Jorge Coira • Director of Hierro
“Justice is far from perfect”
- The Galician filmmaker returned to the titular Canary Island, which won the Award for Best European Film Location in 2019, in order to shoot season two of his series starring Candela Peña
Jorge Coira (Rábade, Lugo, 1971) has swapped the enclosed spaces of his most recent feature, Eroski Paraíso [+see also:
film profile], for the wide-open ones of the small Canary Island that lends its name to his series Hierro, starring Candela Peña and Darío Grandinetti, which is about to have its second season aired (read the review). As a matter of fact, El Hierro scooped the EUFCN-organised Award for Best European Film Location in 2019 (see the news) thanks to this Movistar+ production.
Cineuropa: Would you say the most difficult thing in a series like Hierro is managing to properly tie up the loose ends of all the storylines?
Jorge Coira: Yes, I have to admit that I’m happier with the ending of this second season than I was with the ending of the first one, because it goes in a more emotional direction. It’s a riskier approach, but it’s more interesting, as in the end, what matters the most to us are the people and how they’re affected by violence. It’s a delicate thing to examine that because if it doesn’t work, it’s just a catastrophe. Candela’s character was heavily involved in season one because she meddled in everything; however, in season two, she’s even more deeply involved, using her tools as a judge at the most crucial moments – even when she’s in serious danger.
This mix of drama and thriller could perhaps be the most complicated thing about the production, but maybe that’s also the reason for its success.
Without a doubt, that’s what defines it, and that’s where the heart of the series lies: in that fine balance between being very “genre” and oozing love for the classic genre – with nods to Hitchcock, even. At the same time, the investigation should not be so important, but rather the characters and the things they’re feeling: they should be full of life and truthful. They shouldn’t just be mechanical so they’re simply able to narrate a storyline, but rather the storyline should be there to serve the characters, not vice versa.
The second season of Hierro leaves us in no doubt that meting out justice is a complex, difficult and delicate process…
Justice is far from perfect because we’re only human, which means that we can never attain perfection: we all have our own bias and opinions that cloud our judgement. That’s why we thought it was interesting how this woman who believes in the law can suddenly see herself forced to make a decision that, emotionally, is not the one she would have preferred to make, but rather the one that she believes she must make in order to comply with the law, and what moral implications these kinds of decisions entail. She clings to the law, which is something tangible, but there is a middle ground that’s less clear-cut, because life is so complex. And the characters are neither clearly positive nor clearly negative, which is something that happens with the divorced couple in the story: neither of them is perfect, which means that, as a viewer, it’s difficult to take a stance on one side or the other, morally speaking.
El Hierro is the smallest of the Canary Islands… How does one make the most, visually and narratively, out of a place with such well-defined limits?
There are some scenes on Tenerife and a short sequence in Galicia (with the hitman’s sister). El Hierro is the place I know best, even better than Galicia [laughs]. There are still corners of it that I haven’t explored yet: when you turn off the main roads and start heading into the hidden nooks and crannies, you come across some astonishing places. So this time, we’ve shown areas that didn’t appear in the first season, such as the parador and its beaches: it’s spectacular, with this imposing mountain next to it.
The landscape is incorporated into the plot of the series, as are local traditions, such as Canarian wrestling.
That also made an appearance in the first season: the idea of connecting history with the reality of the place, without looking at it in a folkloric way, but rather in a genuine fashion, to portray what life is really like there. In principle, I’m not interested in sport, but Canarian wrestling is very special, and it draws you in with its elegance. That’s why we brought it into the script.
Did you get caught by the pandemic-related shutdown while filming?
Yes, we had to stop because we were in the middle of the fourth week, so we didn’t know if we would be able to resume filming later on. We didn’t know whether we were going to get stuck on the island. But it wasn’t the case: we went back home, and the only people who stayed there were the ones who had family there and Candela herself, who decided to work on other things. However, the majority of the cast and crew went back home. As soon as the relaxation of the lockdown was announced, we went back to El Hierro in late May 2020, on the only flight there was to the Canary Islands that day, with our negative PCR test results, and we started shooting while observing the appropriate health-and-safety measures. We hardly had any social life, but we were able to press on, albeit without knowing for sure whether we were going to be able to wrap the series.
(Translated from Spanish)
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