At the Visions du Réel Film Festival in Nyon, Switzerland, Tara Karajica talked to Ferran Romeu about his debut short documentary, “Tales of Rabassada”, that premiered in the “Premiers Pas” section and won the Award for Best Film of the section – Prix Société des hôteliers de la Côte du jeune public –, as voted by the “Jury des Jeunes”.
Can you talk about your background?
Ferran Romeu: I have just finished my studies at the ESCAC in Barcelona (Escola Superior de Cinema i Audiovisuals de Catalunya) and this documentary was my final project. So, as a filmmaker, this [“Tales of Rabassada”] is my first film.
How and why did you make a film about La Rabassada?
F.R.: It all started when a friend of mine told me about the existence of this casino that was located in La Rabassada, which is very near Barcelona, and built about a century ago. I was surprised because I had never heard of this place before and I found all the stories that had taken place there extremely intriguing: a suicide room? Child prostitution? People splurging? It had all the ingredients for a movie. And then, I found Andrei…
Where and how did you find him?
F.R.: I found Andrei during my first visit to the casino. Suddenly, he came out from the ruins like a ghost. He told me some stories about the place and I immediately realized that he could be our very own Cicero. We had been talking for an hour or two when I suggested we make the documentary together. The following year, I would visit Andrei and the space until I fully grasped its atmosphere.
Would it be fair to say he is the « keeper of a lost imaginarium »?
F.R.: Definitely! That’s a good observation. Andrei represents some of the frustrated dreams of the high Catalan bourgeoisie from the beginning of the 20th Century. Dreams of opulence and vice…
I like how you use him to tell the tales of La Rabassada and his knowledge… Why did you opt for this approach?
F.R.: I was tired of watching historical documentaries with found footage and historians talking about something past. It’s usually kind of boring. In this case, I decided on this approach because I think it’s very important not only to talk about the past but also the present. They complement each other. The objective was to create a contrast between these two different worlds – the past one and the present one.
How much did you research the subject? Did you talk to historians?
F.R.: I researched the subject for over a year. There isn’t much information about this place in Barcelona. In fact, very few people know of the existence of the casino. It has a short history because of its closing down a year after its inauguration and there are only two books with information about the place. It is a place built by dreams and now, only myths about the area remain. And, I thought this was the perfect setting to make a film about dreams and ghosts. I talked with historians to find out as much as I could, but they couldn’t give me what I was looking for.
Did you consider contrasting Andrei and his stories and knowledge with historians and their knowledge in a more conventional sort of documentary?
F.R.: Yes, but I was not interested about it.
Would you consider making a fiction film or hybrid film about La Rabassada?
F.R.: I actually think that the point of the documentary is the adventure it takes us on. If we had tried to recreate anything we would have lost the spontaneity and originality that makes the film what it is. Having said that, though, when editing, you try to put across your own point of view and that, in a way, is creating fiction.
What does La Rabassada represent for you? How do you see it?
F.R.: To me, La Rabassada tells the story of Catalan dreams through History. People with dreams of greatness always looking towards the outside…
What did Andrei find in the underground in the end?
F.R.: Ghosts and dreams. But I don’t want to spoil it. I can tell you that they want to make the second part of the film. They’ve found another tunnel… Maybe next year, we can film it!
What are your next projects?
F.R.: Now, I’m working on a project about a Spanish architect. But, it’s still in its first steps. We’ll slowly be working on it.
Note: This interview was originally published on Yellow Bread’s sister publication, The Film Prospector, in April 2016.