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Spanish film on Beatlemania in Franco era wows film festival

By Anne Sewell     Sep 25, 2013 in Entertainment
San Sebastian - Based on a true story and set in the Franco dictatorship era, a Spanish "Beatlemania" film stunned critics at the San Sebastián film festival in Spain. It tells the tale of how the British band's songs inspired one ordinary Spaniard during hard times.
The film, dubbed "Vivir es fácil con los ojos cerrados", or "Living Is easy with your eyes closed" directed by David Trueba, tells the tale of Antonio San Roman, a small-town Spanish school teacher who plays the Beatles songs to teach his pupils English.
When the Beatles star John Lennon comes to shoot a film in Almería in southern Spain, the school teacher takes a road trip, hoping to meet his hero. Along the way he picks up two young hitchhikers.
Lennon really was in Almería in 1966, acting in the black comedy film "How I Won The War", in which, while taking a break from the Beatles after nearly four years of constant touring, he was asked to play Musketeer Gripweed.
It was while he was there that he was apparently inspired to write one of the band's classics, "Strawberry Fields Forever", although apparently the title of the song relates to a place in his native city of Liverpool, and not to Almería.
Director Trueba, 44, told the media after the screening: "If one thing inspired me in John Lennon's visit to a country like Spain in the 1960s, it was that he represented the working class of Liverpool and had managed to rise up in a country as class-bound as England."
"Just his mere presence in Spain, with what he radiated, in itself generated a kind of revolution and encouraged lots of youngsters."
La Voz de Almería (in Spanish) reported that the movie also conceals a chapter of the Trueba family's history.
"One of my brothers left home because my father insisted that he cut his hair."
"My mother always told me that while I nursed, and cried and cried, thinking about where I would end up. And I always thought that was my real baptism," he said.
Unomásuno (in Spanish) reported that Treuba was asked if young people today have their eyes closed,
Trueba, who also directed “Soldados de Salamina” ("Soldiers of Salamis") and “Madrid, 1987" among other films, noted that "they close them, close them against many things and some are even pretending to open them."
However he added, "Everybody has to find his territory, his personal expression space. Whatever the social situation, each person faces the challenge of making their own life something to be proud of - at least in private."
Star of the movie, Javier Cámara said "The first time I saw the film I was excited and thought how beautiful it was, what we had done."
To prepare for his role , Cámara wanted to meet the teacher who inspired him. "I think it's great that this person attempts to use the lyrics of the Beatles through the radio to teach the children and their elders."
Speaking of the actual teacher, whose name is Juan Carrión Gañán, "In reality the teacher has a huge blue eyes, and has white hair and the air of an old rebel," he added.
This real-life story of rebellion in socially and sexually repressed Spain brought applause and laughter during its screening on Tuesday at one of Europe's top cinema events, the San Sebastián Festival, where the film is competing for the coveted Golden Shell award.
The festival runs until September 28th.
Update: Digital Journal has been advised by a journalist who wrote about Juan Carrión Gañán in La Voz de Almería back in 2006, that the teacher is now around 89 years of age, but still teaches English everyday despite the fact that he is becoming blind and is very deaf. Please read the comment below.
"Vivir es fácil con los ojos cerrados"
David Trueba
Javier Cámara (Antonio)
Ariadna Gil (mother of Juanjo)
Jorge Sanz (father of Juanjo)
Francesc Colomer (Juanjo)
Ramon Fontserè (Ramón)
Natalia de Molina (Belén).
Below are some scenes played by John Lennon in "How I won the war":
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