- Isabel CoixetSpanish filmmaker.
Spain’s Ministry of Culture has awarded Spain’s National Cinematography Prize to celebrated filmmaker Isabel Coixet. In 2019, Coixet spoke to Democracy Now! about her work, including her film “Elisa & Marcela.” Her other feature-length films include “My Life Without Me,” “Elegy,” “Learning to Drive” and “The Bookshop.” Her latest TV series is “Foodie Love” on HBO
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.
A stunning new film tells the story of the first recorded same-sex marriage in Spain. It was 1901. Two women, Elisa Sánchez and Marcela Ibeas, are able to pass as a heterosexual couple when Elisa assumes a male identity. This is the film’s trailer.
ELISA SÁNCHEZ: [played by Natalia de Molina] [translated] Dear Marcela, It’s been four weeks, three days and nine hours since I last smelled your scent.
MARCELA IBEAS: [played by Greta Fernández] [translated] Dear Elisa, Some days I imagine myself next to you while you write. This is real, right?
ELISA SÁNCHEZ: [translated] It’s not a dream.
PADRE MARCELA: [played by Francesc Orella] [translated] Who was that with you?
MARCELA IBEAS: [translated] She’s someone from my school. Her aunt is the headmistress.
PADRE MARCELA: [translated] Since you care so much for your education, we’ve decided to send you to a boarding school in Madrid. Where are you going?
MARCELA IBEAS: [translated] Let me go! Let me go!
ELISA SÁNCHEZ: [translated] We have to play along and pretend to be like everyone else. Know what we need to do?
PÁRROCO VICTOR CORTIELLA: [played by Manuel Lourenzo] [translated] I declare you married, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
MARCELA IBEAS: Amen.
CURA DE DUMBRÍA: [played by Roberto Leal] [translated] We’d like to meet your husband.
MARCELA IBEAS: [translated] Don’t pry into our business
POLICE OFFICER: [translated] You’re both under arrest by order of the Portuguese government.
ELISA SÁNCHEZ: [translated] Prison is fine. It’s the outside world I don’t like. We’re not some circus freaks.
ANDRÉS: [played by Tamar Novas] [translated] Open the door!
MARCELA IBEAS: [translated] There’s no way out.
PÁRROCO VICTOR CORTIELLA: [translated] If you’re really a man, prove it.
ELISA SÁNCHEZ: [translated] Don’t do this to me.
MARCELA IBEAS: [translated] What’s going to happen?
AMY GOODMAN: The trailer For Elisa & Marcela. To talk more about the film and its contemporary relevance, we’re joined now by the film’s director, Isabel Coixet. She’s an award-winning Spanish filmmaker from Barcelona. She’s directed 12 feature-length films, including My Life Without Me, Elegy, Learning to Drive, The Bookshop, which won, well, the Spanish equivalent of the Oscar, the Goya, and, most recently, this film, it’s a Netflix film, Elisa & Marcela. In addition to her fiction feature films, and nonfiction, she’s directed several documentaries, including Listening to Judge Garzón, which we will talk about, as well.
It’s great to have you with us, Isabel.
ISABEL COIXET: Thank you. Thanks a lot for having me.
AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about this new film that’s just come out on Netflix. Amazingly, it just popped up on my TV screen, and I sat down at that minute, and I started watching, and I couldn’t stop until it was done.
ISABEL COIXET: You know, I tried to make this film for 10 years. I met a person, a scholar from the University of A Coruña in Galicia, this little part of Spain. And, you know, he was telling me all about, you know, the story of these women that were teachers in rural Galicia in 1901, who managed to get married. And I was like, “What? What do you mean, like married?” Like, you know, the — no, no. One of them really pretended she was a man. And the church, even the bishop of A Coruña, he approved the marriage, and they got married. I have to say, when I saw the picture, the real picture of the marriage, I was completely mesmerized by the story. And I thought, you know, this is very — you know, it was 10 years ago, but it was the same relevance of today, and I really fought to make this story.
The thing is, 10 years ago, every time I was telling a producer or a production company, “You know, it’s this real story about these two women in Galicia who fooled the Catholic Church, and they got really married, with papers and, you know, the benediction and all,” the reaction then was “What a couple of freaks!” That was the reaction. So, I didn’t manage to raise financing until, you know, these producers of Barcelona, they contact Netflix, and Netflix said, “Yeah, sure. Yeah, let’s do it.” And the film is out there now.
