' (Coke Rioboo, 2006), shared by Riobóo from Madrid and Octavio Cardoso from the Canary Islands. And it is that of the 19 times that filmmakers, technicians, actors and actresses from the Canary Islands have been awarded to date in the most important prizes of Spanish cinema, on 17 occasions it has been for works without any connection with the Islands.

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