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“Tequila, Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll,” from Goya Award-winning producer-helmer Alvaro Longoria, has been acquired for international sales by Latido Films.
Set up at Madrid’s Morena Films, which Longoria co-founded, doc marks a return to directing for Longoria, whose 2012 debut, “Sons of the Clouds,” produced by Javier Bardem, scored a Spanish Academy Goya while 2015’s “The Propaganda Game” nabbed a nomination. Meanwhile, just in the last few years, Longoria has produced Asghar Farhadi’s Cannes opener “Everybody Knows” and Spanish box office juggernaut “Champions.”
“I produce, that is how I make a living, but I direct documentaries as a passion.’ said Longoria.
Set to world premiere at this month’s San Sebastian Festival as part of its Made in Spain showcase, “Tequila” charts the rise of the Argentine-Spanish rock band fronted by Ariel Rot and Alejo Stivel.
The two are set to perform again in a series of post-film screening concerts. The four events will be held in Spain in locations as yet to be announced.
“Tequila took Spain’s virginity.” Longoria told Variety. “There have been lots of bands afterwards but they really were the first pure rock band in Spanish connected to the people. It’s the soundtrack of a generation”. Best friends Ariel and Alejo left an Argentina that was descending into military dictatorship and arrived in 1975 Spain – a country craving new culture and excitement.
The doc feature weaves archival performances with interviews presented in 4:3 aspect ratio to reflect the format common to TV shows in the ‘70s. Cecilia Rot, Ariel’s brother, speaks wisely throughout the film capturing the feeling of not only the band’s rise, but the tragedy of their drug infused slide.
“We are always proud to work with Morena, a company with which we’ve shared great success. In this case, even more so, since our friend the producer-director Alvaro Longoria directs a most exciting documentary about one of the rock groups that changed Spain,” said Latido head Antonio Saura. “His particular vision allows us to understand better how a rock band influenced the life of a country which was in deep transformation, and made their music universal,” he added.
Variety spoke to Longoria in the run-up to San Sebastian:
There’s a lyric to one of their songs in the film “We’re gonna play rock ’n’ roll and no one’s stopping us.” It seems to straightforwardly capture a feeling of that time in Spain. How do you feel the timing of Tequila’s arrival in 1975 influenced their success?
Longoria: Spain was a country that was grey and dark, and then suddenly BOOM! Explosion and this was the group that was there and the people immediately connected with them. The truth is it’s an amazing story. This would be the soundtrack that changed their (Spaniards) lives, they went from dark to rainbow.”
It seems Ariel and Alejo had a cultural head start, given their upbringing in Argentina, as compared to Spain who was just coming out from a cultural vacuum in 1975…
Longoria: It was destiny: Just as Argentina goes from light to dark, Spain goes from dark to light. They are at a cross point where they switch just at the right time. They come from a country that was very advanced by Spanish standards, where culture was everywhere and suddenly this closed down. They managed to jump to a country that is opening up. They just continued the tendency of what was going on in Argentina when they left. But for Spain it was a revolution.“
In the film, Cecilia Rot talks of “paradise getting out of hand” and it certainly did for the band. How did you avoid telling a cliched rock ’n’ roll story?
Longoria: When I started the cliche was so obvious. But then you actually look into Tequila and you listen to them talk about their lives: How in four years they went from being kids to victory and absolute fame to disaster. It is quite curious how this abrupt coming of age becomes quite a dramatic story and makes it interesting. Cecilia was crucial because she was there. She was the one witnessing her little brother go absolutely crazy while she was going crazy as well, even crazier probably.”
How do you see the film being received outside of Spain?
Longoria: I thought about “Searching for Sugarman” when we started doing this because it is funny how despite being Argentinian nobody knows them outside of Spain. This group didn’t have any time to travel. So I think that the movie will be an eye opener especially for Latin American audiences that have not known Tequila but probably know both Ariel and Alejo. I think it will be a revelation for a lot of people, especially in Argentina.
What is your take on the current state of documentary filmmaking in Spain?
Longoria: In Spain documentary is still a minor genre, even though platforms are starting to do it. But if you look at what platforms are doing it’s mainly small productions, generally crime-driven, sport celebs or scandalous. There’s not yet that switch into bigger productions. The U.K. and U.S. have big budget documentaries being financed but it is not happening in Spain yet. But it will because platforms need products and they need very high-visibility products and it is much cheaper for a platform to do a high-visibility documentary than to do high-visibility fiction.