Imagine that in the middle of The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy will take a ‘tripe’ with the tin man, the lion and the scarecrow and they will end up on a bad trip in which their eyes dilate like a cartoon and they even see Michael Jackson on the back of a manta ray. It seems that the previous sentence would have been written by the predictive keyboard of the mobile phone, but no, it is one of the infinite ideas proposed by Paco León in his unclassifiable Rainbow, a modern version and queer of The Wizard of Oz. León makes a triple somersault with his new film, both at a narrative and staging level. He doesn’t always land on his feet, but at least he risks playing to the limit with a title so loose and surreal it’s hard to believe it even exists. He does it thanks to the union of Telecinco Cinema and Netflix, where it will be released on September 30, a week after its arrival in theaters.
The day Paco León challenged the industry and got ahead of the platforms
León changes register in this modern version of the classic where Dorothy is a girl from the suburbs who lives with her father and her dog. Here it is not Dorothy, but Dora, and she is played by Dora Postigo. She runs away to find her mother, and on the way (lysergic trip included) she meets three trompe l’oeils of the scarecrow, the lion and the tin man in the bodies and faces of Weka, Ayax Pedrosa and Luis Bermejo. And the witches of the east and west? Well, some Carmen Machi and Carme Maura unleashed and having a great time with this strange musical destined to divide the public.
It is clear that Paco León is not afraid of anything, not even the classics that many would consider untouchable. Remember that there are many versions of The Wizard of Oz, and some even as crazy as his: “Michael Jackson’s is crazy, incredible. A Motown black movie…impressive.” He says it before dropping the bombshell that, “although he doesn’t look like it,” he wasn’t especially a fan of the movie. “I was looking for a story that would allow me to develop a universe with its own rules and I came across this story, this novel that I read bilingually to practice English and said, this is it. Because it is a story, because it has a female protagonist who is a leader of some outcasts, and because it talks about diversity, about accepting oneself. In short, speeches that are very easy to take on today”, he explains.
Another of the things that he wanted was to jump from his universe stuck to the street to the “land of fantasy”. “I wanted to bring fantasy and realism together, and make a musical that isn’t a musical either. And, above all, that it gave me the opportunity to work with people I admire, which is the driving force behind making this film. It’s almost an excuse to tell this story. It is to be able to work with Dora, to be able to work with Ajax, with Weka, with those make-up artists, to put my children in a scene. Putting in all those collaborations with different artists, from very different disciplines, dancers, choreographers, visual artists and singers… Yes, history is actually an excuse”, he assures with a laugh.
Though Rainbow seems distant from the two films of the Carmina saga and from Kiki, love is made, there is an element common to all of them, freedom. Not only the creative one, but they all deal with freedom of decision, sexual freedom… something that Paco León believes that more than a theme of the novel, it is a theme of his that comes out automatically. “I try to push the limits of freedom. As I am not at all academic and neither is my training, as a director I think that being cinematographically illiterate also gives you audacity. That is why I want to allow myself to do things that are not normally done.”
I try to push the limits of freedom. Since I’m not at all academic and neither am I, as a director I think that also gives you audacity
— Film director
A freedom that does not feel forced, that does not appear in an exercise of tokenism (appearance of diversity to avoid criticism), but it appears naturally. León explains the work that has been done in all departments but makes it clear that, in the end, this diversity comes from reality, which is what really inspires him. “You walk around Lavapiés and you see that, you see a non-binary person, a black man talking to a fat woman, a Chinese woman… And all of that is more in reality than in fiction. I think that if what you see on the street is equated a little with what you see in movies or series, that’s fine. I think it’s surprising that it’s done, but I think it’s quite realistic.”
He says that he wants to escape from “the vindictive”, but his speech and his films always have an activist residue in his desire for freedom. “I run away a bit from the vindictive because it makes me a bit shy, really. But I do want to practice things like that, like diversity or freedom. Things that seem basic to me and that must always be defended and that, although some of us think that it is widely accepted, it is still very necessary to vindicate them. Her Dorothy does it on a car trip where the yellow bricks are the lines of a country road that ends in a party as crazy as the universe of her creator.