Neus Ballús

Spain, France, 2019 / 83 min / Spanish & French OV with French subt. / Drama

In the presence of the director, Neus Ballús


Marta, who longs to travel off the beaten track, has to spend the holidays with her family in a resort in Senegal. 

There is nothing a rebellious teenager wants less than to be trapped on holiday with the family, but that’s exactly what happens to 17-years-old Marta when her father takes her and her little brother to Senegal for Christmas. Looking to stir things up, Marta sets her sights on Khouma, a cameraman who films outings for tourists. Her relationship with her father was already strained, and now her interest in this young Senegalese man pushes it over the edge. But what starts as a way to upset her father turns to true fascination. Through Khouma’s videos Marta discovers the inner workings of the exotic holiday business, but more importantly, a window onto understanding the world she lives in. 

“Spanish director Neus Ballús depicts the complex relationships that exist between tourists and the locals whose lives are dependent on them in her detailed, brilliant portrait that addresses topics such as package tours, sex tourism and cultural appropriation. The fact that Marta seems to need Khouma’s camera viewfinder to really see her surroundings would also appear to epitomise an entire generation.” Berlinale 2019

Thu 11/03 09:00 Kinepolis Kirchberg ES & FR OV with FR subt. | FREE Public
Fri 12/03 09:00 ES & FR OV with FR subt. Scolaire

“Catalan director Neus Ballús, in her calm, intelligent second feature after 2013’s docudrama “The Plague,” allows Marta’s coming of age to sensitively parallel, in unexpected ways, a clear-eyed critique of tourism in post-colonial regions. The film is mediated through a white Westerner’s experience rather than that of a local, but it is no white-saviour narrative; if anything, it is a gentle dismantling of that myth from the inside, revealing the myopia and self-deluding nature of middle-class white package-tourism in Africa. Unlike her protagonist, Ballús doesn’t mistake good intentions for an intimate understanding of an experience that is not hers to claim. The form of the movie is generally realist, aided by naturalistic photography from DP Diego Dussuel and impressively unforced performances from the largely first-timer cast.” Jessica Kiang, Variety, 22/03/2019

“Ballús’s follow-up to her debut feature-length docudrama, The Plague, takes on a more traditional narrative structure but includes intricate layers that intertwine nicely. Basically, it’s a coming-of-age story about a young almost-woman and a not-quite-there father who awkwardly tries to show who’s in charge (played wonderfully by Sergi López, one of the film’s very few professional actors). The post-colonial setting, with the two different sides of the fence looking across it with both anticipation and frustration, gels perfectly with the story, addressing the problems but also the possibilities. And despite her initial reluctance, one hopes that someone with Marta’s astute outlook will actually get involved in tourism one day.” Jan Lumholdt, Cineuropa, 12/02/2019

Cast & Credits
Elena Andrada, Sergi López, Diomaye Augustin Ngom, Ian Samsó, Madeleine Codou Ndong, Mody Fall, Margi Andújar
Neus Ballús, Pau Subirós
Diego Dussuel
Amanda Villavieja
Uxua Castelló
Isabel Latorre
El Kinògraf, Ikiru Films
Les Films Hatari
Film Factory Entertainment, new story

Neus Ballús, born in 1980, is a Spanish director based in Barcelona. She graduated in directing at the Pompeu Fabra University of Barcelona where she obtained her master’s degree in documentary filmmaking. Her three first shorts won several awards at international festivals. She had her breakthrough in 2013 with the documentary The Plague, which follows the life of five protagonists in a suburb of Barcelona. The film had its world premiere at the 63rd Berlinale, was nominated for the European Film Awards, the LUX Prize and the Goyas, and received more than 20 international awards. At the same time, Neus Ballús founded the production company El kinograf in collaboration with screenwriter and director Pau Subiros, which allowed her to develop her own projects. Staff Only (2019) is her first fully fictional feature film.

  • 2019 – El viaje de Marta – Staff Only
  • 2013 – La plaga (docufiction)
  • 2009 – Immersió (short )
  • 2009 – Barcelona Any 1 (documentary TV series)
  • 2008-2009 – Barcelona Any Zero (documentary TV series)
  • 2007 – Quan plovien bombes (documentary short)
  • 2005 – L’avi de la càmera (documentary short )