Cinema Femme caught the opportunity to meet – virtually, for obvious reasons – with Ainhoa Rodríguez, director of “Mighty Flash”, one of the most suggestive titles presented in the main competitive strand of this year’s International Film Festival Rotterdam, and now playing at Chile’s FICUNAM and Vilnius’ Kino Pavasaris. The movie follows Isa, Cita and other women trying to break out of their static lives in a surreal, isolated town of rural Spain. This highly original piece mixes documentary, magical realism and surrealism and features a solid ensemble of non-professional actresses. We asked a few questions about its making.
ABBATESCIANNI: When did you start developing this project?
RODRIGUEZ: I started working on it two years ago. I got inspired while I was giving workshops to women in Spanish rural areas about non-normative perspectives in film. I moved back to a very small town in the southwest of the country, in Tierra de Barros, Extremadura. It’s where my parents and myself are from. There, I began working with a group of women, and most of them are depicted in the scene wherein they eat cakes and dance.
ABBATESCIANNI: I was really amazed to see how you directed all of these non-professional actresses. How did you work with them on set?
RODRIGUEZ: All the work with them was a continuous exchange of information and energies. While I was writing the script, I also did my research work, started casting and met locals to get to know their stories. Overall, the work felt really “alive”! Our plans had to be constantly changed following rehearsals with non pros or the discovery of a new story. Gradually, the work got bigger and bigger. I believe that the peculiarity of working with non-professional actors is that the director is tasked to “sew dresses” that perfectly fit their bodies, while professional performers possess the skills to fit a dress purposely made for the movie. And in order to be successful in directing non pros, you need time and love.
ABBATESCIANNI: The characters’ stories are generally plain to see on screen, but what I perceived even more is a clear sense of “remoteness”, the experience of living in a desolated, forgotten province. I’m familiar with this type of atmospheres myself, since I’m from Southern Italy and grew up in a Catholic environment. Was it your intention to highlight this sense of “remoteness” so powerfully, at times capable of overwhelming the movie’s narrative?
RODRIGUEZ: “Mighty Flash” is a sensorial work. I believe in the power of cinema not in a traditional sense. For me, film is an evolving piece wherein one can break the main storyline. More importantly, you need to offer the viewer an authentically new experience. Somehow, here I wanted to transpose my own experience of the time spent in this town. I wanted to depict and show the interactions between the two worlds I saw there; one immersed in the Catholic faith, and the other influenced by esotericism. It’s the story of a town suspended in time that holds on its millenary traditions which are inevitably going to end because the globalization is getting there too…
ABBATESCIANNI: Were there any particular paintings or movies that inspired the making of “Mighty Flash”? I often had the feeling you were influenced by paintings, especially when depicting nude bodies. Also, what type of vision did you share with your cinematographer Willy Jáuregui?
RODRIGUEZ: There were many visual references that we shared and inspired us, for example the work of American photographer William Eggleston and Austrian director Ulrich Seidl, as well as Italian Neorealism. However, many choices had been inspired by the shoot itself. Often, the scene was the result of rehearsals and props available on location.
ABBATESCIANNI: You built up a fiction tale through a documentary-like filming approach that is rich in magical realism. In addition, the movie features a very dynamic, disruptive electronic score. Could you tell us something about your work with composer Paloma Peñarrubia?
RODRIGUEZ: It has been a difficult work. We collaborated distantly owing to the outbreak. The composer was in Madrid and everything had to be done online. We finalized sound design at a later stage, but we started to work on the score earlier. I had a very clear idea in mind. I wanted to use the real sounds of the town and its surrounding environment and then twist them. So we had to pick real-life sounds and then manipulate them. For example, the movie features a very popular song originally performed by a young girl, so we contaminated with electronic music to achieve this sort of “twisted effect”. Working on the score has been hectic also because the music and the sound needed to interact. Our composer is specialized in electronic music, and much of our work was based on finding ways of how to merge real-life sounds and score in an organic fashion.
ABBATESCIANNI: Did Marco Ferreri’s cinema and the Greek Weird Wave have any impact on your movie? I believe that there are traces of their work in your movie’s aesthetics.
RODRIGUEZ: You’re Italian, so you might want to know that I love Federico Fellini! [laughs]
ABBATESCIANNI: Well, that makes two of us. I wrote my bachelor’s thesis about his work.
RODRIGUEZ: I’ve been studying his cinema for years, as my doctoral project focused on the Fellini’s film universe. So there’s surely something of Fellini in there. It’s not a major reference, but when I was filming at the lake rehearsing with the actresses, suddenly I thought: “This scene looks like the beginning of ‘Nights of Calabria’!” I didn’t realize this analogy before starting filming though.
ABBATESCIANNI: Are you already working on a new project?
RODRIGUEZ: I’m working on a script for a new feature film. It’s the story of a mother and her daughter, told through the girl’s perspective. It’s set in the 1980s and the main idea is to focus on the sexual sphere of the mother, a woman with disabilities.
ABBATESCIANNI: Will you adopt a directing approach similar to that of “Mighty Flash” and work again with non pros?
RODRIGUEZ: It depends on how the research process develops. For sure, I love working with non pros. However, the mother and the daughter may be played by known actresses and perhaps some other main characters, but this is still to be defined.
ABBATESCIANNI: Thank you for your time.