The Spain of yesteryear: ‘El camino’, a tribute to Ana Mariscal

Picture of the movie El camino (The path) © Bosco Films


Pioneer of Iberian cinema, Spanish actress, director, screenwriter and producer Ana Mariscal directed ten films that were as non-conformist as they were visually splendid. Cannes Classics pays tribute to her by screening El Camino (The Path). Interview with her son, David García Rodríguez, who presents the restored copy of the film released in 1963.

Your mother was a producer under Franco, at a particularly conservative time in Spain: how did she manage to make it as a woman? 

My mother already had a long career as an actress behind her when she decided, together with my father who was her boyfriend at the time, to produce her own project. It was a project that today would be classified as "independent film", far from the grandiloquent cinema that was then the norm in the Spanish film industry.

Once the project was underway, my mother considered getting behind the camera. She always told me that this had been a natural decision for her, without her being female influencing the decision. However, when she was filming, she brought a very feminine vision to her work.

How did she actually produce her films?

The projects were financed by family and friends. My mother and my father Valentín Javier were partners, they decided together on projects and investments. You have to remember the legal limitations that existed in Spain at the time, a woman could not sign contracts and carry out transactions so easily. So my father was mainly in charge of the financial aspect, and my mother handled the relations with the administration and the media, the casting, the script, the music, the shooting locations…

El Camino is a realistic film by choice but also for financial reasons. Everything was shot in a natural setting: the streets and houses of Madrid, atmospheric lighting and nothing else… In my opinion, it's a great film, but it's one of those independent projects that didn't find a distributor because it wasn't considered commercial enough, with an inappropriate theme. It was never screened in cinemas.

When you were a child, did you realise how exceptional your mother's life and personality was?

Not really, but it's true that while my friends' mothers were making snacks at home, mine was travelling a lot, keeping odd hours and sometimes appearing on TV…. I used to go to film locations a lot, it was a fascinating world for a child, even though the days could stretch out endlessly My childhood and adolescence were as difficult as they were exciting, as you might expect with a child of actors.

Can you tell us about El Camino?

I have vivid memories of the filming locations in Candelada en Ávila when I was only three years old. Miguel Delibes' gripping novel, El Camino, tells the story of the protagonist's last days of happy childhood as he prepares to leave his village to study in the city. The film reflects this story, the idealised memory of a Spanish village in the 1960s, the landscapes, the daily life, its inhabitants… And on top of all that, a splendid cast of actors…