Miguel G. Morales: “The artist must touch society with his work”

He arrived in Manrique from Saramago. At that time, Miguel G. Morales was a young director from Televisión Canaria, who arrived in Lanzarote with Juan Cruz and a mobile unit to broadcast an interview with the Nobel Prize winner for literature: “He asked him about Manrique; they never met (they did meet on the phone, but they did not coincide on the island) and Saramago gave a vision of Manrique that I had never seen before. I realized that everything I had been taught as a child was just brush strokes and I was fascinated by his words.”

He assures that many of his first works arose from the rage of discovering extraordinary stories that no one had previously told him about: he learned in Madrid, studying film aesthetics, that André Breton was in Tenerife and wrote the starry castle and from rage was born Isolated. The essence of a spirit; he discovered the great figures of Canarian art and the origins of his career of long hours in front of the archive emerged. Thus, from the rage of what was left in the shadow were also born Maud, the two that crossabout Maud Bonneaud, together with Teresa Correa, On the wing of sleepabout Juan Ishmael, A light on the island, by Domingo Pérez Minik. Even with everything, the filmmaker assures that in these first works he had not yet found the look he was looking for.

With Saramago’s words in mind, Miguel G. Morales began to play with the idea that chance would give him an opportunity to manage his anger again, his thirst for sharing stories. From this impulse arises Taro, the echo of Manrique, the first of the filmmaker’s works based on the author’s work. Ten years later, Miguel G. Morales recalls his beginnings regarding the premiere of his latest feature film: Utopia Manriquea film that is part of the exhibition project Cesar Manrique. It’s a pleasure with a script by Fernando Gómez Aguilera, co-produced by the César Manrique Foundation (FCM) and Radiotelevisión Española (RTVE) and which was released just a few weeks ago. In this decade, says the filmmaker, he has never tired of continuing to investigate the character.

“I feel that in these years I have tried to find a kaleidoscopic view of Manrique. In Taro, the echo of Manrique it was about showing the process in which an artist puts his body and his personality at the service of environmental and political activism; in Foreman, a short film about the figure of his assistant, Luis Morales, we talk about the nexus, about the person who transmits ideas to the workers, and about this figure that is so important for the history of Lanzarote that is Luis Morales; in Hands, the focus is on the vision of those who supported and carried out Manrique’s ideas, who placed them on their own land. This kaleidoscope look closes when the Foundation proposes to me to work on the concept that was already implicit in the exhibition itself, it is proposed to prepare a feature film for the centenary and Utopia Manrique”.

In Utopia Manriqueexplains Miguel G. Morales, the gaze is placed on the construction, by the artist himself, of his character, born from his work, from his overflowing personality, from his commitment to the Island, but also from his ability to communication and media projection: “It is a film about how the character is built: César Manrique’s journey in Madrid and New York, which had never before been told in the form of a film, and how when he returns to Lanzarote he already has the idea of ​​creating the spaces he wanted to create, where “his truth” was, and how he already knew perfectly well the communication mechanisms of the mass media, which makes him an executor of marvelous iconic images”, points out the director of the film, who points out that this Knowledge of the media does not mean that the character is a fiction: “That image of Manrique is based on his own essence, totally natural and hedonistic, without any kind of fictional halo”.

In fact, Miguel G. Morales considers that Manrique’s greatest work was raising civil awareness, “teaching to see, transmitting a sensitive desire for the territory and the landscape”, which the citizens of Lanzarote internalized: “It was already unusual at the time , but I think that today an artist so committed to his time would continue to be unusual”, he points out. “I firmly believe that the artist should try to touch society with his work.”

The challenge of telling new stories around the figure of César Manrique was not only focused, explains Morales, on turning his kaleidoscope towards a new perspective of the artist. It was also about bringing to light a new audiovisual archive, images that until now had remained unpublished and hidden in the tape cans, still unknown. The investigation began in 2018 and included a search that lasted even among the archives of photographers outside of Spain. “There are files in the film that not even TVE had digitized yet. The only person who appeared in the viewing record of those files was me, in 2011. In addition to digitizing that file, the Foundation digitized several cans by César Manrique himself, wonderful material, as well as unpublished material by Manolo Millares, Miró Mainou, Ramón Massats, Walter Fogel or Fachico, among others”, he says.

The second challenge, he explains, was in the hands of Fernando Gómez Aguilera, the play’s scriptwriter, biographer and director of the Foundation. With the clear goal of achieving a new cinematographic language, the script text required a different look: “The dialogue with Fernando Gómez Aguilera was wonderful. It was about getting a voice that challenged the images, getting out of the classic narrator with an off that tried to resemble Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil. Fernando managed to introduce the public to another staging layer of the archives themselves, go to other visions, look with greater significance, a greater reading of the documentary”, he points out.

find the look

The filmmaker explains that his career has been a journey of searching for his own gaze. On that trip, the direction of Taro. The echo of Manrique it was a before and after, “the discovery of feeling that I was really doing what I wanted to do”. From there, she let go.

The author, who has just participated in the Las Palmas de Gran Canaria Film Festival presenting his short film Ekaterina and a brief ‘pitching’ of his next feature film project (Wild is the wind), assures that the years have been showing him the path and that in recent years he has recovered the path of fiction. After feeling sensations back on this path with Ekaterinaa short film that, in addition, he had already presented at the Havana Film Festival, the filmmaker is already immersed in the development of Wild is the wind: “This is an intimate drama about redemption and salvation, a story about memory and hidden diversity. Verónica Franco (who is also the executive producer), the writer Roy Galán and I have worked together on the script. Very excited to get it off the ground and sure of the possible result”.

Perhaps the filmmaker has rediscovered that in the universe of fiction, the fascinating stories, the extraordinary ones, are capable of touching, through a very thin curtain, the most indisputable reality; in a very similar way to the fascinating, extraordinary stories that reality has provided for his documentary works. The public will have to wait.

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Miguel G. Morales: “The artist must touch society with his work”