Miguel Ángel Blanca • Director of Magaluf Ghost Town
“You show up there with a camera and immediately you’re the enemy”
- The musician and filmmaker reveals what motivated him to create this very special portrait of the famous Majorcan tourist resort
Miguel Ángel Blanca (Sabadell, 1982) pulled himself away from his vegetable patch to answer my call, graciously indulging my curiosity for all the details of his latest film, Magaluf Ghost Town [+see also:
interview: Miguel Ángel Blanca
film profile], recently unveiled at the Hot Docs festival. The musician (Blanca is a vocalist and guitarist with indie band Manos de topo) has swapped Hospitalet de Llobregat for village life in the province of Girona, adding yet another feather to his cap: first singer, then filmmaker, now amateur horticulturist.
Cineuropa: Was your introduction to Magaluf a wild end-of-term blowout, like so many youngsters?
Miguel Ángel Blanca: No; the first time I went there was five years ago, hoping to uncover the real story behind the summertime madness you see on TV. It seemed like this mythical universe and I wanted to see it for myself. I discovered that the most interesting thing wasn’t the tourists, but rather the people who have to put up with them every year, bracing themselves each May for something that fills them with dread but puts food on the table.
There have been other recent films tackling this model of tourism in their own ways: Pullman [+see also:
film profile], by Tony Bestard, and It Snows in Benidorm [+see also:
interview: Isabel Coixet
film profile], by Isabel Coixet, for example.
Personally, what interests me the most is the idea of starting with this artificial universe — a universe that has gone off the rails or begun to decline — and looking at each individual element to see what’s underneath. So, while the films you mention smoothed the way in some respects, for me Magaluf is a distinctive character in its own right, not just another setting. Things happen there that couldn’t happen anywhere else. I love books and films that create a whole universe with its own very particular rules, and perhaps my most direct influence was the graphic novel Ice Haven, by Daniel Clowes. It’s about this quaint, all-American small town where something dark is lurking beneath the surface, where you’re never sure if people are telling the truth and that becomes the setting for a murder, like in Twin Peaks. The plot isn’t that important; it’s about being there. For me, what matters is that when people come to see my film they say, “I’ve been to that Magaluf; I took a look around and then came straight home again.” That’s why it’s much more character-driven than plot-driven.
In fact, you had some help from a few of the characters in putting the film together: a gay couple and a woman from Andalusia. How did you spot them — did you hold auditions?
It was tricky, because after all the sensationalist news stories and reports that have been made there, when you land in Magaluf with a camera, there’s a mob waiting for you. You show up there with a camera and immediately you’re the enemy. The hardest part was having to explain that we had no interest in the tourist carnage; we wanted to give a platform to local people. We held auditions and discovered people with traits we wanted to explore. For example, we got talking to Tere (one of the most prominent characters) and later we created scenes depicting her everyday life based on what she told us. The script really grew out of the lived reality of actual people in a particular context.
Tourism was an important theme in your previous film, La extranjera, as well — this time in Barcelona. Some might describe these two films as part of an emerging genre of “tourist phobia”? Would you agree with that?
Sure, I think some people will want to see it from that angle, but actually for me this film is a love letter to Magaluf. It’s different to La extranjera; at that time, I was living in central Barcelona and thoroughly sick of tourism. But in Magaluf Ghost Town, the tourists are what bring the magic and make the place what it is, so I don’t think you can call it “tourist phobic”. I wish we could fly out there tonight, down a litre of white-label vodka and then take a walk around Punta Ballena, because nothing can beat that feeling. That’s what I wanted to convey in the film.
I’ve never been to Magaluf, but I am familiar with the English (or guiri) end of Benidorm, packed with indistinguishable dive bars. It’s like stepping into a fantasy world, a kind of European mini-Las Vegas...
Yeah, it’s super seedy. You see people behaving in ways and doing things you would never see anywhere else, and there’s a lot you can do with that. But Benidorm is cleaner, in the sense that you also get groups of senior citizens there, which calms things down a bit... Just imagine a place swarming with young people out for a good time at any cost, looking for some action. It’s incredible, because there’s this sense of desperation to be young and happy, and because there are no limits. I can’t think of a better setting for telling a story.
(Translated from Spanish)
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