My Spanish Story: ‘Spain’s Tabernas desert, set of Spaghetti Westerns, has a new villain’

The Tabernas Desert, an area famous for being the backdrop of iconic Spaghetti Western films - is being trashed. Dave Regos, a documentary filmmaker, shares his story of the clean-up campaign.

My Spanish Story: 'Spain's Tabernas desert, set of Spaghetti Westerns, has a new villain'
Documentay film maker Dave Regos on the set of the old Spaghetti Westerns in Tabernas.
I didn’t grow up watching Westerns. I remember them being on the midday movie on television and thought they were boring. As a kid I preferred comedies and spoofs. Even during film school when I had to study High Noon and The Searchers, I still was not a fan. Then during my twenties I gave the HBO series “Deadwood” a go and something changed. The idea of building a town, or a world where outcasts, natives and foreigners somehow had to figure out how to coexist and form a society was fascinating to me. In the world of the Western, laws were vague. People had to explore their own ideas of morality and ethics, and recognise their relationship to the land and its precious resources. There was this notion of a pioneering, adventurous spirit that resonated with me. It opened the door to the famous Sergio Leone trilogy which I had been ignoring for many years.
The trilogy hit me just at the right time. I liked Tarantino movies and was at my peak art-house, post film-school, cult cinema watching period. Everything about the films blew me away – the characters, the stories, the music, the cinematography, the offbeat style.
Fast forward twelve years and I found myself living in San Lorenzo del Escorial, a small mountain village just outside of Madrid. I had just moved from New York where I had produced an environmental documentary “Divide in Concord” about the first town in the USA to ban the sale of plastic bottled water. The experience showed me the power of local activism and the ability for communities to take action on a cause they believed in. I decided I wanted to continue to be a part of this storytelling in order to get important messages across the world and make a greater impact. 
Between having awkward bad Spanish conversations with shopkeepers and going for walks in the mountains, I began researching what environmental issues Spain was facing. Eventually I came across an article about an Englishman trying to clean up areas of the desert in Spain right by where they filmed the famous Spaghetti Westerns. So I got in contact with Julian Phillips and we agreed to start production.
I knew immediately that I wanted to stylize this film like a classic Spaghetti Western as much as possible; to tell a universal tale of good vs bad, the mythology of an outsider hero who comes to a new place and destabilizes the status quo. A cowboy fighting the good fight. I roped my talented cinematographer friend Tyler Freeman Smith along for the ride and we drove across Spain to the region of Almeria. 
Watch the teaser for the film below: 
We toured the ramblas (dry river beds), interviewed locals and got beauty shots of the desert in all its majestic glory. We were fortunate enough to spend a few days filming in Mini Hollywood, one of the old locations that still have original sets. Trash, Can Cans and clean-ups, we got it all. Except for the elusive litterbugs themselves, the invisible collective unconsciousness that continues to mistreat the land. The longer I spent there, the more I could feel the divine presence of Mother Nature, in all her relentless power and grandeur. It is a cinematic place, and when not blisteringly hot, it is easy to see how the magic of its rocky twists, raggedy outcrops and dusty nooks draw people from all over the world to visit and live.
Julian started the community clean-ups in 2016 after noticing all the rubbish on his daily walks. He formed a non-profit organisation (P3 Ambiental) and applied for assistance from the Junta, but to date has received little support. For a few of the clean-ups the mayor of Tabernas assisted by providing containers and cleaning resources, but overall the problem of litter in the area is not being taken seriously. Nobody is getting caught and fined, the “no littering” signs are old and rusted. There is no great sense of urgency in regards to responding to the environmental degradation.
Julian Philips on the Spaghetti Western set in Tabernas desert, southern Spain. Photo:A Fistful of Rubbish
After launching the crowdfunding campaign we’ve received a great deal of support, but this enthusiasm has also been met with claims that the problem is being exaggerated. “Most of the desert is clean” they say. It’s true that thanks to the efforts of volunteers the situation is improving slightly, but a recent report from El Diario del Almeria has shown that there is no shortage of garbage strewn about. 
There is still a long way to go. We are doing our best to raise awareness through the documentary and the campaign; to shed light on a problem that lies much deeper than the bottles and cans, televisions and mattresses that litter the surface. 
We want people to care again. Lawrence Burton, our Native American character, says “The Earth is our Mother. To abuse the Land is to abuse your Mother”. The goal is not simply to clean up what has been thrown away, because in reality there is no “away”. Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle is not enough. We also need to Rethink and to Respect. The goal is to observe how our every thought, word and action affects the world around us. One person can do a lot, but collectively we can do much more. 
Like all the great Westerns, it’s about survival and prospering.
Follow Dave Regos and the campaign and documentary film developments on Facebook,
Twitter and Instagram  Click on the link below for more information on the film project and how to contribute to its crowdfunding




