“I do not bequeath anything for not having what.” Aitor Merino (San Sebastián, 1972) starts ‘Fantasía’ with a quote that he attributes to Juan de Unzueta, an ancestor of his, and that dates to the year of his death, 1765. The second feature film by the actor and director, which debuted in 2013 with ‘Asier eta biok’, he talks about legacies and memory, about the inheritance of love that we receive from our family. In 2015, Merino’s parents celebrated their golden wedding anniversary and their two children, Aitor and his sister Amaia, also a filmmaker, invited them and joined a cruise around the Mediterranean. aboard a ship, the ‘Fantasia’. The director began filming that journey without confessing that he had a movie in mind. And then he continued filming in the privacy of his family for almost five more years. The result is a film as honest and disarming as ‘Asier eta biok’ was, which competes in the documentary section of the imminent Malaga Festival that starts next week.
Aitor Merino does not have a mother as delightfully eccentric as that of Gustavo Salmerón, his classmate at Cristina Rota’s school almost 30 years ago, the protagonist of ‘Many children, a monkey and a castle’. Nor is it like the volcanic Carmina de Paco León. “My parents are normal people, they have not done anything extraordinary in life of social relevance. They have been generous and caring parents, who were a bit scared when I told them that I wanted to be an actor and I came to Madrid at the age of 16 to find a life for myself, ”says Merino. Iñaki and Kontxi are already retired in their seventies and continue to live in Pamplona, where they went when Aitor was a child and closed the San Sebastian company where the father worked as a draftsman. There, in Barañain, he set up a mythical pub, the Karpanta, the first in the area with live performances. The mother ran a clothing boutique until her retirement.
‘Fantasia’ shows his day-to-day life under the gaze of the curious, sometimes impertinent and always loving camera of his son. We went from the dancing on the cruise ship when we woke up at home, with the blood pressure monitor and the pills always at hand. The Merinos are still so in love that Iñaki brings Kontxi breakfast in bed, although other times they don’t stop arguing. “Either from noses or morreándonos”, sums up the father. Bohemia also has a place in that bourgeois existence in the form of guitars hanging on the walls, which the father can no longer play as before due to the aftermath of a stroke. Based on hours and hours of recording, Aitor managed to make his parents overcome modesty: Kontxi listens to opera and dances naked, while Iñaki does not mind appearing in his underwear and without his teeth. The whole house is covered with photos of their children and posters of their movies.
«We were children and they have missed us a lot. Our rooms have hardly changed, they have resisted the time passing by, ”says the director. Images from the past are crucial in ‘Fantasy’. The father methodically digitizes old family photos while the mother draws the portrait of her parents in pencil. “The portraits, beyond telling us what someone is like, makes us bear that in mind”, reflects Merino. «They are a kind of capsule in time that takes us back in time and reminds us of who is not there, a way of communicating with ourselves in other times and with people we love. This movie is a message in a bottle to myself or my offspring, if I ever have one. Also for anyone who finds it. He says that we have nothing extraordinary, but that we have existed and we have loved each other. And what is more extraordinary than love? ».
The ravages of age and the imminence of death stain the emotional documentary with melancholy: the calls to communicate the death of a relative, the memory of the grandfather who suffered from Alzheimer’s and did not recognize his own image in the mirror or the character of the mother 94 years old, who would pass away before the end of filming. The protagonists increasingly visit the hospital. “They are at an age in which each new ailment comes to stay,” states Aitor Merino, who can no longer go out for a walk in the fields with his father as he did before. “If I am in the world and I do not know you, I do not want to be”, announces the mother, fearful of losing her memory in a film that, according to its author, is “an attempt to rescue us from oblivion.” Parents will see it for the first time in Malaga on the big screen. His son predicts that they will be excited and uncomfortable: “I don’t see the point in recording only the beautiful if you want to be true to reality.”
At 48 years old, Aitor Merino has no children. Filming ‘Fantasia’ has made him rethink it. “What is the point of leaving a portrait if later there is no one dear to remember you?” So many years away from home to discover now “the feeling of gratitude for the dedication and generosity” of his parents in the most captivating ‘home movie’ of the year: “I believe that there is no such pure love in this world as that which parents feel for their children.”
«From ‘Asier eta biok’ I have a taste that is sweeter than sour»
Eight years ago ‘Asier eta biok’ discovered the director who was hiding behind the protagonist of ‘Kronen Stories’ and ‘Football Days’. Aitor Merino recounted in this documentary winner of the Irizar Prize for Basque Cinema at the San Sebastián Festival, his friendship since childhood with Asier Aranguren, expelled by France after serving seven of the ten years of sentence that the Paris courts had imposed on him for be a member of ETA.
“From ‘Asier eta biok’ I have a taste more sweet than sour,” acknowledges the director. «In his day we went through a lot of nerves to touch such a tricky matter. But years later they keep calling me to make screenings of the film. Fortunately, many things have changed, friendship continues to be a universal theme and violence in other parts of the world has not disappeared.
Merino tried to make friends like Juan Diego Botto and Willy Toledo understand in the film how he could be friends with an ETA member, to whom he has remained close since his childhood games. He also showed his discomfort at the patriotic liturgy of the nationalist left and hinted at the futility of terrorist actions. Today Asier Aranguren, discovers, runs a piquillo pepper company. “As a result of the film, we got to know each other better. Our friendship is unbreakable.