Thursday, May 19

What is a film festival for? | Culture

With the inauguration this Friday of the 69th edition of the San Sebastián festival, the season of film competitions begins in Spain, which are mainly concentrated in autumn. On the website of ICAA, the body that governs cinema within the Ministry of Culture and Sports, 141 festivals are registered, which are those that are presented for state aid. More than half, 76, are held in the last four months of the year. And of course, most of the main ones are linked: San Sebastián, Sitges, Abycine de Albacete, Seminci de Valladolid, Seville and Gijón. Each one with its idiosyncrasy, genre and audience, but all marked by a certain fact: after the pandemic, festivals are going to change.

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Actually, in Spain there are more than 400 festivals and exhibitions. Many of them are “meeting places, places of conversation, motivated by the passion of their organizers to show different cinemas beyond what is seen in theaters; films that arrive in a very bad way … when they arrive ”. The definition is made by Miguel Cordero, co-director of the Ascaso festival, in the Huesca Pyrenees, a show that this summer has reached its tenth edition and which is advertised as the smallest in the world (in Ascaso there are only seven registered inhabitants). José Luis Rebordinos, director of the San Sebastián contest, who gave birth to his passion in the film clubs of the Basque Country, assures that this is still an important part of the Zinemaldia. “The public will always have access to the rooms. But we also have to serve as a meeting point for the industry ”, he explains. “And of course, as a place for the premiere and launch of new films”, that for that the Zinemaldia is the only one of the fifteen class A festivals (with a competition with films not previously released) around the world that is held in Spain. “You have to rethink yourself all the time. We can never forget the industry, our spirit as the gateway from Latin America to Spain, and we want the festival to have activities throughout the year ”, insists Rebordinos.

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Still, the pandemic has radically changed the present of movie dating. And the digital avalanche, as an online window to watch movies, will mark the future of these encounters. Thierry Frémaux, general delegate of Cannes, explained 10 days ago in The weekly country: “There will continue to be face-to-face festivals, without a doubt. The cinema must ask itself the pertinent questions to face the future and the strength of the platforms, it must strengthen its educational policy and insist on its specificity: the movie theater. From this point of view, film competitions will become increasingly important in the future, they will give cinema an incomparable prestige. The festival is the most complete way to discover a film: each screening is an event. A festival is a live show ”. Alberto Barbera, director of the Venice Film Festival, held a few days ago, defends the same line: “Today a festival serves even more than before. It is true that many films do not reach traditional theaters, but these already only represent half of the distribution channels. All movies now have an extraordinary opportunity: platforms. These portals have a huge demand to constantly add new content. And the festivals serve as a selection, applying the criterion of quality ”.

The impulse to creation

Is there a cinema of festivals? Reviewing the last five editions, approximately 25% of the titles that competed in the official sections of Venice and Berlin did not reach the Spanish billboards. Of the films screened in San Sebastián, this percentage reaches more than 80% and in Cannes, the most important in the world, almost 100% of its official section is seen in Spanish theaters. As Barbera points out, in recent times, what does not appear in theaters may have another life on the platforms.

The French filmmaker Audrey Diwan, winner of the last Venice Golden Lion, upon her arrival in San Sebastián, where she is part of its jury.
The French filmmaker Audrey Diwan, winner of the last Venice Golden Lion, upon her arrival in San Sebastián, where she is part of its jury.Juan Herrero / EFE

And creators such as Juanjo Giménez, Palma de Oro in Cannes with his short, are very attentive to that Timecode, and who has participated in the last Venice festival with his long Three: “There are fewer and fewer rooms. And increasingly focused on Hollywood cinema. For a film like mine, a festival serves to make it visible. Digital media have contributed to an enormous democratization of cinema, but it also creates an avalanche that is difficult for the public to digest ”.

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From the editing room where he mounts Alcarràs, his second feature, Carla Simón recalls how important the contests were for the pre-production and launch of Summer 1993, award for best first film at the Berlinale in 2017, winner of the Golden Biznaga at the Malaga and three Goyas. “I have a romantic vision of cinema, and for me festivals celebrate this art and discover films. In my case, Summer 1993 she lived the momentum of the contests, and as a creator you can even see if the project is interesting before shooting it. You can’t do that in an online contest. They are festivals, right, because you watch movies, although the experience is not equal ”. Jaime Rosales, one of the most beloved Spanish filmmakers in Cannes, confirms it: “Participating in a festival gives you a seal of quality. So contests are useful because they generate publicity about the film through the echo of the media; They serve as a filter so that buyers are interested in your film within the immense global offer of films, and they give prestige to the creator, which will translate into support for future projects. And we are not going to assess the economic performance obtained by the city where the event is organized ”.

Online cinema and theatrical cinema

Which leads to the big question: is an internet film festival a film festival? Rosales explains: “It’s a discounted version of a festival. And consequently, those three utilities lessen their impact. But it is a festival and it can be better than nothing ”. Jaume Ripoll, from the Filmin platform, which hosted numerous festival programs during the confinement that were only held online due to the health obligation, and director of the Atlantis Film Fest, Hybrid contest that takes place between Mallorca (physical headquarters) and Filmin (virtual headquarters), explains: “All the legs of the contest are important. I would even add that for criticism it serves to bear witness to the photography of a time. We actually talk a lot about cinema – trailers, fundraisers, red carpets – but little about movies. ” Ripoll, a staunch defender of the hybrid format driven by the pandemic, adds: “It doesn’t make sense for Class A to show their premieres online; however, the rest of us are doomed to that paradigm. By the way, we will bring very special cinema to an audience that otherwise would not have access to it ”.

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Preparations at the main gate of the Kursaal for the 69th edition of the San Sebastián contest.
Preparations at the main gate of the Kursaal for the 69th edition of the San Sebastián contest.Juan Herrero / EFE

For the audience, the faithful and numerous Sitges, the most important specialized event (in its case in horror and fantasy films) in Europe, thanks to its numerous visits by creators, its Homeric programming and an audience —before the pandemic— of payment of more than 75,000 spectators, according to Ángel Sala, its director, to which must be added another 75,000 who attend free events of the contest. “We are in full swing. There is an open debate on platforms, windows of exclusivity, new models, which also affect festivals ”, explains Sala. “Will the competitive sections continue to be so important? And the physical presence of the creators? Do we have to turn our backs on the good things that confinement has left us, such as the massive use of new technologies? If we do not promote the latter, we will become obsolete. Festivals have to specialize, get away from multiplexes to bring something different to the public, become a service. The use of the internet is a very useful complementary tool, almost fundamental, but in its nature a festival is physical, it lives on the interaction of the public and filmmakers ”.

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