FREE, is the first production of the Spanish companies, Variopinto Producciones and Bosco Films, which have extensive audiovisual experience from the fields of advertising production and distribution. The documentary goes through 12 monasteries to enter the walls of contemplative life, revealing first-hand what leads a person to renounce an external life for a life of inner fullness. FREE is coming to cities in Australia.
The Cloistered Life
What is a cloistered nun doing locked up in a monastery all her life? Does the contemplative life make sense in this world? Are people who choose this kind of life rare? Do they flee or are they afraid of the world?
These are some of the issues that appear in today’s collective imagination when talking about cloistered life. However, as Santos Blanco, director of this feature film, points out, “free, freedom, is perhaps the word that is repeated most often in the documentary”.
For Blanco, Free has been his first film. Blanco, owner of Variopinto productionshas worked mainly in the field of advertising in the last 12 years, although he had made some short documentaries: “Seven years ago we made a short documentary with a medical NGO that helped in Africa and about four years ago I co-directed, with a partner, a documentary about a nomadic family in Mexico… But I had not made any film of this kind, spiritual, Christian”.
I knew nothing about the contemplative life
“It was a surprise how the project came to us,” describes the director. It all started during the hardest time of the confinement imposed by Covid. In those days, Borja Barraganone of the producers called Santos. Barragán had received, at the time, a request for assistance from the Declausura Foundation because there were convents and monasteries that did not even have money to eat. “I knew nothing about cloistered life, nothing and besides we were locked up…”, recalls Santos, “at that moment I got in touch with Lucía González-Barandiarán and we devised a communication campaign to get donations for the monasteries. It was a success.
Once he was back to normal life, Santos Blanco, together with the Declausura Foundation, carried out two campaigns to raise awareness of cloistered life and help monastic life. “There I began to know, in person, the life of the cloistered monks and nuns and I hallucinated,” says Santos.
“In those moments I came across this phrase of Pope Francis: “As a sailor on the high seas needs a lighthouse to show him the way to port, so the world needs you. Be lighthouses, for those near and above all for those far away. Be torches that accompany the journey of men and women in the dark night of time” (Apostolic Constitution of Pope Francis, “The world needs you. Vultum Dei Quaerere on the feminine contemplative life, n6) The Pope puts them on the level of beacons, of referents! At that time, the idea of making a documentary began and, from then on, the “gods” began to happen. I talked to someone about this idea and other people “appeared”, investors, like Antonio de la Torre…”.
Was this film a challenge? “Any film is always a difficult challenge. As a professional challenge, a feature film is always a big one. The fact that it is a film with a Christian message has not made it more difficult,” says Santos Blanco, “in fact, for me it has almost been an advantage, because it had a driving force, beyond the professional, that filled me a lot. I think it has given me a lot, on the one hand, you do what you like professionally and on the other hand you know that you are doing something more than pure entertainment”.
Into the Deep: Free
The film was released throughout Spain was born with a very different title.: Duc In altum. In fact, as the film’s director and screenwriter Javier Lorenzo recalls, “the whole shooting was called that way, in the sense of going ‘into the deep’ because, as the film’s claim of the film, Free is a journey into the interior of man”.
Lucía González-Barandiarán, from Bosco Films, versed in the distribution of Christian films, saw that the title had little “hook”, but could not come up with another idea. However, almost at the end of the editing of the film they realized that free, freedom was “undoubtedly the word that appears the most throughout the documentary and, when you see it, you realize why”, emphasizes the director, “without wanting to make spoilers, because everyone has to find their own answer when watching the documentary, I think that’s the key”.
There are many stories that appear in FreeSantos Blanco points out that “many of them have been left out or I have had to cut a lot of them”. In total, the interviews, conducted in 12 monasteries and convents in Spain, female and male, resulted in more than 20 hours of recording. “We had to keep 100 minutes, I had to cut a lot”.
They are varied stories and reflections, showing God’s personal history with each soul. “Some connect more with young people, others with people with more life experience, but all are very special.”
Free shows who they are: anonymous, unknown people who are, in the words of Santos Blanco “a hidden treasure. In Spain lives a third of the cloistered life of the world, and this impresses. We have a treasure”.
Session Times for FREE
Locations: Sydney, Canberra, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Byron Bay.
Other locations on request. See the website for more information.
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