Many years after the series that launched him to fame Un paso adelante (Antena 3), Miguel Ángel Muñoz (Madrid, 1983) takes another major step forward with his directorial debut, 100 días con la Tata, winner of the Forqué Award for Best Documentary. This tender and affectionate portrait of how he spent the pandemic with his dear, wise Tata (Grandma), Luisa Cantero during which time she even became an influencer. We asked Muñoz about this fun and exciting movie, and talked about goals, challenges, and priorities.
First and most important question. It’s currently 1:37 p.m. Have you talked to Tata yet today? If so, how’s she doing and anything to report?
Well today, at 1:37 p.m., the report is that a bouquet of flowers has arrived, Tata is super happy and has just gone out to buy her daily lottery ticket.
Excellent! Fingers crossed.
Yesterday she won six euros.
Putting it one way, is 100 días con la Tata the only good, positive, constructive and creative thing that you took from the pandemic?
Let’s see, not thanks to the pandemic, but because of it, I’ve been given the opportunity to spend 100 days with my Tata, and to pause and ask myself some very, very important life questions. My case is exceptional in that, to this day, I haven’t lost anyone really close to me from COVID or any close friends who’ve suffered serious infections that ended badly. Some people had a really terrible time, but things turned out okay in the end. That said, our co-writer on the project who I started writing the screenplay with, when it was only called Tata, Javier Muñoz, passed away after a heart attack.
Did you ever say to yourself, ‘Okay, I’m going to finish the documentary, but maybe no one is interested now because this is a very personal story and situation’? Or were there people involved from the very beginning who insisted that you were doing something important, something useful?
On a personal level, I’ve felt the need to make this documentary for more than ten years, long before the pandemic. And ten years ago, as a result of something I discuss in the film, I decided that I wanted to shoot it with a professional team, but only for the two of us. I get to do it in 2016, and I realize that Tata really enjoyed the experience and that she’s an exceptional actress. I also realize that I like being behind the camera as much as being in front of it and above all, I come to understand the many important values that can transcend through a cinematographic work. Then, just as I’ve managed to get everything ready… the pandemic hits. That’s when I think the whole project has been frozen but what actually happens is that, during lockdown, I start filming Tata, and we do CuarenTata which goes viral on social media. A year and a half later, and after rethinking what I want to narrate, I finish putting together 100 days con la Tata. It was difficult to decide how much of myself and Tata we’d actually show to the world, because there are some truly private and intimate moments. Now, we’re going on general release in more than 120 theaters throughout Spain during the holidays and this is truly a gift I hadn’t ever imagined.
You mentioned several scenes from the documentary, and there’s one basic sequence where you and Tata have a disagreement, and she gets mad at you, even refusing to look at you. It reminded me of my mom when she got mad at me.
I love your point of view. Each of us takes something very personal away from this story, and maybe that moment comes to you more because of what you mention about your mother. To some, it might come across as a sad moment, but it’s not that, quite the opposite in fact because I’ve set it up in such a way that, in the end, Tata says: “I’m a Scorpio”, which produces this hilarious moment. So, yeah, it wasn’t all rosy on the set and she really shows her true character, her true personality. But we don’t get angry anymore!
We don’t listen to our elders much, do we?
We don’t listen to one another in general. We are incapable of carrying on a conversation like the one you and I are having right now without one or the other looking at their cell phones. That said, elderly people don’t do that. Tata’s tempo, her pace is entirely different. And me, who’s hyperactive, found in her a person who is unhurried, calm, chatty, a good listener, who waits… The person closest to you in life can help you overcome your fears and insecurities and I learn from her every day. I value older people, but that’s not the standard, unfortunately. By the way, I remember many of the conversations I had with Paco Rabal when I was first starting out in Jaime de Armiñán’s The Lame Pigeon (1995). One day he told me: “I’ve made more than 100 films, and you also will make more than 100 films, because you’re very talented.” I didn’t even know what talent was!
What does Tata say about the movie? Things like, “Oh, Miguelito, there’s no need to show footage of me in the shower”.
I knew that when she saw that scene she wasn’t going to be annoyed, because it’s edited in such a way that there’s nothing inappropriate in it. If she hadn’t liked anything, I would have reedited it. Like if my therapist hadn’t liked how our therapy sessions were portrayed, we would have changed it. Tata had great fun making the movie and laughed a lot.
In the film you say, “I didn’t know how to dance, and I danced. I didn’t know how to sing, and I sang”, remembering your time in the series Un paso adelante. Is 100 diás con la Tata a case of, “I didn’t know how to make a movie, and I made one”?
(Laughs). I have to say yes. Hopefully I have time to write the book about everything I shouldn’t do for the next movie I direct but I have discovered that one of the things I like most in life is learning, getting to know new experiences and seeing how far I can take them, which is something I also experienced with cooking when I appeared on Celebrity MasterChef (TVE). There are so many challenges to face in life, but happiness doesn’t consist in overcoming the challenges you set for yourself, but rather in enjoying the journey.
With the untimely death of Verónica Forqué, there has been a lot of talk about mental health issues recently, in 100 diás con la Tata, you also mentioned that your therapist plays an important role in your life. Do we think we don’t discuss mental health issues enough?
Absolutely. One of the few things that was clear to me about this project is that I wanted to talk about therapy. It’s like the gym for your soul, for your emotions. You have to take care of yourself inside as well as outside, get to know each other a little better and improve the world we live in.
I really like your character as the thug Moro in José Luis Garci’s The Crack: Inception (2019). Why haven’t you had more roles like that?
Well, I was delighted to have been offered that one! If I had been the casting director on Garci’s film, I would never have offered me the role from the outset, mainly because of the image I project a priori. But Garci took a risk and decided to offer me this gem and I hope more opportunities like this come along. I’m getting older and the most interesting characters are really beginning to arrive now. Nobody would have imagined me playing the role of that character who watches porn in Hablar (2015), by Joaquín Oristrell.
One final reflection?
I’ve come to terms with the fact that I have to do what I really want to do, honestly and in synch who I really am, in line with the things that concern me and which I like. I can’t stop doing things that amuse and entertain me. I am who I am, and if I can continue developing my talent in different areas, even better. In this life you have to do the things that make you happy.