Once upon a time there was a celebrated short-filmmaker who entered the maelstrom of television and ended up all at sea, both professionally and personally. That was when Elías León Siminiani started to film his life, including a foolish act of love that took him wandering around India for a few months and led him to set the project aside, only to later pick it up again.
Shot from 2008 to 2010, the result is Mapa, an autobiographical documentary released in cinemas on Friday and a nominee in the documentary category at this year’s Goya Awards.
It’s a film that shows the soul of a guy with a sarcastic and liberating sense of humor, who contradicts his onscreen self using a voice that he calls “the Other.” “Everything I tell is 100-percent real,” he says. “Even though I have sought some distance from myself with this character... Well, I’m still struggling to. Time has helped me, because four years have passed since the start. I’m grateful to the two producers who have supported the project over this long period.”
In the movie, Siminiani wheels out his ex-girlfriend and explains how he went to India on the trail of another girl after a song by Matthew Sweet, Walk Out, stirred his soul. There are touches of Wong Kar-Wai, Truffaut and Hitchcock — all references for his generation, which was born at the beginning of the 1970s. “They are hooks thrown out to the public. Because what I want to do is communicate with the viewer, to make the film entertaining,” he says.
What was the biggest challenge he faced? “Knowing where to put myself,” he says. “One of the big dangers was finding the line between what was public and what was private. The presence of the Other broke up the threats that were colliding into each other in the story.”
At its heart, Mapa is a very funny comedy. We can all see ourselves in Siminiani — after all, falling in love with someone who has no idea what they have stirred inside you is an all-too common experience. “Ainhoa, my ex-girlfriend, my friend, has been completely complicit in my feature debut. Regarding Luna [the fictitious name of the girl he followed to India], she twice acted as a filter. The last time, when she saw the finished film. She was affected by what she had aroused within the main character,” he says, using the third person to distance himself.
Siminiani has legions of fans in the film world, including the directors Eduardo Chapero-Jackson, Isaki Lacuesta, Andrés Duque and Daniel Sánchez Arévalo, who appears in the movie. “Elías is neurotic, scatterbrained, a perfectionist to the point of paralysis... and charming,” says the filmmaker.
Having already made a series of documentary shorts that combined fiction and non-fiction, as well as the Goya-nominated El premio, which mixed truths and lies about actress Pilar Castro’s Goya nomination for her role in Sánchez Arévalo’s Gordos, Siminiani says he wants to go on pushing the boundaries. “I would like to continue down that route, combining half fiction with half non-fiction,” he says.