The Spanish horror drama “Cerdita” (a.k.a. “Piggy”), also a gruesome thriller and social commentary, was written and directed by Carlota Pereda. The film is a feature expansion of her 2018 award-winning short film of the same name, and follows Sara, a teenager with obesity problems, played by Laura Galán. She lives in a rural Spanish town in the gorgeous, but unbearably hot Spanish countryside, where some friends from the town mistreat her and bully her over her weight. Hence her nickname, Piggy—also the English-language title for the film.
By chance, she finds out that her tormentors have been kidnapped by a stranger. What should she do? Should she help the girls or not? Will she tell the authorities what she saw? Or, does she set out on her own journey of vengeance and redemption? An ethical and moral dilemma comes into play.
Actress and newcomer Laura Galán (b. 1986) plays Sara; she shines with a blistering and memorable performance as the bullied teen, even though she’s no teen at all—Ms. Galán is thirty-six. The stage actress who made her screen debut in Terry Gilliam’s “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” (2018), also played Sara in the short “Cerdita”; she nabbed award after award for her performance in both the short and the feature.
Last September, Ms. Galán, a huge admirer of filmmakers such as Pedro Almodóvar, Carla Simón, Álex de la Iglesia, J.A. Bayona and Clara Roquet, was a guest of honor at the Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival where “Cerdita” was screened. The following interview was conducted at the BIFFF with the help of an interpreter Spanish-French as Ms. Galán only speaks Spanish.
“Cerdita” is a Spanish-French coproduction which had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2022. Carlota Pereda’s dynamite debut feature is out in various territories, either in theaters or available on VOD. And in 2023, there are at least two new Spanish films coming up with Ms. Galán in the leading role: “Una noche con Adela” and “La ermita.” So keep your eyes open: she might very well be Spain’s discovery of the year.
Ms. Galán, after you played the character of Sara in the short, was it obvious for you to reprise the role in the feature film?
Absolutely, there were no doubts. I was even delighted because I knew the character so well. Physically and emotionally you have to be very open to portray Sara and tell this very difficult story that begins with the bullying of a teenager. But we worked with a wonderful crew. They made the whole shooting process pretty easy for me. In fact, it was more difficult for the other actors who play those cruel and rude characters. But from the very beginning, we all agreed to show this immense cruelty because that’s basically the theme of the film. And I would like to add that I was never a victim of bullying myself. It’s important to mention that because I want to make clear that it can’t be the norm. As a child, I have been overweight, but I never endured a lot of hardship. I know I’ll never play the pretty girl, or the girl the main character falls in love with, but I am very grateful and lucky that all of this didn’t happen to me.
Film director and screenwriter Carlota Pereda and actress Laura Galán at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival
What do you want the audience to feel or experience with your performance of Sara?
I use my body to express my feelings, and with the film spanning twenty-four hours, it’s like a journey when Sara shows different aspects of her life. She lives in a small town where she is a victim of bullying. She doesn’t have much of a social life because she is always attacked by other people her age. There are many intense moments and events that happen to her; you could say that in the beginning she is a young girl, and by the end of the film, she has become a woman. From what I have seen, the audience has a lot of empathy for the character of Sara, they’re absorbed in her world. So one of the biggest challenges for me was to get to know Sara’s world and understand her vulnerability and fragility, because I am very comfortable with my body. I like my body, but Sara does not; it was very hard to realize this. Also the fact that I am running throughout most of the movie exhausted me physically and I ended up with many bruises. But I think that the most challenging thing was to know her fragility.
In the film, there are several intense sequences. Did you have a specific approach to prepare for those scenes?
I have worked a lot in the theater in Spain, and that was a perfect training for me. I learned that your body language is very important, especially since the character of Sara didn’t have much dialogue. Every line of dialogue was in the script, so we didn’t have to rehearse too much. After the short film, I had been working on many aspects of my craft, like the way Sara walks and talks. It also helped me that the director sort of protected me when we were shooting the scenes where Sara is bullied—as did all the other actors. So as an actress, I felt very comfortable when we shot the scenes that were extremely painful for Sara.
You knew the story and the script from the short. But still, what was your impression when you first read the script of the feature film?
First and foremost the story, and how Carlota Pereda told it. It seemed very powerful to me; I particularly liked how the genre and horror elements in the film were combined with the story itself. Before we did the short, I had done mostly theater and I thought I would be too old for the role. But then Carlota and I met a couple of times; we talked about the project, and we both knew I could play Sara.
