‘The August Virgin’ Star Itsaso Arana’s Directorial Debut Swooped on by Bendita Film Sales (EXCLUSIVE)
Bendita Film Sales has grown its slate acquiring Itsaso Arana’s directorial debut “The Girls Are Alright,” (“Las chicas están bien”).
The acquisition marks the latest pick up by the Tenerife based-outfit following recent announcements on Juan Sebastián Torales’ “Almamula,” and Lois Patiño’s “Samsara,” both featuring at the Berlinale. The film has already secured domestic distribution in Spain with Elástica Films.
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“Itsaso gave us the chance to read one of the first versions of the script for ‘The Girls Are Alright.’ We immediately fell in love and realized that we were dealing with a singular talent, with a unique vision,” said Luis Renart, head of Bendita Film Sales. “It has been a pleasure to follow the evolution of this project and to finally discover this beautiful, festive and unique film, which we are thrilled to bring to audiences around the world,” he added.
Arana has built a strong reputation in film, through both her collaborations with Jonás Trueba in Cesar-nominated “August Virgin,” and “You Have To Come And See It,” as well as through La Tristura, the Madrid based-theater company she co-founded.
Set deep in summer, the film follows five women, four of whom are actresses, as they rehearse a play with the writer, played by Arana. The themes of the rehearsals meld with the life and memories the women share. Goya winners Irene Escolar and Bárbara Lennie, are joined by Itziar Manero and Helena Ezquerro to round off a gifted ensemble. “I could not imagine a conventional casting process in this film. I wanted to work with these four women and friends that I admire and I wrote the script for them from the beginning, I couldn’t imagine this film with other actresses,” said Arana.
Elegantly philosophical, the film touches life, death, motherhood, and fairy tale. On the weight of these themes Arana told Variety that “although the reasons that made me write this film were, in the beginning, deep and intense, somehow, I think we get at last a film that is full of summery lightness, humor and companionship between women.” This lightness is aided by the stunning location in and around a converted mill close to Leon, rural Spain.
“Birdman,” “All About Eve” and “Sunset Boulevard” portray the destructive nature of the acting profession and fame. However, this film delves into the constructive insights an actor can discover.
“I think that this mysterious and ancient work of acting is a fascinating subject,” says Arana. “For me, acting is a passion that guides me through the way I live my life and structures my way of being in the world, a way of investigating life and the people around me. Human behavior is an endless subject and being an actress means that you’re always living and being a spectator of your own life at the same time, because that investigation is going to be an essential part of earning a living.”
The film is produced by Jonás Trueba and Javier Lafuente at their production company, Los Ilusos Films.
Arana, who also wrote the film, spoke with Variety:
The film, in part, is about the performance of life, the characters we play to get through the day. Why did you want to tell this story?
This film has been with me for a long time. When my father died and all the women in my family were around his bed, I suddenly knew that I should do something with this reverberating image. I wanted to share that life lesson and I immediately thought about Lorca, Austen, Louisa May Alcott, and all these stories about a group of women locked up waiting for something. I found that some of my close actress friends could share their own stories and make a close friendship group full of camaraderie to evoke life together.
Do you think the fairy tales and stories we are told as children can be dangerous?
I think stories have had a huge power to change human history, words can create both hope and horror. The fairy tales that we have been told have formed our dreams as little girls, our wisdom and desires. In this film I didn’t want to destroy them. I think that sometimes we want to deny them and I don’t think that is my way of overcoming them. In this film, I wanted to reappropriate the stories in order to see how they measure up to our contemporary bodies. I wanted to change the point of view, to see what happens when we look at each other as women instead of waiting for a male gaze.
How was the transition to making your debut feature as a director?
I’ve always been a writer, somehow. For me, acting is not far away from writing, to be honest. I’ve directed a lot of theatre with my theatre company before, so although I knew that it wouldn’t be easy, I realized that I already had a lot of tools that I could use in this challenging adventure. When I wrote the script, I instantly knew that I wouldn’t avoid directing it… so here I am!
The characters share a lot of themselves in the film. Why do you think sharing ourselves is better?
I think that sharing our own stories, our own life lessons, and turning them into our legacy is the most powerful thing that we can do. If our stories can help someone else, why would we keep them, preserve them from others? That’s a philosophical idea of art that I’ve always striven for, sharing ourselves with others makes us improve this strange and ever more individualistic world that we live in.
What are you working on currently?
Nowadays I’m writing the screenplay of Jonás Trueba’s next film, with him and Vito Sanz, the actor with whom I’m going to star in the film. I’m so excited about it! They are my artistic family.
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