Mikel Gurrea’s San Sebastian ‘Suro’ Contest Title Loses in San Sebastian


In the running for the top Gold Shell at 70e San Sebastian Film Festival, ‘Suro’, Basque native Mikel Gurrea’s debut feature, stems from Gurrea’s experience working in the cork forests of northern Catalonia. He had just finished school and was distraught when his then-girlfriend’s parents suggested he work in the forests where they removed the cork from the trees. “I discovered a fascinating world that stayed with me; the work is hard, but you are in the middle of nature,” he said. “It was also a good practice!” he added.

“Suro” revolves around a young couple, Helena and Ivan, who decide to leave Barcelona and start over on the land Helena inherited. Ivan takes it upon himself to join the workers and learn how to skin the cork trees that now belong to them. But their opposing views will jeopardize their future as a couple, as the film expands its scope to examine modern capitalism and private property rights.

Before doing the tense drama, Gurrea had made a number of short films and in each of them, including “Suro”, he explores a recurring theme about identity, “in all its forms” and the ideas that flow from it. shape one, in the end.

Eager to pursue a career in cinema, he continued his studies at the London Film School. Other students include Alcarràs director Clara Simon.

“More than anything, I learned to establish a sense of belonging in LFS,” Gurrea recalled, adding that he knew he wanted to lead since he was a boy. “My parents are film lovers and living in San Sebastián where the festival invades the city year after year, had a huge influence on my growth.”

He then deepened the development of his feature film at Ikusmira Berriak in San Sebastián, where he participated in the six-week residency. It was there that he started workshops with his main actor in “Suro”, Pol Lopez, an old friend. He came out of it with a cure, which he developed with his producers and with the help of co-writer Francisco Kosterlitz who helped him polish the script and make it more cohesive.

Delayed a year by the pandemic, filming finally took place in the summer of 2021, where Gurrea worked with a mix of actors and non-pros, including the real cork forest workers. The pair are played by Lopez (“The Replacement”) and Vicky Luengo (“Riot Police”). “We shot for 24 days on location in the height of summer, so the sweat is real,” he remarked. To prepare his casting, he works at three levels, first with his actors who are entrusted with the script. Along with his non-pro Moroccan, who plays a recent immigrant, Gurrea helped him create a memory, improvising without the script. “With the cork workers, we tapped into the physicality of their work, improvising the dialogue along the way,” Gurrea explained.

Gurrea is currently developing several projects at once. “We’ll see which takes off first,” he mused.

“Suro” has its world premiere on September 19 in San Sebastián and will be broadcast throughout Spain by A Contracorriente on December 2. UK-based Reason8 Films handles international sales.


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