How did you collaborate with her?
Since we had worked together on the short, we knew each other pretty well; we were almost like family. We both knew who Sara really was; we knew her background and what she had to endure, and that made it much easier for me to play her.
Like in the short, there are many close-ups of yours. How important were they in your opinion to tell the story?
They had to create and emphasize Sara’s claustrophobic feeling, and I think they helped to capture that atmosphere. It requires a lot of concentration and focus when you’re in close-up. When I saw the film for the first time, I was surprised to see how important those close-ups were to get that feeling. The audience may have sympathy for Sara as she is trying to find a way out of her precarious situation. But in the course of the next twenty-four hours, you see how she changes. She matures as she embarks on a voyage of her own, and the close-ups play a crucial role to show that.
You are very familiar with the theater. Is there a big difference between performing on stage or appearing in front of a camera?
There is a difference, but the basics are the same. When we did “Cerdita” I was surrounded by a wonderful crew, so acting in front of a camera didn’t feel at all like something new or something entirely different to me. It’s always a rewarding experience to perform on stage, just like it was for me to play Sara in the film.
Spanish cinema has a long and rewarding history. Did that maybe inspire you to become an actress?
Absolutely. As a little girl, I liked acting and wanted to become an actress. I don’t know what I would do now professionally if I weren’t an actress. I grew up with the films of Pedro Almodóvar, so for me it’s a great honor to be part of Spanish cinema. It was wonderful to be invited at the San Sebastian Film Festival where I got noticed. So it was always a dream of mine to become a stage and film actress, and I hope I can continue to combine both.
Is it easy in Spain to compete with big budget Hollywood films?
No, it’s not. For a small and independent film like “Cerdita,” we hope to find a way to introduce it to the audience. Even in Spain it’s not always easy to convince people to go out and see a Spanish film. The competition with American films in very tough.
Still it’s easy to identify with a character like Sara. And the film tells a relevant story, with a heartfelt—yet brutal—plotline.
Yes, because it all happens in a small village and it’s a touching story. It’s more like a real story, whereas in American films, characters can be larger than life or out of this world. I hope to achieve the same with my upcoming film, “Une noche con Adela”; we finished shooting and the film is currently in post-production.
Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival
September 12, 2022
“Cerdita” (a.k.a. “Piggy,” 2022; trailer)
THE MAN WHO KILLED DON QUIXOTE (2018) DIR Terry Gilliam PROD Amy Gilliam, Mariela Besuievsky, Gerardo Herrero, Grégoire Melin SCR Terry Gilliam, Tony Grisoni (characters created by Miguel de Cervantes) CAM Nicola Pecorini ED Teresa Font, Lesley Walker MUS Roque Baños CAST Adam Driver, Jonathan Pryce, Stellan Skarsgård, Olga Kurylenko, Joana Ribeiro, Óscar Jaenada, Jason Watkins, Sergi López, Laura Galán (Girl on Bike)
ORÍGENES SECRETOS (2020) DIR David Galán Galindo PROD Alberto Aranda, Kiko Martínez, Ignacio Salazar-Simpson SCR David Galán Galindo, Fernando Navarro (novel by David Galán Galindo) CAM Rita Noriega ED Leire Alonso, Martí Roca MUS Federico Jusid CAST Javier Rey, Verónica Echegui, Brays Efe, Antonio Resines, Ernesto Alterio, Laura Galán (Isabel)
CERDITA, a.k.a. PIGGY (2022) DIR – SCR Carlota Pereda PROD Merry Colomer CAM Rita Noriega ED David Pelegrín MUS Olivier Arson CAST Laura Galán (Sara), Richard Holmes, Carmen Machi, Irene Ferreiro, Camille Aguilar, Claudia Salas, José Pastor, Fernando Delgado-Hierro
UNA NOCHE CON ADELA (2023) DIR – SCR Hugo Ruiz CAST Laura Galán (Adela), Jimmy Barnatán, Raudel Raúl Martiato, Fernando Moraleda, gemma Nierga, Rosalía Omil
LA ERMITA (2023) DIR Carlota Pereda PROD Iñaki Gomez, Pablo Echart SCR Carlota Pereda, Albert Bertran Bas, Carmelo Viera CAM Rota Noriega ED David Pelegrín MUS Pascal Gaigne CAST Laura Galán, Belén Rueba, Loreta Mauleón, Anastasia Russo, Josean Bengoetxea, Elena Irureta, Jon Olivares