Noticias Festival
Official Section interviews: Jordi Núñez, director of ‘Valenciana’

“I am interested in fables not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that they can be defeated

The screenwriter and director Jordi Núñez premieres the film adaptation of Jordi Casanovas’ play ‘Valenciana’. The eponymous fictional drama is set in the Valencian Community during the nineties. The plot, starring three young journalists, connects the death rattles of the Ruta del Bakalao phenomenon, the political changes in the “Spain of progress” and the birth of reality television programs, represented here through the gruesome informative treatment of one of the most dramatic events in the country’s recent history, the murder of the Alcàsser girls.

– What motivated you to adapt the play to film?

– His way of addressing wounds from our recent history and weaving a portrait in which the individual and the collective go hand in hand. When I saw it, it left me with a similar feeling to the one I had with ‘Angels in America’, by Tony Kushner, which I love, and the desire to adapt it was immediately born. The three protagonists, Valèria, Encarna and Ana, were a stimulating catalyst of themes, sensations and stories that move me.

– What liberties have you taken with respect to the original?

– The film focuses on its three main characters, focusing on their emotional journey and not so much on the context, disregarding some elements of the work such as the search for Valèria’s father or Encarna’s suicide, in a new exploration that preserves the background of Casanovas’ text, but which has maintained a live process full of revelations. I have learned a lot traveling these paths.

– The playwright Jordi Casanovas affirms that ‘Valenciana’ is about grief, do you agree with him?

– Completely. ‘Valenciana’ is a film about grief. For the loss of freedoms, of the first youth, of certainties, of a mother, of three murdered girls who could be any woman or everyone’s daughters, of relationships that end or change, and of a sense of possibility that needs to be reborn.

– Both your short films and your debut feature, ‘El que sabem’, and now your second film, have an impact on youth, friendships and disenchantment. Why do you like to return to these topics?

– Because they have to do with the drives of the vital moment in which I am myself. I am very aware of the importance of the network of affections. I was attracted to the idea of ​​friendship through time, and what remains after it. The three protagonists try to find their center of gravity, their own identity, within the flow of history. Also the question of disenchantment, the loss of what remains of innocence, the need to adjust one’s expectations to a turbulent reality, without getting lost along the way. They all have problems accepting their reality and are subjected to different levels of corruption that put their relationships to the test. Everyone, at some point, must protect their integrity. ‘Valenciana’ contrasts genuine friendship relationships, not exempt from errors, against abusive, toxic and sexist power relationships that operate at different levels of society. It also talks about forgiveness of others and oneself as a tool for overcoming acceptance and of the truth as a liberating element.

– The nineties have been called the adolescence of time, because the world wars had ended and all that was to come was prosperity. The world milestones of the period were the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the USSR, and in Spain, the Olympics and Expo 92. What generational disappointments does ‘Valenciana’ capture?

– It has to do with everything mentioned before, from a moment of great promises, expansion and possibility, we move to a moment where fear catalyzes regression, disillusionment sets in and that feeling of possibility must be reborn. The film begins with that beginning of the hangover of a period in time. It has to do with the end of the first youth, which each of the three main characters lives from a different perspective. It is something universal, which finds a perfect allegory in that specific historical moment and space.

– How do you think the corruption, trash TV and nightlife of the time portrayed in the film will resonate with today’s viewers?

– The viewer will be able to perfectly recognize the character and dynamics of all this and will have enough space for reflection and enjoyment.

– Why have you decided to give the spotlight to three women and journalism students?

– It is a decision that comes from the theatre piece and that makes complete sense. The three are forced to face the demons and dynamics of a sexist, patriarchal and consumer society, and the process they live through cannot be understood without this gender perspective.

I have also preserved the fact that the three are journalists because it is a profession that presupposes a critical and committed personality, embodied by Ana, but which in turn generates dynamics of corruption and collusion with power, as in the case of Encarna, and that can generate disenchantment and rejection, like Valèria, who from the beginning indifferently denies her profession or Ana, who in the course of the story rethinks the purpose of her profession. This university degree also gives us a notion of the common past of the three that the viewer must reconstruct in their imagination.

– The film is a fiction based on real events. In fact, although under other names, the audience can guess political and media protagonists of the time, such as Eduardo Zaplana, María Consuelo Reyna, Nieves Herrero, Fernando García and Vicente Sanz. How have you drawn the line between fabrication and what happened?

