5 Questions With Jose Luis Montesinos, the Man Whose Award-Winning Short Took European Festivals by Storm

The luxury speedboats and yachts that pack the marina glisten in the sunshine, as an aging man jogs determinedly along the promenade. While his exercise routine brings him in close to these lofty status symbols, his economic reality is one far removed from the opulence on display here. He is accosted by a younger man, smartly-dressed in business attire. A conversation starts up, which begins in recrimination before charting a course through guilt, conflict, and perhaps most bitterly, hope.

This is the simple premise upon which El corredor (The Runner), a twelve-minute film from Spanish director José Luis Montesinos, is built. The dialogue between the men, played by Miguel Ángel Jenner in the older role and Lluís Altés as his antagonist, casts a magnifying glass on the impact that the Spanish economic crisis has had on millions of citizens in recent years, as jobs and savings vanish. As the two verbally spar back and forth, Montesinos crafts a rich tragicomic critique of the state of the nation today.

With its pointed observation of the collective psyche, The Runner manages to say as much in twelve short minutes as reams of newspaper analysis have done in the past. Having made a big impact on the European circuit, The Runner is showing at a number of upcoming film festivals in the U.S. We spoke to Montesinos about the project and what it can tell us about post-crisis society, not only in Spain but across Europe.

The Runner takes place in a lovely setting. Where is it and why did you shoot there?
The short film was shot in a place called Port Ginesta, close to Barcelona. It’s a nice summertime village with amazing beaches. We needed a location close to the sea, with sports boats and a place for runners. It was perfect.

It’s clear you’re commenting on the economic crisis in Spain. Was there a particular moment when the idea for the film hit you?
We are not only commenting on Spain’s economic crisis. We think that this crisis hits many places in Europe. The moment we decided to start with this project was when we realized the lack of second chances there are for entrepreneurs and workers who have lost their jobs. José María Torres, the film’s producer, is leading a social platform which is trying to change European laws about second chances, and this short film is a way of talking to the world about it. In fact we are preparing a screening in the European Parliament to talk about second chances. It’s remarkable that in the USA there is a special law in that sense, while nothing like that exists in Europe. We are trying to change this.

As a director, it’s important to say something beneath the structure of the film and if we can help in a social way, much better.

What did you want to say about the state of Spain today?
The crisis started in 2007 and in the subsequent years a lot of people have lost their jobs. There are people over 50 years old that have had to reinvent themselves into another work life. This can prove to be hard because of their age. We wanted to talk about this kind of problem in Spain.

There are two different points of view in the film. One is that of the young worker who was fired three years ago, while the other is from the old businessman who has lost everything. Both have to reinvent themselves and [forget] the past, but there is a cost.

It’s quite a humorous film. Do you think humor is an effective means of addressing social issues?
Every drama hides a comedy. And this is exactly what The Runner is. Of course humor helps to talk about social issues, but you must define the perfect [balance] when you’re cooking the story. We tried and I think it’s worked.

What were the main challenges of making a short film with a satirical message?
I wouldn’t say satirical, but ironic. The main challenge of making this short was the script. We needed realistic dialogue to reach the audience and support the actors’ work. Lluís Altés and Miguel Ángel Jenner have done an awesome job, transmitting the emotion and the comedy at every moment, engaging the audience from beginning to end.