TNC Interview 2022
A Love Song to
& Raul de la Fuente
God is love. His homeland is the Earth. His genre? Human. In Maldita, a love song to Sarajevo, Bozo Vreco, the most revolutionary artist of the Balkans sings to life, to overcoming obstacles, and the love story of two cities, Sarajevo and Barcelona. They both knew how to find themselves in difficult times to never say goodbye.
Hi Raúl and Amaia, thank you for talking with The New Current, and congratulations on your screening last night in Barcelona. How did it go?
Raúl: It was great and it was amazing to have the entire room filled with people. As always, it is great to show our films in a cinema space; it's a very magical atmosphere. Maldita is very visual, and people have been interested in receiving the kind of message that the film has, even though we the subject is about war. Our main character, Božo Vrećo, is so delicate and unique that you became so immersed in his world and seeing Božo on the big screen became such a different experience for me; it was such a wonderful screening.
Amaia: As well as screening Maldita in Barcelona we simultaneously presented the film in Pamplona which was part of a film showcase on human rights. Our film was included in the "Dialogue in a Conflict” category which we believe reflects the spirit of our film very well.
Maldita is long listed for the 2023 Goya’s, what does it mean to you to get this type of recognition for your film?
Amaia: We are very happy to be included among the short documentary films and that our film has been considered by the selection committee of the Academy to be proposed for nomination. We are so happy because Maldita is the first film that we have finished in a really long time due to the pandemic. This is our fifth time being part of a Goya campaign; we have won it twice and been nominated another two times. We know what comes with these campaigns. It's a lot of work and a lot of exposure, but it's also really good for the film.
How important is it for you to show films like Maldita in cinemas and be able to engage audiences?
Raúl: This is not a mainstream film, so we know this might be challenging. Both Amaia and I are trying to show our film in as many places as we can including festivals. It is also an honour to be qualified for Oscar nomination consideration. We are not in the mainstream filmmaking industry, but we are considering new projects, possibly more commercial in nature, but Maldita is not a commercial film.
Do you think that due to the current war in Ukraine people will come to this film with a different appreciation for what you've created?
Raúl: Unfortunately, war is always there. When we made Maldita, there was no war in Ukraine, but in every period of history there has been war, so it will always be a current affair. Our film is an approach to the delicate perspective of a very special person, someone who was in their adolescence during the war. As a child he had to put up with the experience of war and I think it's interesting to see how a child, like all children, perceives war. It's shocking to see how he was experiencing the outside war as a child while also fighting a personal war on his inside. I like the story Božo shares about when he was a kid and he wanted to dress like a woman and his mother made him a dress out of some old curtains, telling him "now you can wear this dress inside the house, and let’s see if in the future you can wear it on the outside."
It was an outside war, but it was also an internal war, and this dualistic aspect of the film is at the core of what we wanted to achieve. It is a black-and-white film; it is a Barcelona-and-Sarajevo film; and it is a Božo-and-Clara film. I'm very excited with this dualism of the film. At the same time, I'm thrilled that it's music—the creation of a love song. With Božo and Clara, we wanted to write a love song for Sarajevo. And the importance of this relationship between Sarajevo and Barcelona was established at the very beginning of the film. At the same time, Maldita is a film that is against war.
What your film beautifully shows is that even within the horror of war, you have to stay positive, and it is by keeping this sense of truth that you can survive. Even though you started making this film before the Ukrainian invasion, I was wondering how the war might impact how audiences engage with this film.
Amaia: I hope that Maldita can have a positive impact in the sense that the story we are telling is the story of solidarity between two cities—Barcelona and Sarajevo—and especially the people from these cities. The people of Barcelona rushed to help the people of Sarajevo in their time of need, so one of the inspirations for making this film was to pay homage to this history. Also, we wanted to share a story of solidarity when it's most needed, when once again war is so close to our borders and is affecting the lives of so many people.
The theme of war, surviving war, and being a child during wartime really connects with our filmmaking because Raúl and I have done films about war or dealing with war in very various formats. Our previous film “Another Day of Life”, was based on Ryszard Kapuściński book who said World War II was his first understanding of the world because when the war began, he was six or seven years old. It was through this understanding that he became a writer and journalist. For Božo I believe that growing up during a war is what led him to create such an original world and a personality with multiple layers. And this especially led him to become a very strong person who can be so delicate in appearance and performance as well as being so strong.
What attracted us to Božo is how great and inspiring he is, and through him, you can see all the beautiful shapes of what it means to be human. He has such a free understanding of gender definitions, I think it was a melting pot of growing up during a war, and I think he makes us all feel more free by being so great and being so different.
What made you decide to use a short film format to tell Božo Vrećo's personal and powerful story?
Amaia: Throughout our career we have done long theatrical films as well as short films. I believe Raúl and I know how to maximise a film project within that duration of less than half an hour, which is something our audience often mentions to us when they see our films: they say they could have watched a much longer film. It's the perfect duration to get to the heart of the story and hopefully inspire them to investigate and learn more about the people or themes that our films deals with. In the case of Božo, we both felt there was a lot more to his story. But Raúl and I also felt very satisfied with the final sensation that Maldita gives. The audience comes out of the room feeling inspired and a bit shocked because of the intensity of the message, the characters, and the performances.
