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Paco Cabezas • Director of Adiós

“I’ve had a lot of experience of working in Hollywood”


- Although unable to make it to San Sebastián in person, Seville-born director Paco Cabezas was happy to chat about his fifth film, Adiós, which is being screened as part of the RTVE Gala

Paco Cabezas  • Director of Adiós

Paco Cabezas is at the other end of the phone, and at the other end of the world: Los Angeles, to be precise. Professional obligations have prevented him from attending the 67th San Sebastián International Film Festival to present his latest film, Adiós [+see also:
film review
interview: Paco Cabezas
film profile
— a suspenseful and tragic thriller filmed in his home town, Seville, with a cast headed up by Mario Casas, Natalia de Molina and Ruth Díaz.

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Cineuropa: What’s it like to be watching a festival like this one from 10,000 km away?
Paco Cabezas:
It’s strange; because of the time difference, I did a press conference yesterday at 3 am via Skype. It’s really disappointing, because I was looking forward to it immensely, but at least the entire cast was there to present the film. For me, there can be nothing more exciting than having a film premiere in San Sebastián. It’s funny how things turn out — you struggle your whole life for something and then suddenly you’re filming here in Hollywood and you can’t follow your heart and go. Life can be very ironic sometimes.

Among other things, Adiós explores how difficult it is to say goodbye, or how we never really say goodbye to someone who’s gone until we’ve finally got a sense of closure.
Yes. After I first read the screenplay, I gave it a lot of thought, but it wasn’t until we got to the final scene that I realised why the film was called Adiós. It’s a film about redemption and about how we find a way to say goodbye to people we have lost. It’s also about my home, Andalusia, and flamenco: the songs, saetas and soleás I’ve heard all my life express the idea of not knowing what to do with the pain that we are left with after a tragedy.

The film is almost Shakespearian, with its themes of betrayal, death, pain, family…
I’ve always been a fan of Shakespeare; he’s been an obsession of mine ever since I was studying at drama school. Shakespeare, Lorca and Andalusia at its most authentic have a lot in common, and gypsy culture also has a lot to say about these themes — blood ties and the idea of home. It’s why I included various poetic and allegorical elements in the film, like doves flying and greyhounds running, but those are really there, because when we filmed on location in Las 3000 Viviendas in Seville, there were a lot of animals about. There’s a surreal dimension to life in Seville’s earthiest neighbourhoods.

You come across as a cheerful, jolly and smiling Andalusian, but we all have a dark side — was Adiós a way of channelling yours?
My manager here in the US is always telling me that the comedy directors he represents are all bitter and miserable, whereas directors of thrillers, horror films and anything violent are all smiles. I do think that films can be an outlet for their makers’ gloomy side, but I also tried to sneak in a few subtle glints of humour.

There are moments when Adiós reminds us of the “quinqui” movement: have you gone back to your fringe roots?
Yes, definitely. The film that made me want to become a director was Scorsese’s Mean Streets, and later I discovered Eloy de la Iglesia: his films shaped a generation and were later just swept aside and forgotten. I have enormous respect for the audience and although I like to torture them over the two hours it takes to tell a story, I also want them to be entertained and to get hooked in to a plot that grabs you by the wrist and won’t let go. My favourite films are visceral and hard-hitting; there’s nothing boring about them, like that rawer, more unvarnished style of filmmaking.

What was it like to come back to Spain to shoot Adiós?
For me, the sweet spot is when I’m making TV series in the US and independent films in Spain, where people still value and support the director as an artist. I had the same freedom working on Adiós as I have now with the pilot of Penny Dreadful: City of Angels, which I’m filming at the moment. Going home definitely has an emotional element for me and, although we didn’t have a huge budget, I brought over everything I needed to shoot a police raid and do it right, and that’s why the film has such a visual impact — because I’ve had a lot of experience of working in Hollywood.

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(Translated from Spanish)

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