Catalan filmmaker Albert Serra premieres latest movie at Cannes festival

'Pacifiction' could win Cannes Palme d'Or award with film recorded in French Polynesia

Catalan filmmaker Albert Serra during an exhibition presentation on May 14, 2019 (by Mar Vila)
Catalan filmmaker Albert Serra during an exhibition presentation on May 14, 2019 (by Mar Vila) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

May 26, 2022 02:56 PM

The Catalan filmmaker, Albert Serra, premiered his latest movie ‘Pacification’ on Thursday at one of the most internationally renowned film festivals, Cannes. The director recorded the film in French Polynesia, with the idea of talking about a "current" world but framed in "a context of visual fantasy," and set in an overseas territory, Serra said in an interview with the Catalan News Agency (ACN). 

As usual in his films, Albert Serra combines professional actors with amateur ones, but he works with both in the same way. "The tools a professional actor has will not be of help in my cinema," the filmmaker said. 

The director has returned to the Cannes festival for the fifth time. In 2006, he took part in the event with ‘Honor de cavalleria,’ and then in 2008 with ‘El cant dels ocells.’ Both movies were selected in the Quinzaine des Réalisateurs, an independent selection during the festival. 

In 2016, Serra took part in the official film selection, but out of the competition, with ‘La mort de Lluís XIV,’ and three years later he won the judge’s special award for ‘Liberté’. 

In the 2022 edition, Serra is gunning for the prestigious Palme d’Or award for the first time. The awards will be announced on Saturday.

This will be the first time a Catalan been in the running for the award in some years, as in 2009, Isabel Coixet competed for it with ‘Mapa dels sons de Tòquio’, in which Sergi López played one of the characters. 

The filmmaker considers his latest movie a "natural continuation" of his career, despite emphasizing the "contemporary" aspects.

The movie takes place in French Polynesia on the island of Tahiti, where a representative of the French government is stationed. The plot follows the local population where rage against politicians can spark at any moment. 

The plot is a reflection of the society and of the current dynamic between the powers that be and the population, where the differences "become bigger over time," Serra explained. 

"I did not want to record a movie where the political content takes place in an office or in an urban area, it feels boring and bourgeois," the filmmaker told ACN.   

Recording in French Polynesia

The movie was recorded during the Covid-19 pandemic, with the local population under a strict lockdown. It was a "phantasmagorical feeling" when life "disappeared," Serra explained.

The director also rejected choosing the location as a personal need to discover a new country. "It is a modern, ridiculous, and childish prejudice to think that you have any connection with the space where you are recording."

Catalan cinema success

If Serra wins, he will not be the first Catalan to win the top prize at a major European film festival, as Carla Simón's 'Alcarràs' won the Golden Bear at the Berlin film festival this year.

The drama is already the biggest film in the Spanish box office so far this year.

For more about Catalan cinema, its style and the challenges it faces, have a listen to our podcast, Filling the Sink.