Documentary shows how Malaga played its part in shaping the genius in Picasso

Phil Grabsky this week with the sculpture of Picasso in Malaga.
Phil Grabsky this week with the sculpture of Picasso in Malaga. / F. P.
  • British director Phil Grabsky brought his documentary Young Picasso to show at the film festival

The pigeons that fly away as we approach the Plaza de la Merced from the Cervantes theatre remind us of the artists who sketched them in that same spot years ago: José Ruiz Blasco and his son Pablo Ruiz Picasso, who was born in the house on the corner and now sits outside in the form of a bronze sculpture.

British filmmaker Phil Grabsky was in Malaga this week for the Spanish premiere of his new documentary, Young Picasso.

"The project to make the film about Picasso came up four years ago and the first question we asked ourselves was simple and crucial. Why him? Why did the boy who was born right here, and not another boy who was born next door or anywhere else? Why?" explained the director.

There is no simple answer but the quest resulted in the hour-and-a-half-long film in which specialists, such as the director of the Malaga Picasso Museum José Lebero, the director of the agency that manages the house where the artist was born, José María Luna, and the artist's grandson, Olivier Widmaier-Picasso, all give their opinions.

The first conclusion is that Picasso's childhood in Malaga played a crucial role in his rise to the pinnacle of modern art.

While he admits it would be too "reductionistic" to focus on just one reason, "we have to mention the light of the south, the Mediterranean". "It seems obvious that Picasso's use of light and colour would have been very different if he had been born in northern Europe, or even in the north of Spain," said Grabsky.

The director mentions another factor that also plays a vital role in history: luck.

"By chance his father's job as a teacher took him to La Coruña and from there to Barcelona, which in those years attracted a multitude of artists from Paris who brought avant-garde ideas with them. This experience was crucial in Picasso's career," said Grabsky. He added that in Malaga Picasso lived in a comfortably-off family but also spent his time in the street. Later, in Paris, the artist was closer to poverty, an experience that was essential in his youth.

Young Picasso, which forms part of the Exhibition On Screen project, will be shown in cinemas in Spain from 28 April.