Set against the backdrop of a rural Spanish salt mine in the 50s is NONO’s music video for Califato ¾’s Fandangô de Carmen Porter. It tells the story of a salt miner who loses his daughter and the Andalusian culture that envelops his grieving process. NONO’s 16mm black and white cinematography is stunning and feels timeless, perfectly encapsulating the overwhelming bleakness that accompanies bereavement. DN caught up with NONO to talk heritage, identity and the artistic methods that went into creating his compelling cinematic imagery.
Upon hearing Fandangô de Carmen Porter for the first time, what were you most excited to explore with this music video?
When I received the song, I was absolutely sure that I wanted to talk about the concept of loss, from an emotional and spiritual point of view, examining the concept of losing your loved ones and the obsession that comes with the sorrow, from different angles. The rhythm of the song is close to a waltz. That together with its dark vibe connected me directly with strong cinematic imagery. But above the narrative and the look and feel, my main goal was to dig into the Andalusian identity.
Was it important for you to draw a personal connection with the project? How did you begin to form the video’s narrative?
I was born and bred in Andalusia but I left almost 20 years ago. It was very important for me to express how loss is experienced in my homeland. To describe our characteristic identity, sometimes passionate, sometimes absolutely crazy, with an important influence of the Catholic religion and all the cultures who conquered the region hundred of years ago. It’s an interesting paradox how this project that talks about loss has become a reconciliation for me, in the end, with my own cultural identity.
Above the narrative and the look and feel, my main goal was to dig into the Andalusian identity.
I first created a simple document with the storyline and some visual references. After that, during September, I met several times with the co-scriptwriter, Curro Piqueras, and we polished the script together. Also, I made expansive research on how the people in the 50s lived and died in small villages of Andalusia, and about the visual approach of this project.
What were the aspects of how people lived in the small villages of Andalusia back then that you wanted to include in the video?
The heritage of traditions and culture mainly. I am from Andalusia, and I am a bit tired of watching films and music videos trying to be cool and trendy just showing all the cliches of my region in a really superficial way. Some people would accuse them of cultural appropriation, I wouldn’t go so far, but sometimes it’s ridiculous how they portray us. In this music video, I wanted to talk about how people in my region see death, loss and mysticism, I wanted to show it deeply, in a realistic Andalusian way.
How did you begin preproduction?
The pre-production was quite tricky! I am based in London, Landia and Dude, the production companies, are based in Madrid and Milano, and I wanted to shoot this in Andalusia in the middle of a global pandemic! I must say that I have found really nice and helpful people during this intense journey. Especially Pilar Angulo, the Art Director of the music video. She also introduced me to some of the main actors and helped us with some locations. I was very lucky to cast the actors I wanted to work with, Óscar Corrales, Cristina Domínguez and Alba López, all of them with great experience in feature films. As well as Michal Babinec, a DoP with a strong cinematic eye.
How complicated was executing the shoot in Andalusia? It looks like a visually striking, yet incredibly remote area.
We shot it in two days in between a small village called Villaluenga del Rosario and the salt mines of Chiclana in West Andalusia. It was pretty intense and beautiful at the same time, and we were so lucky again, two days after the wrap, the second COVID lockdown started in Spain. I think it’s a region with absolutely stunning locations. You also have excellent crews that work for international productions, imagine that the last season of The Crown for Netflix was shot there, so it was a super good experience.
What inspired the amazing shot of the woman behind the large mound and how did you create it?
This shot had to be super unique. In terms of the narrative, he realises that he can see his daughter, as a vision of the virgin Mary, through his connection with the salt. Plus, I wanted to create something iconic, a frame that could represent the concept of the whole music video. We first shot the wide shot of the actor, and then on green screen the kid-actress, and we use some post to integrate the two shots.
It’s an interesting paradox how this project that talks about loss has become a reconciliation for me, in the end, with my own cultural identity.
What do you think the music video format allowed you to express about Andalusian culture that a regular narrative short film couldn’t?
I would have loved to shoot it as a short film, in fact, the guys from Dude when they first read the script told me that we should try to create a feature film with this story. Anyways, the opportunity was to shoot a music video this time and so I did. We adjusted the narrative to the music video language: some of the movements are on the beat and the cut is probably snappier to adjust everything to the song.
What are you working on next?
I will release in January a short doc/dance film that I did with Jacob Jonas Company, a super cool choreographer company from LA. Also, another music video for BiiG PiiG, that I co-directed with Rodrigo Inada in London. Then I’m developing a feature documentary co-directed with the photographer Anna Huix. So, a lot of personal projects and always some commercials to pay the bills.
What have you taken away from using this project to reconnect with your heritage?
Sometimes, when you want to do something new it’s better to look at the past. In a moment when every trendy music video is fast-paced and colourful, we decided to look back to the past, and make this slow drama/short film/music video in 16mm black and white inspired by Spain in the 50s.