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“El Agua”, the captivating legendary cinema of Elena Lopez Riera

DIRECTORS’ FORTNIGHT

Spanish cinema is doing well, as evidenced by the prodigious crop of films from young directors – Jonas Trueba, Carla Simon, winner of the Golden Bear at the Berlinale in February, with AlcarrasIsaki Lacuesta… –, some of whom followed in the footsteps of José Luis Guerin in the early 2000s. We can now add the name of Elena Lopez Riera, whose first feature film, El Agua, presented at the Directors’ Fortnight, is truly spellbinding. This film, which competes for the Camera d’or – rewarding a first work each year – embraces an entire region, that of Valence where the filmmaker grew up, with its agricultural land that must be artificially irrigated, its orange and lemon trees. , his summer ritual of releasing pigeons (documented in a previous short film, Los que deseanin 2018) and its overflowing rivers, carrying with them a sulphurous legend since the dawn of time.

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No one claims to have the truth of the story, but here are the main points: women would disappear in the aftermath of floods, the water entering their bodies and dragging them away forever. This popular belief inhabits the young actors in the film, most of them non-professionals, while women from the surrounding villages testify in front of the camera, each giving their version of the story, in a documentary mode. Water recounts the ancestral fears that are transmitted from generation to generation, but also the gestures of masonry that pass from hand to hand and from father to son, in order to protect the walls of dwellings before flooding. Water is everywhere, indomitable: on it depends the level of harvests, the income of peasants, life and death, etc.

Magnetism

From this quasi-anthropological material, which could have been cumbersome or too academic, Elena Lopez Riera weaves a half-real, half-fantastic story, co-written with the critic Philippe Azoury. As for the heroine, Ana (Luna Pamies), let’s say she’s like a fairy: the young actress was spotted and cast during a village festival, and she works wonders, her magnetism making the part phantasmagoria of the story. It’s summer, Ana works at her mother’s bar, single, has a good relationship with her grandmother, from whom she likes to hear snippets of stories, about her life, her loves. Was she happy? Living, planning, is not easy.

Luna Pamies, who plays the fairy-like heroine Ana, was spotted and cast at a village fete

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