The pandemic is not over but Operation Shrimp, a film that was due to be released on March 13, 2020, just at the beginning of the confinement, finally reaches the screens. Behind the camera, the new king of the national comedy, Carlos Therón (Salamanca, 1978), who after bursting the lockers with I leave it when I want (2019) returns to the field of humor with a classic film about a rather stupid policeman, Sebas (Julián López), who finally frees himself by embarking on an unusual adventure. Because this is also the first homeland parody, in a friendly key, of the urban music phenomenon that is sweeping our country.
It tells of the adventures of that Sebas, a timid young policeman who as a child stood out as a piano virtuoso and due to his stage fright has finished with the uniform. Destined in Cádiz, land of chirigotas and narcos del Estrecho, his life changes when he must infiltrate a musical group, a kind of flamenco-trap called Los Lolos and directed by shirtless and stoned Lolo (Carlos Librado), the only way to access the mansion of a drug lord (Antonio Dechent), since they act at his daughter’s wedding. From shy and repressed to letting go of his hair, Sebas falls in love with Lolo’s sister (Natalia de Molina), rediscovers his vocation and the flavor of life while the drug traffickers engage in much more bloodthirsty businesses.
Question. How do you experience being able to finally release your film?
Answer. He caught the premiere with the beginning of the confinement. We were doing the promotion and people started buying toilet paper like crazy. There we saw that this is more serious than it seemed at first. I like to see it as a symbol that we have already started again. I like that it is such a bright and optimistic film because I think that is what we need nowsuddenly takes on a different meaning and not just because they touch and hug. It has become a period movie against the odds.
P. The center of Operation Shrimp is that process of personal liberation of the shy and repressed Sebas?
R. There is a kind of lock on the character. As a child he went to concert and because of that he has remained in the police force. Suddenly, this mission in a much more messy and crazy musical group, so different from the world of classical music, brings out that creative side again. Find a way to express yourself that has been blocked. We have this guy who covers himself up to his chin, obsessed with everything being ordered and that when he joins the group he is forced to leave that world so normalized and hyper-regulated. The most important thing he learns is that there are many ways to live, that hers is not the only one, in addition to rediscovering his musical vocation.
P. In this case, is creative repression accompanied by sexual repression?
R. This is represented in his relationship with Lucy (Natalia de Molina). He feels an attraction but it is difficult for him to realize it because he himself tries to suppress it all the time. He is a fussy character and the funniest thing is that Julián López (the actor who plays him) is also like that, very orderly, with which he did not have to pretend, he came out alone. His surprise is when he discovers this group in which they do everything with joy and quietly smoke their joints.
P. The shy boy and the much wilder woman who opens his eyes is a comedy classic from at least The beast of my girl (Howard Hawks, 1938). Was it a benchmark?
R. Yes, of course. We also look a lot at a movie from the 80s, Illegal procedure (John Badham, 1987), for the idea of the undercover cop who falls in love with the girl. There are many elements mixed because it is also the remake from an Italian movieSong’e Napule, by Marco and Antonio Maretti, 2013) and there are some scenes that are as is, because there are many similarities between Naples and Cádiz. That moment in which the policeman says if the protagonist thinks that Cádiz is Bernarda’s pussy, for example, is very similar. At the same time, It was important that it reflect the local culture, that peculiar world of the Cadiz chirigota.
P. Recently we also saw that Cadiz world of drug trafficking in Before burning (Fernando Colomo, 2019). Is it very attractive for the cinema?
R. Of course, he has a sweet tooth. Cádiz is one of the hottest places for drug trafficking. Suddenly the drug traffickers appear in a boat with the cargo and in 30 seconds it has disappeared. It is not so easy to judge. It was one of the places where the last crisis hit the hardest and many people had to start dealing because there was no other option.
P. We also see the violence in the world of those drug traffickers, how do you combine it with that kind of comedy tone?
R. There is a moment when the protagonist almost forgets the mission. I persisted in that pleasant tone, but we ran the risk that the story seems like a joke when the world and the drug trafficking problem that it portrays is very serious. That is why those brushstrokes of terror appear, we must not forget as spectators the importance of the mission. Towards the end there is a confrontation between the good guys and the bad guys, like in a Western movie, and the bad guys have to be very bad. There’s an adventure movie spirit, like a laughing Indiana Jonesbut the bad guys have to be scary.
P. Does the rise of urban music cry out for a parody?
R. There is a moment when you hear Riki Rivera rapping in the background that “I don’t understand myself, nor do I understand myself”, it is healthy to laugh a little. The truth is that from the outset the trap phenomenon seemed quite incomprehensible to me. Now I understand what the punk of this generation isIn my time there was the radio and the television program to be known, it was much more regulated, now a song is an Instagram post. They don’t need the industry because they have their own network to express themselves and that makes it very interesting. In the film Los Lolos they have a more musical sense, they have not appeared so suddenly, reminiscent of trap but without being trap. It’s a more domesticated sound with reggeaton and a more urban base.
P. Are the pints of rappers suitable for parody?
R. One of the funniest things about the movie was the costumes. We had a photo of Yung Beef as a reference, the postchulería or the pimp from the neighborhood with a hangover. I come from rock, I played in a country bar, Willie Nelson and Rammstain, in my time they were the Pearl Jam style shorts and the pendant. The fascinating thing about trap is that they mix everything, they wear a Che Guevara shirt and a Dolce and Gavana jacketThey mix a communist symbol with Mickey Mouse and it works for them. Another curious aspect is that they have a provocative appearance but then the letters break that image. We see him with Cecilio G, he puts on his hat and striped shirt and when he raps he says very tender things. We see that contrast in Lolo, he is hard but in reality he is soft. It is something that also happens in the saga The Fast and FuriousThey are robbers and make some very cheesy speeches about the family.
P. The series has just premiered in Movistar Kings of the night, where he addresses the fight for the audience of José Ramón de la Morena and José María García in the key of comedy. Is it your favorite gender?
R. The series is a much blacker comedy than Operation Shrimp. I see that I have compensated with the light of the film the darkness of the series. Comedy is fantastic because it allows you to experiment, in all my films I have a great time playing with sound, light and narrative tools. There is a lot of joy in comedy because nobody stops you. I feel like heir to that Spanish Berlanguiano tone in which there is a bittersweet way of telling that is also an X-ray of the moment. It is clear that later you have worse press because the newspaper opens a tragedy and not that some kids have had a great time.