Margarita Ledo Andión • Director of Nation
“My film is an anti-power movie: in particular against that of the patriarchy”
- With this documentary revolving around a feminist struggle, the Galician director scooped the Special Award for Best Director of a Spanish Premiere at the most recent Seville European Film Festival
Margarita Ledo Andión (Castro de Rei, Lugo, 1951) is a filmmaker, writer and professor of Audiovisual Communication at the University of Santiago de Compostela, Spain. With her latest film, Nation [+see also:
interview: Margarita Ledo Andión
film profile], she pocketed the Special Award for Best Director of a Spanish Film Having Its National or World Premiere at the 2020 Seville European Film Festival. The filmmaker answered this writer’s phone call while in Santiago in order to discuss the feature, which is hitting Spanish screens on 26 March.
Cineuropa: It’s impossible not to use the adjective “feminist” when referring to Nation: is this a never-ending struggle?
Margarita Ledo Andión: That’s exactly what it is. The problem lies in changing people’s mentality, which is something that’s not easy to achieve. The film has a quality label from the ICAA defining it as “recommended for the promotion of gender equality”, and as you say, this is a long and winding road because it seems like we have overcome certain issues, but then afterwards, in practice, it’s not the case, because it’s all about changing values that have been ingrained throughout history and that have taken root. They just come out at certain points because even if you think you’re not a male chauvinist, you still act like one. Even when women feel at ease in their submissive role, they are replicating those assimilated values. And what moved me about filming with these women is that they started working at the age of 14, in the 1960s. At the very point when they start interacting with one another, building a community, they intuitively start to organise themselves and end up structuring themselves into a union. Therefore, these are women who will no longer take a step back. As soon as we had our first weekly pay packet, we began to appreciate ourselves, to build up self-esteem and to gain recognition from our families and other people. That’s how women started to feel like citizens, like part of the public space, with the right to participate in everything.
How did you manage to include those old films illustrating the historic moments?
I coordinate a research project about films in non-hegemonic languages, which is strongly connected to European policies on diversity, and we have published three volumes entitled Para una historia del cine en lengua gallega [lit. “For a History of Cinema in the Galician Language”]. For this purpose, I gained access to the archives of the public TV channel, where I came across material that hadn’t even been classified. They had to digitise it so that I could watch it, and I unearthed uncut material that had not been edited by the TV channel itself, which meant that it wasn’t organised in line with the media discourse. The confrontational moments that appear in the film imply emancipation for the women: it could well be that they are thwarted or do not gain their rights, but at that precise moment, they overcome their fears and leap over the social barrier. I worked on the visual aspect of that material, which sends shivers down one’s spine and makes one feel unsettled because of its imperfections, but at the same time, it depicts the difficult conditions under which it was recorded.
What was the casting process like? Both for the women who were at the heart of the events that you narrate and for the actresses, like the one who represents the sphinx, for example?
I wanted different female profiles, so some of them have one that’s more agitated (such as the trade unionist) or there’s the one who’s the unifying thread, that wandering sibyl who’s dedicated herself to a life as a single woman, who encapsulates that profile of a caregiver and a smuggler: she passes on her own experience to various generations, and others then absorb it. Through the acted part, the participants came to realise that it was a film, because they had previously thought it was a TV programme or report. But it’s not something consigned to being a mere minor statement; rather, it forms part of a broader work, and as soon as the performance took over, they realised that. It’s an anti-power film (in particular against that of the patriarchy), given that the epic tale of these women was very blurry. The male-focused epic tale is remembered more widely, even when it comes to work.
There are poetic moments in Nation, and it really grabs our attention when, at other times, the characters look directly into the camera, in search of some mutual understanding from the viewer.
That is a constant in my films. The glance towards the cinema stalls is a small gesture that implores the person watching you to make contact with you somehow. It’s therefore trying to establish that invisible thread with everything that makes up a film and, above all, with the screen as a passageway and a barrier. It goes far beyond the screen and establishes a community with the female viewers: in this way, it confirms that the film exists on the screen, rather than in any other form, and thus constitutes a demand for the cinemas and screens to remain open and active.
(Translated from Spanish)
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.