AMY GOODMAN: And talk about the response to the film.
ISABEL COIXET: Well, I have to say I never — I mean, after all these films I have done, I never had such a — you know, like women all around the world, I mean, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, especially Brazil, I had letters every day. The actresses are — they had, like, letters, even marriage proposals, too — not me, the actresses. But I think —
AMY GOODMAN: And these are Spanish film — these are Spanish actresses.
ISABEL COIXET: Yeah, they are two — yeah. And Natalia, the one who plays Elisa, the one who transform herself in a man, she’s very well known. She has been in very — in really, really good films. But Greta, Greta Fernández, the actress who plays Marcela, it’s the first time she’s the lead in a film. And I have to say, you know, without their complicity, it was — the film was impossible. I mean, we had like — you know, we have to shoot some sex scenes. And I want to say, the sex scenes, I think, I really tried to film them as knowing that their bodies is the only free territory they have. It’s the only time they can be truly free, is in — you know, is having sex, is in bed, is touching themselves and making love.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go back to the film, to another clip.
ELISA SÁNCHEZ: [played by Natalia de Molina] [translated] It’s not too late for you to live another kind of life, Marcela, one that’s normal.
MARCELA IBEAS: [played by Greta Fernández] Shh! [translated] Quiet. For me, a normal life is with you.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s a clip from Elisa & Marcela, a Netflix film. Isabel Coixet is the director. And I wanted to talk about the way you make films, because, unlike most directors, you film your own features.
ISABEL COIXET: Yeah, I’m the camera operator of all my films, because, for me, is — you know, the camera is an extension of me, and also is — when I’m filming actors and when I’m filming scenes, what I try to be is like a fly on the wall, like at the same time being there and not being there. And I found, for me, it’s much easier to do it myself than, you know, explain to someone else what I want. And also, I have to say, I’m not — you know, I’m not good to seeing things like in distance. So, you know, when you are in the monitor, like far away from the actors, I always think there is something missing. But I think the other director who does that is Steven Soderbergh, and I really like how he explores intimacy in his films.
So, at the same time, you know, every director, they choose their path to do what they want. For me, it’s easier to being behind a camera. And now it’s just — you know, as you can see, I’m a little unbalanced, because, you know, the camera is heavy. But it’s fine. I manage. And I love to do it. I really love to do it. And even if, you know, sometimes it’s tiring, but I love it.
AMY GOODMAN: Isabel, when did you first pick up a camera?
ISABEL COIXET: I think — I don’t know. It was a Super 8 camera. And I was like 8, 9, probably 8, yeah. And I always wanted to be a filmmaker, and I knew I was going to be one.
AMY GOODMAN: And what was your first film?
ISABEL COIXET: My first first? I remember, you know, I read this interview with Tarantino, and he was saying, “No, I have to make a film before Orson Welles make, you know, Citizen Kane when he was 24,” no? Well, I was 24 when I did a feature film, but that was a disaster. I don’t want — I learned a lot. At least I learned the things I don’t have to do. But I learned. And then, seven years later, I did my second first film. It was Things I Never Told You. It’s a film with Lili Taylor, Seymour Cassel and Andrew McCarthy, a film I did in Oregon. And I consider that my really first film.
AMY GOODMAN: You’re wearing a T-shirt that says “Destroying the patriarchy.”
ISABEL COIXET: It’s in honor. It’s in your honor. I had another option saying
“We are all immigrants.” But I don’t know. I think, you know, for Elisa & Marcela, it’s much better, the “Destroy the patriarchy.”
AMY GOODMAN: So, back to this film, that has just come out. Back to Elisa & Marcela. Tell us further their story. This is the true story of these two women —
ISABEL COIXET: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: — more than a century ago —
ISABEL COIXET: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: — in Spain. They get legally married because Elisa poses as a man.
ISABEL COIXET: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: She’s not trans.
ISABEL COIXET: No.
AMY GOODMAN: But she poses as a man so they can get married.
