The indie genre is being rediscovered little by little. We recently got Moonlight, last year’s Academy Award Best Picture winner, which was made for under $1 million dollars (in comparison, “indie” films of today can hit the low teens in millions). Erstwhile in the world, in Spain, a similar phenomenon is occurring with the movie Selfie. Selfie was made for about $10,000, which is roughly the size of an American student film’s budget.
Selfie is a mockumentary about Bosco, the son (Santiago Alverú) of a Spanish minister. Bosco has everything going in life: a pretty girlfriend, he’s studying his master’s degree, he has hundreds of friends who come to his parties, etc. But then during his birthday party, it’s announced that Bosco’s father has been arrested for corruption. Instantly, Bosco’s world comes crashing down; his mother abandons him, his sister goes away to the US with her boyfriend, his girlfriend and friends cut ties with him, his home is seized by the government, and he’s even kicked out of his master’s program. Homeless, Bosco wanders into the more humble neighborhoods of Madrid where he’s taken in kindly by a blind teacher named Macarena (Macarena Sanz). She gets her friend Ramon (Javier Caramiñana) to lend him a room. So Bosco begins a completely new life from a totally new perspective.
While the story might seem incredibly depressing, director Victor Garcia Leon and his cast are able to take everything with incredible humor. Never once does Alverú make us pity Bosco, and even though we seem to be looking into all his private moments, he always manages to keep us at an arm’s distance. There’s an almost professionalism to his comedy. As for the technical aspects, some might be a bit annoyed with the constantly shaking camera of the mockumentary genre, but it mirrors the instability of Bosco’s journey in a way that the audience can feel it too.
There are of course political undertones to this all. Spain still being embroiled with political corruption cases left and right, this seems like an incredibly timely piece. By taking the subject with humor, Garcia Leon is able to simplify the human aspects of it all in a way no political drama has been able to. Selfie is able to strip away the layers and show the audience that in the end, it’s not power and wealth that make us happy, but the relationships we have with people. Without knowing it, Garcia Leon has made a philosophical film about happiness.
Selfie was a wonderful surprise for me, given the fact that all the actors are working on screen for the first time, that a small budget didn’t keep this film crew down, and that it tackled such a taboo issue in Spain. The making of this film itself sends a loud message to artists everywhere: that you don’t need money or experience to make a quality film; it’s about determination and talent.