“It was a lifetime opportunity for which I’m very grateful.”
Marina Tamayo in Carmen. Source: Supplied / Ben King / Goal post pictures
The Sydney woman plays Carmen’s mother Zila in the new film, directed by French dancer and choreographer Benjamin Millepied. It was shot in summer in outback NSW, during the pandemic.
“It was the most extraordinary place, with huge landscapes and beautiful red rocks.”
“She could not speak any English when she first arrived from Spain in the 1950s as a schoolteacher and a Spanish folk dancer.”
Marina Tamayo with her brother Paul Phillips and mother Marina. Source: Supplied / Marina Tamayo
The family’s new life in Australia began on the outskirts of Adelaide, on the banks of the River Torrens. As a young girl, Tamayo learned to dance as a way to escape daily life.
“The area around our home was underdeveloped, like swamp land. And that is where all the migrants were placed,” she says.
“And my mother protected me and fought for me, as I now fight for my daughters. And that strength becomes a dance for your life, showing that you would do anything for the people you love.”
Marina Tamayo learned to dance flamenco in Spain. Source: SBS News / Sandra Fulloon
Returning to her family’s ancestral home in Granada, southern Spain, Tamayo later perfected flamenco by training with the Roma people.
Flamenco is believed to have arrived in Spain centuries ago, with the Roma migration from India. It has evolved since to include Middle Eastern and even Celtic influences.
“As a displaced people, they expressed pure resilience. They were homeless, they were fighting for their rights.”
Marina Tamayo teaching a dance class in Sydney. Source: SBS News / Sandra Fulloon
Tamayo is raising two teenage daughters in Sydney and earns her living teaching and performing flamenco.
“At the hospice in Adelaide, I told her about the film and she asked me to show it to her. And I promised I would the next morning, hoping she would last another day,” Tamayo says.
“I hope she heard it,” she says with eyes full of tears.
Marina Tamayo with her mother shortly before she died. Source: Supplied / Marina Tamayo
Bringing her passion for flamenco to the big screen was the career opportunity of a lifetime, yet one Tamayo says almost didn’t happen.
“One of the greatest moments of my life was when Tamayo walked into audition room. I did not know her, but she stood there with such truth and honesty,” she says.
“I have an absolutely joyous time and the costumes are great. Plus, it is such a beautiful dance with ancient roots.”
Flamenco dance student Keryn Carter. Source: SBS News / Sandra Fulloon
Tamayo hopes the film will raise awareness of the desperate situation of millions of displaced people worldwide.
“The migration and refugee story is the same everywhere, and it has all those hallmarks of struggle and tragedy.”