The infinite trench will represent Spain at the Oscars. Shot by the trio of Handia, Aitor Arregi, Jon garaño Y José Mari Goenaga, In Andalusia, the Basque-Andaluza co-production has not stopped reaping successes since its premiere at the San Sebastian Festival, triumphing with seven awards, and following a string of awards at the Forqué (Best Film), six Asecan Andalusian Film Awards, including best film, and two Goya awards, sound and best actress for Belén Cuesta.
The infinite trench and Franco: the cinema also exhumes the dictator
The Basque-Andaluza co-production (The Clapperboard) shot in Higuera de la Sierra (Huelva), with Antonio de la Torre and Belén Cuesta As the leading couple, they now face a shortlist of films from around the world, which are bidding to find their place on the red carpet in Los Angeles.
We spoke with an exultant Aitor Arregi, co-director of this film about the moles of the Civil War – the people who hid in their homes for decades. An Andalusian documentary, 30 years of darkness, was the starting point for one of the most important and successful Spanish films of recent years.
After Loreak In 2015, it is the second time that you represent Spain at the Oscars, how did you receive the news?
Very happy. We knew we had possibilities but we did not feel favorites, because in every year there is a categorical one, like Pedro Almodóvar’s last year (Pain and glory), but this year it seemed to me that all three had options, because they all had their strengths and weaknesses. The fact is that I was already expecting the worst and when they took out the envelope and released the name of The infinite trench, it gave me immense joy, we jumped on the table and hugged each other. It was very nice.
The history of the moles of war is documented through several books, newspaper articles … and a documentary. What is the germ of ‘The infinite trench’?
The infinite trench arises when José María Goenaga sees the documentary at the San Sebastian Festival 30 years of darkness (Manuel H. Martín). He sees that the topic of moles has a very strong narrative potential to be told through fiction.
But you decided to tell it in a different way …
Instead of telling various testimonies as in the documentary, we created a fictional figure, like Higinio and his wife Rosa, to embody the stories of different moles, collected through various testimonies of moles from all over Spain and the reference book on the topic, The moles, by Manu Leguineche, while we complete it with the personal narrative.
Is that where you establish the alliance with Andalusia?
(The Andalusian producer) La Claqueta, Olmo (Figueredo) and Manuel (H. Martín) are already in our family. They had a relationship with Irusoin (Xabi Berzosa), with whom, in turn, Moriarty usually produces. Xabi introduces them to us and the relationship takes hold. It is a Basque-Andalusian alliance, but La Claqueta has been fundamental in financing, documentation and narrative support, naturalizing the Andalusian parameters of the story: We are three Basque (directors)…. what are we going to know about Andalusia 80 years ago! Without La Claqueta there would have been no Trench as we know it today. It makes us twice as excited: for us and for them, who were very excited.
The film is the result of the alliance of two cinematographies, the Andalusian and the Basque. Are new production routes opening up beyond Madrid or Barcelona?
Let’s hope so, that we are not so closed, to think that there is only life in Madrid or Barcelona. That cinema they call peripheral is in good health. Andalusian cinema and Basque cinema are emerging cinemas, which are gaining more and more strength. The technical and production teams are gaining more experience. If difficult challenges arise, they give the call.
Is there life beyond Madrid?
It is good to distribute interesting production areas throughout the Peninsula, we are not going to be thinking that this can only be done in Madrid. It is convenient for you to have a production focus in different parts of the Spanish geography, it is good to diversify, because if one part fails you, you do not have to think about going to France.
The United States is currently reviewing, through the Black Lives Matter movement, its own historical memory, in this case, with issues such as slavery or colonialism. What does it mean to bring a story like this to the United States?
It is the great unknown that we have now. Sincerely I dont know. It is a mystery and a motivation to see how the American public responds. Historical memory is something very specific to each country and I do not know if an American audience can see communicating vessels between Spanish and American historical memory. In October we presented the film in France and you see that they are doing a review exercise, of creating bridges between the history of France and that of Spain.
You speak of fear and confinement due to superior circumstances: Has the film acquired a new meaning with the pandemic?
It has certainly added another layer of reading. People feel like Higinio, in miniature, since it has been two months, instead of 30 years. You get used to a situation that seemed fantasy to you. It helps to understand the complexity of what is happening to us, because you are closing in and adapting to the situation.
In other words, the context reinforces the universal value of the film.
The context adds another layer of reading, universal, to our film, even if it is something accidental, not wanted.
The filming in Higuera de la Sierra was very special for this town of Huelva. What atmosphere did you find there during the weeks of filming?
It is a treasure that you take to the grave. They treated us wonderfully. Everything was facilities, ready to help us. The atmosphere of the town was very calm, which you needed to focus on the movie. I only have good words for the town and its people. The icing on the cake was that when we presented the film in Seville and one of the rooms was full of people from Higuera de la Sierra.
One of the most beautiful details of ‘La tinchera infinita’ is what many have considered the care with which you treat the Andalusian accent. How did you work with the main and supporting actors?
It was essential that the Andalusian sounded natural. It cannot be that I come from San Sebastián and tell an Andalusian story, without making an effort to make the accent credible. From the first moment, Olmo helped us a lot, he put us in contact with an expert in Andalusian, who told us that there are 400 spoken of Andalusian. It is impossible to capture all that, but to look for a substrate that sounds real.
And for that reason did you choose Andalusian interpreters?
We chose Andalusian actors and asked them to bring us their words, words, phrases, proverbs, expressions taken from their own family heritage. Antonio (de la Torre) and Belén (Cuesta) shared expressions of their grandmothers. As we did not know if something was natural or not, we relied on the Andalusian team and asked them if something sounded preposterous, to tell us. In the end, one of the most beautiful things has been to feel that the Andalusian audience accepted that accent.
During the footage, you make a clear allusion to the mass graves, but turning it around. What were you looking for with that approach?
We did not seek to reflect on mass graves, but on historical memory. The point of view is that of the man who hides from the Franco dictatorship. The point of view of the Falangist is given by Gonzalo (Vicente), so that, even if you don’t understand him, you do understand his anger. Giving reasons (to the villain) further reinforces the Republican’s point of view. Renoir said it: bad guys also have to have their reasons. Your thesis is consolidated.
Do you think you have contributed to spreading an episode of our buried history?
Let’s hope so. There have been movies about moles, so we don’t feel like pioneers. We do think that, for a new generation, our film helps to teach a kind of unknown historical figure.
And now what are your next projects?
At the moment, we have several things but nothing closed. Especially a movie, which is in development and financing. In total, there are five or six projects, but officially we do not have a movie or series to announce. Let’s see if this helps us shore up these projects. We do not have a strategy in 20 years to make films about historical memory, but some project is related to The infinite trench.