‘As Neves’ Director Sonia Mendez Discusses Hyper-Connected Youth, Shock of Adulthood, Working With Film Composer Andy Bell

In her feature film debut, “As Neves,” writer-director Sonia Méndez follows a group of teenagers in a Galician village struggling with the disappearance of a friend following a drug-fueled party and heavy snowfall that has cut off Internet access, complicating the search.

Speaking to Variety, Méndez says she was eager to explore a number of elements in the film, namely the youth of today, which she describes as the most hyper-connected generation, and the often violent transition to adulthood.

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“As Neves” screens in competition at the Malaga Film Festival.

Having experienced adolescence in the 1990s and belonging to the last generation caught between the analog and digital worlds, Méndez was fascinated by the “coexistence of both paradigms,” particularly among teenagers who live in such isolated areas as the mountain village of As Neves but are nevertheless always online, “which is very common in Galicia.”

Méndez points out, however, that the most important thing in her film “is how what happens transforms the teenagers — the feelings, the fears, the emotions. I really love the way young people feel things for the first time, with so much intensity – whether its feeling love, feeling sadness, it’s very pure and it’s very frightening. It’s very interesting to work with these kinds of feelings.”

The film also highlights how the freedom and recklessness of youth can have devastating consequences. In the film, an embarrassing video is widely shared at the expense of one of the kids.

“They are good people doing bad things, but they don’t realize it,” she explains.

David Rodríguez in "As Neves"
David Rodríguez in “As Neves”

The film’s young cast include David Rodríguez, Andrea Fernández, Antía Mariño, Xacobe Bruña, Irene Rodríguez, Diego Caro and Santi Carmena. Only Rodríguez, who plays Manu, one of the lead characters, had previous film experience, having appeared in Dani de la Torre’s 2021 drama “Live is Life.” The actors nevertheless succeed in embracing the challenging emotional material with authentic performances.

“We decided to do this big casting because there aren’t a lot of actors of this age in Galicia,” Méndez notes. The casting process attracted more than 600 young people from across the region. After selecting her actors, Méndez spent two months working with them to create a genuine bond among the group.

For the film’s atmospheric music, Méndez managed a major coup in recruiting one of her musical heroes, Welsh musician Andy Bell, a former member of Oasis who will soon be touring with his band Ride following the release later this month of their seventh album, “Interplay.”

“It was a pleasure composing the score for ‘As Neves,’” Bell says in a statement. “It is my first feature film score and the process was everything I dreamed it could have been. Sonia Méndez is such a talented director and had a very strong idea of what she wanted from the film’s music, which helped me a lot.”

“Something magic happened,” Méndez adds, noting that she was a big fan of Bell and of Ride during the 1990s and also of his newer solo material, in particular the song “Lifeline” from his 2022 album “Flicker,” which is also heard in the film.

“I listened to this song a lot when I was thinking about the movie,” Méndez says. “The song has a lot of meaning to me. So I said, ‘Okay, I’m going to write to Andy Bell’ — one day before shooting began. And he answered me. It was amazing.”

They began to collaborate and Méndez invited Bell to Galicia. His musical style was ideal for the film – with feedback and distortion supporting and enhancing the feelings of confusion and fear inherent in adolescence, she adds. “It was perfect.”

As an active filmmaker taking part in Galicia’s cinematic boom, Méndez has found support among a strong community of friends and fellow directors who influence one another.

“There’s a community of filmmakers in Galicia and we have all grown together, we are all friends – the new Galician cinema, people like Lois Patiño, Oliver Laxe, all these people, we are friends, we go out together.”

Méndez points out that her career differed somewhat from her colleagues as she started out as an actress before becoming a writer and director and now a producer.

With Cósmica Producións, the Santiago de Compostela-based company she co-founded in 2018 with producer Nati Juncal Portas, she is also offering opportunities to younger filmmakers from the region. The company is currently developing a number of projects, including Lucía Estévez’s “As Defensas,” a queer love story set in the industrial city of Vigo during the cultural youth movement of the 1980s that coincided with Spain’s transition to democracy.

As for Méndez’s future projects, she would like to make a dark comedy in the vein of Todd Solondz’s “Happiness,” she says. “I really love these kinds of strange movies; I love comedy, but this kind of comedy.”

She is also working on a love story about two seniors who meet and fall in love while attending to their respective spouses who are in hospice care.

Valencia-based Rosa Bosch is handling world sales for “As Neves.”

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