Cheap Cuts Doc Fest 2020 – NEXT STOP: SPAIN II

NEXT STOP is a new strand at Cheap Cuts Doc Fest (29 JUN to 05 JUL) highlighting films & filmmakers from a specific country. This year’s focus is on Spain in two live events that opened the festival’s digital programme. Here’s what we saw… [PART TWO]

By RADIANT CIRCUS

Twitter @radiantcircus | Instagram @radiantcircus

NEXT STOP: SPAIN II gave us a second anthology of short docs from Spanish filmmakers and Spanish production companies. The programme is supported by the Spanish Embassy in the UK.

> Read our screen diary from part one HERE <

This second group of films had a shared theme about stories and their power, whether that’s rewiring idolised accounts of a ground-breaking artistic movement, or communicating across the boundaries of ill health in a hospital ward, or peeling back the protective stories that are told to reveal the painful secrets of a parent’s past.

This is a film still from GREYKEY by Enric Ribes screening at Cheap Cuts Doc Fest 2020.
GREYKEY by Enric Ribes at Cheap Cuts Doc Fest 2020.

“We often asked our father, ‘Daddy, why do you always wear shirts and trousers to the beach? Why don’t you wear trunks like us?’”

GREYKEY (2018).

In GREYKEY (2018, 28mins), filmmaker Enric Ribes takes as his subject Muriel Grey-Molay Dalin’s account of her father’s life. José Carlos Grey, who died when his daughter was still very young, was a survivor of the Mauthausen concentration camp. He was also black. The details of his life are gradually revealed over the course of the film as the stories he told to conceal his pain – and protect his family – are gently peeled away.

For both his daughter and the audience, the film describes a process of excavation as the outward symbols of a disrupted life – curious beach attire, scars underneath clothing, endless nights working in the local cabaret – are examined with quiet persistence (“Why at night?”). The filmmakers edit archival glimpses of Nazi atrocities into the narrative, sharpening our attention.

The film is rich in its creative use of media, family documents and newly filmed inserts used to reinforce the emotional resonance of a shared moment between mother and daughter, or a reassuring hand on the back at a wedding. These are further amplified by stop-motion and cell animation, and a crisp foley soundscape, all helping to unlock detailed memories: the sound of a swing, a baby feeding, crumbs brushed together on a table cloth.

Muriel’s regret that her only photo of her father in his youth is one in his servant’s uniform in the camp – where he was singled out and treated as a novelty by the camp guards for the colour of his skin – sears his origins in pain but also propels hist story forward. José told of how his strength to survive came from his dreams of having a big family of his own one day. A family he would try to protect by covering up his past, so they wouldn’t have to imagine it too.

But his daughter is clear. José’s stories, finally revealed, will help construct better ones. Now a mother herself, Muriel describes her “duty of transmission”, a profound responsibility to make sure her daughters understand their grandfather’s life. Her duty is further fulfilled and paid forward in this profoundly moving film.

This is a film still from I CAN ALWAYS SLEEP BUT TONIGHT I CAN’T by Fernando Vilchez & Andrea Morán screening at Cheap Cuts Doc Fest 2020.
I CAN ALWAYS SLEEP BUT TONIGHT I CAN’T by Fernando Vilchez & Andrea Morán at Cheap Cuts Doc Fest 2020.

I CAN ALWAYS SLEEP BUT TONIGHT I CAN’T (2019, 18 mins) by Fernando Vilchez and Andrea Morán is one of those films that absolutely benefited from a bit more background in the Q&A that followed. A haunting but at times dislocating series of readings by people we don’t know in different locations around Barcelona felt hard to lock down when seeing it streamed for the first time.

In conversation with Natalia Garay, filmmakers Fernando Vílchez and Andrea Morán revealed that the film came from a period when Morán was literally locked down, receiving readings and sound recordings from her friends while she suffered an extended isolated stay in hospital. The challenge of their film was to turn these bridging narratives into something cinematic that would convey something of the good parts of this strange time out of time.

That this experience now speaks to audiences so strongly through our own understanding of the global pandemic merits a second screening of this fine if illusive film (which you can do if you have a Festival Pass for this year’s Cheap Cuts!).

> Book your #CheapCuts2020 Festival Pass HERE <

This is a film still from ALIENS by Luis López Carrasco screening at Cheap Cuts Doc Fest 2020.
ALIENS by Luis López Carrasco at Cheap Cuts Doc Fest 2020.

The final film in this group ALIENS (2017, 23 mins) by Luis López Carrasco has a starkly hallucinatory feel as visceral stories of sex, drugs and the mental ill-health of a 1980s pop star are layered over images of the many hundreds of portraits of aliens she feels she has met over the course of a “complicated” life.

Carrasco’s film is a portrait of Zombies band member and artist Tesa Arranz, but, as commissioned by Home in Manchester for their 2017 exhibition about La Movida, it is also a robust counter-narrative to idolised accounts of Spain’s groundbreaking visual art movement (Pedro Almodovar is dismissed as a non entity, his “art was superior, but in everyday life he was a pain in the arse”). It combines a kinetic monologue from an interview with the artist and the calm visual of pages being turned in her sketch pad. This all gets occasionally interrupted by aggressive VHS noise and some silent shots of her writing (“all they are is foetuses disguised as old friends”).

The strange nature of the imagery and the rapidity of her stream of consciousness as she talks about her bipolar diagnosis and other traumas makes for a rich and disorientating montage. In conversation afterwards Carrasco spoke about having experimented with creating a more ‘trippy’ vibe through more disruptive VHS effects. He opted instead for quieter visuals that allow the force of Arranz’s personality to be fully felt. A final music video of the Zombies plays out in almost its entirety, an 80s time capsule now contextualised by Arranz’s enthralling testimony.

> Book your #CheapCuts2020 Festival Pass HERE <

UNCONVENTIONAL STORYTELLING

This is a film still from BACK TO WONDERLAND showing at Cheap Cuts Doc Fest 2020.
BACK TO WONDERLAND by Alice Fargier at Cheap Cuts Doc Fest 2020.

RADIANT CIRCUS is delighted to be joining Cheap Cuts Doc Fest 2020 as a judge and award sponsor for this year’s Unconventional Storytelling strand.

> Book your #CheapCuts2020 Festival Pass HERE <


This is an image of the poster for the Cheap Cuts Documentary Film Festival 2020 Edition.

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*THE SMALL PRINT: As accurate as we could make it. Apologies for any errors. Updates & corrections will be made to the online version. Event dates/times are subject to change by the venue/organiser. We try to only list events you can book for at the time of posting: however, some events may already be sold out. Please click quickly! We don’t filter by age/certification: all readers & subscribers should be 18+.

Main featured image: BACK TO WONDERLAND by Alice Fargier showing at Cheap Cuts Doc Fest 2020.

Radiant Circus