ISABEL COIXET: Yeah. The thing is, you know, there are a bunch of theories. And in gender studies, there is even a whole course in Elisa and Marcela in A Coruña University. Some people say — some historians say she was a hermaphrodite. I don’t think so. I really don’t think so. You know, I think I’ve seen every single piece of document and press and legal paperwork at that time, and there is not a single witness saying she really was a hermaphrodite.
What I like about the story is how — and also, when you see these little places where these women, they were teaching, to kids from, you know, children of shepherds and people who live in really isolated places, it’s a miracle. You think how brave they were. And also, you know, how their story was in the cover all the papers at that time. And you can see, you know, from the Spanish press to the French press to the American press, every time the story was, you know, opening, the meaning and the interpretation of the story were changing. I mean, they even — they were accused of — Elisa was accused of domestic violence against Marcela. I read like, you know, a million, a million papers about it.
AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about why it was known at the time, how they were discovered, because at the time they married, as you said, the priest did not know they weren’t a heterosexual couple, at least as far as we know.
ISABEL COIXET: No. Elisa stole the papers of a cousin who was dead, who was drowned in, you know, nearby Liverpool. And she stole his papers and the personality of that cousin, and they fooled the church. I have to say, the thing is, they come back to the place where they were teachers. They they come back to the same, you know, little village. And, you know, the village, the moment they set foot there, they knew, you know, Elisa wasn’t Mario, Elisa was Elisa. So, the thing is, three days after, they had to —
AMY GOODMAN: Because she came back as a man.
ISABEL COIXET: Yeah, yeah. But, you know, you can see — you know, if you see the — at the end of the film, we show the picture, the real picture of their marriage. And, you know, she’s — she can be — you know, she can be trans, she can be a guy, she can be a woman posing as a guy. She was a girl. She was a woman.
But they came back to the same place. Their plan was going to Argentina. At that time, also, if a couple was married, they can have permission and money for the trip. So, the marriage was a way to being together and also to escape to another country where nobody will know about them. But, you know, they were discovered before that, and then they ran away to Porto, to Portugal. And then they stopped them there. They put them in prison. From that moment on, we know Marcela was pregnant. The origin of that baby, we don’t know. We don’t know who’s the father. We don’t know if the baby was like an alibi to make the couple believable. But the thing is, she gave birth to a baby, a girl, in prison. And after that, we know they escaped to Argentina. And after that, you know, we don’t really know what happened — when they die, how they die. They were together. They keep being a couple.
So, I decide, you know, this is a film. This is not, you know, a historical document, a documentary. So, you know, I wrote what I want for them. And for me, also it was really important to give them a happy — I don’t want to say a happy ending, but some kind of hope. You know, you see all these films about, you know, the female marriages or lesbian marriages. They always end so bad. And I didn’t want that. I don’t want that. Please, you know. Some people, they can find a way to live together. And I really was against these kind of sad and cruel endings for a marriage between two women, really. I want some kind of hope at the end, some light at the end of the tunnel.
AMY GOODMAN: You got enormous acclaim for The Bookshop. You won the Goya, the Spanish equivalent of the Oscars. Talk about what it’s like to make a film in the wake of that, and what it was also, the story of The Bookshop, the trajectory of your work.
ISABEL COIXET: Let’s say if — you know, if I choose to do Fast and the Furious number 18, my life will be easier. That’s not — as fun as it is. You know, I always am fascinated by stories who, you know, for me, are really relevant and mesmerizing. But for people who produce films, maybe they are not.
So, The Bookshop is a very simple story. It’s a novel by Penelope Fitzgerald, a British author I worship. She’s not very well known in the States, but she’s kind of a very cult figure in England. She wrote a story of a woman, Florence Green, who wants to open a little bookshop in a little town. And she thinks, you know, “This is going to be fun, and it’s going to be a great thing. And people, you know, they will — they can find Lolita. They can find all the books. They can find other places in my little bookstore.” And then, you know, it’s the beginning of a little tragedy, but a tragedy.
And I think, for me, Florence Green is — I always say, you know, it’s like, Flaubert said, ”Madame Bovary, c’est moi”: Florence Green, it’s me. It’s someone trying to make the films with things that are relevant, and not Fast and the Furious number 18.
AMY GOODMAN: So often, you have women at the center of your film.
ISABEL COIXET: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about —
ISABEL COIXET: As I should.
