Three women live a quiet life amongst the luscious trees of the Canary Islands in the first trailer for Macu Machín’s Berlinale Forum entry “The Undergrowth.” Croatia’s Splitscreen is handling sales on the title.
The title also represents the latest from Tenerife-based El Viaje Films, quickly building as one of the Canary Islands top fiction producers, having co-produced Theo Court’s Chilean Oscar entry “White on White.”
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It was also recently behind titles such as Venice-selected “They Carry Death” and Locarno prize-winning “Dead Slow Ahead.”
Machín’s feature debut is a personal affair, with the filmmaker chronicling the routine of her mother and two aunts as they finally try to settle the distribution of their family inheritance after years of debate. In the background to the family dispute, nature seeps in, the documentary juxtaposing the lulling rhythms of the island with the eruption of long-held grievances between the sisters.
Speaking with Variety ahead of the Berlin Film Festival premiere of “The Undergrowth,” Machín says the idea for the film first arose two decades ago while she was studying documentary in Buenos Aires, the distance from home leading her to reflect on questions of “identity, belonging, and the dynamics of the place where me and my family came from.”
“These women onscreen are my mother and her two sisters,” she continued. “So the conflict of the story, this inability to come to terms with their inheritance, their land and their history, is something that has always been present in my life growing up. I had this need to use film to bring them together, to create this sort of encounter where they could confront each other in a playful manner and address a situation that has been such a big dilemma for a while.”
When commenting on getting so personal for her first feature documentary, the director says it was “difficult” at times, not because of the intimate nature of the story, but because she “wanted the film to be respectful, to come from a place of love and without passing judgement on the people involved.”
Before the film’s world premiere, Machín organised an intimate screening for her family and friends, a priority for the director. “The screening was in La Palma, the island where we filmed, and they all saw it together, cried and laughed together. During the filming process, there were a lot of questions, but they knew I was going to be respectful. In the end, it was a form of catharsis, they could see themselves together and see the playfulness between sisters, almost this childlike play that came out of it — it was a wonderful moment.”
Although the Canary Islands are a popular destination for shooting Hollywood blockbusters the likes of “Fast and Furious 6,” “Jason Bourne” and “Eternals,” films made in the islands by local filmmakers and focusing on the stories and culture of the region are still relatively few.
“I am very lucky to live in the Canary Islands now as a filmmaker after living and studying abroad for many years,” said Machín of making a film at home about the stories and traditions she grew up with.
“There is a whole world out there in the islands with so many stories to tell. There is also a generation of incredibly talented directors from the Islands who are making films about the islands, not just using the territory as a backdrop, including Victor Moreno, David Pantaleón, Samuel M. Delgado….”
“And there are people like me who film from the margins, not just geographically speaking, but the margins of the industry, so it’s really special to have the film show in Berlin, because it’s a way of showcasing the uniqueness of the region and women from the countryside who speak with a specific accent. To be able to share their curiosities and way of life with the world is truly an honour,” Machín added.
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