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Chinchón: Wes Anderson to shoot his new movie on the fringes of Madrid | Culture

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US film director Wes Anderson.
US film director Wes Anderson.

US film director Wes Anderson, 52, is to shoot his next film in Chinchón in southeast Madrid during July, August and September. Although scarcely a single detail of the all-American production has been leaked, the sets simulating a Western-style desert are clearly visible on the edge of the town despite the fact that the movie does not reportedly belong to this genre.

For a major US production to be here for several months means an injection of life, prestige and publicity

Francisco Javier Martínez, mayor of Chinchón

Over 20 people are busy getting everything ready to shoot by mid-July, by which time Anderson will have premiered his last movie The French Dispatch at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival. Anderson has reportedly chosen Spain as the backdrop for his latest endeavor on account of its landscape and also the quality of its service companies and local production companies that take care of the paperwork, set construction, accommodation, transport and other related matters. Production, meanwhile, has been put in the hands of Indian Paintbrush, a company Anderson regularly works with.

Born in Houston, Anderson is famous for his distinctive visual and narrative style. Possessing a fascinating sense of aesthetics, he homes in on the minute detail of all the components that appear on camera, conjuring up extraordinary worlds using wardrobe and sets. His passion for visual symmetry and nostalgic humor is an integral part of his scripts and has turned him into a genre in his own right.

Having settled in France, the director has spent the last 10 years making films in Europe. Since shooting Moonrise Kingdom in 2012 in Rhode Island, he has not returned to his home country to film a movie. The Italian village for his Prada-produced shot film Castello Cavalcanti (2013) was built at Cinecittà Studios in Rome; he created his universe full of references to Austrian novelist Stefan Zweig and Europe’s interwar years in The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) at the German Babelsberg Studios outside Berlin; and Isle of Dogs (2018), a stop-motion animated comedy, was shot in British studios. Meanwhile, the yet-to-be-released The French Dispatch about life in a French city during the 20th century according to reports published in a fictitious local English-language newspaper, was made in an immense industrial warehouse on the outskirts of Angoulême in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region of southwestern France. This is the film that would have opened the 2020 Cannes Film Festival last year if the event hadn’t been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A mocked-up desert

Last week, several dozen workers were busy erecting immense classic Western sets in Chinchón. Beyond the scaffolding for the mocked-up desert that can be seen by the casual observer, a train station and train track are being recreated within a vast private estate. Anderson has not yet visited the location: before Cannes, he will be at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York where the 20th anniversary of the premiere of The Royal Tenenbaums will be celebrated in mid-June with a screening and a live-streamed conversation between Anderson and his artistic team.

Set being built on the outskirts of Chinchón for Wes Anderson’s latest movie.
Set being built on the outskirts of Chinchón for Wes Anderson’s latest movie. Víctor Sainz

In Chinchón, a town of 5,000 that lies 46 kilometers outside the Spanish capital, there is still no news of who will be in Anderson’s latest project, but the town’s mayor, Francisco Javier Martínez, is brimming with excitement nevertheless. “It is very important for the city,” he says. “It is true that we have been a regular location for numerous shoots, but that a major US production should be here for several months means an injection of life, prestige and publicity.”

From Chinchón’s famous Plaza Mayor square, Martínez adds that they have collaborated in the search for facilities for the film crew. “We have mediated in the negotiations with the Parador,” he says, referring to the former Augustinian monastery turned luxury hotel. “And also with other hotels and rural lodges. They [the film crew] are going to take over everything. The theater will be their center of operations and they will even be able to shoot there.”

There’s not much more Martínez can reveal: anything related to the film is strictly confidential. On the bulletin board inside city hall, a public notice signed by the local authorities and Film Madrid, the organization in charge of promoting the region as a film destination, states the project has “the support of City Hall” and requests the collaboration of the city’s inhabitants. According to Profilm, the Spanish association for international audiovisual production companies, 73% fewer foreign projects were developed in Spain in 2020. Direct investment went from €132 million in 2019 to €36 million last year.

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Director of movies such as Rushmore Academy and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Anderson is known for his meticulous attention to detail, his passion for diorama sets, his love of pastel colors and his penchant for coordinating tones according to the project. He is also famous for working with a recurring group of actors. With a budget of €35 million, the Chinchón movie will undoubtedly star some of his favorites – a cohort that includes Tilda Swinton, Owen Wilson, Saoirse Ronan, Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe, Jason Schwartzman, who regularly collaborates with him on his scripts, and Bob Balaban. “I call them, but I never tell them the size of the role, which would be rude,” Anderson told EL PAÍS in 2014 at the premiere of The Grand Budapest Hotel. “I ask them for help to make the film, and they sign up.”

One of his actors described him as “Saint-Exupéry’s Little Prince all grown up.” Anderson responded to the description, saying, “I don’t know what that means, really. Maybe he had a lot of fun on set.” Speaking about his childhood, he added, “I spent a lot of time drawing houses and elements of architecture, because that’s what I wanted to work in as an adult.” This helped creates his unique aesthetic, one that has greatly influenced contemporary interior design and Instagram. Regarding the off-set dynamics in Chinchón, he offered an insight when premiering The Isle of Dogs in Madrid. “The way I like to make films has a family feel,” he said at the time. “If I can, I try to have the whole crew live in the same hotel. I like to have lunch and dinner all together; so no one goes home.”

English version by Heather Galloway.

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Shocking news, Irish people may be sanest in Europe

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Ireland is running low on loopers. If we don’t watch out, we could emerge from the pandemic with our reputation for wildness completely shredded. We are in danger of being exposed as the sanest people in Europe.