AMY GOODMAN: Which all people should, but they don’t always do it. I mean, you are really considered the best known of a generation of women filmmakers in Spain. And what that means? I mean, you really paved the way.
ISABEL COIXET: You know, one of the things I feel most proud is, you know, there are a bunch of young filmmakers who thought, you know, when they were 14, “Oh, I want to be a filmmaker.” And at least they have someone from their own country to look up. For me, that someone was Agnès Varda. I remember, you know, in the cinematheque in Barcelona watching Cléo from 5 to 7 and thinking, “Wow! She’s a woman! She did it! I can do it, too!”
And I think it’s — I don’t know what that means, what — you know, the thing you asked. But it’s true, you know, every time — every time I go to a film school, and you see — and lately you see 60% of female students and then 40%. And then I don’t know what happened. And I try — the only thing I try is, like, you can do it. Like, OK, you want to have kids and all this, you know, these family things, you know, you can do it, too. But if you really want to be a filmmaker, just don’t — you know, do it. Do it.
AMY GOODMAN: In fact, didn’t you start your film career as you were having your baby Zoe?
ISABEL COIXET: I started before. And then I remember, you know, doing my third film when my baby was 6 months old. And that, I don’t — I can’t recommend that. But, you know, you have —
AMY GOODMAN: Especially because you were carrying the camera, as well.
ISABEL COIXET: Yeah, that was a lot to carry, and the baby. But, you know, you got to do what you got to do. You know, it’s not easy. No, it’s not. But, you know, films are a passion. Films are a virus. And if you have that virus, just go for it. I mean, I think every time I am on a set with actors, you know, I take a minute, and I see that, and I see the cameras and the lighting and all these people working with the same goal, and I think I’m a very, very privileged person,
AMY GOODMAN: You have credited John Berger as influencing your work in a deep way. Explain who he is and how he influenced you.
ISABEL COIXET: John Berger is a — well, he died two years ago. He’s the author of, for me, one of the most important art essays of all times. It’s Ways of Seeing. Ways of Seeing, it’s one of these books, when — you know, when you’re starting to really trying to understand the world, and at the same time, you know, to be aware of how art can explain the world. For me, this is a book I always — there are two books I always recommend, is the Letters of a Young Poet of Rilke and Ways of Seeing. With these two books, I think you cover — at least you expand your way to see the world and to try to understand the world.
John has done — you know, he’s famous for G., an amazing novel, who won the Man Booker Prize. And he was famous because he gave the money of that novel, that prize, to the Black Panthers. At that time in England, everybody was like really — you know, all the press was against him. So he moved to France. And he has brought poetry, art essays. He paints. He paint. He draw. He was — and also, it’s one of the persons I — one of the artists I met with, really teach me what means empathy.
I remember, eight years ago, he went to Gaza, and I met him in Paris after he came back from Gaza. And the way he not just explained the suffering, the situation, the how people go for all those controls. The way he described also the look of fear of a Israeli from the army, or the Israel army soldier, a guy — I remember he wrote a little poem about that, a guy who was probably 18. And the way he really conveyed the situation of the Palestinians, and also the fear, the hatred and the cruelty, it was — for me, that was a lesson, no? Like, you can be — you can be critical, but also you can see what these people are feeling. And these two things, they can give you what’s really going on in a specific place in the world. And that’s something. It’s in all his — you know, all his poems. And every single thing, you know — now when we talk — people talk about cultural appropriation, no? I’ve seen John, you know, in the middle of a herd of sheeps — sheep, with a shepherd. And I’ve seen him helping him to shave the sheeps — the sheep. And that guy, who was able to talk about Spinoza, Leonardo da Vinci, Orson Welles and a poor family in Gaza, can — it had a place there, too, you know, like, that capacity of empathy.
I remember also him in a prison, in the female prison in Barcelona. I remember we invited him to give a poetry reading. And, you know, it’s very difficult to translate his poems in Spanish, but we had a very good translator. The way he was reading his poems to that, you know, these Dominican, Spanish, poor women with babies in that prison, and the way he was able to communicate her his love and his sympathy and his warmth to them was something I will never forget that. That’s how — that’s how an artist must be. This is as my model. I don’t know if — you know.
AMY GOODMAN: And how do you translate that into holding that camera, for example, with Elisa & Marcela, with The Bookshop?
