Interview with Arantxa Echevarria.
- Carmen and Lola reflect how male chauvinism is inherent in the gipsy world. In addition to being women, we must add that they are gipsies. Do you think that Carmen and Lola have more difficulty to fight for feminism?
Yes, they have it more complicated, not only do they fight against the generalist society that is patriarchal and where we live the male chauvinism day by day, but also they struggle with a culture in which the situation of women has always been bent to men, a little like previous generations. In addition, the gipsy community has not received the education that others could, the lack of preparation forces you to maintain those cultural factors, which are perhaps not what you want, but you don't have the means and access to change them.
The gipsy tradition is complex, they have suffered a lot from us, the non-gipsies, we have looked down on them, trampled and they have locked themselves more in their world, I understand it, if I were gipsy I would probably be alike, I would look askance at what comes from outside. It is a revolution that gipsy women must lead.
I have always tried to be very respectful with the gipsy culture but I have found that their adolescence is very ephemeral, when they turn 16 when it is no longer compulsory to study, they leave it and usually get engaged with some young man... everything happens very quickly, they have children right away, they have lost other experiences that we who are from different cultures can have.
- As a woman director in the world of cinema, have you felt any added difficulties to your work? How does it influence the way you create?
Of course, I think it was Coixet who said "To prove the same as a man you have to work twice as hard" and I would add “and earn half”. Neither does it cease to be a reflection of the generalist society, this happens in any company, the governing board is made by men, and when there is a woman it is because they work with very masculine men. For example, in script, couples of woman and man are formed and it is very difficult to see a woman alone like me. It is a rather bleak picture, but it is still a reflection of society. Cinema is a small part of that society and it reproduces itself in the same way.
- How did Carmen and Lola come about? Where did the idea come from?
The idea came from reality, living in Madrid I passed gipsies and for me they were great unknown people, and I was very surprised not to know anything about them when they have been in Spain for 600 years. That was mixed with the fact that I wanted to talk about first love, and in the cinema I had always been portrayed from a very masculine point of view, very sexual, very different from how I lived my first love which was more poetic, naive, at 16 you don't know what you want to do in life and you go and fall in love. And at that moment, in 2009, I saw the news of the first gipsy lesbian couple to get married, they were on their backs, with false names, and I thought, it took them five years to get married and on top of that they have to hide. How would that love story of those two girls be? That was the spark off Carmen and Lola.
- You have a long career as a documentalist and short filmmaker, but how was the beginning of everything. What did you study? How were your first steps? Have you always known that you were going to dedicate yourself to this?
Cinema must be very vocational. If that is not the case, it is very difficult, you have to be determined and love this profession. In my case it comes since I was little, in my house they were very film buff, I remember wanting to be a film director when I was 8 years old when I saw Bob Fosse's Cabaret, I didn't understand anything about the film but it fascinated me.
I have always wanted to be a director, so I studied Communication but at that time it was all theoretical, nothing practical. Suddenly, in the third year of my degree, I saw myself making short films with fellows, going out on the street to shoot, getting us by and I did not even finish my studies in Communication.
Since I was 18, I started in this world and I have been lucky enough to keep me up until now. It is a miracle, because when I started, I spent about 5 years without getting paid, going shootings, working as a figuration just to see a shoot closely. They are things that we who love cinema do, you get into any mess that there is a camera to become versed in it.
- I would like to ask you if you have any work experience that will mark a before and after in your career. Was it positive or negative? What did you learn from it?
Yes, meeting Gabriel Velázquez, who is a rather unknown film director but for me it was vital. There was a time when I quit and went to work in a company, so he called me to make a film, I left a fixed salary, a stability, to get back into the cinema and I made the film Amateurs. And that return to the origins, to independent cinema, was like Why did I leave? I cannot leave from here, I must stay here all my life.
It was a completely positive experience, because I was called to do production management, when I had always made management assistant, but I was fascinated by the process, to see how everything is organized, to go from zero to have the film finished.
- Finally, what advice would you give to women who want to dedicate themselves to this profession, directors, screenwriters, producers...
I would say to them that they have to have very clear that this is a vocation, that it is a very long and lung path, that they must never let up in the effort, because dreams are fulfilled, and I am the living proof, I am 50 years old and it is my first film, I could have thrown in the towel, surely I should have done it but the love to the cinema is greater than the hunger.
The most special thing for me with this film was being the first Spanish woman to be in the Directors' Fortnight in Cannes, it has already been worth it all, the 6 years of work. But not only for me, but above all for the two protagonists who went there and saw their film for the first time. It was incredible!
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