In 1999, the story of the septuagenarian Alvin Straight, who traveled 390 kilometers at the helm of his mower to visit his convalescent octogenarian brother in Blue River, Wisconsin, inspired two films as different as the very discreet Abilene by Joe Camp III, starring Ernest Borgnine, and the extraordinary A true story, by David Lynch, with the celebrated farewell to the screens of veteran Richard Fansworth. It is inevitable to remember the adventures of Alvin Straight when meeting Hassan, the Moroccan who stars Lightning, debut feature by Ernesto de Nova and Fran Araujo that starts from the complex and delicate work of constructing a fiction with the materials provided by reality without filters.
Lightning proposes a singular counterpoint to the way in which the issues of the economic crisis, the death of the work culture and immigration appear on a daily basis in the newspapers. Hassan Benoudra, the natural actor who stars in the film, is a rural worker who, after thirteen years on Spanish soil, decides to return to Morocco due to the progressive lack of work in his adopted country: he will invest his savings in a dilapidated tractor –El Rayo of the title- with which you will drive, through secondary roads and trying to avoid the eyes of the Civil Guard, to Algeciras to undertake the last section of your trip to Beni Mellal.
The filmmakers didn’t have to search the press to locate Hassan’s true story: somehow, it was the story itself that knocked on their door, when Hassan bought the tractor from Ernesto de Nova’s aunt. From that meeting, Araujo and De Nova agreed with Hassan to record the trip in a film, permeable to chance and chance encounters, but as constructed in its staging as a piece of fiction. The result is, at the same time, western and its evolutionary relay – the road movie-, document and simulacrum: a free debut feature alien to all exhibitionism, which summons a firm illusion of truth through impurity and the intersection between what is lived and what is represented. The fact that the leading actor -who plays himself- was not clear about where the line that separated the real from the fictional was, adds invaluable added value to the directors’ thoughtful staging.