I am aware that the film was very focused on the real context and extensively documented. At the moment the adaptation process begins, I assume that it enters the realm of fiction and from there I have wanted to work. I was not interested in the specificity of the real characters on whom it may be inspired, but in the truths and themes at the heart of their stories. The film has a fable character and at the same time is full of dynamics and recognizable concrete events. I am interested in fables not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that they can be defeated. And I want the film to point out dynamics and behaviors, not specific characters, and offer us a mirror whose reflection drives us to be better, whoever the viewer is.

– The protagonists of the film are grotesque, but anyone who has lived in Valencia in those days knows that they adjust to reality. How did you know where to draw the line in the cast’s performances?

– Well, you cannot understand Valencia, nor this story, without that character of farce, which also runs through our daily lives today, consciously or unconsciously. It has been very important to have a successful casting that could work with a wide range of references and that already had a basic knowledge of what we were talking about. For example, what Conchi Espejo does is very complex, there is a very delicate balance between artifact and truth. Encarna is both a falla ninot and a flesh and blood character with a bleeding wound. I think the line has been drawn naturally with all of them in an exploration process full of revelations, which has gone from the script to the editing, through the rehearsal process and filming. Aided further by impressive costumes, art, hair and makeup that eloquently build the characters and their world.

– What effect were you looking for with the chromatic saturation of the photography in the film?

– The entire production design, from photography to art, costumes, hair and makeup, seeks to establish a dialogue from the recreation with the image of the nineties, betting on the primary colors associated with each of the protagonists that remembers of the Valencian Community flag. We look for a contrasting image to accentuate the shadows of those years, which moves away, at the level of photography, from the way we have worked previously, but which makes complete sense in relation to the background of the story. From the naturalism and embellished realism of ‘El que sabem’, we move on to a darker, contrasting and expressive proposal. Establishing a constant dialogue between form and substance that seeks to open a fertile dimension for those who look.

– The burning of the rice straw, the paella on the beach, the fresh and colorful interior of the town houses… the film seeks a cultural immersion in this community that gives it authenticity. How did you achieve it without falling into the cliché?

Platitudes are clichés because they have some truth. It is about bringing out that truth and knowing it so that it does not remain superficial. Perhaps for me they are not clichés because I grew up going to the countryside with my grandfather and my uncles helping them in the rice harvest, and I am aware of the tensions that exist between the city and the burning of straw, for example. In turn, this would allow me to insert the characters in a greater cyclical character, which would allow me to accompany the story in the form of pillow shot’ in the style of Ozu. I have also worked in regional television and I have experienced the energy that prevails, I have grown up in l’Horta region speaking Valencian ‘apitxa’t, my grandparents lost their house to the ZAL, I have worked in the Provincial Council of Valencia and the Generalitat as an intern press and I have seen that reality is stranger than fiction. The bet has been to take elements from everything I know to build a recognizable relationship. Fearlessly embrace the topic, such as a ‘mascletá’, and insert it in a plausible place in the story where it is eloquent at different levels and involves a trigger of meanings.

– The film combines actors with national projection with young and veteran local performers. What was the casting process like?

– In the case of Ana, I knew from the beginning that I wanted to have Tània Fortea, after having done ‘El que saberm’ together, and I wrote the character thinking about her and the empathy and emotional complexity that she is capable of transmitting. About Ángela, there was something in her gaze that I wanted to explore and that excited me a lot for the character of Valèria. Upon meeting her, this intuition was confirmed and I felt a great connection with her sensitivity. It is also worth admiring the linguistic work she has done with Mauro Cervera with ‘apitxat’ language variant. In the case of Encarna, it was being more difficult to find the right actress, until Víctor Antolí, in charge of the last casting phase, introduced me to Conchi, who blew my mind. Sandra Cervera was the last to join the cast and she has been a revelation. Also Fernando Guallar, with whom it has been super stimulating to build that villain and share references. Jorge Silvestre was in my head from almost the beginning and it has been incredible to work with him too, as with Amparo Fernández, Cassany, Jaime Linares or Laura Beneito. It has been a dream to work with a cast where such different and yet complementary schools, trajectories, sensibilities, talents and energies come together. A true luxury of this job.