Pilar Palomero’s second feature film “La Maternal” had its world premiere on Tuesday in the main competition at the Spanish film festival of San Sebastián. The Spanish filmmaker, who won Goyas for Best Picture, Best New Director and Best Original Screenplay with her debut film “Las Niñas”, produced as “La Maternal” by Valérie Delpierre at Inicia Films, returns to the Basque Country Festival with another invigorating work that explores the girl’s challenges and joys.
“I never made the decision to focus explicitly on girls,” Palomero says. “I think it’s a coincidence that both are about young women, but I think there’s something in me that I’m not aware of that leads me to this topic.”
In ‘La Maternal’, sold by Elle Driver, Palomero focuses on teenage mothers in Barcelona and the social attitudes that condemn them. 14-year-old Carla leaves the house when she discovers she is pregnant and ends up in a specialized shelter for young girls and their children. It’s a story based on the real life of many of the actors, non-professionals who, according to the filmmaker, “were really eager to be in the movie because they really wanted to explain their stories. They felt the need to say ‘hey, I’ve lived this, but it’s not how you think it is’. While the script isn’t based on their exact experiences, Palomero says she used a mix of her own research and things the cast told her to build the story. Improvisation was also an important facet of the filmmaking process.
“I realized that I knew nothing about this reality and I was a bit ashamed of myself,” says the filmmaker. “I was aware that a lot of what I knew was based on prejudice, and the truth is that when I met these women, I fell in love with them and their life experiences. I could have made a movie about any of them.”
Carla Quílez, a dancer who plays young Carla in her first film role, was invited to a casting after she was spotted by the casting director on Instagram. “I was amazed when I saw her,” Palomero says. “She is very young, but when she dances, she becomes a woman. I felt she had all the energy I was looking for in the role of Carla, which is based on a real girl who isn’t in the movie.” It was important that Carla really looked like a young teenager, not a ‘ 16-year-old who could pass for 20″ so that the public would better understand how childish she is and how difficult her situation is as a result.
As a filmmaker, Palomero is excited about the chance to travel the festival circuit with the film, something COVID-19 prevented her from doing with “school girls.” However, the pandemic gave her time to work on the script for “La Maternal” instead. Finding funding for the project proved to be a smooth process following the success of the first film and its growing status in the Spanish film industry. The director stands alongside other emerging filmmakers such as Carla Simón (“Alcarras”) and Carlota Pereda (“Piggy”) as a new guiding light for the country’s cinema.
While the film was not made with activist intent, Palomero hopes the film will “provoke reflection in Spain on sex education and abortion laws.” “To me, all the girls I’ve met are heroines. They’re brave, it’s amazing what they do, but it’s too hard for teenagers to live like that. It is a real problem for our society that this is a reality.”