“El Agua”, the captivating legendary cinema of Elena Lopez Riera


Spanish cinema is doing well, as evidenced by the sheer volume of films by young directors – Jonas Trueba, Carla Simon, winner of the Golden Bear at the Berlinale in February, with AlcarrasIsaki Lacuesta… –, some of whom followed in the footsteps of José Luis Guerin in the early 2000s. We can now add the name of Elena Lopez Riera, whose first feature film, El Agua, presented at the Directors’ Fortnight, is truly enchanting. This film, competing for the Camera d’or – where each year a first work is awarded – covers an entire region, that of Valence where the filmmaker grew up, with its farmland to be artificially irrigated, its orange and lemon trees. , his summer ritual of releasing pigeons (documented in an earlier short film, Los que deseanin 2018) and its overflowing rivers, which have carried a sulphurous legend with them since the dawn of time.

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No one claims to have the truth of the story, but here are the key points: Women would disappear in the wake of floods, the water would penetrate their bodies and drag them away forever. This popular belief inhabits the young actors in the film, most of them non-professionals, as women from the surrounding villages testify in front of the camera and each give their version of the story, in a documentary mode. Water tells of the ancestral fears passed down from generation to generation, but also of the masonry gestures that pass from hand to hand and from father to son to protect the walls of houses from flooding. Water is everywhere, indomitable: it depends on the level of the crops, the income of the farmers, life and death, etc.


From this quasi-anthropological material, which could have been cumbersome or too academic, Elena Lopez Riera weaves a half real, half fantastic story, co-written with critic Philippe Azoury. As for the heroine, Ana (Luna Pamies), let’s just say she’s like a fairy: the young actress was spotted and cast at a village festival, and she performs miracles, her attraction makes it part of the phantasmagoria of the story. It’s summer, Ana works in her mother’s bar, single, has a good relationship with her grandmother, from whom she likes to hear fragments of stories about her life, her loves. Was she happy? Living, planning, is not easy.

Luna Pamies, who plays the fairytale heroine Ana, was spotted and cast at a village party

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