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Alberto Morais • Director

“I don’t believe in the concept of family”


- Spanish director Alberto Morais is hoping for a Seminci win with his third fiction film, The Mother: an acerbic and uncompromising social critique

Alberto Morais  • Director

The Mother [+see also:
film review
interview: Alberto Morais
film profile
comes to Valladolid fresh from its premiere at the Montreal World Film Festival and just days before it goes on general release in Spain this Friday. It’s Alberto Morais' third full-length feature, following The Waves [+see also:
film profile
and The Kids from the Port [+see also:
film profile
, and stars Laila Marull and Nieve de Medina as well as new talent Javier Mendo

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Cineuropa: What drove you to make this film?
Alberto Morais:
The idea came to me when the Soviet Union fell and its economy collapsed: the children’s centres and the orphanages all closed, and the children were sleeping in the Moscow Metro. I saw a documentary about it, and it left a strong impression on me. That, combined with the fact that I don’t believe in the concept of family — I find it very trite, and I think it leads to a lot of pain and frustration. I’m also trying to capture a reflection of my time, something that many filmmakers have done before me, going right back to Chaplin. I like to open little windows on everyday life through which the viewer can see things that really go on, because sometimes we trick ourselves into believing that we live in a world where terrible things don’t happen. I want to draw people’s attention to this economic war that is being waged, with one class trampling over another.     

Are we witnessing the third world war?
Absolutely. But it’s not a war in the sense of armed conflict, because that would lead to the annihilation of the human race, and that’s not in the interests of those who are profiting. I’m more interested in people who are struggling than in people who own big yachts, maybe because I feel closer to them, the victims. As children, we’re taught that history is progressive, but now we’re going rapidly backwards in a lot of ways — for example in how we treat immigrants. That’s why I thought it would be interesting in the film to have an immigrant take in a Spanish person. I have no desire to moralise; I don’t believe in the label “socially conscious cinema,” because those kinds of films are just a way for middle-class liberals to assuage their Catholic guilt. I prefer to make people a bit uncomfortable instead.     

Is the family just a great prison?
Yes, in Festen that’s exactly what it is — and in Wild Strawberries, too. I feel a lot more of a connection to those films, or to those by Pasolini, than I do to the work of the Dardenne brothers, for example. I associate their films more with a certain production style. But before they came along a lot of films had already been made based on the perspective of a single character — documentaries, for example.

At an early stage of the project, The Mother was selected for the Cinéfondation Atelier in Cannes. What did that mean for you?
In all the craziness of the Cannes Film Market, it focuses people’s attention on a project and then those who are interested in it approach you. That made it possible to get Paulo Branco on board as associate producer, and it also led to the collaboration with Eurimages — it’s a big financial booster. It’s also how Romania came to be a co-producer on the film.

Your films seem to focus a lot on the very young or the very old — why is that?
I’m interested in those segments of society where people are most vulnerable, where their rights have been taken from them. There’s also something atavistic about the bond with your own mother: Miguel, the main character, realises that he can’t change the way things are, that there’s no solution, and so the film is about a failure; but we are taught to believe that every problem has a solution, when really sometimes what we have to do is walk away.

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(Translated from Spanish)

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