Arturo Menor: "I want the public to fall in love with the wild Iberian fauna"

Arturo Menor, biologist, naturalist and film director, premieres the film Iberia, Infinite Nature, where he combines a great knowledge of Iberian wildlife with mastery of film technique.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
19 March 2023 Sunday 00:04
92 Reads
Arturo Menor: "I want the public to fall in love with the wild Iberian fauna"

Arturo Menor, biologist, naturalist and film director, premieres the film Iberia, Infinite Nature, where he combines a great knowledge of Iberian wildlife with mastery of film technique. “I want the public to fall in love with our species of wild fauna”, says this filmmaker, a disciple of Rodríguez de la Fuente, and a “fan” of his mythical series El hombre y la Tierra. In the new film, Arturo Menor shows the main Iberian ecosystems from the point of view of a large bird of prey. The eagle carries the camera on its back and at times it is the protagonist and "narrator" of a story about its own vicissitudes.

The territorial fight for resources between eagles and vultures, the special effects to recreate the threats of large birds and the images that the eagle observes are some of the great attractions. The bearded vulture, the capercaillie, the little bustard, the European mink and the brown bear are parading and also entering the scene as actors in an ensemble film of Iberian fauna.

How did the idea for this film come about?

-It arose because there was no previous film that addressed Iberian Nature as a whole, in which Nature was found on the Atlantic slope and on its Mediterranean slope, the Mediterranean forest. For this reason, I thought of making a global, Iberian film. I thought that everything had a link: but what does a Montilla hogtail have to do with a brown bear from the Cantabrian mountain range? I thought of an animal that would serve as a link, that would have a habitat and an area of ​​distribution throughout the Peninsula, a species that had a great capacity for movement; and then, doing the animal casting, I chose the golden eagle.

-What would be the ultimate purpose of this film?

-The total and absolute objective is educational and conservationist. I consider myself a disciple of Félix Rodríguez de la Fuente and I believe that the main Nature conservation action that has been carried out in the history of Spain is Man and the Earth. This was not a normal series, but rather a series that changed the way a country relates to its natural environment; and, above all, it aroused many vocations of people who later turned to the defense of Nature, that of biologists and forestry engineers who are dedicated to managing it. That's where those vocations were born. Therefore, the objective is educational; I want the public to fall in love with these species, since that results in their conservation.

-How has the making of Nature films changed in these 50 years? His images surprise, like that golden eagle that carries a small camera on its back...

-Yes Yes. Man and Earth uses a very simple tool, basically everything was done with a tripod and a camera only. However, the public now every day is more demanding. Productions are now very complex; now the public is used to that complexity in the shots and in the production; For this reason, we could not stay behind and we had to use current tools.

-The eagle itself carries the camera

-In this case, what we have done, among many other things, is that the eagle had a camera on its back. She is a logically trained bird and she wears a small camera on a harness, like a backpack, and she records herself. We have been able to collect, for example, the fight between the eagle and the crows in the air. So, logically, many subjective shots of the eagle are made with drones; We have used the mosquito drone to record the flight of the swallow; There are different types of cameras to take underwater shots: cameras that were operated by a diver and that allowed us to see from out of the water what was happening in the middle of the river... In other words, it is a lot of technology, very advanced.

-The eagle is the protagonist, it is the common thread of the story… But his partner is electrocuted… It is a shocking image…

-Among the novelties that we provide in a fiction film there are also visual effects. Throughout the film there are 80 visual effects shots where, among other elements, the electrocution of the eagle is recreated. On the one hand, the electrical line was signed with all the characteristics of danger and then an eagle was filmed that we had to wet so that it would shake as it appears in the film; and, once we already had the plans, all that is digitally integrated and then those visual effects that form the electric arc also intervene.

-The actual electrocution of an eagle would be something similar to that?

-Yes that's how it is; Just like you see in the movie. The problem with this type of wiring, which is called 0 assembly, is that it is not necessary to touch the cables to be electrocuted; electrocution occurs with humid conditions like the one that appears in the film or when there is a high electrical charge in the atmosphere; the eagle when shaking is electrocuted.

-In your film a great geographical variety is shown; but not many indications are given about the páramos, meadows or mountains, with the exceptions of the Tiétar or the Nervión waterfall; but in general I do not know details of locations.

-At first we considered putting posters in the film so that it would not be located and it would be possible to know where the action was taking place, but it was very ugly because the film is so beautiful, so showy, that we did not think it was right to put superimposed letters. And we decided to leave it like that; there are a series of elements that allow the viewer to know more or less where the action is taking place and where the journey takes place, such as the Nervión waterfall...

