“I do not remember a gray transition, but a stage full of life”

Director of ‘The laws of the border’ ensures that recreating the Girona From 1978 to the middle of 2021 “it has been a complex and exciting job because now Chinatown is a postcard neighborhood.”

-Had you been to Girona?

-The first time I visited Girona was with Edmon Roch as a guide, when we premiered The child. We stroll at night, with all the load of mystery and beauty. And the city got to my bones. I had a feeling, I thought: I have to shoot something here. And when I read the novel by Javier Cercas, everything settled down for me.

-How is it to recreate Girona from 1978 to 2021?

-Complex and exciting at the same time. Doing a recreation of the Middle Ages is easier, but when you recreate a scene close in time, you have the feeling that you have to be more precise. We have searched for a Girona that no longer exists. The ‘Chinatown’ has been completely transformed and is now a postcard neighborhood, where it is very difficult to find traces of what it was. We have started with a lot of photographic documentation, books and real testimonies that have helped us to complete the puzzle of the marginal Girona of 1978.

-And how have they customized it?

-The places are always contaminated from other times. In each space in which we have filmed we have made an intervention, which has gone from removing streetlights to repainting facades, going through building bars and brothels. And it is very exciting to feel that you are in 2021 and that, suddenly, there are small corners or streets that transport you to the past, like a small time tunnel within contemporaneity.

-You wanted to flee from the gray recreation of the Transition with a more colorful look.

-I wanted it to reach a young audience, who could become fascinated with an explosion of color, rhythm and energy. I do not remember a Gray Transition, but rather a stage full of life. And the film is told in the eyes of the protagonist, who remembers it as the most intense stage of his life. In addition, it contains a chronicle of both sides, the middle class and the quinquis.

-The summer of 1978 I was 10 years old and the three protagonists were not even born. How have they immersed themselves in the atmosphere of the film?

-In fact, the emotional drives that the adolescents of the Transition moved are the same as now. The desire to rebel against the rules, the unbridled infatuation, the adrenaline, the search for oneself, nothing has changed. And that the actors understood immediately because it is part of their daily longing. The preparation of the shoot caught us in full confinement. I took advantage of that extra time to do homework. He sent them movies of the time, like The national shotgun of Berlanga; songs, from Los Chunguitos to Saturday night Fever, documentaries, nodes and news. And I prepared a glossary of more than 300 words of quinquis terms, so that they would become familiar and have fun with the everyday words.

-The gender quinqui it had a documentary note, because it was played by real “quinquis”. How have you captured it in your characters?

-I forbade them to cut their hair during confinement [risas]. The truth is that these films are unrepeatable, their greatest strength was that they were interpreted by quinquis Really, but all of them have died, whether at the hands of the heroine or the police. It is a stylized approach to the genre, a reinterpretation of that in the present time. And what I have done is to recover the freshness of those interpretations of the late seventies by resorting to people from the street who would add an aftertaste to the neighborhood. Beyond the three protagonists, for the rest of the group this is their first film. I took three friends from Terrassa, one of them was a DJ and cook, the other a rapper and the other a hospital assistant.

– Are there laws on the border?

-Yes, they are laws that are not dictated but that determine people’s lives. A middle-class boy will always be seen with more sympathy by society, but to all those who were born in the hole, society dedicates a hand on the neck.

-He has signed films like Cell 211 or The child. Does the dark side of society create addiction?

-What interests me are human beings, knowing the other, because when you meet him he is no longer alien.

-What did Javier Cercas’s novel have to take to the cinema?

-Without a doubt, what most caught me was the love story, but there were also autobiographical notes. When I was little, from the window I watched the quinquis the open field, and even once I was robbed with a knife. I lived it with a feeling between fear and fascination, they were united, they were free, wild and they skipped the conventions. They meant something that was not what I lived.

-The cinema and literature are two very different languages. What was the challenge in capital letters?

-We had to find a way to synthesize it, to find the essence and transmit it to the viewer. To be true to the spirit of the novel, you have to be unfaithful to the letter. If you take the letter word for word, you will fail. We take to the emotion we feel when reading the novel. And that is what we wanted to convey to the viewer.

-Have you ever felt a prisoner of the novel?

-No, because when you adapt, you want to convey what the novel has transmitted to you. And thanks to the generosity of Javier Cercas, who gave us absolute freedom and never gave us any directive, we have been able to fly freely. But nothing comes from anywhere other than the universe of the novel itself. It is the complete source of inspiration.

-What did Javier Cercas say, after seeing the film?

-While I was watching you, I must confess that I experienced some vertigo. But when he finished, he hugged me. He told me that he had the essence of the book and that when he saw the characters act, he felt that the three protagonists were the ones he had given birth to.

-The filming began in August 2020. What is it like to make a film in a pandemic?

-Making a movie is already an exercise in tightrope walking, and with the pandemic it is as if someone is throwing stones at you from below. An extra supplement to problems and anguish. But they were the circumstances in which we had to shoot and, in fact, we were one of the first productions that started. We had to compensate for the complication with a lot of energy and enthusiasm. And it also brought us positive things, such as the opportunity to be able to immerse the actors well at the time.

-Your film is one of the great hopes of Spanish cinema. Will it bring the general public back to theaters?

-I wish. It is my little grain of sand to keep cinema alive.

-Will you compete at the box office with the new film by Pedro Almodóvar. Duel of the Titans?

-That there films Attractive is what can get people back into the habit of going back to the movies. I am delighted that they have coincided. They are very different proposals and there is room for everyone.


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