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Interview with MAGALUF GHOST TOWN director Miguel Ángel Blanca

Miguel Ángel Blanca’s Magaluf Ghost Town is about a small town on the island of Mallorca that is almost solely sustained by low-cost tourism. Walking a fine line between the playful and the morbid, it is an atmospheric look at the lives of locals who seek to be free amongst belligerent vacationing revelers. Watch it at Hot Docs Festival, streaming across Canada from April 29 to May 9.

Hot Docs spoke with Blanca spoke about how he represents myth-making in the film and what motivates his own construction of mythical space.

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HD: Your main characters are all locals of the town, but otherwise they are all very disparate in age and vocation. How did you meet them and why did you choose to cast each of them?

Miguel Ángel Blanca: When someone arrives at Magaluf with a camera people want to kill them. The tabloid press has done a lot of damage, profiling only the extreme behaviour of tourists. But Magaluf is much more than that and convincing the Magaluf locals that we didn't want to do another tabloid piece was extremely difficult. We spent a long time searching for people who would like to participate in this “game.” We held many auditions to find charismatic people with interesting stories to contribute to our “costumbrism-with-mystery” documentary. Our characters would tell us about life situations or reflections that were interesting, and we would record them the next day in a cinematographic mise-en-scène. The documentary was filmed in a very improvised way and progressed as we got to know the lives of our characters.

HD: You made another documentary Foreign Girl (2015), also about people living in areas of Spain that rely greatly on low-cost tourism. What themes made you want to continue to explore this subject matter in a second feature with Magaluf?

MAB: I shot Foreign Girl out of rage towards tourists. At that time, I lived in downtown Barcelona and my life revolved around escaping “touristification” so much so that I ended up moving to another city. Magaluf Ghost Town was shot out of love and fascination towards a community that has learned to manage living despite being surrounded by tourists. They have created their own reality to survive and have an interesting love-hate relationship towards their environment. Both films were built out of my obsession with self-representation and the construction of fictional spaces. There is so much legend around Magaluf, people think that anything is possible there. But what is Magaluf really? We started from this idea to build a new universe out of a decaying tourist area, with new rules, myths and legends.

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HD: One of your characters, Cheickne, is a young Malian labourer who lives in the home of one of your local characters Tere. Can you talk about the significance of his perspective in this place?

MAB: One of the themes of the film is about how we relate with foreigners. Tourists fly two hours to Magaluf and are instantly drinking cocktails on the beach. Cheickne arrived in Spain after three days roaming the ocean in a boat. He was a survivor searching for any kind of work to help his family in Mali. In the film, this unbalanced and unfair movement of people is brought into question. We also wanted to raise questions in the relationship between Cheickne and Tere: Can love be born from something or someone that you previously feared?

HD: Magical realist elements become more pervasive throughout the film, and Magaluf itself grows as a character that demands respect. Can you talk about why you moved from a largely observational style to a more fictive form of storytelling?

MAB: This question is very important because it raises the question of the narrative style of the film. I wanted to balance the tone of both comedy and mystery, but I also wanted to explore what is true of the Magaluf universe and how to capture it. What is a simulation and how much of it has been created by the media? Like Magaluf town itself, there comes a moment in our film where we no longer know what is true or false. But it doesn't matter because the film is precisely about that: Can a touristic place survive without building a narrative around itself? In my films, the truth does not matter too much. In fact, in life the truth is less and less important. Trying to figure out if the film is a fiction or a documentary is not the point. Our life is a huge lie so that we are able to face reality. Everything is a representation of oneself. Enjoy it.

HD: Can you talk about how you financed the film and how long that journey took?

MAB: It's been a very long process! I came up with the idea four or five years ago and we were very lucky to receive a development fund that allowed us to spend some weeks in Magaluf and meet our main characters. From there, we edited a short clip that helped us present the project at different festivals and markets. They were 2020 Abycine Lanza WIP (Albacete - Spain), XII Miradas Doc Pitching Forum (Tenerife - Spain), DocsBarcelona 2018 - Speed Meetings (Barcelona - Spain), 2019 EDN Docs in Thessaloniki (Thessaloniki - Greece), 2019 Sheffield Doc/Fest Meet Market (Sheffield - UK), Foro Lau Haizetara (Donosti - Spain), and PUSH PLAY Work-in-Progress FIC Xixón (Xixón - Spain).

Movistar+ was the first broadcaster to be involved in the project and after that, we could secure a co-production in the Balearic Islands, as well as in France, which brought other broadcasters to the project. We completed the financing through public funding from Catalunya, as well as from France. It hasn't been an easy ride, but my producers at Boogaloo believed in the project since day one and took all the risks they could afford.

Interview conducted by industry programmer Madelaine Russo.

Categories: Director's Notebook

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