Leire Apellaniz and Marc Sempere-Moya • Directors of Cosmic Chant. Niño de Elche
“We were both enraptured when we saw him on stage”
- The filmmaking duo got up close and personal with the unorthodox Andalusian artist to assemble a collage and portrait of him that leaves room for his more personal side as well as his performances
The documentary Cosmic Chant. Niño de Elche [+see also:
interview: Leire Apellaniz and Marc Se…
film profile] was presented at the most recent Seville European Film Festival and lands in Spanish movie theatres on 4 February, courtesy of Márgenes Distribución. We talked to directors Leire Apellaniz (The Last Summer [+see also:
film profile]) and Marc Sempere-Moya (El ball del vetlatori) about the film.
Cineuropa: What makes Paco, aka Niño de Elche, so special as to make you want to dedicate so much time and work to him?
Leire Apellaniz: This film began to take shape almost seven years ago, when Marc was absolutely obsessed with Paco as an artist, not as a person. Another thing to consider is that we became friends along the way, and now we love him even more, but both of us were enraptured, even though I got involved with this project once Marc had already spent three years working on it. In 2018, I came on board, and we had common ground in that we had both experienced the same feeling: we’d seen Paco on stage, and it blew our minds, when I didn’t even know much about flamenco, never mind being a fan of it. But we could sense his capacity to be genuine and to always take different influences on board, digest them and regurgitate them again. He does incredible things that, because of the way he experiments with them, in the end are within your grasp, and they affect you deeply. I’m fascinated by Paco’s ability to be so passionate, intellectual and such a consummate performer.
Marc Sempere-Moya: It’s been a very fulfilling and warm relationship from the get-go. Paco still surprises me, and I am still learning from him, which is incredible after all this time. At his first gig, I was surprised by how he was able to internalise the flamenco tradition and, at the same time, violently lash out at it as well. It was a conflict that necessitated a response, and I’ve learned all the nuances of it as I’ve got to know his body of work. I’m grateful for his generosity, as he said yes to all of our suggestions. What we did with him, you can’t do with just anyone: the style of the documentary was intended to remain as faithful as possible to his unorthodox attitude, and he really influenced us with his presence, as we got drenched in his infectious creative courage and freedom. It was a challenge for us to portray this figure; it motivated us to go further, and that’s a real privilege.
Precisely on that point… How did you come up with the structure of the film?
LA: We had a very clear vision in our minds that, as he was such a complex character, the only way to understand him would be to try to portray whoever had been important in his life so far, encompassing all spheres, ranging from art to family, as well as the social, philosophical and political aspects. Along the way, Marc did some sterling work familiarising himself with Paco’s past environment: the people that the main character gravitates around. Along the road, we selected some relevant names from his life, and by interviewing them, we provided an image of one of the facets of Paco, painting a kaleidoscopic portrait of him through people who had an influence on him at a given moment, and thus the viewer would be able to read their own things into Niño de Elche. Also, in order to allow the audience to understand the artistic dimension of Paco, we blended all of that with him performing for our camera. Both those performances (which were carried out expressly for the documentary and were compiled as a sequence shot) and the interviews (which are straightforward, pure and direct) were done in a bare-bones style, so as not to break the spell. Our objective was to dig down into the spirit of the person. It was an ambitious challenge, but it’s exactly what we were hoping for: that’s where our structure seeking out the basics emerged from.
MS: The interviewees are a mixture of people who were able to succinctly express and represent what Paco is and who, at the same time, during their lives, have been the ones who caused him to change, stop being how he was before and convert to another way of life.
Is that what makes this documentary different from others focusing on Niño de Elche?
MS: Here, we don’t explain how he started his career, because we didn’t want to make a film for his fans, nor did we want to idolise him. Instead, we present his strengths as well as his flaws, doubts and conflicts: that vision, which is so comprehensive and so complex, is what sets us apart. The usual narratives centring on artists are built around one last concert or follow a personal story, but our film is poetic, without any linear story to cling to.
LA: Well, we poured a lot of time, love and dedication into the movie. Furthermore, at the Seville Film Festival, when we got to the Alameda Theatre for the premiere, Marc realised that it was right there where he saw Niño de Elche do a gig for the first time. It was magical because that’s when it came full circle.
(Translated from Spanish)
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