Saturday, October 1

Of mud and ashes

I wrote to write. She thought that by smudging pages the miracle would emerge. He still did not know that to write something interesting it is necessary to have lived something interesting; I don’t know if I’m explaining myself, but in literature miracles don’t exist.

Over time I learned that action is the basis of drama and that the basis of action, its core, is conflict. And that the conflict was not going to find him on the way home. The conflict would only come to me if I threw myself to the margins, if I tried to discover the uncertainty of the environment, that is, the impossible measure that there is between life and its place in the world when life is nothing more than a simple commodity whose value is trading down.

Thus I began to direct my steps towards the outskirts, as you leave Madrid, where the atoms of emigration form units of solitude between the countryside and the night, urban molecules that make up the fabric of a continuously expanding map. I searched for the territories where Luis Martín-Santos moved his characters in Time of silence; orchard lands that were cultivated by people who arrived from Jaén, Badajoz, Toledo, Seville, Córdoba and other provinces that were not yet on the maps. Mud streets, shacks without light or water that the emigrants raised with their bare hands at nightfall; a lyrical conquest of which hardly any memory remains today.

That is why Juan Vicente Córdoba made a film on the subject, a fictional documentary or mockumentary that reflects the reality of the outskirts of Madrid through the ages. Is about moon flowers, a film centered on Uncle Raimundo’s Well, although, on closer inspection, it could be set anywhere in the outskirts where the uncertainty of the environment turns life into exchange value. Because all fires are the same fire, as Cortázar would say. Because all clays are the same clay, regardless of La Mina and Caño Roto, Errekaleor and Orcasitas, Somorrostro and La Chanca; urban atoms where their inhabitants are invisible particles in the eyes of power; marginal production units that added together make up cash and that, in times of elections, give votes.

But let’s go back to Uncle Raimundo’s Well, where pride in the collective was transferred to the Christian liturgy by the work and grace of a red priest. Soon, the cause would be forgotten under the chutas; the lumpen and their syringes of blood and poison. It was the eighties that came galloping to put a whole generation under the horse’s hooves. Juan Vicente Córdoba tells it very well in moon flowersa brave documentary that is already a few years old, but that is so fresh that it bites like a freshly painted bench.

For my part, I owe a lot to the outskirts. It was on the outskirts of Madrid where I deserved the stories that I tell today, where my eyes and ears were opened to a music that, until then, I had not paid all the attention it deserved. I’m referring to that suburban rumba, so typical of Madrid, that groups like Los Chorbos, Los Chunguitos or Los Chichos used to do. Until the arrival of the new absorption towns, at the end of the 1950s and beginning of the 1960s, flamenco was cante of fatigue; to work in the blacksmith shop, in the field or in the mine. With Franco’s developmentalism and the mestizaje with other music such as funk or soul, the most rumbero flamenco will change themes. From now on, the lyrics are going to be about buying and selling love, robberies, forced kisses and bridges to bugas.

The rumba is the music that moves the cinema of Juan Vicente Córdoba even in silence. His compass is present in each sequence, in each succession of shots, in each fade. He knows that the documentary to become real, has to incorporate the conflict. And for this, it is necessary to resort to fiction while observing life through a dirty glass, splattered with mud and ash. Perhaps for this reason, Juan Vicente Córdoba’s gaze is always larger than the landscape through which he begins to roll.