Interview with Manel Raga: My path to the Cinema never followed a straight line
22. 05. 2022
From April 16 to April 30 Film seminar with Manel Raga and Sunčica Fradelić was held in Split for the second time. Seminar was part of International film program Mind the image/Pazi na sliku organized by Kino klub Split. On the occasion, our program coordinator, Dragutin Andrić made an interview with Manel.
- You were growing up in the small town of Ulldecona in the south of Catalonia. How did growing up in a smaller community affect the stories you are telling?
In one of the first photos I remember to take of my grandfather, you can see his bare foot coming into contact with hot water: in a white ceramic bowl, small veins of soil begin to emerge from the bottom, forming very fine twigs about to explode. An image very similar to this one would later appear in my first short film La Gallina.
Many times, I think that one of the most important reasons why I ended up making films is because I grew up in the countryside, among olive trees, because of the soil and an inordinate bond to it, as if I had been able to smell it, love it and hate it many years before I was born. I feel an intimate relationship between the land, Ulldecona and cinema.
- Could you tell us more about your first steps into film-making?
My path to the cinema has never followed a straight line. Thus, I would say that my first steps were through some of the disciplines that surround it: through drawing, photography, anthropology, poetry or my interest in collecting dreams… For years, I think I have been tracing a spiral path, where cinema has been swallowing me little by little, where I have been growing and getting to know myself slowly, until I felt that my true passion was to look at the world through a camera.
- Most of your films are in black and white. What creative decision made you make that choice? Were they shot in black and white or was that made in post-production?
Until now, almost every time I have started to imagine a film it has been black and white. So, it is a decision that has to do with following, almost to protect this first intuition, which is very strong and very clear. I admit that sometimes I have tried to disobey this idea and I have tried to get to the color in post-production, but the film has always ended up rejecting it.
- What are your greatest film-making influences?
It is very difficult to answer this question. But I could name four films that, at very different times in my life, I have felt to be authentic cinematographic revelations: Viridiana by Luis Buñuel, La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc by Carl Theodor Dreyer, The Turin Horse by Béla Tarr and Au Hasard Balthazar by Robert Bresson.
- Is there a film-maker you would love to work with and why?
As a total utopia, I would say that with Luis Buñuel. Somehow, I feel that my particular history of cinema began with Un Chien Andalou and his razor cut on the eye. All of Buñuel’s films lead me to this image again and again, to the moment in which the cinema manages to liberate itself from the border that exists between the external and the internal gaze, and dreams, madness, humor or horror invade everything. I feel enormous empathy for all of Buñuel’s cinema, for his poetics of subversion, for carrying in each shot, in each movement, in each gesture, the force of a revolution about to explode.
- Do you have a special story from a shooting that you would like to share with us? Could you share with us some experiences or anecdotes from your film-making process?
Most of my shootings end with a long list of anecdotes. And time makes them funnier. They are usually much more fun to remember than to live: I remember a lonely tree that fell days before it could be filmed, guiding a steadycam and falling into a pit full of dung, the disappearance of an actor in the middle of a shooting, breaking down several cars during the shooting of La Gallina, to the point that my father had recurrent nightmares with my producer until a long time later… The list would take for an entire interview, but I would like to think that its extension is motivated by the combination between a certain artistic ambition, that for me it is inalienable, and the very few resources I have always had. I think that this combination can very easily lead you to the quixotic or tragicomedy.
Even so, I believe that these same shootings and also the processes that have surrounded them, always very intense, have allowed me to meet and learn from incredible people and places (whether in Bosnia or only a few kilometers far from my home), which I have had the privilege to look through the incomparable intimacy that a camera allows you to. And in this sense, I consider myself a very lucky person.
- This year you are listed in Berlinale talents. Would you share your experience as a participant with us?
Although this edition was online due to the pandemic, what I would highlight the most is precisely the dialogue that was created between the participants, very focused on debating the state of cinema today: cinema as an idea or as an “ideal”, but also understood as a way of living, of cinema as a job. And this, which should be obvious, is not the case in most countries of the world, where being a filmmaker is synonymous of assuming the most absolute precariousness. Many ideas and proposals came out from those discussions that are still going on today, and that, in the future, I hope they will find a way out through associationism and collective demands.
- Are you working on any project at the moment?
Yes, I’m just at the end of the postproduction process of Kao Mali List, a film that I shot in Bosnia and that I’m trying to finish for a long time.
- Could you tell us more about your collaboration with Kino klub Split?
I have known the Kino klub Split for years and very rarely I have found such an inspiring and stimulating place, capable of preserving the freedom to watch and make films until the last consequences. And it is a space where cinema is truly accessible to everyone, something as necessary as it is almost impossible to find. In this sense, it is a pleasure for me to be part of this idea and to be able to collaborate, even if briefly.
On the other hand, my relationship with the Kino klub has gone a little further than the two workshops that I have been able to carry out. It has been also a co-producer of the film that I was talking about before and its help was essential, just at a time when the project was at its most delicate point.