Benito Zambrano • Director of Lemon and Poppy Seed Cake
“It’s therapeutic to cry in the cinema”
- The Andalusian director has adapted Cristina Campos’ book of the same name for the big screen, and the result has been world-premiered at the 66th Valladolid International Film Festival
Benito Zambrano is back at the Seminci two years after presenting Out in the Open [+see also:
interview: Benito Zambrano
film profile] at the very same gathering. At this, the 66th edition, he is doing likewise with another literary adaptation for the big screen, but as a special screening – in this case, it’s a co-production between Spain and Luxembourg called Lemon and Poppy Seed Cake [+see also:
interview: Benito Zambrano
film profile], based on the novel by Cristina Campos, and starring Elia Galera and Eva Martín. On this occasion, and prior to the film’s imminent release in Spanish theatres, we got the low-down on the movie from the award-winning helmer of Solas.
Cineuropa: You’ve adapted a book for the cinema once again. Do you feel comfortable working with other people’s material, and how does one fall so deeply in love with a book as to dedicate so much time, work and energy to it?
Benito Zambrano: It’s all a matter of forming a connection with these novels: they end up working their way so deep inside of you that both the story and the characters just flow, and I can visualise and start to feel them. In that regard, I don’t really care where the idea originally springs from: when it happens, I feel very much at ease.
Out in the Open was a story about rugged men, whereas Lemon and Poppy Seed Cake stars a cast of women, which also happened in your feature debut, Solas. How does a man identify with a female-centric storyline, or are genders and gender roles not as important as telling interesting stories?
Indeed – when I shot Solas, back in 1998, people asked me the same thing. The only thought I can express to you about that is that I am thrilled by stories about women; I like women, and when I was a boy, I had a lot more fun listening to girls. I never got on with that hunky, macho-man business. I never think about whether stories are about women or men, but rather about what the characters are like, and I focus on the story I’m telling. I just try to be coherent with the characters and with the story, and I attempt to create intelligent characters, regardless of the sex of those roles. I’m more preoccupied with keeping the story appealing and touching enough for it to be worth telling.
Yes, the main characters in Lemon and Poppy Seed Cake are two sisters/mothers, who are a lot more moving than certain other parallel mothers…
I’m happy you say that, not because of Almodóvar, whom I admire a great deal, but because I like a film to be interesting, moving and by no means boring, so that, for me, is marvellous. And even more so when it’s a man saying it to me, because sometimes you’re afraid that these kinds of stories are pigeonholed as female-orientated and that the male audience won’t go near them. Because that already happened to me with Out in the Open, which was very much a film for macho men, for blokes who thump each other and reek of sweat. Women are not so interested in that, and I have my doubts about this new one, too. But it’s a story about smart, modern women – women of today, who don’t need the patronage or the permission of men to make decisions. They are current, modern women, but they have the same, age-old anxieties: mistreatment, love, family, motherhood, jealousy… It’s a story about women who have already lived a whole life, and I find that thrilling. And what I want is to be able to move and entertain an audience of any age, status, gender and social class.
Male chauvinism rears its head in the film’s storyline…
It has to rear its head because, unfortunately, it’s part of life, family and society. It’s right there, in the father-son relationships, the fights between fathers and daughters, those domestic relations that can sometimes be really annoying, the traumatic past of one’s childhood… But sisterhood, solidarity and supportiveness also make an appearance. These are topics that are in any given narrative because they are an integral part of human beings.
You can’t help but get a lump in your throat, and even shed a tear, while watching your new feature. To cry or not to cry in the cinema? That is the question… Should we stand up for it?
As a viewer, I will gladly pay for my ticket if I get emotional in a movie theatre. And if I have to invest part of my life in making a film, and it doesn’t move me or make me laugh or cry, I don’t think it’s worth it. It’s therapeutic to cry, especially if you do it because of genuine emotions, which help you to see things in another light. Crying at art, at a book or a song, can help you heal things: I remember that many people, even some in Japan, told me that Solas had changed their lives, and at that point, you realise that it was worth pouring so much effort into shooting a movie.
(Translated from Spanish)
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.