Chema García Ibarra: “Holy Spirit ‘is the intersection between comic situations and terrible situations”

We spoke to the director about his first feature film, which received a special mention from the jury at the Locarno Film Festival. The film opens in theaters this Friday, November 26.

Chema García Ibarra has been directing short films for more than a decade and winning awards at festivals. Cannes, Sundance and Berlin they are proof of it. Attack of the Nebula-5 robots (2008), Protoparticles (2009), Mystery (2013) and The disco glows (2016) are some of the creations of the director, born in Elche (Alicante, Valencian Community) in 1980. For this reason, his first feature film has become one of the most anticipated debuts. Its result has not left anyone indifferent. Holy spirit hits theaters this Friday, November 26, after showing up at the Seville Festival and to get a Special Mention from the Locarno Film Festival Jury.

The film stars Jose Manuel, member of the ufological association UFO-Raise. He and the members of this group meet weekly to exchange information about abductions and extraterrestrial messages. When your leader July go dead, José Manuel becomes the only connoisseur of the cosmic secret that can alter the human future. While this is happening, all of Spain is looking for a girl who has been missing for weeks.

García Ibarra came up with the idea of Holy spirit while watching a local television channel and, from there, the director built a story that combine comical situations with other terrible ones. We talked to him about it, about sound design and production – the latter is done by his partner. Leonor Diaz– and more aspects of his first film.


What is the question that you have been asked the most about the movie?

The question that I have been asked the most times about the film is where the original idea to make the film came from.

Where did the original idea to make the film come from?

Well, the original idea comes from a time when I was watching a local television channel and I saw an interview with a group of fans who had set up an association aimed at studying parapsychology and, within their stories, how to record psychophonies. There was one that involved moving away from the city and spending the night in the open, without light pollution, looking up at the sky. They called it “UFO Alert”. And what I liked is that there were five totally different people among them who had formed a magnificent esoteric family.

What is the question that you have not been asked about the movie?

In general, they have asked me about practically everything … Perhaps the sound design of the film, which is something super interesting. There they will have asked me only once or twice.

What was it like to work on the sound design of the film? [risas]

Sound design did it to me Roberto Fernandez, which I think is a genius. Roberto does very elaborate things from the sounds of reality itself. For example: a door that closes and goes BOOM! Well, the last seconds before the BOOM! they can be stretched and modulated and make for a very interesting sound. In the film there is a tube television that had a very particular vibration, something that was especially noticeable when you muted it. Roberto took that vibration and emphasized it in a very subtle way, in the fifth plane, plus the sound of natural television, and ends up creating a magnificent tension in the sequence. That for him could be four days of work. I understand that it is something so specific that no one asks you about it.


Man that’s very David Lynch.

Exactly. Roberto is an expert. In locating, recording and manipulating those sounds.

On Holy spirit There is one of the best sequences that I have seen in 2021. I am referring to the one of the fair, with the protagonist and the girl on the attractions while the ‘Zombie’ of Los Sobraos sounds.

I’m very glad you like it. It was a very complicated sequence to shoot. It was very difficult to find a fair in pandemic! It was difficult to place the camera where I wanted it. I also like it very much. It is a sequence of rest, of recharging, because what comes next is very beast. It could have lasted only 30 seconds. But I wanted it to be a sequence where the viewer could also rest. That we all go to the fair together.

Are you worried about the duration of the plans? Are you tempted to lengthen them?

No. I think the plans have a very fair measure. To see the duration that the assembly plan needs, it is necessary to view the plan at different times of the day. And you have to see it on the big screen because the size of the image affects the duration of the shot. I think it was Kandisnky who said it: “How long does this Rembrandt painting last? How long do I need to see it?” And there you discover that there are 30-second painters and there are 3-minute painters.

Why do all the plans have something?

In all of them things happen, in all there is information, there are many details, it is very choreographed, there are also many hidden clues … people who have seen it for the second time say that they enjoy discovering them a lot.

Do you watch your movies again?

Not much. I saw this at the Seville Festival, which I wanted to see with the Spanish public, and I will not see it again for years. It is that it is very difficult to make a film and all the processes that you live in it. To me Holy spirit I like it very much and I have enjoyed it very much. But you live it too much and you reach a limit. I saw it at its world premiere in Locarno and then in Seville and that’s it.

How important is Leonor Díaz (production director and sentimental partner) in your work?

It is half of everything. Think that we work equally well with people as with objects. It is not that we lower people to the level of objects but that we raise objects to the level of people. The same with places, with locations. And all of that is Leo’s responsibility. The very decoration of the spaces tells you things about the psychology of the characters that are not in the script. Because Holy spirit Besides being a movie, it is also a museum of little things.


At what point did you decide that it was going to be a feature film?

It was decided by the film itself. There was a moment when characters, history … everything asked me for a longer duration.

Your movie mixes hilarious comic situations and terrible dramatic situations.

Exactly! You have to do the Venn diagram. Circle: “funny situations”, circle: “terrible situations”, intersection: Holy spirit.

Pier Paolo Pasolini, Satyajit Ray, Pedro Costa. They would be three great names of filmmakers who have known how to work portraying the lumpen of society and treating him with maximum empathy and without moral judgments. You would be in that league. How do you do that?

Well, it’s that it’s my people, it’s my neighborhood… We filmed on my street! The bar is a bar we go to … I don’t have to try to do anything because I’m already there.

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