Neus Ballús: “The working class is the spearhead of coexistence in this country” | Cinema in the SER | Present


Social cinema usually deals with conflicts from drama and darkness. From a look at the margins that has been widening due to the widespread precariousness and class demonization of the working class. Neus Ballús turns all that into ‘Six running days‘, a film that looks from comedy, with transparency and empathy to the everyday. The daily life of three electricians and plumbers, Pep, Moha and Valero, as they go from house to house repairing breakdowns. Six days that are a test of coexistence, the first retires, the second faces his test week and the third is a curmudgeon with the midlife crisis. From these everyday situations, the Catalan filmmaker extracts a humanist account of racism, classism and the diversity of a profession devalued by the fallacies of meritocracy and progress. The result is a traditional, fun and soulful portrait that plays with documentary and fiction to claim that what is revolutionary today is listening to and understanding the other.

Why are you interested in this union, plumbers, electricians?

My mother’s partner is a plumber and, therefore, I have lived with him since I was 12 years old. In the aftermath he always came to us with the story that he was repairing at that time. At Mrs. María’s house they have told me off because this, in another place the other thing has happened to me, the police have come to do an inspection … I thought those everyday situations that we have all experienced were impressive, let them come to you to fix something at home, and they are the origin of many comic, surreal situations, but they also speak a lot about how we relate as human beings.

How do you work on a daily basis in the cinematographic?

My idea is to make a skeleton movie, a story that everyone can understand, but that reality seeps through all the seams and is built through reality. This is done by choosing characters when you don’t have a script yet and writing it for them. That is to say, I found the three protagonists, I did many rehearsals, tests, games, to get to know each other well, and from discovering who they were and who they could be as characters, I wrote an ad hoc film for them. Everything is put at the service of this reality. In the filming, the entire strategy is based on surprise, on preserving as much as possible their naivety as performers, on not knowing what is going to happen. I caused a real breakdown in the houses and they had a part that said, for example, that the air conditioning did not work, and they came and found a photographer, an older man, some girls … with whom they had to resolve a conflict. Therefore, they act as they are in a more or less orchestrated situation, which I have arranged for them. Since I have worked with them for two years to prepare them, what I have done is more predictable their reaction, as I know them, I know which buttons to press to make one thing or the other happen.

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What have you learned in this whole process? In those more than two years of meetings with people from the guild

What surprised me the most about the entire documentation process in the plumbing world, but also with pallets, people who make transfers, all the trades that I have seen, I realized the great diversity that there is in this sector. In the working class there is a great coexistence of people of very different origins and realities that there is not in the cinema for example. This made me reflect. There are obviously conflicts, there is racism, many prejudices towards the different, but because there is so much more coexistence and there must be conflict. I realized that the working class is the spearhead of coexistence in this country. They can teach us and through them we can learn that we finally have no choice but to understand each other.

Is there a demonization of the working class today? In the film, for example, there is the exotic look at the immigrant as you already portrayed in ‘Staff only’, but classism also flies over

There is a class perspective and a general devaluation of many trades. Universal access to studies has had the advantage that I, who am the daughter of workers, can make films but on the other hand, it seems that the trades of a lifetime are not important. In this movie the idea was precisely to make it visible and give it the value it has. What is more important than having hot water or electricity for subsistence, let’s not forget to what extent they are important. This has to do with the treatment we offer to the people around us. The people who serve you a coffee or cook you, what is the price of that, let’s put in value what is really important.

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Is one of the concerns of your cinema integration, coexistence, understanding the other?

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Yes, exactly. I don’t like the term integration so much because precisely what it presupposes is that there is a different element that dissolves in the group and stops being what it was, it is integrated into something bigger. I would talk about coexistence and diversity management. I would say more, taking advantage of diversity. What Moha offers us in the film, her point of view, her voice-over, her gaze… has to do with taking advantage of what people who have just arrived have to say about our society. Perhaps there are things that we do not see and that we do, and it can make everything better. It is about understanding that we are different, accepting that difference and starting to look at ourselves in a more horizontal way, trying to see who is behind that Moha, that Valero, those people whom you put a label on and you already think you know everything. .

Have they also changed, has the film transformed them?

Moha is Moroccan, she has been here for a long time, but she is someone very shy to whom no one had paid this kind of attention. He says that he has felt seen for the first time in its entirety, it is something very nice to know that someone has been seen for the first time and that his work, his function has been dignified. For his part, Valero, I chose him because I did not agree with his opinions at all, whom I also wanted to understand why he made racist, sexist comments, we taught him to shut up, to be silent and listen to whoever was in front of him. That made him start to change in the scenes and transform. Her vulnerability began to emerge. It made me think that these comments that we sometimes make without thinking are a way of hiding, a mask, that the one who has the conflict is us due to some insecurities or fears. Valero, in this sense, does claim to have changed.

The tone of the film is a manners comedy, documentary, did you want to try this approach on a social issue, away from those dark portraits on the margins?

Yes, I just wanted to approach a type of social story with a certain amusement. After two very charged films in terms of content and atmosphere, I almost personally had a need to make a film and have fun making it. This does not imply that your worries about what happens to the human being disappear, it means that you use them in another way. Here the creation of everyday situations that can be comic or surreal suited me very well with the tone so that the viewer can enter without realizing issues that are deeper. I also wanted to try visual comedy, for example, to try a type of comedy that is not as constructed through well-written dialogues as classic cinema, but is based on improvisation, surprise, montage. , in ellipsis, in the use of sound-overs … Another type of comedy that I had not seen in social cinema. That is why it has cost me so much to mount the film, it has been the hardest job I have done in my life, I spent 9 months to edit 70 hours of material. They were improvisations, obviously guided, but they could be 14-minute takes where they were all different, all the dialogues were different, I could make 20 different films. Finding this balance between the everyday, the most universal, the deepest, the documentary comedy, a constructed story that the viewer can follow well … has been frankly complicated.

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In recent months, several films look at work or the situation of the working class, from León de Aranoa to the documentary by Luis López Carrasco, are they latent conflicts in society that the cinema is portraying after some years without looking to that side?

I don’t know what will happen, but I feel that there is a certain need. I, for example, am the first woman in my family to have had a university education. I come from working families that have not had the opportunity to tell their stories before. I feel a certain obligation to relate what happens around me, what I have seen my family, my neighborhoods … I feel that until there is really a more universal access to the possibility of telling stories and making films, and the children of workers can’t tell our stories, it’s going to be complicated. Even if we talk about the working class, many times it is done from the perspective of someone who is not, we need to change the point of view of the films, make it broader and more diverse, so that we have a more fair account of who we are. and on the other also with whom we would like to be as a society. There we lack points of view.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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