Spanish filmmaker Ana Murugarren’s sophomore effort is a beautifully textured, exceptionally distinct black comedy set in the Spanish civil war. ‘’The Bastard’s Fig Tree’’, now screening in select theaters across the United States, is a tale of hope, consideration and change.
Ana recently discussed this movie via an exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan: For the uninitiated, “The Bastards’ Fig Tree” might seem like a very serious civil war thriller but it’s not quite. Can you talk about the tone?
Ana Murugarren: That’s exactly what makes “The Bastards Fig Tree” a unique and original movie. I’ve decided to tell the story of the horror of the Spanish Civil War from a point of view magical and surrealistic. There are scenes and characters really comical, but always underneath of that humor, there is a tragical feeling. I have to say that I feel proud of have been capable to mix these different tunes. It is genre-meshing; it might remind viewers of Guillermo del Toro’s “Pan’s Labyrinth.”
MM: How did the movie come to be?
AM: It is a proposal of the producer Joaquin Trincado, but I was captivated by the idea immediately.
MM: And was the story inspired by anything personal?
AM: “The Bastards’ Fig Tree” is based in something that is part of the Spanish DNA: the long fascist dictatorship that subjected Spanish people during 40 years. The wounds open by the Civil War aren’t closed yet.
MM: Is it a movie with a message?
AM: The truth is that the public comes out of the theater after watching “The Bastards’ Fig Tree” a little bit shocked. The hardness of the first part of the movie, when the fascists arrive at night and get the people out of their houses to execute them, with no trial, with no compassion, it’s very dramatic. The eyes of the boy looking to the executioner of his father and brother, change the life of the killer. He becomes a hermit and the crowd goes to him on pilgrimage looking for miracles. That’s absurd, and I would say comical, but the spectator doesn’t forget that the hermit had no compassion. The message is not to forget the grave that is underneath the fig tree.
MM: Where did you find the incredible cast?
AM: Rogelio, the character performed by Karra Elejalde, was written for him. No one else like him to humanize the cruel fascist soldier, and believe in his reconversion. I worked a lot with him before shooting. I think we finally got it…hahaha. The rest of the actors are incredible. Pepa Aniorte and her “Cipriana”, Mikel Losada playing the essence of fascism…and a character that I love, “Ermo”, the snitch. Carlos Areces achieves to create such a miserable guy, that becomes funny and comical. I was very lucky to have them all in the movie.
MM: Where about in Spain did the movie shoot?
AM: “The Bastards’ Fig Tree” was shot in Northern Spain, in the Basque Country. It’s a land with beautiful landscapes, where the rain is part of life. The Basque Country, which half of it is on the Spanish side and the other half in the French side, it had a strong meaning for the Republic, and the fascist repression was brutal. It all started with the bombing of the city of Gernika. Besides anything, rain it’s very cinematographic and useful for the dramatism of the sequences. It gives a whimsical atmosphere…hahaha
MM: Where do you think your strengths as a writer/filmmaker lie?
AM: I think I have a very personal sense of humor, very black, very Spanish. And that’s good to narrate stories, good to make movies. That allows you, like in The Bastards’ Fig Tree, to make something dramatic but pleasant and amusing to watch. Another authorial characteristic I have it’s the intensity of the rhythm. I tend to be vertiginous. That helps. I feel it’s good for the spectators. But overall, I feel I’m good to get what I want from my actors, hahaha.
MM: How important to you was it that this film play in theaters?
AM: Big screen! That’s entertainment. Any moviemaker wants the spectators sat down in front of a huge silver screen. In “The Bastards’ Fig Tree” the cinematography and the lightning of Josu Inchaustegui is gorgeous! And if you have a theater with Dolby Atmos sound, then it’s a total cinematic experience!
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You can view the official trailer for the film at YouTube