How did you get involved in this project?
Raúl: The original idea for this film came from Ivan Zahínos, who has been in love with Sarajevo for a long time; he came to Amaia and me to make an homage to Sarajevo. So for me, it was like receiving a gift to receive this request, and then we started to think about the film and tried to make it our own, which was the way we entered this incredible story.
Amaia: Ivan arrived in Sarajevo a few years after the war was over to work with an NGO and it was him who felt that Božo truly symbolised the spirit of Sarajevo. Afterwards we became co-producers with our company, Kanaki Films, and Medicus Mundi Mediterrània.
Was it always your plan to shoot in black and white?
Raúl: I didn't shoot in black and white. I shot in colour, but later on we decided to make it black and white. Dualism is the central theme in this whole movie, even in Božo the protagonist, and the relationship with Clara, the pianist; for me, the dualism was very inspiring. At the same time, we wanted to create something very elegant, such as a traditional family portrait with the entire family in front of the table after a meal. In these classic family portraits this type of image is usually always black and white.
I thought that it was incredibly powerful, the relationship between Božo and Clara and how you captured it without interfering in this new, budding relationship. How do you create a film that doesn’t interfere too much with your subjects?
Raúl: As filmmakers this is our brand. We are used to approaching our main character and making friends with them, and this has always been our unique way of working. This was something I am used to, and we tried to create a great atmosphere for Božo and Clara to work together. I think the main reason why this relationship works so well is that they themselves naturally connected, they have a good relationship even though they are so different, and they complement each other incredibly well. Even in terms of music, it was magical. The biggest decision was deciding the cinematography, which was going to be a decision from Amaia that would continue the dualism theme we were creating.
At the beginning of the production it was important for us to create a situation for Božo and Clara to work together and in the early stages we used video and phone calls, which was a very nice way of working. We would be in Sarajevo on the terrace of Božo’s apartment, calling Clara, who might have been at a festival performing, so this was the start of the relationship, and it was great to see the way they took each other. We realised that there was a good vibe between them, and after that, we created the situation for them to meet in Barcelona, in the studio, to create the song. It really is incredible to think that Maldita was created during the recording with us.
As you can see in the film Božo and Clara performed Maldita in a very special way, it was so beautiful. There is a kind of magic between them, and they are sensitive, delicate people, and you have to adapt to this kind of condition and try not to interfere with them but to connect and adapt to them.
How important is the collaboration between you both when working on a project like this?
Amaia: It's been very satisfying for me to co-direct my first film with Raúl. This is partly thanks to our long filmmaking collaboration from different positions, but it was only in the position of director that I felt that the input, contributions, and creativity I brought to the film were reflected. We have very different ways of approaching the story. Raúl is much more—let's say intuitive and tangible. And I am more reflective about the theme and how to work from the script, we are very complimentary to one another, and it's been super satisfying.
Raúl: Having worked with Amaia for the past 20 years we work with very clear positions, with me being the director and Amaia working on the script and being the producer. Over time, we realised that the lines between scriptwriting, production, and direction are very narrow, so for us, it is an evolution, and we are always working in the same way. I'm normally using the camera and editing, and Amaia is working a lot with the origin and ideas in the script. In the editing room, I might be closer to the images, but Amaia is always there with another point of view.
It is very interesting to have both the male and female points of view in a film.
"I think the main reason why this relationship works so well is that they themselves naturally connected, they have a good relationship even though they are so different, and they complement each other incredibly well."
What would you say has been the most valuable lesson that you've taken from this experience?
Raúl: Music will save you.
Do you have any advice or tips that you would offer somebody that is thinking about getting into filmmaking?
Amaia: Try to enjoy it, and try to enjoy everything you do. You need to be super focused on what you want to do and the stories you want to tell, which is the only way to convince people around you. I have a very special approach to cinematography, for instance. Don't give any energy to the “no’s” you will get. Raúl and I are not devourers of new films or new series, but we love cinema and fall in love with some films. It's not like we are constantly getting a feed of what's new, and I believe our inspiration stems more from readings, conversations, and articles.
Are you looking forward to getting started on your next project Bayo, Bayo, Baby?
Amaia: We are in full production, and we are building an impact campaign around the team, which we have done in the past but is something we want to start doing a lot more structurally now that we have partnered with an impact production company. We always deal with human rights issues, so we want our films to give back to the community that welcomed and supported use, so this impact production, Bio Evaluated, is very important for me. Directing this film is equally important to me because it has been in the making since 2017, and with Raúl and I being a creative couple, it's so embedded in our lives that all that we have learned from life goes into this film.
Finally, what message do you hope audiences will take away from this film?
Raúl: The main one is that music will save you; this is the thing—the same message. This is what I try to believe: music can save you.
Amaia: To learn from somebody like Božo who is really brave and inspiring in the most difficult times and don’t turn to anger or defensiveness to make the best out of life.