Blanca Portillo and Maixabel Lasa, actress and character from ‘Maixabel’, meet days before the premiere at the San Sebastián Festival of the film by Icíar Bollaín about the widow of Juan Mari Jáuregui
“You have short hair, Blanca.”
– Of blonde. I see you very pretty, Maixabel, as always.
Blanca Portillo (Madrid, 1963) and Maixabel Lasa (Legorreta, 1951) mimetized in the filming of ‘Maixabel’ to the point of calling themselves Maixabel Portillo and Blanca Lasa. The two friends meet again a few days before the film by Icíar Bollaín is presented in competition at the San Sebastián Festival on September 18 (it will arrive in theaters a week later from Disney). The story of the widow of Juan Mari Jáuregui, murdered by ETA in 2000, is that of a woman who, despite doubts and pain, agreed to meet her husband’s murderers. This week it was known that Patxi Makazaga, convicted as the material author of the shooting,
has asked to meet with Lasa within the framework of the so-called ‘restorative justice’.
–Blanca, what did you know about Maixabel before shooting the film?
–B. Q: I knew that you had been the director of the Office of Victims and that you had done the restorative meetings. She was a figure that attracted me a lot, a very interesting woman. And I’m not saying it because you’re in front …
–Maixabel, what did you know about Blanca Portillo?
–M. L: She was an actress that I liked, although I hadn’t had the passion to meet her personally. As soon as I did, I felt like she was my sister, my friend. She seemed to me a simple and normal woman.
– And what did you feel the first time you saw her characterized as you?
–M. L: It was curious. During the filming I discovered her gestures and ways of mine. It gave the feeling that we were almost the same person.
–B. Q: When I saw myself with white hair and glasses, I felt that we were two strange twin sisters. It was not about making a caricature, it has been more a matter of mimicking oneself, of entering a state, a character rather than trying to imitate. What is something to be imitated is herself, not her appearance. Maixabel is what one aspires to look like.
– And what is that personality like?
–B. P: Sorry, maybe it’s a bit abstract expression, but it has to do with soul cleansing. With someone who has ideas and puts them into practice, something that you hardly ever find. Maixabel is a woman of deep convictions from a very young age and she has carried them out. I have found a tremendously affectionate woman, despite the fact that, as a good Basque, she is firm, big and powerful. But very sweet and sensitive to everything, with a capacity for empathy and intelligence. Always look for the light.
–M. L: I have always tried to put into practice what I think. When they ask me why I participated in those meetings, I answer that because I think that all people deserve a second chance. They have already made their personal journey of self-criticism. I have almost felt obliged to offer them that second chance. Death has no turning back, but it is possible to recover these people for coexistence.
–B. P: That second chance idea seems wonderful to me. It has made me review my own life. How many times, for infinitely more banal reasons, have I said: this person never again. In fact, since I finished filming I have reconnected with people and I have reviewed myself.
Interview Icíar Bollaín:
– In those talks before filming, did you talk about Juan Mari?
–M. L: Sure. I have Juan Mari presents him every day. He was always present in the work that I undertook to carry out at the Victims Office. I can’t erase him from me day by day. I always think that if it had been the other way around, that they kill me is me, surely he would have chosen the same path. He was a dialoguing person who respected the different. And he listened to the opinion of others. A staunch defender of human rights. If they had given him a small chance, he would still have convinced those who went to kill him not to. I’ve thought about that many times.
–B. Q: I remember that I asked you a question, because my job is to build the reasons that lead a human being to be who he is. And obviously the center of this story is Juan Mari. I asked you: you were very in love, right? And you answered me: I think so. Nothing else was needed.
–M. L: In the end, it’s a lifetime. We met when we were very young and we went on a parallel social and political journey. Juan Mari taught me a lot and I imagine that I taught him something. He has always been the person with whom I have had the most confidence, there has been no man or woman who has surpassed him in that regard. That’s why I always keep him in mind, I can’t get rid of him. After that, I was calling him on the phone for a while thinking he was going to answer me …
The value of friendship
– Maixabel, what attitude do you have with someone who cannot understand that you met with the murderers of your husband?
–M. L: First of all, respect. But I also ask respect for myself and for those of us who participate in restorative meetings, because I was not the only one. Nobody forced us to participate. Seen now from a distance, I think I was very lucky to be in that initiative, which ended with the arrival of the Popular Party to the central government. Afterwards, some meetings were held, now without the institutional umbrella; I was with Ibon (Etxezarreta) in 2014 thanks to the tenacity of the mediators, who saw that this program was important. I am convinced that it was a success. Always professionally and discreetly, because if this goes to the media, everything is manipulated.
Maixabel Lasa and Blanca Portillo on the set of ‘Maixabel’. /
–Patxi Makazaga wants to meet with you. Does it mean that a cycle is closed?
–M. L: I have always said that I would like the third person to be also in the same position. But what was known the other day … We badly started by announcing it in the media.
“You have done me a lot of good and have changed me as a woman and as a citizen”
“Death has no turning back, but it is possible to recover these people for coexistence”
– Have they become friends, send whatsapps?
–BP Yes, but I am very modest. You called me on my birthday and then I cut off calling you back. Friendship is of immense value to me and is built over time. As far as I have been able to keep her close, I consider Maixabel to be my friend. I am excited to say that I am willing to work for that friendship to grow. I would not like to lose you in my life.
–M. L: I would not like this relationship to end either. In some way, you have been part of my life.
–B. P: And you of mine. And you’ve done me a lot of good. You have given me something. Beyond acting work, you have changed me as a person. There is a before and after as a person, as a woman and as a citizen. Getting close to you and your surroundings has made me come back changed from Donosti. Nothing better in the world can happen to you than a job transforms you in this way.
–And what is going to happen at the festival?
–M. L: That we will have a Chardonnay.
A second chance with those who have destroyed your life
Icíar Bollaín makes use of a quote from Shakespeare when asked if he believes that Maixabel Lasa has obtained reparation and hope in the encounters with her husband’s murderers: «Compassion (understood as feeling the pain of the other) is like the gentle rain that falls from the top down; bless the one who gives it and the one who receives it.
The director of ‘I give you my eyes’ was commissioned by the producers KoldoZuazua and Juan Moreno to bring to the cinema the story of Maixabel Lasa, one of the first victims to agree to interview her husband’s murderers in prison, in the framework of the restorative meetings promoted in 2011 from the so-called ‘Vía Nanclares’. The widow of Juan Mari Jáuregui, whom she had been with since she was 16 years old, told Bollaín that, rather than forgiving, she firmly believes in the second chance. Even with those who have destroyed his life. I wanted to know what they knew about Juan Mari when they killed him ”, says the filmmaker. And also to let them know the pain they had caused him. And see if his repentance was sincere.
Written by Isa Campo and Bollaín herself, ‘Maixabel’ features Luis Tosar as ETA member Ibon Etxezarreta, with whom the actor met to prepare the character. Bollaín trusts that the film reaches the youngest, “who hardly know what ETA has been”. “You cannot forget the victims or the horror of violence.”