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Pilar Palomero shows in her debut feature ‘Schoolgirls’ what it was like to enter puberty in 1990s Spain

Pilar Palomero (left), director of Schoolgirls, and actress Natalia de Molina.
  • The film, which has already won several awards, puts the focus on Spain’s sexual education at that time.

10/28/2020.- Schoolgirls, Pilar Palomero’s debut feature screened today Wednesday in the festival section  Spanish Cinema. The film portrays the adolescence of a group of young girls in the year 1992, “a key year”, explained the feature’s director during the movie’s presentation in front of the audience. “That year the Expo’92 in Seville and the Barcelona Olympics coincided in Spain, which is why she calls it “a year of fluid transition”. This background was useful in providing a frame for the film since, according to her, “society was still anchored in the past”.

Palomero’s  main purpose was “to portray that generation and  the education we received”. In the film, everything is shown through the eyes of the protagonist, Celia, played by Andrea Fandos, to whom Palomero dedicated some beautiful words and high praise for her  “intensity, magic and  very special sensitivity”.

With this  film, the director wanted to show the kind of  sexual education that existed in those days:  “sex was not discussed  at home, our parents did not dare, it was something unnameable, taboo”. The film also recalls the “Put It On” information campaign: the  first ever State-sponsored, safe sex advertising campaign, which according to Palomero “speaks volumes about how sexual education was perceived  at that time, since it  had to be withdrawn”.

The girls who appear in the film did not have a script to memorise.”We worked through guided improvisation; they were allowed to be themselves but we kept cueing them  where to go. In this way we achieved a very similar result to a scripted performance”, said Palomero.

Twice a  Goya winner, actress Natalia de Molina  stars in the role of Adela, Celia’s mother. For this role, Molina explained, she had to “do a lot of research in order  to understand the character’s childhood and the communication problems of a mother with her daughter”. The actress confessed that “silence is something that actors are very much afraid of” and Adela is a woman who “is silent or  speaks very little: it’s all looks and silences”.

Schoolgirls, a film awarded with the Golden Biznaga at Málaga, has also screened at other festivals such as Berlin and Brussels. In the profession, Pilar Palomero is already known as “the new jewel of Spanish cinema”. She admitted that she “feels great” to hear those compliments, but above all she values praise because it allows her to continue doing what she likes best: “making movies”.

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