‘Veneno’ Producer Buendía Estudios Unveils ‘Lorca in New York’

Producer of HBO Max hit “Veneno,” Spain’s Buendía Estudios, a joint venture of Atresmedia and Movistar Plus, is now developing a series on Federico García Lorca, Spain’s greatest and best known modern poet, executed by dictator Francisco Franco supporters in 1936 for his left-wing views and homosexuality.

Currently in development, “Lorca in New York,” a six hour miniseries, is based on an original idea by Granada writer-producer Eduardo Galdo. It is created by Buendía Estudios’ and developed by Galdo Media.

“We now have extensive story lines which will allow us to move the project on the market,” said Sonia Martínez, Buendía Estudios’ editorial director. Buendía has developed a creative dossier.“It’s quite special given the important visual and music components of the series.”

“Lorca in New York” catches the poet over 1929-30 during the greatest spiritual crisis of his life, victim of an unrequited passion for Salvador Dalí, his soul mate for much of the 1920s, and now a darling of the avant-garde Parisian surrealists.

In 1928, Dali dismisses Lorca’s most famous poem collection, “Romancero Gitano,” sensuous ballads echoing ancient rural songs, as “picturesquisms.” Surrealism is where it’s at, Dali told Lorca. Lorca, probably quite correctly, took the title of Dali and Luis Buñuel’s first film “An Andalusian Dog,” a surrealistic masterpiece, to be a reference to his own sexual leanings.

Wounded to his core, and abandoned by his latest lover, the sculptor Emilio Aladren, Lorca seizes a chance to study English at Columbia, where he writes “Poet in New York,” his own surrealist masterpiece.

Lorca’s story will interweave with another life, nearly a century later, as Elena, a young doctorate student from Spain’s Granada, journeys for the first time to New York and Columbia to finish a PhD on Lorca. Once more, the adaptation will not be easy, knit by a nostalgia for Spain and confrontation with parts of the poet’s life that remain cryptic: at this time, for example, Lorca still repressed any public acknowledgement of his homosexuality in his published poems. Elena’s breakthrough comes when she discovers the letters that Lorca wrote to his family.

The series will render tribute to the poet’s genius through the eyes of a young woman attempting to find her own space in the world while exploring the chiaroscuro, as Buendía Estudios puts it, of the parties, and jazz and literary worlds of 1920s’ New York.

“Lorca’s ‘Poet in New York’ anticipated the magic and asphyxia which today define the great cities of the world,” Buendía Estudios said in a statement Tuesday. It was heralded as a masterpiece only 30 years later – “Dramatic, complex and completely actual,” translator J.L. Gili wrote in 1959. It can hardly be less actual in a world where the population of China’s cities has quintupled over the last 40 years.

Variety talked to Sonia Martínez about one of Buendía Estudios’ banner projects for 2020:

Lazy loaded image

Sonia Martinez
Courtesy of Buendia Estudios

As his poems make clear, Lorca abominated New York’s inhumanity. But that’s not the whole story….

Traveling opens the mind. Lorca, like Elena, is surprised by the multi-ethnic force of a city’s like New York. Spain has changed. But it still doesn’t have any city like New York. We’d like to transmit the power of this multi-ethnic makeup.

Another ethnic group, Spain’s gitano Romas, had already powered Lorca’s creativity. 

Yes, Lorca makes his own particular parallel between the flamenco world and that of Harlem, jazz. He’s never had contact with black people. We want this part of the series to be highly visual, and very playful.

You’ll talk openly about Lorca’s homosexuality….

Of course. His sexuality is an important issue. One fundamental reason for Lorca’s leaving Spain was his being dumped by his sculptor lover, Emilio Aladren. But there he discovers other kinds of sex, races, music, people from the world of theater. He reads Walt Whitman and suddenly experiences a way of feeling that he hadn’t had before. Spain at that time was very much shut off from the world.

One challenge is to make Elena’s story as powerful as Lorca’s.

Yes. But telling Lorca’s story from the point of view of a woman brings another kind of vision. Elena’s research allows us to show what really happened to Lorca and to suggest how, for recent arrivals, no matter how much time passes New York City maintains some of the same constants. There are also parallels between what Elena and Lorca feels. Elena left the world of music out of insecurity about her talent, She discovers things about her own sexuality that she hadn’t explored. She learns,  through Lorca, how to stand up to life.

The series synopsis says that a crux in her research will be the discovery of the letters Lorca sent to his parents….

In the letters, Lorca says everything’s going very well. But this allows us a way of entry into what was really happening to Lorca.

His relationship with his father is moving….

Lorca’s father was liberal for his times, but no way as advanced as Lorca, and he didn’t approve his homosexuality. When Lorca was killed, his parents left Spain for New York.

His father said he’d never return, that Spain was the worst thing that could happen to anyone. He never did. He’s buried in New York. We have a scene where Elena visits his grave.

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