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The Marvelous Spiral (EN)

Cinema was invented at the end of the 19th century. Its creators are known, but... has anyone heard of the mothers of cinema?

Leocadia Cantalapiedra tells us about her struggle to direct films at the beginning of the 20th century, when women's rights were limited.

Through her adventures, we will meet some of the women film pioneers, unknown to most people.

Isabel Medarde, director of “The Marvelous Spiral”, looks in the mirror as Leocadia Cantalapiedra. Her research mixes the historical data she has collected with the recreation of the life of a Spanish woman in the avant-garde.

  • Isabel Medarde
    Director
  • Isabel Medarde
    Writer
  • Isabel Medarde
    Producer
  • Sergio González
    Producer
  • Isabel Medarde
    Key Cast
    "Leocadia Cantalapiedra"
  • Emma Delgado
    Key Cast
    "Musidora"
  • Sara Potxemutxka
    Key Cast
    "Eva"
  • Pablo Vega
    Score
  • Sergio González
    Cinematographer
  • Project Title (Original Language):
    La Espiral Maravillosa
  • Project Type:
    Documentary
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 27 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    January 3, 2022
  • Production Budget:
    46,000 EUR
  • Country of Origin:
    Spain
  • Country of Filming:
    Spain
  • Language:
    English
  • Shooting Format:
    HD
  • Aspect Ratio:
    16:9
  • Film Color:
    Black & White and Color
  • First-time Filmmaker:
    Yes
  • Student Project:
    No
Director Biography - Isabel Medarde

ISABEL MEDARDE (bio)
I am a producer and film director from León (Spain).

In 2010 I founded a production company called Bambara Zinema dedicated to the creation of videoclips, documentaries, webdocs, experimental cinema, etc.

I am also a producer of short fiction films by renowned Spanish authors in the world of short films such as Isaac Berrokal ("The Brown House", "Killrats", "The Feat"), etc. and the work of the documentary filmmaker and anthropologist Pablo Alonso ("Matavenero" and "Maragatería una core (o) grafía").

As a film director I have made experimental film projects such as: "Surya Namaskara", first person cinema such as "Shakespeare wasn't there", film essays such as "Pressure, depression, expression".

One of the most important works that I have done in webdoc and non-fiction format is "The voice of the Village Council", about the ancestral figure of the Village Councils of northern Spain.

My most ambitious project so far is "The Marvellous Spiral", my first feature film, in which I investigate the figure of pioneering women in silent films. This project was the winner of the "II Grant for Contemporary Artistic Creation of Castilla y León". As more relevant data, it is the first film in history shot with an open digital cinema camera, the Axiom Beta Camera, created by apertusº, a team of European researchers.

In September 2021, as the distribution of "The Marvellous Spiral" begins in film festivals, I will increase my knowledge in the Master's Degree in “Executive Production of Films and Series” at the ECAM School in Madrid.

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Director Statement

In "The Marvelous Spiral" I wanted to highlight the contributions made by women from the very origins of cinema. There are some wonderful documentaries such as “Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché”, but I wanted to approach women through fiction, in a casual and free way. That is why I chose to create the story of Leocadia Cantalapiedra: a woman born in Spain at the end of the 19th century who is determined to make motion pictures, regardless of what it would take. I wanted to recreate the adventures of women doing something so exciting and so far from their usual role in those days: raising children and dedicating themselves to the home and satisfying their husbands’ wishes. The character of Leocadia Cantalapiedra rebels against this model and risks doing things differently.

One of the biggest difficulties was shooting a feature film with a budget designed for something much less ambitious. I had been awarded a scholarship to carry out a year's research on the pioneering women filmmakers and to make a series of short pieces. I got so passionate about the subject that I needed to do
more: tell the story of these women's experiences from a first person perspective. This way, the public would put themselves in their shoes much better.

With such a small budget, I had to cover many areas of production by myself. Ironically, this was also how cinema started: these pioneering women wrote, produced, directed and acted in their own films. Sergio González, who was producer and cinematographer of the film, also worked as assistant director. The cast, mostly my family and friends, also helped with lots of things. Additionally, I had the honor to count on a soundtrack director and professional musicians.

I had to improvise a lot during the shoot, for obvious scheduling reasons. However, all the actors and actresses played their roles beautifully, without overthinking and letting themselves go. It was magical to witness and made me realize that, even if I had a bigger budget, I dearly hope to experience this feeling of freedom and of trusting things faithfully again. It happened in some films by authors such as Cassavetes, or in the versatility of Agnes Varda. Children do something similar when they play together, they let themselves go without questioning anything, they just adapt.
The decision to shoot with the Axiom Beta Camera was a risky one, but also a very exciting challenge. It's a free hardware and software digital cinema camera that is still in development. Being the first team of people to shoot a feature film with it helped us to feel a little bit in the shoes of the protagonists of our story. During the months of shooting, different improvements to the Axiom kept arriving, so the camera was growing (literally and metaphorically) at the same time as the film itself was developing. We were all growing and getting experience at the same time.

On an artistic level, the works of the origins of cinema inspired me so much: the silent films, the intertitles, fixed shots, the predominance of general shots... It has been really special to recreate the 1920s and the avant-garde era, which is a time I am passionate about. They were turbulent times in a period between wars in which artists had a lot to express. Women broke away from many traditional roles for the first time, and some of them began to occupy a place as proper artists and to be somewhat more considered.

During editing, the collage style format, where the film jumped from 16:9 color to B/W 4:3, seemed to me the best way to create the feeling of intermingling the old with the new. The 1920s, today may seem like both “ancient history” and modern, groundbreaking, and crazy times. It was something the mix of formats allowed us to
evoke on a conceptual level.

I would love the people who watch “The Marvelous Spiral” to realize how hard it was for women to make films in those times, and the importance of knowing their work. They brought different visions and introduced subjects that had not been dealt with at those times including but not limited to pregnancy, divorce, and prostitution. Alice Guy Blanché, Lois Weber, Musidora, and Germaine Dulac are the pioneers to whom we pay tribute in “The Marvelous Spiral”; there were undoubtedly many more, but all are worth celebrating.