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PRODUCTION Argentina / Spain / France

Pablo Agüero wraps the shoot for the historical drama Akelarre


- The Argentinian filmmaker finished principal photography – which took place in the Basque Country, French Basque Country and Navarre – at the end of June; the movie reconstructs a witchcraft trial

Pablo Agüero wraps the shoot for the historical drama Akelarre
The shoot for Akelarre (© David Herranz)

Seven weeks were sufficient to shoot Akelarre, the fifth film by renowned Paris-based Argentinian filmmaker Pablo Agüero (Eva Doesn’t Sleep [+see also:
film profile
), which is based on a witchcraft trial that took place in northern Spain in 1609. Principal photography began on the Biscay beach of Laga and wrapped in Zarautz, also stopping off at other locations in Navarre and the (French and Spanish) Basque Country. Toplining this historical drama (which conveys a feminist message) are Álex Brendemühl and Amaia Aberasturi, flanked by supporting actors Garazi Urkola, Irati Saez de Urabain, Jone Laspiur, Lorea Ibarra, Yune Nogueiras, Daniel Fanego, Asier Oruesagasti, Iñigo de la Iglesia, Elena Úriz and Daniel Chamorro.

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From a screenplay loosely based on On the Inconstancy of Witches: Tableau de l'inconstance des mauvais anges et demons by Pierre de Lancre, penned by the director himself together with Katell Guillou, the movie reconstructs an incident that took place in the Basque Country, according to the synopsis provided by the producers. Once the local men have all gone to the sea, Ana partakes in a party in the woods together with other girls from the village. Judge Rostegi, whom the king has ordered to purify the region, arrests them and accuses them of witchcraft. He decides to take whatever measures are necessary to make them confess all that they know about the akelarre, or Witches’ Sabbath, a magical ceremony during which, allegedly, the Devil initiates his servants and mates with them.

When quizzed by Cineuropa on the relevance and timeliness of the film’s subject matter, Agüero stated, “There are thousands of lethal victims of chauvinism in the ‘civilised’ Western countries... A huge proportion of the world’s population still lives under the yoke of clerical totalitarianism... Cultural diversity and regional identities are still being crushed underfoot by a singular mindset, imposed by dictatorships in some countries and by the overwhelming standardisation of extreme capitalism across virtually the entire planet…

“This movie,” continues the filmmaker, “shows a conflict that is still going on, even today, and it just so happens to portray a crucial moment in this conflict: the moment when, in the middle of the Renaissance, the modern state started to take shape in Europe, with ambitions of rationality. But it was dragging along with it the tradition of a magical way of thinking, of misogyny and authoritarianism, the legacy of which we still have not managed to shake off.”

Meanwhile, Iker Ganuza (of Lamia Producciones) told Cineuropa: “What we are recounting in Akelarre is a universal subject. Although it’s a story set in the Basque Country, witch hunting happened in many parts of Europe and North America, and it’s something that the viewer can identify with directly. On the other hand, the different interpretations that can be read into the film are of interest to everyone: the confrontation to achieve women’s freedoms in the face of repression by male-dominated powers, indigenous culture and language in the face of enforced centralisation, and the clash between different world views.”

Akelarre – which will be shot in both the Spanish and Basque languages – is a Spanish-Argentinian-French co-production by Sorgin Films AIE (set up by production outfits Kowalski Films, Lamia and Gariza), Tita Productions and La Fidèle. It can boast the involvement of the Basque Government, EiTB (Basque Radio-Television), the Gipuzkoa District Council, the ICAA, the Nouvelle-Aquitaine and Brittany regions, Argentina’s INCAA, the San Sebastián Gipuzkoa Film Commission, the Bilbao Bizkaia Film Commission, and the Navarra Film Commission. Its Spanish distribution will be handled next year by Avalon.

(Translated from Spanish)

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