Mar del Plata Festival: Spanish science fiction explodes in Elche with the film ‘Holy Spirit’ | Culture

Under the seas of Spanish industrial cinema, even deeper than the auteur films by creators such as Isaki Lacuesta, Carlos Vermut and Oliver Laxe, in the abyssal abysses of creation there is a whole fruitful collection of independent filmmakers, directors who win foreign festivals and prestige beyond the halls of shopping centers. There coexist from more popular names such as Jonás Trueba and Juan Cavestany to collectives such as Los Hijos, from which Luis López Carrasco and his The year of the discovery; Andrés Duque, Koldo Almandoz, Diana Toucedo, Meritxell Colell, the versatile Elena Martín, Norberto Ramos del Val or Julián Génisson, to name just a few.

And in that habitat he has been creating his work Chema García Ibarra (Elche, 41 years old), author of Attack of the Nebula 5 robots (2008), one of the most influential short films in the Spanish audiovisual industry of the XXI century. García Ibarra has traveled his path, short to short (“Although I do not believe in short or long, everything is movies,” he emphasizes), without abandoning his style, based on black humor, political incorrectness and a deep love for your natal city. “Actually, I always do the same. There are four things that interest me and I shoot about them ”, he says between jokes and you will see by videoconference from the Mar del Plata festival (Argentina), where he was caught the week before the premiere today of his first feature film, Holy spirit, that already obtained the special mention of the jury in the last Locarno contest.

On Holy spirit there are UFO-obsessed associations, missing girls, gruesome ceramic figurines, music new age of the worst kind, leopard prints, gotelé on the walls … and a constant struggle to avoid their inclusion in a genre. At best, the surrealism of the everyday. “I have always struggled to bring science fiction to a geographic place where nothing seems to ever happen. It is not the future, it is not a warehouse, but the Carrús neighborhood [según la estadística del Impuesto sobre la Renta de las Personas Físicas (IRPF), el más pobre de España], where I grew up, with normal streets and normal people. I also think it’s a funny film, but it’s not a comedy … Is it a drama? It’s a thriller? As a creator, I cross genres, I try to make many feelings coexist in the viewer. That in seconds jokes and maximum darkness coincide ”, he responds as a summary of his career.

The director of photography Ion de Sosa (in black) and Chema García Ibarra, on the set of 'Espíritu sagrado'.
The director of photography Ion de Sosa (in black) and Chema García Ibarra, on the set of ‘Espíritu sagrado’.

For three decades, the filmmaker has reaped a growing group of fans thanks to medium-length films such as Uranes (2013) or short as Mystery (2013) or The disco glows (2016). And incidentally, he has merged his career with that of Ion de Sosa, director of photography for Ibarra and other filmmakers, and himself director of Androids dream (2014), co-written by Ibarra. Together, they also co-signed Golden legend (2019), another transgression of mysticism through normality in a public swimming pool. “There is a very interesting sensory terrain to explore”, and he reaffirms: “I try something that may seem obvious but that over the years I have discovered that it is not: to make the films that as a spectator I would like to see. I know a lot of filmmakers frustrated because they can’t. In my case I have not looked for shortcuts ”.

Holy spirit It was born from an interview on a local television channel from Elche with a group of people who had created an association for parapsychological studies. “They were talking about a UFO alert,” Ibarra recalls. “And I stayed with that idea, an image that seemed beautiful to me, that of a family created by a passion for the esoteric.” In writing the script, he insisted “not to fall into the solemnity of a certain current cinema, which has abandoned a playful spirit that I do consider very cinematographic.” From there it goes to Aki Kaurismäki, master of that humor of frozen laughter and class struggle. “I saw on Canal Plus in 2000 Passing clouds, at my parents’ house, and I discovered incredible colors, faces like I had never seen before, amazing dialogues … A proletarian poetry that for someone like me, from Carrús, sounded very close. Around me, everyone worked making shoes and shoes ”. On the fact that his films are located in Elche, García Ibarra has no doubts: “I cannot get rid of the place I know best, which is very defining of the Spanish Levante, with a climate that gives everything a terrible heat, anchored in an archipelago of discotheques ”. For this reason, he does not even renounce the accent: “I only ask the actors to respect the background of the sequence. But let the words say them as they would in their life, on the street. We seek to film in real places, we refuse to go to props stores, which end up standardizing Spanish cinema. And so I achieve a fiction film to which I have painted a documentary capta ”.

I am not interested in the fantastic event itself. I am not attracted by the faces of Bélmez, but the guy who is at the door of the house charging the entrance “

To this was added his passion for science fiction. “I am fascinated by the supernatural Spain, with those publications and characteristic television programs,” he replies. “I am not interested in the fantastic event itself. I am not attracted by the faces of Bélmez, but the guy who is at the door of the house charging the entrance. Or the restaurant you go to after seeing the faces. Is it decorated with portraits of this paranormal phenomenon? Everything human that surrounds the parapsychological fascinates me ”.

On Holy spirit The last 10 minutes are used to amaze and freeze the soul of the public, turn the narrative around and make a masterful shot in which a carnival inflatable and some policemen appear. That twist that contextualizes the characters – embodied by local residents, as is customary in Ibarra’s work – leads the conversation to Encounters in the third phase, by Steven Spielberg. “I like it very much, because it breathes the spirit of the seventies of UFO sightings, although I would have gone as director behind the wife and children of the character of Richard Dreyfuss.”

A moment of 'Holy Spirit'.
A moment of ‘Holy Spirit’.

The title refers to the disc new age German that swept the nineties. “They sold more than 55 million copies, a sound that you relate to that terrible ‘new era’ universe that bets on post-humanity, for its desire for transcendence, and that generated horrifying cultural products that attract me by themselves,” he explains. And from there it affects how the disappearances of adolescents in the Levante marked his generation in the nineties. “It happened so close, with friends and neighbors of mine who knew those involved, the media circus … It was literally the only topic that was discussed in school. It is a generational trauma that has an echo in my cinema and bases part of the Levantine mythology ”.

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