ISABEL COIXET: Yeah, I know maybe it sounds naive, but it’s love, no? For me, it’s — for me, it’s crucial, first of all, working with my crew. I mean, they are like — they are amazing people, and I’ve been working with the same DP for ages. In the case of Elisa & Marcela, the DP is a female DP, Jennifer Cox. Elisa & Marcela is her first film as a DP.
AMY GOODMAN: Director of photography.
ISABEL COIXET: The director of photography, yes. But with the actors, I really know — you know, I have to be with people I like, I respect and I love. And I have to be — I know I have to be — it comes naturally for me. I have to be humble, generous and open. And at the same time, I have to be like a mother and like the General Patton. So, you know, that’s how I can describe it, I think. But it’s important, you know. I think when you hold a camera for so many years, you know when someone will do something. You can guess what — how they’re going to move, what they’re going to do. And you can go with them. And I always try to be their mirror and, at the same time, their witness. And it’s — you know, it’s passionate. I mean, I highly recommend it.
AMY GOODMAN: So, you have made 12 feature films. You’ve also made a number of documentaries, and one of them is Listening to Judge Garzón. Tell us who Judge Garzón is and what happened to him, and what this means about what’s happening in Spain today.
ISABEL COIXET: I think one of the most important things Baltasar Garzón did was in 1998. He was the guy who sent a fax to a judge in London. He knew General Pinochet, the Chilean dictator, was in London to do some kind of operation. And he was working with the victims of the dictatorship, the Chilean dictatorship. And he realized he had the tool to at least make that guy, the General Pinochet, being — you know, he had the way to stop him in London and to put him in prison for — in a trial. And he was the guy who sent a fax to start, you know, at least this — you know, the last years of Pinochet. OK, sadly, he was — you know, he died before being in a trial, but at least the last years he was considered a criminal. And I think that’s a victory for universal justice.
At the same time, in Spain, he was accused of doing, you know, illegal hearings of people who were in prison. And also he was accused to take bribes from a bank to do a cycle of talks in New York. I have to say, I didn’t — you know, I never met him before. But every year — every day I was opening the paper, there was all these horrible things about him. And there was something I —
AMY GOODMAN: And this was a guy — I mean, Judge Garzón was considered a hero in the world —
ISABEL COIXET: Yeah, yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: —for having Pinochet arrested —
ISABEL COIXET: Yeah, exactly.
AMY GOODMAN: — in Spain — in Britain. He was held there for a long time, ultimately went back. And though he died, it exposed the brutality of the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile.
ISABEL COIXET: Yeah. And, you know, this guy was — Baltasar Garzón was a champion of universal justice. But, you know, in Spain, there was all these comments about how he really had a big ego, and he was this guy with a — it was their — you know, they were trying to mock up all the things, all the good things he did, in name of vanity, ego, all this thing, you know? For me, all this was, people have egos, yeah, and vanity. What are we going to do? But what’s the relevance of that?
What he did and what he started, what he stand for, for me, was incredible. And I want him to — I want him to talk and to give his version of what was going on. And, you know, I try — because I worked with his daughter. I never met him, but I know his daughter. And I said, you know, “María, do you think Baltasar will — Baltasar Garzón will talk to me? I really want to make a documentary on him?” And she said, “No, he” — at that time, I think he thought that all these accusations were not going further. But when he sees, you know, this is going, you know, this is serious, and —
AMY GOODMAN: And these accusations are coming at him when he’s not taking on Pinochet, for which he was hailed —
ISABEL COIXET: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: — a dictator from another country —
ISABEL COIXET: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: — but when he was taking on the Franco era in Spain.
ISABEL COIXET: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: And for those outside of Spain, who don’t understand how significant this is and what this divide is, I mean, it goes to the far right throughout Europe and even in the United States.
ISABEL COIXET: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: But what you do with not just Franco, who is dead, who reigned for almost — what? — 40 years, the fascist —
ISABEL COIXET: Forty.
AMY GOODMAN: — in Spain, but all of the people who worked with him and the crimes they committed?
ISABEL COIXET: Yeah, and Baltasar, one of the things he did was, there were a bunch of — quite a lot of people who want the remains of their people who died in the war. They are asking for these remains. They’re asking for the right to look for them. And Baltasar was, “Yeah, yeah.” Baltasar legitimized that wish. And that’s also — you know, it’s something —
AMY GOODMAN: You mean, for all the disappeared in Spain —
ISABEL COIXET: For all the disappeared in the war, in the civil war.
