HANDIA

Spain 2018

Synopsis

Having fought in the First Carlist War, Martin returns to his family farm in Gipuzkoa only to find that his younger brother, Joaquín, towers over him in height. Convinced that everyone will want to pay to see the tallest man on Earth, the siblings set out on a long trip all over Europe, during which ambition, money and fame will forever change the family’s fate. A story based on true events.

Directors Statement

On a night in 1863, a group of unknown men broke into a cemetery in the small Basque town of Altzo. They were looking for a coffin, but not just any coffin, one in particular, and they knew they had found it because of its size: the coffin was enormous, much larger than the rest. In fact, it was twice as large. When the intruders managed to pry the lid open, what they found was an even greater surprise than they had anticipated: the coffin was empty. Not a single bone.

Miguel Joaquín Eléicegui had died one year earlier, and while he was only 43 years old, he had lived quite a life. Such a life that even today, a century and a half later, he is still considered one of the most legendary real-life characters of recent Basque history. This could be due to his extraordinary physique, but also because of the mystery surrounding both his life and his death. Little is known of either, which has made Miguel Joaquín's figure fertile ground for rumors and gossip. One of life's great ironies, since his death to date his legend has continued to grow in people's imaginations, truly becoming a myth who would later be known forever as "The giant from Altzo."

Miguel Joaquín grew up in a very conservative rural environment in a core of a large family (nine siblings). Shortly after reaching the age of twenty he developed a deadly illness which had an unexpected effect on his young body: he started growing out of control. And he never stopped growing until the day he died. He grew gradually in size until he reached, at the end of his life, the height of eight feet (2.4m). This made him the tallest man of his time. And for this reason, the humble man from a small town would later be received by the royal families of Spain, Portugal, France and England.

But beyond the annals of history, what makes this character most attractive is his introspective quality. In particular, one of his most remarkable attributes is the fact that he never stopped growing. How would Miguel Joaquín handle this phenomenon? We want to put ourselves in the shoes of a boy who one day found out that his size was going to gradually increase and see how he manages such an experience. How what at first was pleasing news slowly became frustrating, troublesome and later distressing with the awareness that his growth was not normal. We want to experience this alongside him and feel the tension and astonishment with which Miguel Joaquín and those close to him manage such a situation. Will he ever stop growing?

We believe that there's something about his plight that any audience can understand. Obviously few people have experienced something similar to what the super giant went through, but anyone can understand the anguish of realising that something you don't like is growing within you. In Miguel Joaquín's case it was his size, while someone else it could be greed, a grudge, envy, madness or anger. The Giant from Alzo's story is therefore an interesting starting point from which we can explore the uncontrollable hidden forces in the most remote corners of the human psyche.

But besides the introspective character, there's another aspect that attracts us to this story: it's potential to show the process of how a legend is created and spread. Respecting what we know about him, we want our Miguel Joaquín to be a blank canvas. A man who, without actually doing anything, provokes a series of events. Because Miguel Joaquín, despite his lack of charisma, is capable of generating a myth around himself which reaches the present day, simply due to the fact that he's huge.

We're talking about a community or a society's unrelenting need to fabricate legends, to create heroes it can believe in and admire. Like the quote from "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance": "This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend." The fact that all people need myths is unquestionable. At this very moment, although we're unaware of it, in every corner of the world new myths are forming that will play a role in the future. And apparently all of these myths have one thing in common: they come from the need to understand the world beyond the present.

Director's Biography

Aitor Arregi co-directed the animated feature films GLUP (2004) and CRISTOBAL MOLÓN (2006) and the feature-length documentaries SAHARA MARATHON and LUCIO. Jon Garaño directed the feature films 80 EGUNEAN (2010) and LOREAK (2014), nominated for the Best Film Goya and selected to represent Spain at the Oscars Academy Awards.

Filmographies:
Jon Garaño:
2014 - FLOWERS
2010 - 80 EGUNEAN

Aitor Arregi:
2007 - LUCIO, doc.
2004 - GLUP, anim.
2004 - SAHARA MARATHON, doc.
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Cast & Crew

Directed by : Aitor Arregi, Jon Garaño

Written by : Aitor Arregi, Jon Garaño, Jose Mari Goenaga, Andoni De Carlos

Produced by : Fernando Larrondo, Iñaki Gomez, Koldo Zuazua, Xabier Berzosa, Iñigo Obeso

Director of Photography : Javier Agirre Erauso

Editor : Raúl López, Laurent Dufreche

Production Design : Mikel Serrano

Costume Design : Saioa Lara

Hair & Make up Artist : Ainhoa Exkisabel, Olga Cruz, Gorka Aguirre

Composer : Pascal Gaigne

Sound Design : Xanti Salvador

Special Effects Supervisor: David Heras

Main Cast : Eneko Sagardoy (Joaquin), Joseba Usabiaga (Martin)

Nominations and Awards

  • EFA Feature Film Selection 2018