Daniel Guzmán (Madrid, 1973) assures that the Aluche neighborhood where he grew up has provided him with “the answers and the tools” that he has needed in life. In his debut feature, ‘A Cambio de Nada’ (2015), he exorcised his parents’ separation and turned his 92-year-old grandmother into an actress in an initiation story that brimmed with heart and won the Goyas for Best New Director and best revelation actor for Miguel Herrán. Seven years later, Guzmán, who was a renowned graffiti artist and boxer before establishing himself as an actor, returns to the neighborhood with ‘Canallas’.
Chronicle of rogues and survivors in this corrupt Spain of the ball, ‘Canallas’ is a wild comedy that narrates the shenanigans of three friends from the periphery to seek a life outside the law. Together with Luis Tosar and Guzmán himself, we find Joaquín González, a friend of the director since he was 14 years old and with no previous experience in front of the camera. Oddly enough, he plays himself. Who is Joaquín González? At the recent Malaga Festival, he moved freely in the five-star AC, interrupting interviews because his Chinese partner called him on his cell phone to talk about a ship loaded with oil docked in Rotterdam. He also said that he had sold half a million masks to Ayuso that were left at the airport. In ‘Canallas’, as in real life, he boasts of business at the highest level, but we soon discover that he is plagued by debt and lives in an apartment in Orcasitas with his mother, a Spanish yo-yo champion daughter and an obsessed brother. for martial arts.
-We all know a Joaquín…
-Yes. Everyone tells me, there is always a Joaquín in your life, a guy who invents a reality to support his misery, a life that he does not accept. He believes it. If you interview him he will tell you that he sells oil, he thinks he is rich. Today he has told the producer that he has put 500,000 euros into the film. It is the Spain of the picaresque, the people who put on his film to endure reality.
-We can laugh at this loser, but people like him sometimes get it right.
-Yes. The real estate balls, the intermediaries… The picaresque of Lazarillo de Tormes. I have known him since he was 14 years old. Friends have always said: you laugh at Joaquín, but one day he makes one of his own and leaves. He says it in the film: one day I hit the ball and you’re going to call me Don Joaquín. Meanwhile, he continues to live with his mother in Orcasitas.
-In this country, the one who hits the ball is greatly admired, regardless of the consequences.
-How is that saying? Who does not steal and fuck is because he has nowhere. We magnify the culture of the ball. The protagonist is called an entrepreneur, when he is a speculator. He is the Spain of the requalified rural land, of the rescue of the banks, of the perfect business.
-He has made social cinema without seeming so.
-That concept is stigmatized. It seems you can’t make a popular sitcom talking about the social. As if it were a hackneyed topic, when Spanish cinema has been doing it all its life: Achero Mañas, Fernando León, Elías Querejeta… And ‘Full Monty’? The English and the French do. The social is not only drama and sadness. It is also a neighborhood, the social majority of this country. And in the neighborhood there is comedy, pride, desire to get ahead. Look at my colleagues. One is a plumber, another an electrician, another a taxi driver… From the moment they get up until they go to bed they are laughing.
Joaquín González, Daniel Guzmán and Luis Tosar in ‘Canallas’.
-And how do those neighborhood friends see you?
-Well, just like I am, a little bit more of a bastard maybe, more of a scoundrel. They are the ones who put me in my place, the ones who anchor me to the ground. Without these friends I would be nothing.
-And what about Spanish cinema?
-Ha ha. They are the host, I have to take them. Two of them call me ‘subsidized’. Yes, yes, I answer them. Do you know what’s up? That of these 3 million that the movie has cost, the ICAA (Institute of Cinematography, dependent on the Ministry of Culture) only gives me 30%, the rest has to be put. When you explain the numbers to them they say: ahhhh. They have been bombarded with the fact that Spanish cinema is subsidized and is bad, they go with the radio and television and they believe it. But you give them the data and they recognize that it is difficult to make movies.
-Do any of those friends vote for Vox?
-Man, Joaquín is there. He has been a faithful representative of the Popular Party, but now he says that they are not doing so well, that he is going a little further to the right. The PP is lukewarm, like that type of formula film that we do and that is dead, with the fear of failure all the time.
“Kids these days live in a bubble”
-Hey, why has the neighborhood marked you so much?
-Because I’ve had my whole life there, my most important time. It marked my personality. The street has given me answers and tools, a vision of life. In the end, I make films that are half fiction, half reality because of all those experiences that I have had. My friends have been the family I chose when mine was broken, that non-biological family replaced the other. I have experienced things with them that you cannot imagine.
– Do you think that life in the neighborhood today is like the one we knew?
-No. Since the technological revolution there is no longer a relationship on the street. The kids live in a bubble, they have screwed up their lives with the PAUs, those bubble neighborhoods that are prisons. In the summer I used to come home at eleven at night. And everything happened to me. He played marbles, bottle caps, he came with his head open… I sound like Grandma Cebolleta, but what I have experienced on the street I have not experienced anywhere. Today’s kids see it, but they don’t live it. They are sinking them with screens, fast food… Before you lived. That’s why I have stories to tell.
-In ‘In exchange for nothing’ he recruited his grandmother and now his friend. The actors have to hate him.
-And I do it being an actor! It has to do with neorealist cinema, which I have always liked: De Sica, Fellini… Non-professional actors have a truth that if you hit the nail on the head, it goes through the screen. That helps the actors not to be in the imposture. But I’m going to make the next film only with professional actors, it can’t be that it takes 17 years for two feature films.
-Do you spend so much time without filming?
-I wrote the first version of ‘Canallas’ as soon as I finished ‘In exchange for nothing’. It was not difficult for me to find financing, Movistar and Universal were right away. It took me so long because non-professionals multiply your work by five. I shot 256 hours of material, when you usually shoot 50 for a movie. I shot five movies until I got what I wanted. I spent ten hours a day for a year and a half to put it together.
-In ‘Canallas’ there is graffiti of Typhoon, his pseudonym during his youth.
-In spite of myself… Joaquín’s block of flats in the movie is his house in Orcasitas in real life, that gray and Soviet architecture. Many years ago, to piss him off, I painted ‘Johnny el Guapo’, as he called himself, on his front door. When I filmed I realized that a Typhoon could be seen…
– Have you abandoned your facet as an actor?
-With these films impossible. This year I had three main characters and I had to say no. I have not been able to work or have a life, or see my colleagues. I really like acting, theater, cinema… If a role comes out, fine, and if not, I’ll keep telling stories. Although financially it does not feed me much. My passion is writing and directing, being an actor does not depend on me.
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