REC Tarragona Film Festival 2014

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Much has been written about the general decay of the Spanish film scene following the panic provoked by heavy austerity measures. If all you do is read the scary news that have been piling up in the last 12 months you would be easily fooled. Yet all you need to do is take a careful look at its festival scene and realize that underneath there is a current of impressive vitality.

This year’s San Sebastian Film Festival was a great push forward towards clearing the dark clouds that have been shadowing this once mighty industry, but to my surprise the greatest example of how the future is indeed promising came from one of its most low key cousins, REC Tarragona Film Festival.

The event has been rocking this corner of Catalonia for over 10 years now, bringing some of the most exciting and thrilling films by up and coming filmmakers to this little seaside town. With a small but carefully chosen program, that mixed some of the year’s most significant productions, such as Myroslav Slaboshpitsky’s The Tribe or Maya Vitkova’s Viktoria, with the two biggest Spanish hits of the year (Carlos Vermut’s Magical Girl and Carlos Marques-Marcet’s 10.000 Km), this dedicated team of programmers still found the space for some interesting revelations.

One of the most impressive was perhaps High Pressures by the Galician filmmaker Ángel Santos. This film about a film professional (Miguel) who returns to his home town just has he is battling through an inner crisis, may appear to be little more than yet another voyage of self-discovery and love, but Santos is much more astute then that. Miguel, fully encompasses the negative widespread mood  amongst precarious Spanish youth, yet the other characters and environments hold a much more interesting and positive outlook that subtlety share some much needed rays of optimism. This contrast is both elegant and seductive, resulting in a film that goes way beyond the limitations of a somewhat tedious protagonist (full review coming soon).

On a drastically different note, the ambitious debut by Sergi Pérez, with El Camin més llarg per tornar a casa, is a triumph in ambience building. This heavily personal story of a widower who desperately tries to detach himself from the world will surely feel slightly confusing. If Lopez’ objective was to make the audience fully understand the plight and chaos of this man he could hardly have been more accurate and efficient.  The use of sound is particularly interesting, setting the tone to an intimate and intimidating debut that creates much anticipation to what will follow. (full review coming soon)

Perhaps more interesting than the film program itself, the festival also included a series of concrete activities aimed at helping newcomers to break through the scene. Alongside a series of professional encounters, the first edition of Primer, organized in partnership with Acción Cultural Española, a rough cut forum which brought together local talent, their unfinished work and a panel of international professionals was a significant success. The six productions on display, ranging from the experimental to the downright obvious non-fiction, will undeniably profit from the experience, clearly showing how such an initiative could become absolutely vital for the future of film production in the region. It will be interesting to keep an eye open on this pioneering experiment, particularly considering there are no other platforms of this kind in Spain.

By Fernando Vasquez (Portugal)

http://www.festivalrec.com/

Note: Further coverage of the event in the upcoming yearly special edition

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Robyn Davies Cannes Confession (2014) – Chasing time

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When a friend texted me to ask how things in Cannes were going and I explained that I was averaging about 3 or 4 hours sleep a night, they assumed I’d completed my transformation into the ultimate festival party queen, hitting one social event after another because I’m entirely too glamorous for sleeping. Of course, anyone who really knows me knows that i am far too uncool for any of that, and while it’s true that there has been a certain amount of alcoholic mingling, the real reason for the lack of sleep is that there simply isn’t enough time. For anything. Seriously.

How do these people do it? The Cannes connoisseurs catch the 8.30am screenings and have their review polished and published by midday, ready for the next film in line. Rinse and repeat. Meanwhile, I’m frantically trying to string two sentences together while moping around because I’m going to miss the afternoon film, will be late for my interview because of ambling tourists on the Croisette and have heard that the line at the Salle Debussy tonight is going to be really long. Sigh.

I’d already learned from past experience that you’ll stray from your carefully constructed schedule but I thought I’d made mine fairly foolproof. As it turns out, I could have thrown it out of the window on the plane here for all the good it’s done. Of course, there’s the slight possibility that I could benefit from being more disciplined and less distracted by, well, everything, but Cannes is a spectacle so I’m sure I can be forgiven. After all, it’s a learning curve and that’s what this workshop is all about: helping us grow as critics.

But if anybody’s got some of that glorious thing called time going spare, send it my way, yeah?

Kathi Kamleitner ´s Cannes confession

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Cannes is overwhelming. I arrived in the middle of the festival to find everyone else basically settled in. When picking up my badge or asking for directions a billion times, I often got weird looks and had to explain myself not just once. It took however just one quick tour with the Nisimazine team and a day of wandering around by myself to learn my way around.

I came here with a preoccupation – a glamorous festival, whose glamour would only be exceeded by its exclusivity and restrictions. A fancy crowd of celebrities and wannabes, industry people with purely commercial interests and little appreciation for real good cinema. But, man, was I mislead.

It took a mere glance at the festival palais from my seat in the airport shuttle to realise that I was all wrong. Yes, Cannes is an industry festival. Yes, people come here to be seen and to do business. But beyond that the air is sizzling with internationalty. The Croisette is crowded with cineastes from all over the world, ready to discover the latest gems of world cinema. And I am right among them. At the moment I am queuing for Ryan Gosling’s “Lost River”. The enthusiasm is incredible.

