Carla Simón • Director of Alcarràs
"I need to believe that my characters and my themes really matter to me"
by Vassilis Economou
- We chatted to Catalan director Carla Simón to find out more about her Eurimages Award-winning upcoming and very personal film, Alcarràs
Based on her own personal story, Alcarràs, the sophomore feature by Catalan filmmaker Carla Simón, was the big winner of the €20,000 Eurimages Co-Production Development Award at the Berlinale Co-Production Market last month (see the news). Written by the director and Arnau Vilaró, Alcarràs is being produced by María Zamora for Madrid-based Avalon PC. Cineuropa talked to the director to explore her project in more detail.
Cineuropa: Could you give us some more information about your new project Alcarràs?
Carla Simón: Alcarràs is a small town in deepest Catalonia. My mother’s family lives there. The film tells the story of the large Solé family, who harvest a great expanse of land full of peach trees. One day, they wake up to some bad news: the owner of the land they have been cultivating for generations has recently died. His son and heir wants them to abandon the farming business so he can uproot the trees and install solar panels.
This is an ensemble film, so the whole Solé family, the children and the adults, get together to harvest their peaches for one last summer. For the first time in their lives, they will have to face an uncertain future. As everyone has differing opinions on how they should go on, the situation will lead to a big family breakdown that jeopardises the unity of the Solés. Depending on their age and gender, each member of the family will cope with this situation in a different way.
As was the case in your debut, Summer 1993 [+see also:
interview: Carla Simón
film profile], you are drawing your inspiration from a personal story this time as well; what was the main reason for that decision?
After travelling so much with Summer 1993, I received some very promising proposals to direct other people’s scripts. However, I tried to be very honest with what I wanted to narrate, and I realised that what moves me – what I really get passionate about – is my family and their stories. I need to believe that my characters and my themes really matter to me. So it felt natural to remain on the same ground.
When we investigated a bit more about my family story, we realised that the film could actually reflect on themes such as agriculture in the 21st century, family relationships and the importance of family unity, or tradition versus change. Bit by bit, our imagination kicked in, and the story we are writing is now getting to be quite different from that of my family. I guess that’s the creative process; it flows like that.
How helpful will the Eurimages Co-Production Development Award be for you?
Eurimages is always a stamp of quality, so I’m sure that it will be very helpful when we get around to applying for funds in Spain. It also offers an extra degree of visibility for the project before we begin, which makes me feel under a bit of pressure, but it is also a great rush of energy and support, and pushes me to keep on working. Moreover, we are thinking of co-producing and applying to Eurimages once we are in the final phases of our financing process, and we hope that the award will also help us with that. Finally, when I did the Nipkow programme in Berlin, I also received Eurimages support, so they had already backed the project.
What were your expectations for the Berlinale Co-Production Market, and what else are you looking for now?
We are still in development, working on the script. We are also about to start the casting, as we need a lot of time to find the right actors. Our idea is to shoot in summer 2020, so we are now starting the financing process, and we will be applying to the Spanish funds very soon. We just don’t want to rush the making of this film, because we feel it is very ambitious and complicated, and we need to think through every single step carefully.
At the Berlinale Co-Production Market, we were looking for partners. We mainly talked to sales agents and potential co-producers. It was great to have such deep conversations about the project and see what people felt about the story and its themes. It really exceeded our expectations!
How was the experience of returning to Berlin after your debut film world-premiered and was awarded there?
Maybe I should just move to Berlin… I feel like it’s my lucky city, and the Berlinale is my lucky festival. Receiving the Eurimages Award for Alcarràs was a very special moment; it really rekindled my feelings from the day we won the awards for Summer 1993. I have been at the Berlinale for five years in a row – in 2015, for Berlinale Talents and at the Script Station with the script for Summer 1993, then we returned the following year with my producer, for the Talent Market. In 2017, the film premiered, and last year, I was a member of the Generation Kplus jury, which was a wonderful experience. So I should find an excuse to return next year!
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