Not the government, but multinational corporations are the target of the angry farmers in Alcarràs


AlcarrasStatue of Lluis Tudela

It’s interesting how current events can put a movie in a new light. whose Alcarras Released in the Netherlands last February, just after it won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival, the scenes surrounding the farmers’ protests had caused little sensation. Now it’s different, even though those scenes are actually at odds with the heart of the film.

In her second feature, Spanish Carla Simón shows a completely different kind of protest than what could be seen in the Netherlands in recent weeks. Her protagonists do not direct their anger at a government that forces them to downsize, but rather at the multinational corporations that aim for economies of scale and price small farmers out of the market.

The protests are, like many in Alcarras, taken from life. “We would have preferred to film at a real protest, but because of covid it was impossible,” says Simón in a video call. “But we made it as real as possible: The people in those scenes are real farmers who have seen many of these protests before.”

These people Simón had gotten to know through the extensive casting process for her film, which is populated almost entirely by non-professional actors. “Fortunately, we did our casting before the pandemic broke out,” she laughs. “We could still go to village parties, schools, farmer cooperatives without masks. We invited everyone who wanted to audition, almost nine thousand people in total – a bit insane.”

Another harvest

Alcarras revolves around a farming family who are told at the beginning of the film that they must leave the land at the end of the summer, where they have grown peaches on a small scale for three generations. Only one more summer they are given one harvest.

The film is named after the municipality in Catalonia where it takes place, in the region where Simón spent part of his childhood. It was important to her for several reasons to work with real farmers from the region instead of flying in professional actors. “First, there’s the local accent. But more importantly: a farmer is a farmer. You can feel it in the way someone gets on a tractor, holds a pitchfork or walks through the field. The film needed that authenticity. These people really feel that sense of belonging to the country the film is about.”

In his debut Estonia 1993 Simón fictionalized her childhood on her uncle’s farm, where she ended up aged six after the untimely death of both her parents. The same farm now inspired her Alcarras. “As I Estonia 1993 made, my grandfather died,” explains Simón. “It got me thinking about what would happen if the peach trees he had planted were gone.”

Juggling characters

The perspective of Alcarras alternates between farmer Quimet’s three children, but also holds space for the other members of the family and their relatives. Quimet’s children are committed Alcarras against their father’s intransigence. Eldest son Roger is eager to take over the farm and do it his way; teenage daughter Mariona prefers to stay as far away from the peach trees as possible; and youngest daughter Iris moves to her old grandfather, who lives with the family on the farm he once started.

Juggling characters was the film’s biggest challenge for Simón. “It could have made more sense to choose Quimet as the main character. But I’m not a 45-year-old man, I couldn’t familiarize myself with him enough,’ she explains. “By making the whole family the main character, I could also be involved. In part, the film has also become a portrait of how emotions flow through a family, how they are passed on from one person to another.”

That wave of emotion often begins with the deeply buried despair of Quimet, who sees no future in his lifestyle. “Many of the small farmers I met while researching the film feel that despair,” says Simón. “They don’t want their children to take over the business because they don’t see a future in it. They now sometimes only get 15 cents for a kilo of peaches sold to the consumer for 3 euros, so there is a lot of money left on the board. The prices should be regulated, but I see little political interest in these small farming families.”

“The only hope I see for them is to cultivate organic farming. It pays to work there on a small scale – for the time being at least. But that transition takes time, it takes years, not everyone can afford it.”

Musical

Without being strongly emphasized, music plays a big part in Alcarras. Music that the characters play – the techno in which the thief Roger loses himself, the stairs on which the teenager Mariona dances – but which they themselves also sing during their daily activities. Thanks to the leading role claimed by a traditional song in the film’s emotional release, one could almost call the film a musical.

“I hadn’t seen it like that before,” smiles Simón. “But the music was really important. It also provided my most important learning moment as a filmmaker. Because in a way I also handed over the music of the film to the characters – and their tastes were very different from mine! So I went in search of music that I never wanted have chosen alone. Because the songs match the characters, but also say something about them.”

“Every generation has its own music. The song that the grandfather sings is a traditional song from the region, but it has no fixed text. People keep inventing something new while singing it. The text we used in the film is composed of phrases that we heard here and there during the harvest.”

Alcarras

Direction Carla Simon
Of Jordi Pujol Dolcet, Albert Bosch, Xenia Roset, Ainet Jounou
Can be seen in Cinecenter, City, Eye, Filmhallen, Het Ketelhuis, Rialto, Studio/K, Tuschinski

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