Vaccines go into the arm, but also into the brain. They are a kind of probe sent into the national consciousness. In Ireland’s case, the probe has discovered exciting evidence of intelligent life.

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Vienna school under fire for sex ed class using doll for children as young as six

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According to Austria’s Kronen Zeitung newspaper, a teacher used a doll to explain “how sex works” to the children, while also encouraging them to use their hands and fingers on the doll. 

She said she wanted to “enlighten” the children about aspects of sex education. The children in the class were between the ages of six and ten. 

The teacher also explained to the children that “condoms should be used if you don’t want to have babies”, the newspaper reports. 

One boy was told to remove the clothes of the doll but refused before being told that he had to do so. 

The boys parents removed him from the school, saying that he was “overwhelmed” after the class and had started touching his sister inappropriately. 

“We have never seen our son like this before, he was completely overwhelmed” the parents said anonymously, “we are taking him out of the school.”

“We can already see the consequences. 

“A few days after these disturbing lessons, a classmate came to us to play. Like many times before, the boy also played with our ten-year-old daughter. This time he suddenly wanted to pull her pants down.

Peter Stippl, President of the Association for Psychotherapy, said that while sex education was crucially important, it needed to be age appropriate in order to be effective. 

“(This type of sexual education) scares the children! They get a wrong approach to the topic and their natural limit of shame is violated,” he said. 

“Sex education must always be age-appropriate and development-appropriate. Many children are six, seven or eight years old – or even older – not interested in sexual intercourse.

“We should never explain sexuality in schools in isolation from love and relationships. It makes you feel insecure and afraid. It harms the development of children.”

The Austrian Ministry of Education will now set up a commission to determine who will be allowed to teach sex ed in schools. 

The city of Vienna is also investigating the specific incident. 



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Madrid’s Retiro Park and Paseo del Prado granted World Heritage status | Culture

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Madrid’s famous Retiro Park and Paseo del Prado boulevard have been added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The decision, made on Sunday, brings the total number of World Heritage Sites in Spain to 49 – the third-highest in the world after Italy and China.

Up until Sunday, none of these sites were located in the Spanish capital. The Madrid region, however, was home to three: El Escorial Monastery in Alcalá de Henares, the historical center of Aranjuez and the Montejo beech forest in Montejo de la Sierra.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez celebrated the news on Twitter, saying it was a “deserved recognition of a space in the capital that enriches our historical, artistic and cultural legacy.”

Retiro Park is a green refuge of 118 hectares in the center of the city of Madrid. Paseo del Prado boulevard is another icon of the capital, featuring six museums, major fountains such as the Fuente de Cibeles as well as the famous Plaza de Cibeles square.

For the sites to be granted World Heritage status, Spain needed the support of two-thirds of the UNESCO committee – 15 votes from 21 countries. The proposal was backed by Brazil, Ethiopia, Russia, Uganda, Nigeria, Mali, Thailand, Kyrgyzstan, Oman and Saudi Arabia, among others.

Statue of Apollo in Paseo del Prado.
Statue of Apollo in Paseo del Prado.Víctor Sainz

Prior to the vote, the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), the organization that advises UNESCO, had argued against considering the Paseo del Prado and Retiro Park as one site, and recommended that the latter be left out on the grounds that there were no “historic justifications” for the two to be paired.

This idea was strongly opposed by Spain’s ambassador to UNESCO, Andrés Perelló, who said: “What they are asking us to do is rip out a lung from Madrid. El Prado and El Retiro are a happy union, whose marriage is certified with a cartography more than three centuries old.” The origins of Paseo del Prado date back to 1565, while Retiro Park was first opened to the public during the Enlightenment.

Pedestrians on Paseo del Prado.
Pedestrians on Paseo del Prado. Víctor Sainz

The ICOMOS report also denounced the air pollution surrounding the site. To address these concerns, Madrid City Hall indicated it plans to reduce car traffic under its Madrid 360 initiative, which among other things is set to turn 10 kilometers of 48 streets into pedestrian areas, but is considered less ambitious than its predecessor Madrid Central.

The 44th session of the World Heritage Committee took place in the Chinese city of Fuzhou and was broadcast live at Madrid’s El Prado Museum. Perelló summed up the reasons to include Retiro Park and El Paseo de Prado in less than three minutes.

“When people say ‘from Madrid to heaven’ [the slogan of the Spanish capital] I ask myself why would you want to go to heaven when heaven is already in Madrid,” he told delegates at the event, which was scheduled to take place in 2020, but was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Every year, UNESCO evaluates 25 proposals for additions to the World Heritage List. In the case of the Paseo del Prado and Retiro Park, the site was judged on whether it evidenced an exchange of considerable architectural influences, was a representative example of a form of construction or complex and if it was associated with traditions that are still alive today. The famous park and boulevard sought to be inscribed on the UNESCO list in 1992, but its candidacy did not reach the final stage of the process.

Etching of Paseo del Prado from Cibeles fountain, by Isidro González Velázquez (1788).
Etching of Paseo del Prado from Cibeles fountain, by Isidro González Velázquez (1788).Biblioteca Nacional de España

The effort to win recognition for the sites’ outstanding universal value began again in 2014 under former Madrid mayor Ana Botella, of the conservative Popular Party (PP), and was strengthed by her successor Manuela Carmena, of the leftist Ahora Madrid party, which was later renamed Más Madrid. An advisor from UNESCO visited the site in October 2019.

English version by Melissa Kitson.



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