Unclassifiable. This is Viaje a Alguna Parte [A Journey Somewhere], the feature film screened out of competition in the Official Section at the 66th edition of the Seminci Festival, that Helena de Llanos, granddaughter of Fernando Fernán Gómez and his first wife, María Dolores Pradera, dedicates to her grandfather and the woman she also considers her grandmother, Emma Cohen. Five years of research into the couple’s enormous documentary base, hours of painstakingly sifting through their extensive film material and a wealth of enthusiasm and perseverance have given rise to what the filmmaker defines as “a mixture of reality and fiction based on the presence and absence of Fernando Fernán Gómez and Emma Cohen.”
Yes, both characters enter and leave the story at will. They are in their own house, the film’s location, and appear everywhere at will, in permanent dialogue with a granddaughter so used to her grandparents’ genius that only at first she seemed bewildered. Then she goes on at her own pace, sorting through materials of all kinds. “The impressive thing about them is that they were such all-round creators that sometimes they created and created and then it didn’t come out. There is a lot of material that was left unused in the drawer so to say,” she stated.
When the project began, Emma herself was helping her with the documentation, voluntarily cast in the background, but after her death in 2016 De Llanos took the liberty of giving her as much weight in the film as her grandfather.
Making the script was not easy: it was a process with several parallel paths. Sometimes, as she was studying the material, she would write a part. At other times, she carefully searched the archives to visually support parts she had already written. Also, during her rehearsals as an actress or during filming, opportunities would arise to modify scenes. Even during editing, some aspects changed.
In the presentation she was accompanied by Tristán Ulloa, who played Juan Soldado, one of Fernando Fernán Gómez’s characters who was used as a common thread in the plot. If we could talk about a plot. The actor, present at Calderón Theatre, said that this project was much more than fun: “By participating I have realized that the work of Fernán Gómez and Emma Cohen is incomprehensible. It was an exercise in discovering the figures of Fernando and Emma through their objects: their clothes, sitting in their armchairs… even using their cologne – at one point during the filming Verónica Forqué emptied half a bottle of her cologne on me!”
Some of the heavyweights of Spanish cinema had no problem playing cameo roles, like Forqué herself or Óscar Ladoire, a great admirer of “Don Fernando”: “I met Helena in January 2016. She explained to me that she was in the project, Emma was still alive. The titanic task that Helena has carried out is impressive. When she called me to take part in the film I was delighted.”
Financing, another challenge
And then it was time to find funding. Her film has received very varied definitions, in keeping with the very free “mixes of different cinematographic discourses,” in the words of its director. “I think the word collage might suit. Emma made a lot of collages, and in that sense her spirit is there. She said it was a dream fiction, but I think that in a commercial category it doesn’t have any appeal (laughs). Someone said it’s a surreal drama.”
Such an eccentric project found financial support to match. Five of the producers were at the presentation: Félix Tusell and Carmela Martínez Oliart on the set of the Seminci Channel and, among the audience, also producers Arturo Valls, Jorge Pezzi and José Miguel Contreras. All of them left the hall of Mirrors with another peculiar label, “romantic producers”, and highlighted the support of RTVE Spanish National TV, the Regional Government of Madrid and the National Ministry of Culture and Sports.
As for the immediate future of the documentary, at the moment it is promising: it will be opening in cinemas from 12th November with distributor A Contracorriente Films.