Screen By ELISABET CABEZA
The Spanish thriller is being sold by Latido Films.
Spanish thriller What Lucia Saw is playing in competition at the Madrid Film Festival this week and being showcased in the Market Premiere section of the Spanish Screenings by sales outfit Latido Films.
Directed by Imanol Uribe, the film tells the story of the only witness of a real-life massacre that occurred at the Central American University of El Salvador (UCA) in 1989. Six Jesuit priests, including Ignacio Ellacuría UCA rector and Liberation Theology advocate, and two women (the cook and her teenage daughter) who worked at the university, were executed by the Salvadorean army.
Uribe, whose credits include Numbered Days and Far From The, aimed to carefully reconstruct the events, not only what happened the night of the murder but also the coercion suffered by the surviving witness, Lucía Cerna, at the hands of the US secret service and the Salvadorean government. Both exerted pressure on Cerna to change her testimony to exonerate the Salvadorean army.
“I first heard of the murders when scouting for locations in Latin America for a TV series,” recalls Uribe, who wa born in El Salvador to Basque parents and has lived and worked in Spain most of his life.
“But what triggered the whole thing was reading the book Noviembre by Salvadorean writer Jorge Galán. That’s where I read about Lucía Cerna and thought I had to tell her story. We also spent some time at the UCA, where the murders happened, and went to California to meet Lucía in person.
All this fed into the screenplay written by Daniel Cebrián, while the rise of social media and the concept of ‘fake news’ gave the story a contemporary resonance.
“What fascinated me was the character of Lucía, her determination to tell what really happened,” says Uribe.
The production was a complicated one andt took around six years to reach the moment when Uribe could call “action”. But this “slow-cooking process”, as the director puts it, had its advantages. Actress Juana Acosta who plays Cerna, had time to work with the real Lucía, to get deeply involved in her story and was able to stick with the
But the pandemic hit just as production was about to start in Colombia in March 2020 and the crew were sent home. “We flew out of Cali in the last plane that was leaving for Spain,” says Uribe
Shooting finally took place in Colombia at the end of 2020, going into 2021, as a co-production between Spain’s Tornasol Films and Bowfinger International Pictures.