María Elorza and Marian Fernández • Director and producer of To Books and Women I Sing
"Literature is becoming less and less experiential"
- The director's feature debut, a poetic and experimental documentary, reinforces the collaboration between these two film and book lovers
Producer Marian Fernández (Txintxua Films) and director María Elorza, who makes her feature debut with To Books and Women I Sing [+see also:
interview: María Elorza and Marian Fer…
film profile], talk to us hours before the premiere in the New Directors section of the 70th San Sebastian Film Festival, and days before winning the Irizar Basque Film Award Special Mention and the TCM Youth Award, of a film whose special nature they describe below.
Cineuropa: How was Maria's jump to feature film directing: did you encourage her from the production side?
Marian Fernández: I think it has been natural, that's why we haven't felt much vertigo, neither from the production nor from the direction. It was like reproducing what we had done previously.
María Elorza: When I had the original idea, we started talking about the project, not knowing that it would be a feature film, but it started to take shape. So, it has been a natural extension of the previous collaborations on short films. In the end, although the film has a different scale, the methodology and the team have been very similar. Perhaps longer in length, but similar to our previous work.
Where does the need to tell stories about books and women come from?
ME: From an anecdote that appears in the film: my mother has an accident at home with the bookcase, and it falls on her. Half-joking, half-serious, I recorded with her the effects of the accident and then I asked her about her relationship with books, about the role of literature in her daily life, and I explored the subject further. I then decided to open it up to other characters, going to their friends' houses, to see what books they have, how they treat them and how they live with them. Then we began to see that there was material to do something more serious and the project started to take shape to what it is now.
It is difficult to define it: collage, experiment, homage... Does its charm lie in its hybrid nature?
ME: It is difficult to define what the film is. Sometimes I use the word Sing in the title, which I like very much, which does not allude to its genre, but to its intention. It is intended to be a song, both in the sense of homage and because of the presence of the spoken word, the music and the choreography.
It also oozes joy and humour, which is rare in the documentary genre.
ME: I like to have fun making films and I want the viewers to have fun too, and humour helps a lot in that. And if I approach a subject like literature and I get serious about it... let's see what comes of it! I wanted it to be an informative film, for a wider audience, who would enjoy and experience other emotions, also enriching for them.
Were there any indications from production in this respect?
MF: Koldo Almandoz and I shot the production, and they already had previous experience with creative processes, as they co-directed the short film Quebrantos in 2020. So it has been Koldo who has made a significant contribution, but from our production company we wanted María to feel that she had all the support she needed to open up: if she needed more editing time, to reshoot or to travel, she could count on us. The production process has been lengthy, with long shooting periods and time to review the material, but this has enriched the film.
It features stills from Truffaut's Fahrenheit 451. Do books need to be defended: do they need protection, or do they stand on their own?
ME: They do need to be defended, although some should be destroyed. But every lover of books is concerned about their decline and the school curriculum. In this sense, they must be defended, but with an open and critical mind.
But these days, people read less and in shorter bursts... The film shows an experience with books that the new generations are perhaps missing out on.
ME: Literature is becoming less and less experiential. What I find interesting about the characters I portray is that in another era many people lived a large part of their lives through books. During the Spanish dictatorship it was a way of enjoying freedom (as was the films they saw outside). That is why we must try to encourage it.
The project To Books and Women I Sing has won awards at Zinebi and MAFIZ. How do laboratories help to create such a film?
MF: I think it's the kind of project that fits these forums like a glove: those awards gave us a major boost to finish the film.
(Translated from Spanish by Vicky York)
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