Pedro Almodóvar described doing “Parallel Mothers” during the height of the pandemic as both a challenge and an escape from the outside world.

“It does not mean that I did not pay attention to what was happening around me, because there was a lot of pain and a lot of tragedies. But for me, the best way to escape from that situation was to just work”, said the Spanish director.

Almodóvar spoke to The Associated Press Friday night on the red carpet before “Parallel Mothers” closed the New York Film Festival. It was an honor that the acclaimed filmmaker did not take for granted.

“This festival is the type of festival that I love because there is no competition. This is not a movie against another movie for an award. So, this is the way to show, to show cinema”, Almodóvar said.

The movie stars Penelope Cruz, who in her eighth collaboration with Almodóvar plays one of two single women with unplanned pregnancies (Milena Smit, who also walked the red carpet, plays the other woman). Last month, the role earned Cruz the Volpi Cup for best actress at the Venice Film Festival.

“Each time it has been special with him because he is a special human being. And he has an incredible brain and an incredible sense of humor, and I just love spending time with him.” Cruz said.

More than a director, Penelope Cruz considers Almodóvar part of her family. But on set, it means something else to her.

“He is the teacher, so being there, really listening and experiencing his creative process and learning, is the best school he could have. And besides that, I am very happy with the result of the film. I think he made a masterpiece … a very beautiful film, so I am really honored to be a part of it.” Cruz said.

The Oscar-winning star added that she cannot imagine her life or career without the director.

“He’s been around for 25 years of my life, maybe more, even in my childhood when I didn’t know him. But I grew up watching movies and admiring him and thinking, ‘Why isn’t this guy the president of our country?’ You know, what I thought when I was a kid. And then being able to meet him and be able to work with him so many times is a great blessing for me,” Penélope Cruz said.

Almodóvar, meanwhile, spoke of the magic of his collaborations. “For me it is very important to work with Penelope firstly because I absolutely believe in her talent, and also because she has blind faith in me and that gives me incredible strength to work”, said the Academy Award-winning filmmaker.

“Parallel Mothers” opens in theaters in the United States on December 24.

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