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French films with English subtitles to watch in November

As days get shorter and temperatures drop, November is a great month to enjoy a warm and comforting moment at the cinema. Here’s a round up of the French movies with English subtitles to see in Paris this month.

Cinema in France
Photo: Loic Venance/AFP

The cinema group Lost in Frenchlation runs regular screenings of French films in the capital, with English subtitles to help non-native speakers follow the action. The club kicks off every screening with drinks at the cinema’s bar one hour before the movie, so it’s also a fun way to meet people if you’re new to Paris.

These are the events they have coming up in November.

Friday, November 5th

Boîte Noire – What happened on board the Dubai-Paris flight before it crashed in the Alps? In this thriller Matthieu, a young and talented black box analyst played by Pierre Niney (star of Yves Saint-Laurent among other movies) is determined to solve the reason behind this deadly crash, no matter the costs. 

The screening will take place at the Club de l’étoile cinema at 8pm. But you can arrive early for drinks at the bar from 7pm. 

Tickets are €10 full price, €8 for students and all other concessions, and can be reserved here.

Sunday, November 14th

Tralala – In the mood for music? This new delightful French musical brings you into the life of Tralala (played by Mathieu Amalric), a 48 years old, homeless and worn-out street singer, who one day gets mistaken for someone else. Tralala sees an opportunity to get a better life by taking on a new personality. He now has a brother, nephews, ex-girlfriends, and maybe even a daughter. But where is the lie? Where is the truth? And who is he, deep down?

The night will start with drinks from 6pm followed by the screening at 7pm at the Luminor Hôtel de Ville cinema. There is also a two-hour cinema-themed walk where you’ll be taken on a “musicals movie tour” in the heart of Paris, which begins at 4pm.

Tickets cost €10, or €8 for students and concessions, and can be found here. Tickets for the walking tour cost €20 and must be reserved online here.

Thursday, November 18th

Illusions Perdues – Based on the great novel series by Honoré de Balzac between 1837 and 1843, this historical drama captures the writer Lucien’s life and dilemmas who dreams about a great career of writing and moves to the city to get a job at a newspaper. As a young poet entering the field of journalism, he is constantly challenged by his desire to write dramatic and eye-catching stories for the press. But are they all true?

The evening will kick off with drinks at L’Entrepôt cinema bar at 7pm, followed by the movie screening at 8pm. Tickets are available online here, and cost €8.50 full price; €7 for students and all other concessions.

Sunday, November 21st

Eiffel – Having just finished working on the Statue of Liberty, Gustave Eiffel (played by Romain Duris) is tasked with creating a spectacular monument for the 1889 Universal Exposition in Paris. It’s ultimately his love story with Adrienne Bourgès (Emma Mackey) that will inspire him to come up with the idea for the Eiffel Tower.

After a first screening last month, Lost in Frenchlation is organising a new one at the Luminor Hôtel de Ville cinema, with pre-screening drinks at the cinema bar. 

Tickets cost €10, or €8 for students and concessions, and can be found here

Thursday, November 25th

Les Héroïques – Michel is a former junkie and overgrown child who only dreams of motorbikes and of hanging out with his 17-year-old son Léo and his friends. But at 50 years old, he now has to handle the baby he just had with his ex, and try not to make the same mistakes he has done in the past. 

The film will be followed by a Q&A with the director Maxime Roy who will discuss his very first feature. 

Tickets cost €10, or €8 for students and concessions, and can be found here.

Full details of Lost in Frenchlation’s events can be found on their website or Facebook page. In France, a health pass is required in order to go to the cinema.