Spain is a country full of secrets. Thirty-six years after the death of Generalisimo Francisco Franco, Spanish general and dictator of Spain from 1936 until his death in 1975, the secrets of Spain's history are just beginning to emerge from the shadows and merge with the flow of the Eurozone. From the outside, Seville seems flawless. The city is superb, its commodities, its amenities and its people could not be more comfortable and pleasant. I was invited by Margaret von Schiller, ex Berlinale Panorama programmer on behalf of Extenda, the export arm of the Andalusian government, to The Sevilla Festival of European Films to participate in their Industry Forum (Il Foro) on a panel, “Festivals: What is their use and at what moment in production?” and to speak one-on-one with filmmakers about the international film business, its players and the place of festivals as acquisitions and distribution mechanisms.
One of the greatest secrets of Spain is the Almeria home and guesthouse of Margaret von Schiller. The former summer home of her parents which she inherited, has been refurbished into the perfect place to Dream, Relax and Reconnect! Wifi connects you to the world and writers will welcome this environment as they dive into their writing with just enough solitude to accomplish their dream. The tiny town, just a walk away, has an ancient Roman bath which offers total spa treatment and Margaret knows the townspeople from her childhood summer days there, so you will immediately feel at home and yet far from home.
Participating in El Foro Industria were Camille Rousselet from Wide Management, Paris speaking on its new festival- distribution initiative, Eye on Film which I blogged on during Cannes, Sydney Neter of SND Films, Amsterdam speaking about shorts and cultural documentaries, Isabel Castro, Deputy Executive Director of Eurimages, expert on transmedia and social networking Mariel Macia, Personae Digital Marketing in Madrid, Mireille van Helm, Ginger Film Services, London – an international film consultancy and servicing company that offers sales agents, producers and distributors full post-production and distribution services, and Ginger Corbett, founding director of international film public relations agency, Premiere PR. Foremost at major world film festivals such as Cannes, Berlin, Venice, San Sebastian for which Ginger is also the U.K. delegate, Premier also does PR for the London Film Festival and serves as the press office. Ginger’s presentation is worth a separate blog which I hope I will get to in time for Cannes.
Seville, the capitol of Andalusia today is a place for tourism and prime coastline real estate (uh-oh…cheap now!). It is also the place of the origin of bullfighting, flamenco and of ancient trade since the time of the Phoenicians and ancient Greeks. Andalusia was also one of the major centers of civilization for the peaceful (and sometimes not so peaceful) coexistence of Muslim, Jewish and Christian people. And it was a major participant in the slave trade and the Inquisition’s expulsion of the Jews (and later Moors) by the Inquisition in 1492 when "Columbus sailed the ocean blue." I am sure one of the great secrets of that voyage was that many of the 90 men on board were Jews fleeing the Inquisition and that, wherever those ships and the ones that followed landed, the Jewish flight to the New World took a foothold…that means Cuba — which we will get to in an upcoming blog.
The projects in Extenda's Encounters Andaluz of SEFF ’11 were varied. This was not a curated event but any producer who chose to enter was accepted for a small fee. In all I met with ten producers who presented their projects.
One of my favorites, the documentary film 30 Years of Darkness, about a man who went into hiding during the Spanish post-Civil War era, has now wrapped, and the producer Miguel Reina is looking for an international sales agent. This is an animated feature as in Waltz with Bashir with one of Spain's top actors doing the voice of the protagonisst, Manuel Cortes. Manuel H. Martin directed this graphic novel documentary.
Producer Jose Flores Caballero of Producciones Cibeles presented the project Spain in Flames about the American soldiers in the Lincoln Brigade fighting against fascism in the Spanish Civil War. The Lincoln Brigade was the first time an African American officer commanded white troops. Cibeles's recent finished thriller, a Canadian-Italian-Spanish coproduction Transgression by Enric Alberich is repped internationally by Stealth Media. A supernatural suspense project No Despiertes (Don't Lose Hope) mingles the dead and the living when a handsome liquidator enters the peaceful family domain of a widow and her two daughters.
After Franco's demise, 27 women entered the Spanish Congress and Senate during the democratic elections in June 1977. They were involved in creating the Spanish Constitution in 1978 which of course included defending equality for women in Spanish society. Mothers of the Constitution uncovers this unique moment which today is of great relevance. It was only in 1975 that women were allowed to work without their husbands' or fathers' consent! Oliva Acosta produces and directs docs on women like Reyeta, about an Afro Cuban woman who fought with Castro and which can be seen on YouTube.
