"I had to go to Madrid, but I stayed here," director Ramón Saldías (of Basque origin but resident for many years in the Canary Islands) commented at the Monopol on Saturday, during the symposium that followed the screening of his 1979 film 'The golden path'.
It is noted that in the Canarian cinema certain things have not changed as much as they should in these forty years. Even so, there are reasons to look with optimism on the future, if we stick to the radiography, partial but representative, that throw the projections of this first weekend of the Las Palmas de Gran Canaria Film Festival.
On Friday morning, hours before the gala presented by Cayetana Guillén Cuervo, the Festival started with a pass of 'Milagros', by David Baute. This Tenerife filmmaker, who we saw a few years ago also in the Canarias Cinema section his work on the naturalist Telesforo Bravo, traces here the portrait of a family from the municipality of Garachico: the mother (the Miracles of the title) and their four children. All of them have some degree of psychic disability, and the documentary does not stop being a study of their social integration process. It is worthwhile, however, to highlight the sobriety that Baute imprints on the images, getting us to see and know these people beyond labels, prejudices and paternalisms. For that reason it would squeal to hear in a scene the tango version that Bebe made of 'Who cares': it is an unnecessary underlining, and one of the few lapses that can be attributed to the film.
Continuing with the emphasis on the documentary genre, which, as usual, characterizes the official long section of Canarias Cinema, on Saturday it was the turn of 'The Hidden City' by Víctor Moreno, the author of 'Holidays' and' Spain Building '. In this case we can talk about documentary in the most abstract sense of the term, or even of 'immersion documentary', because 'The hidden city' is an authentic sensory experience set in the subsoil of large cities. First of all, Moreno transmits faith in the capacity of the cinema to, in this visually saturated world and following Werner Herzog, discover new images. And also, we might add, to unveil the extraordinary that is hidden from our eyes in the everyday environment. For example, a few meters underground. You can see that it is easy to get lost in abstractions when writing about 'The Hidden City', so I will limit myself to highlighting the impressive technical bill exhibited by the film, from the photography of the producer Jose Angel Alayón to sound design.
In line with this, it is difficult to write even a few lines about 'The strategy of the Pekingese', which premiered also on Saturday, out of competition and the Canarias Cinema section. I say it from the great respect and sympathy that I feel so much for the director Elio Quiroga as by the author of the original novel, Alexis Ravelo (The script is signed by Quiroga with David Muñoz). We can discuss to what extent we are facing a good adaptation of the book, and that if Kira Miró, this, or Kira Miró, the other. But it worries much more than a film that has an important endorsement of public institutions present specific but flagrant technical failures. A few failures that, gives the sensation, they tried to solve in the assembly process and postproduction with not too much fortune. I refer to scenes where the voice of an actor is heard badly, fights edited in fits and starts, and to the free use of the split screen. The film, yes, improves once exceeds the first half hour. In any case, it is a pity, because it seemed that 'The strategy of the Pekingese' was going to be placed in a third and necessary way between the foreign megaproductions and the independent cinema of island directors. I only wish that this is the first of many other adaptations of Ravelo's work, and that those that come are more accurate.
With institutional support or not, to this day it continues to cost creators based in the Canary Islands to take forward a fiction film. In 1979, however, that must have been little less than an odyssey. That is why it was worth celebrating the anniversary of 'El camino dorado', considered the first length of the modern stage of our cinema, within the framework of the Festival. Saldías took advantage of his experience filming a documentary about Alcoholics Anonymous to write the script for this film of social denunciation, which has a face known in the cast, such as Terele Pávez. The greatest virtue of 'El camino dorado' (the title refers to the false hope of appeasing alcohol addiction by drinking beer) is the harshness with which it narrates the descent into the infernos of the two protagonist friends. For the rest, it shows us a facet of Saldías very different from the later 'Kárate contra mafia', shot just like 'El camino dorado' in Gran Canaria, and probably the film for which it is most remembered today. Although it is among bizarre moviegoers, those who devour the films of Jess Franco or the producer Troma.
By the way, the president of Troma and creator of 'The toxic avenger', Lloyd Kaufman, has an appearance in 'In search of the Oscar', third long in the competition section of Canarias Cinema in order of projection. The 'Óscar' in question is Óscar Peyrou, president of the Spanish Association of the Cinematic Press. In 2016, he served as a jury at the Festivalito de La Palma. Kaufman was also there (it was the great year of the twinning between Troma and the Festivalito) and the director Octavio Guerra, who was accompanying Peyrou and filming scenes for this documentary on Isla Bonita. It was then that I heard about Peyrou's peculiar method for the first time: "He makes the criticisms of the films without seeing them". As is. And he admits it openly.
How is it possible that a journalist commits a similar farce and does not suffer the immediate repudiation of the entire profession? After the initial shock, one ends up understanding that Peyrou, more than critical, is an artist of 'performance' and deconstruction. And he has in his sights the pretentiousness that lies in wait for those who write about cinema. The elements on which Peyrou bases his "invented criticism" (among others, the poster of the film and "the prosody of the name of the actors") only make sense for him. When asked if he knows other colleagues who share his method, he replies that "there is another", without the least conviction. In his more than seventy years and with serious vision problems, Peyrou is a pilgrim from festival to festival (they receive him in the most prestigious of the world) fulfilling an empty ritual: air travel, accreditations … Avoiding to the extent of it is possible to get into a movie theater, to remain active in the best way that he knows, exercising his capacity for invention (he is also the author of short stories) and his wit. 'In search of the Oscar' is the story of a flight forward. And also of a crusade worthy of admiration.
So there are many lessons that can be drawn from the film by Octavio Guerra, except for how to write a critique. Because of course it would be a mistake to fix, not already in the poster of the last Canarian film that we will mention in this article ('Plato' by Iván López), but in its duration and its synopsis, and conclude a priori that a drama about adolescents does not It can hold for two hours of footage. López, in his first fiction length after short films like 'Golosinas' or 'Náufragos', justifies the ambition of his proposal by introducing a good number of subplots, secondary characters, locations and even musical moments.
In my opinion, only one of these subframes remains, the one that takes place in a basketball court, but that is the part of the film in which Aarón Gómez appears, and therefore its inclusion in the final assembly is understandable. In other words, I do not see how 'Plato' could be much shorter to tell what counts. I did extend myself more than necessary, so to finish: Iván López's work is very dignified, also in the technical aspect and in the interpretations. And above all, I find myself unable to blame too much a movie that manages to tear the lagrimilla, managing certain common places, but skillfully, without cheating. That one has its weaknesses …