Filmed in its entirety in the countryside surrounding his native village in the Sierra de Tramuntana (Bunyola), the movie directed by Toni Bestard El Perfecto Desconocido, uncovers a part of Mallorca which usually remains unseen by most tourists, and a secluded society in which anything new becomes extremely important. abcMallorca finds out more about this “mixture of comedy and drama shrouded by mystery.”
You have directed several short films and The Perfect Stranger is your first mayor motion picture. How did it come about?
My regular script writer and I thought of the idea about 6 or 7 years ago: a foreigner arrives in a village, sets up a shop and we never really find out what he sells. The neighbours welcome him with hope, as the village is quite run down and they think he may be able to bring it back to life. The Perfect Stranger is a dramatic comedy; it combines both genres very well, and includes touches of mystery which are enhanced by the Sierra de Tramuntana itself. The film is also shrouded in mystery, so you could say it is three genres in one: a comedy, a drama and a mystery film. I am convinced that most people will laugh or cry thanks to this combination. There are so many characters that most of us should discover at least one we can relate to.
Getting the film ready and into the cinema has been a difficult process.
Yes, it has. We started working on the film in 2006, it was filmed in 2010 and it has just been launched now. It has taken six years and the most difficult part has been securing funding. It’s all about insistence; many people give up on the way, but I have been very insistent. Three different production companies have taken part in the project and the third one was the one that finally managed to get it off the ground.
It was filmed in the Tramuntana, do you think there are still parts of the island tourists have yet to discover?
Yes. I think the area is possibly only known by the most adventurous of tourists. At the Palm Springs festival in California (USA) everyone was asking me where the film had been filmed and, even though they knew the island, they didn’t know this other Mallorca in the mountains, which is so very different. Lots of the people who saw the film even said it had convinced them to spend their next holiday on the island.
Do you think Mallorcans are welcoming to strangers?
Yes and no. I didn’t want to show a realistic portrayal of a village in Mallorca. The village in the film is imaginary, although some of the characters are inspired by real people. The film shows that the island does show a certain amount of hospitality to strangers but always with an element of wariness. We are nice to people but we need time to adapt and to get to know each person. We don’t open our arms to them straight away, even though I do think Mallorcans are very polite, I would go as far as saying they are some of the politest people in Spain.
Is Mallorca a good film set?
Most definitely. Mallorca needs to open up to more film crews. With everything we are going through at the moment, we need to look for options and the investment which a film brings in is far superior to any of its complications. Last year Tom Hanks and Halle Berry were here filming with the Wachowski brothers and that’s the kind of thing that should happen here every year. Mallorca is perfect because we have lots of different sceneries all within very short distances, a great hotel infrastructure, and a very well connected airport…
Why Colm Meaney? What attracted you to the Irishman?
Colm Meaney is an exceptional actor, he instills a lot of empathy and he is the perfect image for a perfect stranger because everyone recognises him, his face is familiar, but no one remembers his name. It was also a magnificent coincidence. Someone told me that Colm had moved to Mallorca, to Soller. I sent him the script and the clips and we connected straight away. A week later he called me to say that he had loved it and that he would be delighted to take the part. This was two years before we started filming and during all that time he was always there to help us get the film off the ground. In fact, if he had not taken part, we would have struggled.
What are your future projects?
I have two in mind. One is a script adaptation of a theatre production and the other is an original, both for cinema. I would like to start straight away because I would rather not spend another six years on my next film. I know now is a very difficult time to launch new projects so I’m not ruling out doing something internationally. I really hope I get to work with the team behind A Perfect Stranger again, and I would absolutely love to film in Mallorca again, I feel very comfortable here.