AMY GOODMAN: — who were killed under Franco.
ISABEL COIXET: All these things together, though this is a very — it’s a very tragic combination of things. He was convicted, and he’s not a judge anymore. And one of the things it always struck me when I see him, and he doesn’t have a hint of hatred in him, of bitterness. This is someone, right now — OK, he’s not a judge, but he’s working. He’s doing talks. He has a foundation. He’s doing everything he can right now. He’s really — you know, for instance, one week ago, he wrote a very nice article about Open Arms, the ship who is now trying to rescue people in the Mediterranean.
AMY GOODMAN: Migrants.
ISABEL COIXET: This is someone who said, “OK” — you know, for me, I always think, you know, if someone says, “You’re not a director, a film director, anymore,” I will — I don’t know. I don’t know what I will do. At that moment, he never — you know, of course, he’s trying, through the international tribunals, to get back to be a judge. I think that will happen. Maybe it will happen when he’s 70, and, you know, maybe he will not be a judge anymore. But he is someone who, after all what happened to him, all these horrible campaigns, political and social and very — you know, it’s a little bit like the affair Dreyfus in France 80 years ago. He said, “OK, I’m not a judge, but I’m going to do anything — I’m going to use all my knowledge, all my know-how, to help people.” You know, he was working on the Assange case. He’s working in Colombia. He is really doing what he can. And that’s something. You know, not a bunch of people will react that way. I think he’s a really — a very, very valuable person. And it’s very sad he’s not a judge anymore. We need more like Garzón.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about what’s happening in Catalonia today? You’re very outspoken on this.
ISABEL COIXET: Today. Today.
AMY GOODMAN: Not exactly on this day that we’re doing the interview, but what’s happening now?
ISABEL COIXET: What’s happening now? What’s happening now is, you know, a part of — Catalonia is a part of Spain. I think we are like 7 million people now, or six and a half. I don’t know. That, I don’t know. It’s a part of a country.
AMY GOODMAN: Barcelona has a part of that.
ISABEL COIXET: Well, Barcelona is like the capital of Catalonia. I think what is happening now is we are a very divided, you know, situation. Half of the population thinks we’ll be better if we are independent, and half of the population, like me, think this is a very bad idea. The thing is, the narrative has been kidnapped by the people who thinks independence is a good idea. And that’s what we should be, independent. But this is not a really fair debate, because a bunch of money has been spent in PR, in embassies outside Catalonia, in universities, to extend the idea we are an oppressed population and Madrid is the devil. There is this idea created by the independence. It’s ”España nos roba.” That means “Spain is stealing from us.”
AMY GOODMAN: It’s the richest area of Spain.
ISABEL COIXET: And the Basque Country, too. And the Basque Country and Catalonia — probably now the Basque Country is richer, probably because they renounced to their dream of independence. But listen, there are a bunch of people who think this is something socially progressive. Me, I don’t think independence is something who will make the life of people in Catalonia better. I think it’s exactly the opposite.
AMY GOODMAN: You consider yourself a socialist?
ISABEL COIXET: Yes, always.
AMY GOODMAN: And so, why don’t you think it would make the — it would make the area better to be independent?
ISABEL COIXET: Because, you know, there is this — nationalism is something who comes from nostalgia. We’re seeing now in all around Europe, even here, this idea of “We were great once. And, you know, if we keep doing what we do, that greatness will disappear.” It’s the concept of Brexit. Brexit is the idea of England was pure and great once, and the contamination of immigrants and Europe will — it’s diminishing our entity.
Well, I don’t think — I mean, for me, all these ideas are devoid — are empty of a real social content. What is — when you talk with people who really think — you know, there are people who, like, genuinely think, you know, this is better for the people, this is better for everyone. But there is not a plan. If you ask all these independent countries, “What’s your social model?” they don’t have one. And you can — you know, we have seen it in the last past elections, in the last past three elections. What is the plan? You want independence. That’s what — that’s the only thing you’re proposing. But independence for what?
AMY GOODMAN: You don’t necessarily think it would be progressive, an independent Catalonia?
