‘Nowadays if you want to make a film, you do it, with a small camera and ten friends, you make a film.’ Roger Gual (Barcelona, 1973) is a film director and lives in a country where there are no seventh art producers, which is the reason why he financed his own first film, Smoking Room (2002), a piece which he filmed with digital camera. When Gual launched this film, written by four hands together with Julio Wallovits, he wasn’t even 30 years old yet. The debut was successful, he won a Goya award for the best feature length film by a debutant, and he also won the award for the best script and the best film by the judges in the Malaga Festival. So, Gual’s first achievement wasn’t for the film in itself, but for the method of economic production that he uses, whose method is inspired in the Dogma school founded 15 years beforehand. Today, and in a country without producers, if you want to make a film, you just do it.
Critics have compared Roger Gual’s work to that of David Mamet, the film director from Chicago famous for his scripts and how he directs actors. Gual also applies his talent to his scripts and in elaborate, well polished dialogues which he places at the service of the actors. ‘I like to direct so that I can work with actors. In one film 80% is the casting.’ Everything for Gual moves to serve the actors by means of the dialogues; with Gual there is no place for cranes or special effects.
After having quit two degree courses qualified as serious (History of Art and Administration and Business Management), Roger Gual went to live in New York where he earned a living working as a freelancer in publicity. There he took advantage of his time by studying film and ended up rounding off the whole shebang by going to the island of Cuba to study in the prestigious International School of San Antonio de los Baños, the cradle of much of the western cinematography. After Cuba and New York came the debut of the before mentioned Smoking Room, a film that dissects the world of multinationals and the non-solidarity work relations amongst the workers. The unleashing incident is the smoking ban in the work place, and the consequent mobilization and discord amongst the workers. The Other, in capitals, is recognised, the difficulty of agreeing with an equal, and the fight against the Other that has power over you.
After that came Remake (2006), again filmed with digital camera, which is about a weekend reunion of hippies who were in their day friends, formed couples and founded a commune. Years later it turns out that the ex hippies go to the gym and decorate their houses. After having practised group sex, it turns out that now that the ex hippies fight with each other – in the film we see how they end up fighting. Gual knows what he is talking about as he was a hippy commune child: he lived with his mother in a commune – I hope I am not mistaken – that was in the Tibidabo Mountain, near to Barcelona. ‘I don’t know if it’s normal to see your mother having sex with three guys’, is one of the phrases that you hear, that you feel.
Remake has made a greater impression on his parent’s generation than on his, our generation. Gual dissects, trying not to judge it, the generation that we all come from, the generation of those who fled, who fled away, from ‘los grises’ (Franco’s police force) and who led the transition and a lengthy etcetera. Gual looks, once again, at the Other – and it affects him. In the interview he expresses this beautifully. Film is simply ‘a question of telling a story that has moved you inside. Initially it’s about making the stories that your grandparents and parents told you last’. Gual looks at others rather than looking at himself.
Santa Mònica Art Center
Hangar is a Barcelona-basedarts production centre placed in the area of Poblenou.