Five things you may not know about 'Alcarràs', the film that won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival

Without professional actors, the film was shot in the town during the peach harvesting season

3 min
Still from 'Alcarràs', by Carla Simón.

Carla Simón has made history with Alcarràs, winner of the golden Bear for Best Film at the Berlin Film Festival. We will still have to wait until the end of April to see it in Catalan cinemas, but we already know a few things...

Who are the main characters?

Alcarràs is set a town in Lleida province and does not follow a single character, as Carla Simón did in Summer 1993 with Frida; it is a more choral film. There is also a change of tone in the acting, since in Alcarràs there are no professional actors, but rather it is the residents and farm workers of this town in Segrià and the surrounding countryside who appear in the film to tell a story about the area. Simón told ARA that during the casting she wanted to find a whole family, but it did not work out and they are all from different villages: "We did a process similar to the one with the girls from Summer 1993: first we met to weave the family relationships by improvising scenes that could have happened before the film. And when we sat down two and a half months later to read the script, they had bonds that they really felt. In fact, now they still call each other as in the film: dad, mum, grandpa...".

How was it shot?

The filming was done during the peach harvesting season, that is to say in summer. It was to be shot in the summer of 2020, but rehearsals had to be interrupted due to coronavirus and the security measures imposed on filming postponed filming until the summer of 2021. The filmmaker is closely linked to this town of just over 9,000 inhabitants in the Segrià, along the Segre river. Her maternal aunt and uncle live there and she spent some summers and Christmases there during her childhood.

What is it about?

It tells the story of a family of farmers who have been famring the same peach orchard for decades. After a last harvest, however, the heir to the land wants to get rid of the trees and install solar panels instead. The owner offers the family work maintaining the panels, but it is not only money that is at stake: it is a way of life and their very identity. As in Summer 1993, the story arises from the director's life circumstances, but not in such a direct way. "My aunt and uncle have been growing peach trees in Alcarràs all their lives," Simón explains. "My adoptive mother is from there and we used to go there for Christmas and summers. And when her grandfather died, I felt the need to value his legacy and I wondered what will happen when all this disappears, which is a question that, with the current state of agriculture, is always on the table. But my uncles did inherit the land; therefore, the story is not as true to reality as Summer 1993".

Carla Simón's filming

Simón shoots among fruit trees and talks about a way of life, but above all she sets her gaze on the family and tries to understand everyone, avoiding Manichaeisms. "I had a great desire to explain what it means to be part of a big family and what happens when many people live in a place where many things happen and emotions have a domino effect", she explained before presenting the film at the Berlin Film Festival. But Simón does not judge anyone and tries to understand everyone's motivations, even that of the new owner who wants to put solar panels on the land. "The man who inherits the land also has the right to ask himself how long his grandfather's agreement has to last," Simón says. "And the fact that they are solar panels poses an interesting dilemma, because solar energy is something that the world also needs."

The relationship with Berlin

This is not the first time that Carla Simón has set foot on the Berlinale stage. It was in the German city that she began to forge the success of Summer 1993, which competed in a parallel section dedicated to youth-themed films. Simón was also welcomed at the Talent Campus when Summer 1993 was only a project. In 2017 it received the film's first awards: best film in the Generation KPlus section and best first film at the festival.