Face to face between the real Open Arms and the cinema one
Never judge a character. Eduard Fernández (Barcelona, 57 years old) takes this maxim in his career to the letter “and it hasn’t gone bad for me”, confesses the actor with a laugh. But what if you have to embody a historical figure? The interpreter has already put a face on Millán-Astray, Francesc Cambó, Felipe II, Jesús de Galíndez or Francisco Paesa. “Same, with documentation.”
What if he is alive? “My job is to know his motivations, understand why he did things …”, he says seriously, although next to him, with a malicious smile, Òscar Camps, founder and head of the NGO Proactiva Open Arms, who Fernández embodies in Mediterranean, film released last weekend and illustrating the creation of this association that helps migrants who cross the sea every day in search of hope. “How have I seen myself on screen? Anyway, I don’t know. All this scares me ”, Camps changes his gesture, a year older than his alter ego onscreen. And now is when Fernández laughs out loud. “Have you seen me very bad?” “You have very bad milk, which will be mine at that time,” acknowledges the portrayed.
Camps and Fernández did not know each other until the actor entered the cast – he was one of the last – of the film by Marcel Barrena, which starts with the photo of the corpse of the Syrian child of Kurdish origin Aylan Kurdi, aged three, who drowned in September 2015 off the Turkish shores. That image went around the world and Camps, owner of a first-aid company in Badalona, decided to invest 15,000 euros that he had saved in traveling with colleagues to help out on the Greek island of Lesbos, where Syrian refugees arrived in very precarious boats . Over time, through social media and media reporting, Open Arms grew in infrastructure and capacity to help, but the film focuses on those beginnings.
“Look”, Camps continues, “that you are the visible head of an organization and that they stone you, okay. But your personal life is on the sidelines. Here, instead, everything is told. And no matter how much I put at the beginning which part is fiction, there is not so much ”. After the actor’s delight, Camps explains: “It is a world that I do not know and I know that the public will take from me the image they see on the screen. Think about Schindler’s list, and how viewers remember Schindler… I have children, I don’t know if it will affect them, I wonder how the film is going to age… It makes me dizzy ”.
Fernández lands the talk on his profession: “Having who you are going to embody next to you actually makes things easier. You have access to the person portrayed, you see how he moves, how he expresses himself and his silences… Òscar made it easy. In reality, we are of the same generation, we come from the same place ”. “It connects,” says the aforementioned. Fernández takes up the word: “Then you read the script, you look for his motivations, you observe his relationships with, for example, his daughter …”. And Camps starts: “We have become very friends. We are both divorced, we have a daughter, we talk about football… ”. They even look alike. “And in the filming there was even some confusion”, confesses the founder of the NGO.
Camps had no voice or vote in the choice of who would embody him: “I was reading the script, version after version, and it was never clear to me what was going to be done. But production progressed, Dani Rovira agreed to play Gerard [Canals, otro de los socorristas que se sumaron al reto de Camps en 2015] and suddenly I saw that things were getting serious. Finally one day we met in Barcelona in the Plaza de Sant Felip Neri, and there was feeling”. Fernández believes that after that meeting it was clear that Mediterranean it went beyond being a movie. “Focused from humanity and from the everyday, we are going to something else. When they contacted me, I was afraid that I would fall into the pamphlet. That is why it has been such a good idea to choose its beginnings, so that the public feels the trip as something personal. We can all be Òscar ”.
Camps says: “Actually, things are more complex than just ‘I saw Aylan’s photo and I was shot.’ I started my first car rental company at 23, it was a success, and when I got divorced I gave it to my ex-wife. After an experience with the doorman of my house, I signed up for the Red Cross and started the first aid when my friends were on real estate issues. And I think that while lifeguards are respected in the rest of the world, here they are seen as kids in swimming pools. My vocation is first aid, and that’s why I switched to it. We grew up, we did very well… When Aylan appeared, I had already achieved many things. I remembered that the worst thing that can happen to a lifeguard is that a child dies in your guard, on your chair… I have a son the same age as Aylan. I saw the photo with my oldest daughter on an iPad. Suddenly, she prodded me and I thought: what if we go?
Fernández attends the happy monologue. And it explains about the complicated cinematic reality-truth dichotomy. “Much of the character is between what he knows about himself and what the actor knows about the character, which he does not know. It may be something different in this case. I already lived this sensation with Pere Casaldàliga [religioso al que interpretó en la miniserie Descalzo sobre la tierra roja], who told me two things: ‘you have to be radical’ and ‘you have to record what has been done, so that it reaches the whole world ”. So the cinema, can it change anything? “Everything”, Camps responds resoundingly. “It is like football. They are connection tools that can be used for awareness. Open Arms was successful because of what we do, and because of how we use social media for people to see. An equal film: break all barriers. That is why I allowed this to be done ”.