Deep within the misty mountains and dark forests of Basque Country Spain, a new legend has been born. Filmmaker Paul Urkijo Alijo has recently been mystifying movie audiences across the world and garnering the support of some of some of the biggest film producers in the industry. He has a supernatural ability to transport audiences into his mythical worlds of ghosts and demons, charm them with his witty humor, and finally leave them in shock and awe, afraid to open their eyes. Jonathan Martin, founder of Filmquest, has dubbed him “the Second Coming of Guillermo del Toro”. Urkijo’s latest film, “Errementari – The Blacksmith and the Devil,” is on fire. It’s winning endless awards at some of the largest film festivals in the world including Filmquest and Scorpiusfest. Barcelona-based Filmax International has bought all rights to the fantasy horror film. “Errementari” is also one of the most popular films on Netflix right now.
Scorpius recently had the opportunity of interviewing this new force in the film industry.
Scorpius: What were your major influences from your childhood in Basque Spain?
Paul Urkijo: I was born the youngest of four children. I had two sisters and one brother. In Basque Country our culture is very close to the mountains and the woods. Folklore is very prominent there. Our fiestas and social gatherings are strongly influenced and related to mythology and stories that I read as a child. I grew up watching movies from many different genres, but my favorites were primarily horror and gothic. I remember my father would read me tales from Basque Mythology and Grimm Brothers stories. I loved them, they truly captured my imagination and inspired me.
Scorpius: What inspired your choice to write and direct “Errementari”
Paul Urkijo: It was one of my favorite tales from childhood. I found it interesting that the blacksmith tortured and punished the demons. As a child I envisioned how the demons would look. I actually felt sorry for the demons because they were the victims. Also, I felt like I deeply understood the blacksmith, I love underdogs or misunderstood people. The blacksmith is a tortured and lonely soul who lives deep in the woods. He is considered a bad guy by the Church and the town but no one knows what goes on in his head. When I was younger I spent a lot of time alone. I was probably considered strange by my peers. I lived in my own world and was kind of shy. People didn’t understand me. So I’m able to tell a lot of stories about these kind of people or characters. With “Errementari,” I created a gothic horror story about demons which is very baroque, with rich imagery, but with black humor. I’ve developed characters who are suffering and I explore the concept of hell. On one hand I present the imagery of the hell of middle-age earth with the horror and fire monsters and torture. On the other hand I introduce hell as I psychological state. For me, the medieval imagery of hell is a metaphor of the psychological state of fear, repression, and hopelessness that you can actually escape. For the blacksmith, his war past and the tragic story of his wife is his hell. And the blacksmith’s world itself is a metaphor. It’s dark with fire, everything’s a mess. So he can’t escape from his hell. Usue is a little girl who is living in this culture of the church which rules with fear and guilt and where the priests are very powerful. Usue’s mother is dead and judged by the church so she has to endure persecution and bullying from the other children in the village. With the demon, his very existence is his hell. He doesn’t want to have to punish humans nor to deal with the blacksmith. So for me it was this imagery and these concepts that attracted me to this tale.
Scorpius: Were any scenes inspired from you personal life experience?
Paul Urkijo: The scene where the little girl is having a conversation with the snake was inspired from when I used to go to the woods alone to play with the wild animals, as a boy. One summer I found a black cat and a small snake in the forest. So I took them both and sat down with them. “Ok, we’re going to have a council and discuss some things”, I said. Immediately the cat attacked the small snake and began eating it. When I tried to stop the cat it attacked me. “I went home pretty bloody that day and my mother freaked out!” Urkijo laughing.
Scorpius: Which movies and directors have had the most powerful influence on you as a filmmaker?
Paul Urkijo: Jason and the Argonauts, Legend, pretty much every film by Ridley Scott, Jim Henson’s storytelling, the Dark Crystal, Monty Python’s Holy Grail, Time Bandits, Terry Gilliam, Alex de la Iglesia, Tobe Hooper, John Carpnter and of course many others.
Scorpius: What was the journey like from your vision of “Errementari” to the final edit?
Paul Urkijo: I spent seven years making this movie. Five years was the preproduction, fundraising, story boards, textures, scouting locations, and so forth. As we began filming, there were some dialog and other changes because filming is a very organic process. What you imagined is never going to be what it becomes. You need to be willing to adapt to the reality that you are going to film. It’s like a living, organic creature that is changing throughout the process until the end. From the vision to the post-production, adding the music and the sound, you have to get to a point where you say, “it’s finished,” but it’s never truly finished. You don’t ever finish making a movie, you abandon a movie. You can change and adapt everything for the rest of your life! You can go crazy doing it.
Paul Urkijo’s “Errementari” is currently available on Netflix. Urkijo is currently working on a new film based in Pagan mythology. More to come…