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Juan Rodrigáñez • Director of Rights-of-Man

"We’re living in extremely conservative times"


- Spaniard Juan Rodrigáñez is finally releasing his second feature, Rights-of-Man, in his home country after presenting it at festivals such as Gijón, Málaga, Cinespaña in Toulouse and FIDMarseille

Juan Rodrigáñez  • Director of Rights-of-Man

Juan Rodrigáñez premiered his debut film, The Money Complex [+see also:
film review
film profile
, in the Forum section of the 2015 Berlinale, scooping a Silver Biznaga in the Zonazine sidebar of the Málaga Film Festival shortly afterwards. Three years later, he presented his new cinematic offspring, Rights-of-Man [+see also:
film review
interview: Juan Rodrigáñez
film profile
, at the Gijón Film Festival, and the movie was also screened at Málaga and, internationally, at FIDMarseille and Cinespaña in Toulouse, among other gatherings. Now, finally, the film is being released in Spanish theatres, and we took the opportunity to have a chat with the director about it.

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Cineuropa: Your films really veer off the beaten track: it’s difficult to find a particular niche for them in the industry. Has this free-spirited style always been part and parcel of your work?
Juan Rodrigáñez:
Yes, of course – it’s pretty obvious, as you say. To put this creative freedom that you allude to into context, the reason for this lies in the fact that cinematic narrative discourses are, in some way and from my specific point of view, a reflection of the extremely conservative times we’re living in. Now, a film like ours is initially seen as something supremely outlandish, when, upon close inspection, and from a certain standpoint, it is logical, formally speaking. This reading of such an extravagant object is down to the conservative times that our society is living in and which, naturally, also have an impact on cinema.

In past decades – perhaps even last century – a film like Rights-of-Man would not have been out of place...
That is indeed what I’m hinting at with my comments: artists’ narratives and their propositions are synchronising with society, which is inevitable, and with viewers as well. And on both sides, among the general public as well as the critics, they are demanding a type of narrative that’s increasingly submissive: everything that eschews a certain mainstream nature ends up being consigned to the “freak” drawer, and that’s a place I honestly do not see myself at all.

The actors in your second film also took part in your first. Did you form a kind of troupe, like the one that appears in the circus in Rights-of-Man?
Yes; as you know, a good number of people in this team are artists who come from the world of performing arts: performance, contemporary dance, theatre and so on... My intention behind using them was precisely that: to open cinema up to other ways of being in a scene, to a whole other manner of dramatic performance. In addition, as you pointed out in the review that you wrote during the Gijón Film Festival [read it here], films can be interpreted as a result of artistic residencies, which I think really hits the nail on the head.

Does the Gran Circo Indómito [lit. Great Untamed Circus], the star of Rights-of-Man, share that philosophy? Are you wild and untamed when it comes to creating and acting?
Yes, as I was saying before, and I’m not exaggerating when I say it, these are ultraconservative times, despite their outward appearance of extreme freedom and all their high-tech development. It is an era of fear – a fear that is seeping through and drenching society. Indeed, there’s a direct correlation between the film’s protagonists – who make up the troupe of the Gran Circo Indómito – and the cinematic process of making the feature. It doesn’t seem to matter very much to some people (the characters) or to us (the people who make movies, who, in reality, are the same people) whether one’s endeavour is economically successful or will find favour with the audience.

That lack of fear is also clear from the absurd humour that runs through the film.
The humour is an attempt to make the solemnity in the discourse less intense: it’s trying to strike a balance between different tones. It’s not easy to incorporate various, distinct tones.

Was the spontaneity in the acting part of the screenplay, or did it gradually develop while the cameras were rolling?
That stems from the fact that none of them have any dramatic training, and I’m more interested in how they express themselves in other ways, using different tools to develop their performative work: what can they bring to the film by using another method of being in a scene? They have utter freedom to interpret the scenes, and that way the camera will capture their presence.

The feature rails against the commercialisation of art.
Again, that comes back to what I was saying earlier: the direct cause of the current state of things can be found in unadulterated commercialisation – not just of art, but of everything. There is no physical or mental room left for us to live and think beyond the idea of economic profitability, and it’s something that is gradually invading people’s lives in totalitarian fashion. Rights-of-Man focuses on filming the work of a clutch of artists, but if they had had other professions, the vision would have been similar, inevitably, even if they’d been doctors or police officers.

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(Translated from Spanish)

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