Arrayas Productions' writer/ director Sylvia Munt presented Bajo el mismo cielo (Under the Same Sky) about a Moroccan emigrant's decision to return to his own country, leaving his wife and baby in Spain but taking his teenaged daughter. Sounds like a secret is hidden in this story which is now a finished film with English subtitles. Producer Ines Romero also presented a new project, though not a theatrical feature, Cuidania, about feminist economic thought today in the midst of our worldwide economy, an "economy of care" and Brooksley Born, president of Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
The Last Island (La Ultima Isla) is a family fantasy about a ten year old city girl's magical journey to an isolated, wild volcanic island to visit an old aunt. It will surely go the festival route as a family film for adults as well as children in the manner of Scandianavian films. Locarno has already expressed interest as has Alta for distribution on Spain. It was completed this November. After partaking in the Mannheim Meetings, there is movement. The director, Dacil Perez de Guzman is already moving toward finding international sales agents.
Nina Frese, Flux Film presented The Tale of Things That Matter, a project about a man who must return to Seville when his long estranged mother dies. She had been forced into prostitution during Franco's regime and as he discovers the secrets of her life, his worldview is transformed. The film will be the debut feature of Rocio Huertas, a well known curator of video art in Spain. It is already 30% financed by German co-producer Ostlicht and the Andalusian Development Fund. Flux also has Dadaland about a nine year old who decides to bring her deceased pet rabbit back to life.
As Seville is the center of bullfighting it should not be surprising to find a project or even two on the subject. The Loneliness of the Winner (completed and going to Guadalajara this March) talks about the dizziness that one can feel from the summit, the moment when the winner questions whether the effort spent is worth it. Success always comes with a price and this film shows the backside of the little known world outside the arena of 21st century bullfighters who must deal with fame, the press and the upstarts.
A 21st century contradiction concerning the ancient tradition of heroes and death is alive in Euorpe and can be seen in the project Under Taurus and Orion. Bullfighting is depicted by German director Michael Meert as a bull, raised in the idyllic countryside must meet the son of a celebrity matador in the ring. The father doubts that his son will be able to uphold this primitive art and lifestyle, and the son harbors his own secret doubts. MLK Producciones has worked with ARTE and other German, French, U.S., Portuguese and Brazilian producers. Producer Jose Antonio Hergueta also has the finished doc, Out of Cordoba, by Jacob Bender which explores some of the most vexing questions of our time: Is there a “clash of civilizations” between the West and the Islamic world? Are Jews and Muslims eternal enemies, incapable of peaceful coexistence? Does religious faith lead inevitably to xenophobia and violence?
And by the way, the festival awards went to:
GOLDEN GIRALDILLO OFFICIAL SECTION: Happy Happy, by Anne Sewitsky
The secret of optimism…
SILVER GIRALDILLO OFFICIAL SECTION: IF NOT US, WHO, by Andrés Veiel
The secret, very sensitive to the concerns of the time about the role their parents played during the Third Reich.
SPECIAL JURY PRIZE: THE MILL AND THE CROSS, by Lech Majewski
The secret of Pieter Bruegel’ 'Road to Calvary', and the individuals included in the scenes
BEST DIRECTOR: STEVE MCQUEEN (Shame)
The secret of a sex addict’s life
BEST ACTRESS AWARD: (Ex aequo) NADEZHDA MARKINA¸ for ELENA, and BIEN DE MOOR, for CODE BLUE.
The secret of a sex victim’s life
EFA SELECTION AWARD: THE ARTIST, by Michel Hazanavicius
The secret of an actor’s failure to be a big star
EURIMAGES AWARD: SHUN LI AND THE POET, by Andrea Segre
The secret of an “illegal alien” living in Italy
EURODOC AWARD: LA ROCA, by Raúl Santos
The secret between the people of Gibraltar and La Linea. In 1969 the only fascist dictator who survived WWII, Francisco Franco of Spain, closed the entrance to the British colony of Gibraltar, isolating 30.000 people without food, water, or telephone lines.
SILVER GIRALDILLO AWARD for Best Direction of a first feature film (First Films First): MORTEZA FARSHBAF (MOURNING)
The secret of an Iranian couple and the son they leave behind
ASECAN Award (Film Writers Association of Andalusia): THE MILL AND THE CROSS, by Lech Majewski
CAMPUS JURY AWARD: TROIS FOIS 20, by Julie Gavras
No secret just aging and the surprises it brings!