David Ilundain • Director of One for All
“We, the adults, do not know what really happens inside schools”
- With his second feature following B, la película, Navarre-born director David Ilundain enters the microcosm of school, with David Verdaguer playing a young teacher
David Ilundain received awards and acclaim in 2015 with his feature debut, B, la película [+see also:
film profile], in which he recreated a controversial trial against corruption from Spain’s recent history. He changes registers in One for All [+see also:
interview: David Ilundain
film profile], a film almost entirely set in a rural school, where a teacher played by the charismatic David Verdaguer works. The director talked to us on the phone, from his hometown of Pamplona.
Cineuropa: Your previous film was full of adults, but here, almost every character is a child.
David Ilundain: This time again we confined ourselves to a single location — in the previous film it was the courthouse, here it is a classroom — which requires a slightly voyeuristic gaze, since we, the adults, are not used to being there and do not know what really happens inside schools. Kids do not tell us about everything that happens there, nor do they behave in the same way there as they do with us at home; so visualising that forbidden place was an exercise. And I didn't find working with children particularly difficult, it isn’t even an impossible thing (maybe we're too afraid to do it), but it is demanding: they do require a lot of energy. Anyone with children knows that it’s important to stay very close to them: they’re not actors with training, here you have to create everything. But they’re also really great to work with, because the children engage, they really enter the role, invent during rehearsals, make suggestions and jokes.
Many filmmakers turn rehearsals with children into a kind of game…
In part, yes, but here I have to thank the film’s coach, who made it easy for the kids to arrive on set focused and relaxed, with a great dynamic between them: they were a well-assorted group. I also explained to them that this was always a job and that we had to respect each other. They were 11 or 12 years old and they adapted themselves perfectly: they knew when to laugh and when to be serious again.
Is it true that the film is based on a real story?
I was inspired by real facts: four years ago, we read a news story about a young teacher who, in one of his first jobs in a town in Aragona, discovered that a boy was missing from the classroom because he was ill. This wasn’t in the instruction manual, in the protocols or in the notes he studied during his formation: if he wanted to teach this child, he had to invent a way to do it, though he also could have chosen to do nothing. But he did not conform and instead tried to find a solution so that the absent boy would continue to be part of the group: the contributions of the other pupils were very important, much more so than the teacher thought they would be at first, as the children somehow, gradually, found a way to keep in touch and convey what was going on in class, through videos and blogs that came and went from the other boy's home. This created a beautiful dynamic in which everyone, individually and as a group, improved; while we tend to think that if someone slows down the group or needs special attention, the other children will lag behind, in this case the exact opposite occurred: everyone strove not to leave anyone behind, so that the whole group and every individual could improve.
While B was about corruption, One for All focuses on values.
There are things that we do very badly, because of this cynical outlook on reality that undermines our desire to change, since we think we’ve already experienced everything; however, that story I mentioned earlier is hopeful, showing that when we insist on doing things properly, everything goes well. In fact, I was thrilled to focus on this hope and on the desire to improve.
In the film, do you pay homage to any teachers you had as a child?
I do not consciously pay homage to anyone in particular, but I remember that in elementary school, when I was only six years old, a young teacher played with us a lot and constantly changed places, showing us that things could be different and did not have to be boring. I also had a theatre teacher who I remained friends with and, naturally, teachers in those days are guides who change your vision and tell you different things, help you solve a problem or understand how to face it. That person remains inside of you: teachers have a great power and a great responsibility towards their students.
(Translated from Spanish)
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