Pedro Rivero and Carlos Juarez speak about “Psiconautas: The forgotten children”
“Psiconautas: The forgotten children” is the Goya winner of the best animated picture in 2017. The co-director Pedro Rivero and producer Carlos Juarez tell that independent animated films “only exist by faith” and reflect about how the media treats it on Spain before the release, difficulties to finance it, institutions, politics of backing and “campaigns to denigrate and defenestrate cinema”.
The movie is based on the graphic novel by Galician illustrator Alberto Vazquez, who also co-directed the film. After being shown in 80 countries and festivals like Zinemaldia in Donostia, Juarez speaks about the “intangible value” that Spain could give its artistic works. Psiconautas, for example by the producer, would require too much money if it needed visibility on its own. Rivero adds the “ideological excuses” to underrate cinema.
Both the short film Birdboy and the feature film Psiconautas seem to make the Rivero-Vazquez tandem work. Specially, since the works themselves were what reunited them in the first place. Rivero read the book on 2008, “with a very solid narration”, and proposed him to adapt it into animation.
They always wanted to make it full-length, but couldn’t finance it without industrial goals. So they adapted it into the short film and worked because they won the Goya. After the prize, they were internationally recognized and slowly started to write the script. Juarez wasn’t surprised by the Goya because not many animated films are produced in Spain, just three this last edition.
Goyas without animated competition
Pedro Rivero states that animated films are produced in Spain by cycles, “it doesn’t mean they aren’t being made”. Carlos Juarez explains his lack of surprise for winning the Goya because “our international trajectory was impeccable”. The only contender was Ozzy by Antena 3 because it had more visibility and was released before the festival.
Animation interests the public because three of the ten highest-grossing Spanish films of 2016 were animated. Rivero explains that animated movies for families have good reception thanks to Pixar and DreamWorks. But outstanding films with international recognition like Persepolis and Anomalisa didn’t leave an impact on Spanish box-office. Without a big studio or television behind, Juarez reveals you have to escape to the animation jungle “dimensioned, but without becoming mad”. Products have to be worth making, with risks. Even they aren’t complicated rarities or “ruined by a disproportionate ambition”.
“It’s a risk that every creator takes”, continues Rivero, “producers appear on the way”. Independent creators contact with themselves, like him with Alberto Vazquez to know if Psiconautas could be possible. “It’s a pure matter of faith” a place for this type of cinema. Producers won’t make independent animated movies because there are minimum backups and no private inversion.
Juarez elaborates that faith is shared because people have to understand what is being made. “On Euskadi, we have the great advantage of many public helps”, says the producer, “and public television”. It’s a better situation than the rest of the State and contracts help even if they are insufficient.
Basque animation is more possible
Pedro Rivero reveals that have been more institutional helps on Euskadi than in the rest of Spain because “it doesn’t depend on being a trend”. On Gipuzkoa, a Sponsorship Law has been proposed to kickstart cultural creators, which Carlos Suarez answers that cinema generates money. For example, Psiconautas has been in 80 countries without being a commercial proposal like “Tad, the lost explorer”, which Rivero describes as “a parody of a North American cinema icon with Spanishness between quotation marks”, and “Chico y Rita” is backed-up by “heavy-hitters like Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal”.
Spanish politicians haven’t understood their own cinema until the last years for being against the war. Juarez points friends who link that with Politics and “don’t want to watch anything with Bardem because is a communist”. People involving cinema interest in the social ambit and can change opinions. “Instead of seeing them as people who generate work or a real industry”, continues the producer, “are seen as masses in favor or against to demonize”.
Rivero jokes they are “influencers”, but he points a campaign to “defenestrate and denigrate” cinema further than the ideologies. Like the minister Cristobal Montoro saying he doesn’t like Spanish cinema to attack the General Society of Authors. “We talk about free Internet and free access to culture”, reflects the director, “but phone companies are still paid to let downloading movies”.
Basque violence trough animated films
To conclude, Pedro Rivero is asked if he sees possible dealing with the past Basque violence on animation like Alberto Vazquez did with Galicia. He states there aren’t limits on animation because Oscar nominated “Waltz from Bashir” for best foreign film and “Persepolis” about the conflict on Lebanon.
Some themes are easier to address with drawings for the abstraction capacity of animation. While in Euskadi, violence has only been covered trough humor in “What a week” and tangentially in “Spanish Affair”. “We stayed there”, explains Rivero, “we changed from not even talking about it to laugh out loud without a reflexive approach”. Animation could indeed finish that circle.