José Luis Guerin, between the measured and the unforeseen

José Luis Guerín’s cinema is full of that immense and microscopic world of light and shadow, from stillness through to movement. That’s why he opened MajorDocs yesterday afternoon, a documentary film festival that is defying all the obstacles thrown up by the Covid-19 pandemic with its mask firmly in place, and which in its second edition invites you to take a peek into the world of real cinema.


The Catalan director moves between fiction and documentary cinema with equal mastery, and what could be interpreted as jumping between the two, in his filmography this back and forth is constant. The boundaries between the two “for the viewer is not obvious” but in his opinion, “they feed off one another.” He recalled the anecdote that arose from that swinging movement in his films in which a friend, a Spanish film director, told him that “my odd films come out quieter, more intimate, while the even ones have a more social, moral and objective vocation.”


We listened to Guerín in a sober opening of this festival that is going to premiere eight titles in Spain, some preceded by the echoes of the most recent Berlinale and Sundance festivals. It’s towards the festivals that Guerín launched his SOS, “The democratization of making films is laudable. Before, it was a heavy and expensive process.  Today, any film student with a camera can make a film that is later delivered to you on a USB stick. Thousands of films are made and it’s distressing because the difficult thing is to see them. There is where festivals have a responsibility.”


In the same way that he encouraged the act of making modest cinema or, as in his case, he seeks “forms of production that permeates days of filming and detention”, like someone who keeps a manuscript in a drawer. Quiet. Perspective. The current pandemic shows it day by day.


“I understand cinema as a form of revelation” and that hint of magical discovery -inherent to cinema, to the hypnosis of the cave – is seen in all of his films from the award-winning Under Construction to The Academy of the Muses. Guerín, however, discovers in postproduction the true meaning, “It’s in the editing where I really understand things.” Guerín reveals himself in a world, in that of making films, “in which everything is possible at first”, where only processes, materials, time, taking measures, and planning are involved. “My goal as a filmmaker is to try to establish a relationship between calculation and chance.”


He gave another pearl of wisdom before his image faded like a train of shadows. “I like to understand my cinema as revelation. I want to be part of a revelation that fights against my own prejudices, to discover what is that reality with which you want to make a deal offers me.”

Lourdes Durán


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