A small crowd formed a line outside Cosford Cinema Saturday afternoon in anticipation of the screening of “Marshland (La Isla Minima),” which was followed by a Q&A session with the film’s Goya Award-winning lead actor, Javier Gutiérrez.
The Spanish actor’s appearance was made possible by a partnership between the Centro Cultural Español de Miami and the University of Miami’s Cosford Cinema.
Prior to the screening, Gutiérrez, who plays Juan in the film, said a few words to the crowd. He thanked them for their support and discussed the accolades the film received in Spain.
“Marshland” premiered in September 2014 at the San Sebastian International Film Festival and received critical acclaim. The film went on to win 10 Goya Awards, which Gutiérrez likened to the Oscars in the U.S. These annual awards are presented by the Spanish Academy of Motion Pictures and Arts. The film has won Best Film and Best Director and was the official selection of the festival in San Sebastian, Spain.
Many critics were especially impressed by the film’s cinematography. “Marshland” opens with aerial shots of striking architectural geography around the Guadalquivir River at La Doñana National Park in Spain. The film is set in 1980 in a small town in Andalusia, right after the death of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco.
Gutiérrez plays a police detective with a dark past who is investigating the disappearance and brutal murders of two teenage girls. From the start, the audience was visibly drawn to the story, gasping and laughing hesitantly at the dark humor.
According to Gutiérrez, the film goes beyond the basic murder mystery. Its storyline contains more than just a single murderer; there is a web of deceit and corruption, playing up the political climate of the era. The actor also commented on the invisibility of women in the country’s “misogynistic past.”
Although Gutiérrez’s character was considered the protagonist for investigating the case, Gutiérrez called him a “villain” when asked what most attracted him to the role. It was mostly Juan’s past as a torturer under Prime Minister Franco that eats away at him and causes his violent nature to flare up throughout the investigation. By the end of the film, the character is also involved in the crime, making him an antihero.
“It is a gift for any actor, because villains are always more interesting to interpret because of their edges – their meat,” he said.
The role was a stark contrast to Gutiérrez’s previous roles, which include a comedic role on a popular Spanish television show called “Águila Roja (Red Eagle).” He said many fans were shocked that he chose to take on such a complex character, but many were pleasantly surprised.
“As an actor, you try to put yourself in the skin of someone else and some [characters] feel better than others, but I had a lot of help from the great script and director Alberto Rodríguez,” he said.
Screenings of “Marshland” at Cosford ran exclusively this past weekend, ending on Sunday.