ISABEL COIXET: I think it will be absolutely the opposite. It will be non-progressive, because it’s not. You remember that sentence of El Gatopardo, that film — well, no, it’s a novel before. At the end of that film, of that novel, there is this thing: Something has to change for everything to continue like it is. I think independence is just a smoke curtain to — you know, for people who really detain the power, these — the 25 families in every country that really are powerful to keep — you know, to keep owning the power.
And, you know, it’s very — but at the same time, I know there are people who are really — you know, they have this pride, proud of being Catalonia. But I have to always remind people, you know, in Catalonia, the schools are in Catalan, all the streets, all the legal documents. If you compare, you know, the Germany, Catalonia has much more power than any other federal states in Germany. And I don’t — I never — talking with people, independent people, I never — I never go past to “We’re Catalan. We’re better.” Nobody’s better than anyone.
AMY GOODMAN: The significance of Ada Colau ultimately winning as mayor again? Although it looked like she was losing, she formed a coalition, and she won. What it means for her to be mayor of Barcelona once again?
ISABEL COIXET: I think it’s a relief. You know, talking about nostalgia. No, I remember, you know, four years ago, when Ada was elected, and Manuela Carmena, the mayor of Madrid, was elected.
AMY GOODMAN: Also a socialist.
ISABEL COIXET: And Anne Hidalgo was, you know — is the mayor of Paris. I had the privilege to meet this these three woman. And I thought, you know, if these three women were really getting the power in the world, the world will be a better place. Manuela Carmena is not — sadly, is not the mayor of Madrid anymore. Ada have another opportunity, another four years, and I really hope — she comes from — you have talked to her. She comes from an activist background. And I thought, I feel, I hope —
AMY GOODMAN: The famous picture of her being dragged by police —
ISABEL COIXET: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: — protesting yet another foreclosure.
ISABEL COIXET: That was one of the first mayors in Europe to put in the town hall a poster saying, you know, “Refugees welcome.” And that gives you an idea who she is and the things she stands for. And the things she stands for are the things I stand for, too. So, you know, being mayor just for four years, it’s not enough. You know, Barcelona is a big city with lots of, lots of promise, social problems, the tourist invasion. And at the same time, I mean, people live from the tourism, and also the tourism is destroying part of the core of the city. And she has four years to do good, and I hope she does.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, you just wrapped up another project, before you came to New York from Barcelona.
ISABEL COIXET: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain what it is.
ISABEL COIXET: It’s a project I developed for HBO called Foodie Love. And it’s —
AMY GOODMAN: Foodie Love.
ISABEL COIXET: Foodie Love. And it’s — you know, it’s a love story. It’s a story of an app called Foodie Love, and people who really are foodies, like me, you know, that kind of people who goes — you know, they go to Queens because there is a place there where they have like amazing Turkish pizza. So, it’s a story of two people — you know, she’s 36, he’s 38 — you know, the kind of people who they have lived a lot, they have all kind of love stories, and how they connect through food, no? The first date is a coffee, and then there is a cocktail, and then there is a ramen place. And we shoot in Barcelona and the south of France, in Tokyo and in Rome. And it’s very romantic and very — I don’t know. I had a blast. I have to say, I had a blast doing this.
I was — also, I have to say, the two actors are amazing. It’s something — you know, something like this project, with lots also with intimate scenes, if you have two actors who are like afraid to expose themselves, it’s kind of difficult. But Laia Costa, she’s a very well-known actress for a film called Victoria. It’s a film, a German film, made in one shot. And Guillermo Pfening, who is — he had the prize in the Tribeca Film Festival with the film Nobody’s Watching. And these two actors really, really connect. They are very — it’s a pleasure watching them work. And let’s see. I’m editing now.
AMY GOODMAN: And when is it coming out?
ISABEL COIXET: In December, in HBO.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, thank you so much for spending this time. Welcome back to the United States. We’ve been speaking with Isabel Coixet, award-winning Spanish filmmaker from Barcelona. Her films include My Life Without Me, Elegy, Learning to Drive, The Bookshop, for which she won the Spanish Goya, and, most recently, the Netflix film, which you can get now just by turning on Netflix, Elisa & Marcela. In addition to her feature films, she’s directed a number of documentaries, including Listening to Judge Garzón. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.