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“García-Alix is a profound, honest, one-of-a-kind artist”

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Nicolás Combarro • Director

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- SAN SEBASTIÁN 2017: Nicolás Combarro makes his directorial debut with the documentary Alberto García-Alix. La línea de sombra, in which he paints a portrait of the photographer he so admires

Nicolás Combarro  • Director

Alberto García-Alix. La línea de sombra [+see also:
trailer
interview: Nicolás Combarro
film profile
]
served as the opening film of the New Directors section of the 65th San Sebastián Film Festival. The documentary, which takes a long, hard look at the life and work of the brilliant titular photographer, was directed by Nicolás Combarro (A Coruña, 1979), who graduated in Audiovisual Communication from the Complutense University of Madrid. In the Spanish capital, he has curated exhibitions and worked as an audiovisual artist, partnering up with García-Alix himself on his experimental short films.

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Cineuropa: García-Alix begins the documentary by claiming that there is something that the photographer can never manage to capture. Is there something that you couldn’t capture with this film?
Nicolás Combarro
: Yes, but there was no room for it: you leave out much more than what you end up putting in. But from that initial idea, we did manage to incorporate quite a significant part of his work as well as Alberto’s day-to-day life: I was very interested in stressing that. I’m happy with what we managed to capture, although things invariably get left out.

Documentary is a very lively, vivid genre, despite the initial script, as reality gradually leads you down unexpected paths. How much of the initial idea was modified, or did the result stick quite close to it?
The result stuck quite close to the original concept, but then again it’s true that things do happen during the development process. Nevertheless, I had a very clear idea in my head of the story I wanted to tell, which is Alberto’s own story: I don’t make anything up, and it’s virtually an autobiography. But I asked myself various questions: which part of the story was I most interested in? How could I steer the conversation in order to arrive at those points? And how could I accompany it with his works? When it comes down to it, the initial idea is in the documentary.

Why did you decide to shoot in black and white (much like the photos that Alberto takes) and use a voice-over with his voice?
There’s a constant dialogue with Alberto: the absence of colour in his works and the impeccable image quality, but the difference is that his image is much more intricately constructed than ours, which is more stripped down. We let the image flow, although I maintain a tighter control over the narrative. These differences and coincidences are a simple fact. And his voice guides us through the documentary: as far as I was concerned, there was no better way of doing it than for him to tell us his own story himself.

Besides the subject matter of his photographs (drugs, motorbikes, rock…), we are also whisked away to Valparaíso, where García-Alix is working on a project: why did you choose this specific one?
We wanted to portray Alberto involved in a current, ongoing work; we didn’t want to force a situation artificially for the documentary, so we decided to accompany him on his second trip to Chile, and he treated us to some incredible experiences: he’s like a magnet for unique people and situations.

What sets García-Alix apart from other artists?
As you say, and you’re quite right, Alberto straddles various formats: he takes photos, he writes, and he makes videos and films, like a multidisciplinary artist. And then there’s that profound nature that he has, which is more difficult to see in art today: there is a depth to his speech and an honesty in his gaze that I think are one of a kind. They form part of a way of understanding art and life. In fact, there’s a sentence he repeats a lot: “A way of seeing is a way of being.”

(Translated from Spanish)

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