Pilar Palomero’s second feature film “La Maternal” had its world premiere in main competition at the San Sebastián Film Festival in Spain on Tuesday. The Spanish filmmaker, who won the Goyas for best film, best new director and best original screenplay with her first film “Las Niñas”, produced as “La Maternelle” by Valérie Delpierre at Inicia Films, returns to the Festival du Pays Basque with another invigorating work that explores the challenges and joys of youth.
“I never made the decision to focus explicitly on youth,” says Palomero. “I think it’s a coincidence that the two are talking about young women, but I guess there’s something inside me that I’m not aware of that leads me to this.”
In “La Maternal,” sold by Elle Driver, Palomero turns her attention to Barcelona’s teenage mothers and the social attitudes that condemn them. Carla, 14, leaves home when she discovers she is pregnant and arrives at a specialized shelter for young girls and their children. It’s a story rooted in the real life of many actors, non-professionals who, according to the filmmaker, were “really ready to be in the film because they really wanted to explain their stories. They felt this need to say ‘hey, I’ve been through this but it’s not like you think’. While the script isn’t based on their exact experiences, Palomero says she used a mix of her own research and things the cast told her to build the narrative. Improvisation was also a key facet of the filmmaking process.
“I realized that I knew nothing of this reality and I was a little ashamed of myself,” says the filmmaker. “I was aware that much of what I knew was based on prejudice, and the truth is that when I met these women, I fell in love with them and their life experiences. could have made a film about each of them.
Carla Quílez, a dancer who plays the young Carla in her first film role, was invited to a casting after being spotted by the casting director on Instagram. “I was amazed when I saw her,” Palomero says. “She is very young but every time she dances, she becomes a woman. I felt she had all the energy I was looking for in the role of Carla, which is based on a real girl who isn’t in the movie. It was important that Carla really look like a young teenager, not a “16 year old girl who could pass as 20”, so that the public could better understand how childish she is and how difficult her situation is in result.
As a filmmaker, Palomero is thrilled to have the chance to travel with the film on the festival circuit, which COVID-19 prevented her from doing with “Schoolgirls.” The pandemic, however, gave him time to work on the screenplay for “La Maternelle” instead. Finding funding for the project proved to be a smooth process after the success of the first film and its growing status in the Spanish film industry. The director stands alongside other emerging filmmakers like Carla Simón (“Alcarras”) and Carlota Pereda (“Piggy”) as the country’s new cinematic leader.
Although the film was not made with militant intentions, Palomero hopes the film will “provoke a reflection in Spain on sex education laws and abortion laws”. “For me, all the girls I’ve met are heroines. They’re brave, it’s amazing what they do, but it’s too hard for teenagers to live like that. It’s a real problem for our society that this is a reality.
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