-One of the images that summarizes the essence of the film is the fight for natural resources, the brutality of that fight. In them is much of what you have studied, learned or have been explained to you and you have wanted to record... Obtaining them must have involved great difficulty, right?

-Yeah; In the fights between the vultures with the eagle, wild eagles intervene. In fact, in the film there are 14 eagles, of which 10 are wild and four are trained. We had that knowledge previously; we knew that behavior. It's a matter of patience and time...

-What impression did it make on you, how do you remember all that recording?

-It was very exciting; I believe that the most beautiful shots of the golden eagles in the film are precisely those of the wild eagles; there are many hours of waiting, because you never know when that is going to happen; the eagles may come to eat or they may come to drink, but you never know when they are going to fight a vulture. There were many days, also in harsh conditions because it was snowing. And that means that the snow paintings sometimes no longer serve you...

-And who wins the battle, the vultures or the golden eagle?

-The vultures. I tell what is happening in Nature today. The populations of vultures, of the griffon vulture, are expanding and are displacing the raptors in the cliffs and are occupying nests of golden eagles. And we are finding that golden eagles, which are animals that typically nest on rocks, are nesting in trees, or on power lines of large lines, which are called transmission lines. And with the black stork the same thing happens too.

-Vultures occupy the space of the eagle and also displace it when it comes to fighting for food...

-Yes, of course, the vulture is a gregarious species, it lives in colonies and a pair of golden eagles are only two individuals compared to groups of vultures that are also large birds of prey. For this reason, when the female, which is the one with the largest size and the one with the greatest capacity to defend the territory, dies for any reason, the male is normally expelled; it may be driven off by vultures or it may be driven off by another pair of eagles. The vulture always has that advantage, that of being a gregarious animal.

-What contribution do drones make in this film? What is the best use that you think can be made?

-I think that the drone is, in its proper measure, a magnificent tool. And in this case its use is justified. In any case, as a director I am very aware of the criteria of the film's editor, Juan Manuel García Moyano, who in the end is always the person who measures my ideas and helps me give them coherence. The advantage it has is that the drone offers a point of view that we didn't have before and it was difficult to get; Thanks to its small size and its versatility, it allows us to obtain exceptional shots. Drone flying between common planes is something that could only be done with a drone.

-In the films there are mostly allusions and references to the two threats to birds, power lines and poisons. Are these the main dangers for birds for you? Birds appear next to wind turbines and the text does not say that they are a risk, they say that the birds "get around" them...

-I want the viewer to also draw their own conclusions. Wind farms are very necessary because wind energy and the transition to renewable energy is necessary but it is also a problem if it is not well planned and they are not installed on the sites so that they can respect biodiversity. I want you to draw your own conclusions. When I made the film I looked up the literature and saw that the two main unnatural causes of death for large raptors are power lines and the use of poisoned baits.

-What are the great difficulties to be able to assemble and complete the enormous work that a film like this means that takes months of work? How would you summarize it?

-This has two parts. This is like a coin, with side A and side b. The beautiful side of the coin, and the one that I enjoy and the one that makes me happy, is the shooting, the pre-production in the field and the shooting; Being able to go to the Pyrenees and be in a mature black pine forest and sign the capercaillie and live all those moments that appear in the film and live them firsthand as a fan of Rodríguez de la Fuente and as a true nature lover is for me a luxury, a dream. But then you have the negative part; It's all the administrative part because unfortunately we don't have a production company; I have to work as a director and as a producer. I also have to dedicate a lot of time in my life to looking for financing, to find funds and money to be able to pay all that it costs to make a film of this type and then I have to dedicate a lot of time also to distribution in movie theaters and to everything that entails

-Some administrations collaborate...

-They are small aids for the magnitude of a project of this type, but this economic support is always useful. I am very envious of the British or what the BBC does, who really know what it costs to do this and value it and put in the necessary resources to be able to. Our film is distributed very well internationally, it helps the Spain brand, but unfortunately we don't have all the necessary support.

-How will it be distributed? Where can it be seen?

-We have already signed contracts so that it can be seen in 70 movie theaters. On the 17th they will be in 70 or 80 movie theaters throughout Spain. The place to see it is in the cinema, especially because of the conception of the shots it has. It is a cinematographic conception and the sound it has is also to be enjoyed in a movie theater. Then there will be an international distribution.