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Koldo Serra • Director of 70 Big Ones

"I wanted to bring the 1970s thriller to Spain"


- Koldo Serra releases 70 Big Ones in Spanish cinemas, a vibrant film about a bank robbery that was very well received at Sitges Film Festival and stars Emma Suárez and Nathalie Poza

Koldo Serra • Director of 70 Big Ones
Koldo Serra, on the set of 70 Big Ones

After his amazing debut with the Spanish, French and UK co-production Backwoods [+see also:
film profile
, released in 2006, and his historical drama Gernika [+see also:
film profile
(2016, also edited by companies from Spain, Belgium, Germany, Austria and the United States) Bilbao-born Koldo Serra’s third feature, 70 Big Ones [+see also:
film review
interview: Koldo Serra
film profile
, is a 100% Spanish production starring Emma Suárez, Nathalie Poza, Hugo Silva, Bárbara Goenaga and Dani Pérez Cruz.

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In this interview, conducted during a break in filming on the TV series Money Heist (for Netflix), the director sheds light on his powerful thriller about a bank robbery, which is due to be released in Spanish cinemas tomorrow, thanks to Filmax.

Cineuropa: After working on the mega production Gernika, did you find it more comfortable tackling 70 Big Ones, given its slightly more modest format?
Koldo Serra: 70 Big Ones actually came before Gernika: the first screenplay dates back to 2011 but then we started to push it back, resulting in the other film going into production first. Production ground to a bit of a halt on 70 Big Ones and then, thanks to Gernika, the process suddenly sped up. I had a very clear picture in mind of what 70 Big Oneswould look like, because I had been writing it for many years. Working with a more controllable format in terms of production was more enjoyable for me as a director. For example, it was the first time I was able to shoot in chronological order, which I don’t think will happen again. I was able to organise the actors' time and space, and then see how things unfolded so I could know where to go next.

Did not having to depend on a lot special effects help you to keep your feet on the ground?
Yes, the fact that it was about a robbery orchestrated by two loose cannons distanced the film a lot from the latest trends to use sophisticated technology, so those dimensions fit very well with the spirit of the film.

Is this the first time you’ve filmed something as hectic as a robbery?
I finished 70 Big Ones and joined the Netflix series La casa di carta just 15 days later, for which I had to shoot yet another robbery scene, even if it was on a slightly different scale. As a viewer, I have always been fascinated by thrillers, and 1970s American thrillers in particular, such as those directed by Don Siegel, John Frankenheimer and William Friedkin. Those sorts of political conspiracy thrillers fascinate me. In actual fact, until I started work on this film I had never filmed a robbery and now I’ve done it twice. 

Films about robberies belong to an infallible sub-genre, as evidenced by other cinematic jewels such as Dog Day Afternoon by the great Sidney Lumet.
Yes, I wanted 70 Big Ones to harness the spirit of Dog Day Afternoon and the French film The Red Circle by Jean-Pierre Melville, while on the other hand I wanted it to feel more local: I like to compare it to La estanquera de Vallecas by Eloyde la Iglesia, although it does not have the same tone, but I like that mixture. The film also drew inspiration from Bryan Singer’s The Usual Suspects and David Mamet's House of Games, while maintaining the appropriate distance. The idea was to move away from more modern and sophisticated thrillers such as Mission Impossible, because my film stars two amateur robbers who have a plan figured out up to a certain point... and from there it all gets a bit twisted.

Your film is a sort of portrait of Spain’s idiosyncrasies...
I wanted the film to be universal in showing a robbery, but at the same time, I wanted it to reference Spain a lot. All the characters are real and tend to move away from the American stereotype. For example, I wanted the policeman played by Dani Pérez Prada to be normal, an authentic, common and vulgar man who can be found anywhere on the street, easily identifiable. The same thing also happens with humour, which helps to ease things a little, because sometimes American thrillers exude too much sombreness and the characters sport sad expressions the whole time. But in 70 Big Ones, there are a couple of sequences that ease the tension and work very well with the audience, as I witnessed first-hand at Sitges Film Festival.

(Translated from Spanish)

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