It is quite a challenge to make a movie about people from other countries and cultures. It certainly was one for Spanish filmmaker Agustí Villaronga, the 67-year-old director of the film “Born a King”. During a talk at Cinema Akil in Dubai last Saturday, Villaronga spoke about his 2017 film which tells the story of Saudi King Faisal who was just 14 years’ old when he was sent to London by his father, Abdulaziz Ibn Saud, then the emir of Nejd and the future founder of Saudi Arabia. It was in 1919 and Saudi Arabia did not exist at the time as the kingdom was officially established in 1932. This is what filmmaking does, it teaches you new things, and it helps you find yourself too, as Villaronga explained. “When you’re making a film, it’s very important to go back to the roots of your soul.”
As part of the Spanish Film week at Dubai’s Cinema Akil, and in collaboration with the Spanish Embassy in the U.A.E., Villaronga talked about some of the other movies that he made, especially “Black Bread” which was screened after the talk. “Black Bread” (2010) was based on a novel of the same name, “Pa negre,” by Catalan writer Emili Teixidor. It is set in the post-civil war years in Catalonia, a region of Spain. The cultural proximity made directing the film an easy job, said Villaronga. He was able to “understand the psychology of women,” coming from his experience of living with many women, including his mother and sisters. His background helped him identify with the child actor in “Black Bread” who ends up living in a house full of women, searching for the murderer that caused his innocent father’s imprisonment. That film was the first Catalan-language movie to be nominated for best foreign film in the Oscars. In 2011, the movie won the Goya Award for Best Director. The Goya Awards are Spain’s top annual film awards and are considered the Spanish equivalent of the American Academy Awards.
When Villaronga was asked whether he’ll make another film about the Middle East, he said he was not so sure. He was obviously reluctant to face another challenging adventure because movies about the Middle East often tackle some very complicated political issues.