Urban Nigths

Yayo Herrero, The Alternative Road to Cinema

Yayo Herrero, The Alternative Road to Cinema

Yayo Herrero belongs to another lineage of cinema. This director, who hails from the northern part of Spain of Asturias, makes his way by shooting films. His first film, Maus, collects all the virtues of his award-winning short films and has toured the main festivals of the world. From his visit to the Fantastic Fest in Austin, he left with a mention under his arm and the desire to return to this wonderful city. We talked to him to find out and understand the magic of his movies.

Maus, his first full-length film

Yayo was born in Asturias but he got cinematographic maturity while living in Madrid, at the ECAM. Since 2010, he has been generating a unique narrative and visual style through his trilogy of short films. He analyzes the lights and shadows of today’s society. He also analyzes intimate stories that flow from global themes. Although Yayo creates them without being aware of it, he finds it hard to psychoanalyze his work, but he likes that people see it that way. He likes to tell stories of the times we live.

His concerns go beyond writing and filming his own works. In Dynamite Films, his production company, he gives opportunities to stories that do not find their place in the difficult Spanish cinema market. His debut took him to Sarajevo and was influenced by the book, Gorazde, by Joe Sacco to create the disturbing Picnic.

Another film is Maus. It’s the sister film of Picnic and that scenario develops in which the wounds of old Europe become scary flesh and blood. They are scars that no one talks about. The reaction of the Texas public has been divided. It’s a film made for debate and there are people who love it and people who hate it. That makes the cinema live and I love that. 

Maus frame

This alternative proposal of good cinema has been rewarded by the presence of the Asturian director in festivals such as Sitges or Austin this past autumn with Maus and previously at the Goya or at Cannes through its short developers. Each festival is a life experience. I can’t decide on one or the other. The great taste in the mouth is always left to you for the fact that the public can see your work on a big screen. That’s always a reward.

Festivals, Cinema’s Allyes

His international experience allows him to draw parallels between the way film is felt at festivals in the United States and Europe: Americans do not look for experimentation as much as in Europe. America is always with one foot in the industry. Although, they all have their charm, the wonderful thing about any type of festival, from the biggest to the smallest, is the love of cinema is real.

Yayo and his clapperboard. Photo: Diario de un cineasta

Despite this, there are always festivals that stand out. Yayo does not hesitate to mention which festivals have greatly impressed him: Cannes, Sitges and the Fantastic Fest of Austin. A special Jury Mention was added to the multiple awards he has won, at the Fantastica Fest in Austin last October, a city that captivated him. If I could, I would put a camera anywhere.

After the festival he toured Texas and New Orleans. Right after enjoying his American adventure, we spoke to him also about the complicated situation in Europe, a filmaker’s goals and obstacles to achieve success and about life in general. In his own words we find the person who hides behind the camera.

Maus captivates what he shows and what is sensed after it. Violence in Europe is something that goes back a long way. It is a spiral that has no end and that’s just what the film talks about. He does not avoid controversial issues such as Islamophobia and leaves a residue of pessimism about the continent’s future. Europe is heading towards total paralysis, Yayo Herrero analyzes wisely.

Yayo at Fantastica Fest in Austin

The difficult road to production

Yayo has not accused the difficulty of passing from short to long, as he himself reveals: Many told me that the difference was great, for me there has not been any, with one exception: the script of the long cost a lot more. Also concepts linked to production are more complicated In a feature film because you have to look for more alliances. The problem arises when these alliances are not appropriate.

Cinema speaks in many different languages.  Yayo already has the accent like Roman Polanski, Michael Haneke, Bela Tarr and any movie of the American cinema from the 70s.  Is it possible to make movies in Spain? It depends on what type of cinema you do. Self-production is the only usual way out. The model that attracts me the most is any one that allows me to do the movie that I want.

Maus poster

Nevertheless, Yayo is a brave man who, from his production company Dynamite Films, is committed to a cinema of quality. The adventure of producing is: stimulating because if you write and produce you have the initiative.

The most complicated part of any production is always financing, something that Dynamite strives to achieve under the following premises. The starting point is always first. Find private investors and submit calls for funds for the cinema. Reconciling artistic ambition and economy is the most difficult thing. If you are Christopher Nolan, but if you want to make Bela Tarr’s cinema then it is more complicated . For this reason, the producer’s objective is: tell stories in genre films that speak of the times we live.

On many occasions alternative cinema has to follow other paths to achieve funds and diffusion. Without the promotion of a great studio the festivals become the only alid of this underground cinema. Yayo is a veteran in these games but has no recipe to succeed in them. No rules. In the end everything is subjective, everything depends on the tastes of the committee. 

In spite of being the great forgotten by the movie theaters and by the general public, the short films find their habitat in the festivals. Yayo is clear that with a political – cultural will could reach the cinemas and encourage their consumption. Something that has not occurred at commercial level although it is true that the short film festivals have more followers every year. They are a genre in itself that everyone should enjoy. A passion that should include Picnic, The Acrobat and Safari, which analyzes the Columbine massacre from a revealing point of view.

Maus, a new road

This long road through the most inhospitable paths of cinema away from conventionalisms has taken him to Maus. That hypnotic work capable of turning a thriller into an allegory of the yagasof old Europe. In it, Picnic is reflected.


This first short film was shot in a forest in the image and likeness of Maus and Joe Gocco’s book Gorazde: When I read it, it gave me a bad feeling, I said: this is giving me more fear than the cinema of current terror. The Picnic shoot gave him the chance go to Sarajevo and see a town only looking forward.

He has counted on August Wittgenstein, Alma Terzic and Ella Jazz for his first long film. Despite their different languages, it has brought them together closer by the language of cinema. When you feel like telling a story, we all understand each other.

His time in the United States has made him live many adventures. If I had to choose one on this trip, it was feeding the crocodiles in New Orleans.  In 2018, he will continue doing what he does best, telling stories that no one has attempted to tell.  It doesn’t matter the size of the room or the festival but that there is an audience that loves the cinema.

Herrero bros at Austin adventure
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