Documentary shares the ‘fire’ of Madrid in Portage premiere

July 13, 2018 GMT

The fire in Valérie Lanciaux’s film “The Faces of Madrid” does not involve literal combustion or burning of physical substances.

Her film tells a story about the fire in people who live in the Spanish capital — the kind of fire that interests her the most.

“I think you will feel the energy the people give to their city, and you will feel the energy the city gives to them,” the French filmmaker said of her documentary film that premieres July 24 in Portage.

“This fire is mutual.”

Local showings of her film follow last summer’s premiere of “The Faces of Lake Wisconsin” (previously titled “The Faces of Wisconsin”), which features thoughts and anecdotes from 18 Wisconsin women. “The Faces of Madrid” premiered in Spain in 2012 but has not yet been shown in America.

Since 2008, Lanciaux has developed projects in theatre, performance, film and contemporary dance, and she is one of several teachers involved in the Youth Theatre Workshop at Portage Center for the Arts, something she’s done since 2011.

Her “Faces of ...” series continues to evolve. She is right now finishing the “male” version about the state of Wisconsin, while her interviews or research for future film projects include the cities of Berlin, Brazil, Istanbul, New York and others. Screenings of “The Faces of Lake Wisconsin” occurred recently in Madison and Kenosha and will soon occur in Chippewa Falls and Merrimac.

Various showings of her films, she noted, often provide her more chances to meet interesting people for her documentaries, the films together forming an international series that aims to show crossings of languages, accents, faces and traditions. “The Faces of Madrid” — titled in Spanish as “Los Rostros De Madrid” — was filmed while Lanciaux lived in the city and became inspired to capture its beauty in an unconventional way.

“As soon as I arrived I became filled with this energy,” Lanciaux said of Madrid, describing the city’s fire as “something very special,” something not talked about enough and “something from the earth.”

“I had lots of material for this film because everybody was so generous. I had started filming the people who I became close to, but then I started filming the (random) people I met, and they were so generous too. They were so open — hugging me and saying they would tell me everything.”

Madrid perhaps brings more diversity to the screen than does her film about rural lives in Wisconsin, but such diversity is only natural due to the size of the Spanish city that holds more than 3 million people. In Madrid, “The people come from everywhere” in the world, she said, whereas in Wisconsin, “It is sometimes difficult to find people who come from different countries.”

Such differences between locations, however, do not inspire Lanciaux to think in terms of favorites. In traveling to Wisconsin summer after summer, Lanciaux finds openness in people not unlike what she experienced in Madrid.

“I’ve always felt a strong welcoming feeling here,” she said. She singled out the generosity and support of people like Youth Theatre Workshop leader Xan Johnson and Museum at the Portage Manager Melody Brooks-Taylor, among others.

“The people here want to make my stay nice,” Lanciaux said. “They’re just so happy to give.”

She has long been impressed by the local talent of young theatre students from the area, who, under her direction, are right now working on a Portage-centric parody of “West Side Story.” The public may view the short film during the workshop’s Sharing Event to be held from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Saturday at PCA.

For more information about her films or to view their trailers, visit valerielanciaux.wixsite.com/mywork-val.