The Visit and a Secret Garden

La Visita y Un Jardín secreto

SPAIN, PORTUGAL / 2022 / Spanish / Color / DCP / 65 min

- Director: Irene M. Borrego
Script: Irene M. Borrego, Manuel Muñoz Rivas
Photography: Rita Noriega, Javier Calvo
Editing: Manuel Muñoz Rivas, Irene M. Borrego
Sound: Nicolas Tsabertidis
Sound Design, Mixing: Hugo Leitão
Producers: Mariangela Mondolo-Burghard, Renata Sancho
Production Companies: 59 en Conserva S.L., Cedro Plátano Lda
World Sales: Les Films de la Résistance

Considered one of the first generation of women to work in the avant-garde and once one of Spain’s most celebrated painters, Isabel Santaló disappeared from center stage of the art world in the 1980s. The director, Santaló’s niece, visits her at home where she lives the life of a recluse, having cut off her family. Rather than delving into her work and life as an artist, the film turns its gaze on an old woman who lives with her cat. Why did she stop sharing her paintings with the world? Why choose this lonely life? The words she finally divulges touch the very heart of what it means to live as an artist and a woman. (YH)

[Director’s Statement] This film was triggered by the return to my hometown, my pending encounter with Isabel Santaló and out of fear. Without hiding the footprints from its shooting—or even my own process—the film reflects on memory and oblivion, Art and the creative process; posing the question of what it means to be an artist and a woman. But this is not a biopic film, it actually challenges that genre. This is a film about the gaze and the right distance. Many of us are searching for light among the shadows.

This is why for me it was so important not to rely on a distracting aesthetic. The key was achieving a ‘complex simplicity.’ I felt the urge to film with a certain sobriety, without any tricks, avoiding building the film’s strength upon dazzling cinematography or sound. I sensed that using a somber language, minimalist even, was the fairest way of portraying Isabel: the cinematic form had to adapt to her, to her personality, and even her disappeared paintings.

The Visit and a Secret Garden represents my cinematic compass: the firm belief in the expressiveness of what is often dismissed as small and meaningless, as well as the epiphanies we may experience when filming that; framing my films in very concrete spaces, to focus on the people that inhabit them and the human fragility that we all share.

In the end, this is an invitation to look twice where we rarely would stop. Behind the door of an old flat, a film was hidden, and with it a secret garden.

- Irene M. Borrego

Graduating from EICTV, Cuba, she studied at the London Film School, later becoming Abbas Kiarostami’s mentee. Cofounder and managing director of the arthouse non-fiction cinema production company 59 en Conserva, and a Ji.hlava Emerging Producer. Her filmography as director includes nine awarded short films (California [2005], Vekne Hleba i Riba [2013], Muebles Aldeguer [2015], and others). She also produces feature films by other filmmakers, researches the interdependencies between cinema and other art forms—including as a Prado Museum fellow—and has worked as a screenwriter, assistant director and economist. Her debut directorial feature.