Forty years ago, Juan Manuel returns from college with one certainty: like the journalist who comes to present his profession in class, later he will tell stories. The years pass and he launches into television, becomes a screenwriter, then a presenter and a renowned actor in Spain. A trip to Romania pushes him to make his first film for the cinema: “There, I met poor people who had everything to teach me, especially their strength in suffering. Each story has its preferred channel, and for this one I had to write a feature film, even if I had never done it”says Juan Manuel with a laughing eye.
“I began to live with God”
Married and father of three daughters, he finds his stories in everyday life. “They are the ones who choose me, not the other way around. The stories are there, in the street, I just have to go out and without being able to explain it, somehow I meet them. » A drug trafficker turned priest, a former Miss World who talks to him about his faith, Tim Guénard… These people mark his spiritual journey: the faith of this traditional Catholic is gradually turned upside down. “Imagine that you believe in the existence of Hawaii but that you have never been there. One day, someone offers you a plane ticket to this island, so you don’t just believe that Hawaii exists, you’re there! It was the same with God: I began to live with Him. » An idea then germinates in the head of the director: “Three words: ‘Talk about me.’ I was unable to sign myself in public, and God wanted me to write movies about Him! He was very insistent and, despite my reluctance, I had to surrender. »
He thus created the production company Infinito +1, and distributed The Ultima Cima (The Last Summit), his first film of explicitly Catholic inspiration. Telling stories becomes for Juan Manuel like a mission. “For years, my social service has been to make people laugh or inform people. Today, I want to help them, without giving up entertaining! Success is no longer numerical, based on the number of viewers. I choose subjects that make me progress personally, then when I realize that it can help, I work for others. »
The prayer gives the first place to the protagonist of his films. “Praying is recognizing that God does everything. He is not only a spectator, but Himself an actor, screenwriter and director. » His faith and his mission, Juan Manuel shares them with the some 3,000 ambassadors, almost all volunteers, who broadcast his films throughout the world. “God gave me an army of fools, who are my spiritual family”, he testifies. His latest story? Tengamos la fiesta en paz (1) (It won’t be our last Christmas), a family musical where children want at all costs to prevent the divorce of their parents. “It speaks of family love which is not a utopia. Children know how to love and be loved. If we listened to them a little more, many things would be better! »