He is one of the fundamental directors of contemporary cinema. Because Fernando Leon de Aranoahe is not only the established filmmaker who has won multiple awards such as the Goya or the Golden Shell at the San Sebastián Festival, the writer of Contra la Hipermetropía, the shrewd screenwriter of “El Buen Patrón” or the phenomenal director of actors who knows bring out the best in Javier Bardem and Benicio del Toro.
Fernando León de Aranoa is above all a chronicler of this era, the guy who knew how to delve into the recesses of the neighborhood, question the concept of Family and get excited by the humanity of those unemployed and lost men who spent “Mondays in the Sun”.
Now come back with “Feeling it a lot”an extraordinary documentary about Joaquin Sabina that went through Argentine cinemas and from March 31 it can be seen for all of Latin America on Star+. There he gets into the hiding places of a character larger than life, the last poet who bets on aging without dignity.
The limits of privacy, how to approach a legend without falling into bronze, satire as a cultural tool and a cinema that refuses to look at its own navel in this talk with Revista Noticias
News: You filmed Joaquín Sabina for 13 years, the amount of material you worked with for “Sentiendo lo mucho” is unimaginable. How do you edit the story of a life? Or two, because his is also included in the film.
Fernando Leon de Aranoa: Well, mine is easy, because I’m on the sidelines. Considering that it is not the most important thing that I am going to tell you, my presence is just a pretext to establish that conversation with Joaquín Sabina. From the beginning I felt that this was good for the film although I don’t usually appear on camera, this for me is an almost absolute exception, the only one and possibly the last. But filming I felt that he needed that presence because he is someone who seeks closeness, conversation and when I tried to avoid the camera, he would not let me. It seemed to me that it was good to make the film as Joaquín perceived it, as a chat between the two of them. There is something about the editing and it is that it was not as complicated as it seems because the films themselves tell you what they are, they take you away, there are always things that, although they are very valuable, the story tells you that you have to leave them out. A film is like an organism that expels what it doesn’t need, what is unnecessary, and you also have to make the odd difficult decision. If you notice, in the end the movie takes about 12 important moments, I preferred that to having 40 or 50 more superficial things. I chose the intensity and get to the bottom of what Joaquín is experiencing in those moments.
News: Sabina is a generational icon, not only artistically, but also intellectually and politically. “Sentiendo lo mucho” combines that tremendous figure with her most everyday aspects. How do you approach the privacy of someone like that? Are there limits?
León de Aranoa: I was much more interested in filming that, the most intimate moments that are not usually seen. The same thing happens with his music in the documentary, sometimes we show the stage, but in general when Joaquín performs his songs he is in places where we did not see him sing, in the dressing room before acting to warm up his voice, on a tour between places where Mexico or in personal circumstances. The fun was listening to him sing his music outside of the usual places. As for his privacy, Joaquín had extreme confidence in me, which made me very responsible, when we were on tour in some hotels he gave me the key to his room and said: “You come and go whenever you want, record even if I’m in the bathroom, you have full license to do whatever you want” (laughs).
News: I thought that his documentary distanced itself from the heroic portrayal of the manual and that without trust is impossible. Did you have any reference to think from where to approach it?
Lion of Aranoa: Exactly, I know and he knows that trust is the most valuable thing. We talked a long time ago about the documentary about Bob Dylan “Don’t look back”, where, for example, his arrivals at hotels are shown, but from within, I think that was the type of film that Joaquín was interested in making about him. I didn’t want it to be a geographical film, I don’t think I would have ever forgiven myself for that (laughs). The idea of people showing up saying: “Well, Joaquín Sabina, such a thing” … that’s where I think our friendship would have broken (he laughs). We both know that the most important thing was to make a film that showed their vulnerabilities, their daily life, their difficulties. His moments of glory are already there and we all know them.
News: His filmography is always anchored in a social vision of the world. Today there is a tendency towards autofiction, towards a cinema that only looks in the mirror. Are films like yours almost an act of resistance?
Lion of Aranoa: I think you have defined very well how things happen now, I really make that cinema by default, it is not a commitment, much less a response to the times, it is simply how I have learned to do it. I believe that one tells oneself through their stories. In my films I am there without the need to make a self-absorbed account of my reality or my immediate environment, I really like stories that fly further and that are capable of telling realities that a priori seem more alien but that actually contain you. I don’t know who said that to tell something well it’s not about having lived it, about being the protagonist, but about experiencing it emotionally. It seems to me that this is also at the beginning of literature for centuries and I like that school more than self-referentiality. Those universes that interest me and that I have been dealing with through my films have something in common with what Sabina has sometimes recounted in her songs, which makes sense because her music has been part of my sentimental education.
News: “Sentiendo lo mucho” had its time in the cinema before reaching Star+, today opening in theaters is already quite a statement. Spanish films have traditionally been very important to Argentines, but in recent years fewer and fewer titles have arrived. Do you think that the platforms help films produced outside the mainstream to be seen all over the world?
Lion of Aranoa: This is undoubtedly the case, otherwise there are many films that would not cross borders, but I want to believe that the coexistence of the two ways of showing work is possible. It made me very happy that “Sentiendo lo mucho” was able to be in Argentine theaters for even a couple of weeks, in Spain we were able to release it in November in more than 200 theaters before going to a platform. This coexistence does a lot of good for movies, not only because as a spectator I like to see them in a theater, because the concentration is greater and there are pleasures that are not obtained only by watching movies at home. I feel that theaters sometimes function as a loudspeaker, to publicize the work, but also that this documentary can be seen throughout Latin America thanks to Star+ is a luxury.
News: His film “El Buen Patrón” won the best comedy award at the European Film Awards. It seems that with films like his and “The Triangle of Sadness” an almost forgotten genre returned, satire. Is social criticism resurrecting?
Lion of Aranoa: I think it has always been there, but it is true that sometimes less is cultivated. What’s more, I remember that same night at the awards we discussed the same thing with Ruben Óstlund, director of “The Triangular of Sadness”, there is something in common between our films, the way of portraying certain issues with great grace but also harshness, with a black humor that is sometimes even cruel. That awards night these two very different films came together that share something and it is the background of capitalism, both have something that I believe in and that I have cultivated a lot as a spectator, that taste for satire that is a fantastic genre and helps to make visible issues. With “El buen patrón” my intention was for people to laugh at the weekend in a cinema seeing what they suffer during the rest of the week at work (laughs). Going over all the miseries that one goes through from Monday to Friday, reaching Saturday and being able to laugh at everything that you deep down know, but from another place. Humor has that cathartic thing of being able to exorcise misery by sharing it with your friends and family.
News: To finish we go with an impossible question. What is Sabina’s song that identifies you? You have to choose only one and it is not worth “Seriously sorry”.
Lion of Aranoa: Oops, that’s my song, it’s the one that’s closest to me, I’ve seen it being born… this question is more difficult than all the previous ones! (laughs). It’s just that I’m not good at choosing just one thing, I always want to grab many. But if I had to choose one I would tell you “city fish”.
News: I promised it was the last one, but we need you to tell us why…
Lion of Aranoa: Look, it is because of something that Joaquín explained in a small filming that we had and that does not appear in the documentary. He defined that song in a beautiful way, he said: “I don’t know what he’s talking about, but I know he’s talking about what I want to talk about.” There’s something elusive about it, it’s very difficult to explain it, it comes more through sensations, there’s a universe there that you just can’t grasp.