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Conversation with Victor Erice at the Locarno Film Festival

Conversation with Victor Erice at the Locarno Film Festival

Spanish filmmaker Víctor Erice received the Pardo alla Carriera award at the Locarno Film Festival for his extraordinary contribution to film.

The universal themes of time and memory are found in Victor Erice’s poignant and poetic features and short films. Carlo Chatrian, the Festival’s Artistic
Director, comments:

“Erice’s films may be few in number, but are all extremely important in the context of modern cinema, and bear the hallmark of an independent and
coherent filmmaker, who is able to give a very personal form to his stories, combining private and collective memory.

Born in 1940 in San Sebastian, Victor Erice’s first feature-length film “El Espiritu de la colmena(The Spirit of the Beehive, 1973), is
considered one of the masterpieces of Spanish cinema. In 1983, he directed “El Sur” (The South), which as in his first feature, centers on a father
and daughter relationship conveyed through memories. Winner of the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, Erice’s third feature, the documentary El sol del membrillo (also known as The Quince Tree Sun and Dream of Light) (1992) follows the painter Antonio López
and the making of his painting.

Adrian Danks writes in Issue 25, March 2003 Senses of Cinema (

“In The Quince Tree Sun we are asked, gently, to contemplate the intense, but here somewhat dissipated, connection and difference between painting
and cinema. We watch the painter (Antonio López Garcia, himself a profoundly quotidian painter) attempt to capture the play of light upon the leaves and
fruit of a constantly evolving quince tree, while the filmmaker (Erice, one assumes, though he is never directly present in the film) attempts to document
the dynamic processes of creating and ‘imagining,’ while simultaneously showing us the painstakingly serene activity of still-life painting. Inevitably,
the film can’t capture enough detail and can’t crystallize the painter’s activity into a suitable closing or defining image; while the painting loses the
dynamic of light (and life) in the process of committing the tree to the canvas (but it also captures something of it as well). Nevertheless, each,
painting and cinema, goes some way toward capturing the essence of its subject. This tension between a medium of movement (and thus time) and stillness or
permanence (and thus a different concept of time) preoccupies Erice’s cinema.”

The Conversation

The Conversation took place on 13 August at the Locarno Film Festival. Moderator Miguel Marías and Victor Erice discussed the difference between the
viewing audiences of the present and of the past — a shared point of concern that director Agnès Varda also remarked on at her
Conversation at the Festival. Both Erice and Varda addressed the fact that viewers (who now have shorter attention spans) don’t watch films as before;
films are watched on small screens, laptops, phones, and so on, which changes the film’s aspect ratio and the look of how the film was shot in and in what
format, and in turn, the director’s visual intention.

Marías and Erice spoke about the blurred lines of documentary and fiction films, and how fiction can sometimes be more a true accurate account of the
subject matter due to the fact that the writer/director has more control choosing the words of the script whereas in a documentary one shapes it by the
interviews of people.

Erice also commented about the various choices documentarians must make and how these choices and unexpected events can affect the film. These choices
include “characters” who may or may not want to be filmed, and the significance of what happens in the editing room and how that shapes the story the
filmmaker wants to tell.

Concluding the Conversation, Erice stated the importance of finding a unique voice and vision in documentaries. “Do not repeat what other documentary films
have done on a specific subject matter; shoot from an unexpected character’s point of view rather than repeating images we’ve seen before.”

Award-winning screenwriter and filmmaker, Susan Kouguell teaches screenwriting at Purchase College, and presents international workshops and seminars on
screenwriting and film. Author of SAVVY CHARACTERS SELL SCREENPLAYS! and THE SAVVY SCREENWRITER, she is chairperson of Su-City
Pictures East, LLC, a consulting company founded in 1990 where she works with over 1,000 writers, filmmakers, and executives worldwide.,

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