Rodrigo Sorogoyen

Long live the Spanish thriller

11/12/2019 · By Rosario Fernández
rodrigo sorogoyen openning
Director Rodrigo Sorogoyen releases his new full-length film ‘Mother’ this month. © Alfredo Arias

After the success of his Oscar-nominated short film 'Mother' (Madre), Rodrigo Sorogoyen releases his feature film with the same name on November 15, while preparing his new series 'Antidisturbios' [Antiriot police]. We managed to steal a few moments from his busy schedule to talk to him about his experience in Hollywood, new projects and his next adventure on the small screen.

He wrote the short Mother as a single scene. But, without meaning to, Rodrigo Sorogoyen (Madrid, 1981) knew that there was room for a full-length film. “I had a few ideas about how the story could continue”, he assures us. Mother, the feature film, had already come to life when the short was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film. He even went to Hollywood with his team to attend the great international film gala. The director describes that experience as “madness that I enjoyed. With passion and astonished unawareness, I inhabited a world that doesn’t have much to do with me, but that I came into contact with briefly”.

The film, which will premiere on November 15, follows up the multi-award-winning short film (more than one hundred national and international awards, including the Goya and Forqué awards), shot in 19 minutes in a single long take. During the film, the audience feels the anguish of a mother, Elena—superbly played by Marta Nieto—, when she receives an odd call from her son Iván, who is spending a few days with his father at the beach on the French Atlantic coast. The boy is alone, his mobile is running out of battery and Elena rushes to find him. The story that follows, presented at the Venice Film Festival and which will open the Seville European Film Festival, is hard (or impossible) to predict because, contrary to what might be expected, this isn’t a traditional thriller about a character looking for someone who has gone missing. As the director himself tells us, “this film doesn’t belong to a specific genre, it is something seldom seen in Spanish cinema”.

So, Mother, the full-length film, occurs a decade later. Elena lives on the French beach where her son disappeared, working as the manager of a restaurant, and trying to overcome the loss of her son. But, one day, a teenager appears who could well be her son Iván. The film is written by Sorogoyen and Isabel Peña, his usual co-writer, whom the director himself defines as “my best friend, my team and my passport to happiness, someone whom I don't want to and can’t be separate from”. This shoot, including actors Àlex Brendemühl and Jules Porier, has been the best the director has ever experienced. “Being away from home for four weeks, shooting in a magical place like Las Lanzas (France), with those endless beaches, breathing in the fresh air, is one of the best things that has happened to me”. After the intensity of The Realm and May God Save Us, Sorogoyen fancied “filming something smaller, more emotional and intimate” and, somehow, “returning to my roots with Stockholm”, the debut that put him under the spotlight around 2013.

As he explains, each film “comes from a need”. So, after co-directing his first film 8 Dates with Peris Romano, came the crime thriller May God Save Us, with Antonio de la Torre as leading actor, a film that received six Goya nominations. Next to nothing. Then came The Realm, whose main theme was Spanish corruption and which received, among other awards, seven Goya Awards and five Feroz awards.

Only six years have passed between his solo debut as the director of Stockholm and his last film, Mother. But before this, this native of Madrid with a History degree from Complutense University of Madrid, who studied film screenwriting at Digital Television Film School Madrid Septima Ars and ECAM (School of Cinematography and Audiovisual of the Community of Madrid), began his career as a TV screenwriter in 2008, for Impares on Antena 3. He has also written scripts for other series, such as RabiaFrágiles or La pecera de Eva.

Film and TV have always been a part of Sorogoyen’s career, who confirms that “unlike years ago, currently, there are hardly any differences between filming for one media outlet or the other. Both fields have received a surge of money and professionals, something I find extremely positive”. In fact, the filmmaker is currently immersed in his first fiction series, Antidisturbios, created with Isabel Peña, which focuses on the lives of an antiriot squad. This thriller will consist of six episodes lasting 50 minutes produced by Movistar+ and featuring a cast lead by Raúl Arévalo, Roberto Álamo, Hovik KeuchkerianÁlex García and Vicky Luengo. A project that, according to Sorogoyen himself, is based on “Roberto Álamo’s character in the film May God Save Us”.

Travelling, not only through the films of his favourite directors, such as Charles Chaplin, Orson Welles, Stanley Kubrick or Paul Thomas Anderson, is another of Sorogoyen’s true passions. He confides in us that if he hadn’t worked in film, he would have become a travel photographer. “I would love to shoot in South America, in places like Chile or Argentina, especially in La Pampa”. He also tells us a spoiler about a potential future project: “I have a film in mind that I want to shoot on a Greek island”. We’ll be on his tail...