Before I had dinner on the beach by the deep blue Mediterranean Sea and wondered at the golden hues of today’s sunset. What else could I ask for? I came with no plans other than to let myself be surprised by the films I would see and the people that I would meet. So far Cannes has proved itself to be an excellent opportunity for me as a young journalist. Jonas Alexander Arnby’s coming of age / werewolf debut “When Animals Dream” introduced me to the versatile selection that the festival would hold for me.

Technical issues during Cronenberg’s “Maps to the Stars” showed that even Cannes is far from perfection. The passionate discussions overheard in the streets promise a common enthusiasm among the festival crowd. And even though I’m as far away from the ominous glamour to be found in Cannes, I’m right in the middle of it all.

The festival reached out for me, wrapped its shawl of excitement around and sucked me right in. Two days in, I wished it would never stop.

 When in Cannes…

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I’m covering the Cannes Film Festival as a professional journalist. I have a legitimate reason to be here — and a blue badge to prove it. Last night though, it was all about the blagging.

Two nights ago, after the gala screening of Un Certain Regard opener Party Girl, Martin and I decided we would try our luck with blagging our way into the after party. Needless to say, without an invitation, our efforts were fruitless (though we did manage to catch a fireworks show on the Croisette). However, thanks to a fellow journalist from back home in the UK, last night I got to experience the Cannes I’d guiltily been craving — the parties.

My friend and I went to a club on the rooftop terrace of one of the Croisette’s fanciest hotels, where the free cocktails flowed. A reasonably well-known British singer-slash-actress played a short set on the roof terrace, while well-dressed fashion journalists took in the view, lit by the full moon.

We then went on to a beachside soiree hosted by Pamela Anderson and Vivienne Westwood — a bizarre charity benefit that set out to raise awareness about the planet’s depleting resources. Vivienne, elegant as ever, gave an increasingly dull long-winded speech about the pitfalls of capitalism while I lingered by the canapés — sushi and julienned raw vegetables, bien sur.

Before I arrived, a Cannes veteran warned me about the festival’s party scene, emphasising that there is “nothing more annoying than hearing you’ve missed something properly brilliant because you were sitting in the Microsoft Lounge drinking warm rosé with people you will never see again.” As much as I hate to admit it, she was kind of right — while it was fun to take in the experience (and surreal to boot) — there’s something terrifyingly empty about these exclusive evening events. But when in Cannes…

Simran Hans (UK) 

photo by Alexandra Fechete (Romania)

The polar night of film lovers

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Red carpet, paparazzi, fancy people, luxurious yachts lined up in the marina… and the festival hasn’t even started yet. In fact this is just your regular, every day, Cannes. I think the locals must feel towards us exactly like the locals in Amsterdam towards their particular thrill seekers: every May, people come here to get high on films and stars come to get high on public adoration and limelight. They get used to us, the film tourists, the junkies coming to their quiet, posh little Riviera town. “The badge people” come here to find the perfect trip. It could be described as a polar night: from the dark of the movie theaters we jump directly into the late night parties for which Cannes is so famous, squeeze in the occasional scouting for stars in the dim light of hotels lobbies. We love films and for two weeks, we live for films. But they, the people who call Cannes home, what do they love and live for? Can’t really say, our worlds never mix, we’re the parasites. I can only translate the inscription on the metal stand where you can get poop bags for your dog (funny enough, the stand is called Poubelle): “from the love for our dogs, from the love for our sidewalks”.

by Andrei Șendrea (Romania)

We’re all here for the feeling

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The feeling that gripped me this morning while I was awakening can certainly define the spirit that I’ll be embracing towards this experience. What’s more, it justifies my predictions about this year’s edition of the Cannes Film Festival.

Opposite to my rainy and not-so-pleasant arrival, today I found myself in the middle of the Croisette where this tepid and lukewarm weather spread throughout the majestic and enlivening festival. Mixed with the seashore scent of the Mediterranean, there is an abundant odor of luxury. Everybody wants to be a part of the vanity fair. However, the grandeur of the event is only fully visible when it’s clear that almost every country is represented here. During these 15 days, this is the center of the world.

Nevertheless, as I get to the Palais, everything started to make sense. Earlier in the day I was asked why was I here. And, even though I’m absolutely conscious about the reasons that have driven me to cinema and writing, the answer didn’t came as smoothly as I thought it would. Surprisingly, it has never been so close as it was today. The feeling of sharing experiences with people that are passionate about the art and form of Cinema, that are motivated to have a voice or to create something relevant in the world- this is the closest I’ve got to answering it genuinely. I just love that feeling the same way I did this morning.

by Bernardo Lopes (Portugal)

Nisimazine Cannes confessions 2014

Nisimazine Cannes confessions 2014

Do you know at the Oscars, when winners say they’ve always dreamed of becoming an actor/actress and how they never imagined they will get to live it? Well, this is how my hopefully not complicated relationship with Cannes started – I dreamed of going there, being a part of it and experiencing it from up close and I still haven’t come to grips with the fact that I’ve already arrived at that precise destination. This is all thanks to the Nisi Masa bunch, who, for one reason or another, thought I was the chosen one. Alright, not THE chosen one, but one of the chosen ones. I just thought it sounded fancier.

For the past weeks I’ve been in denial/disbelief with the news, constantly wearing a stupid grin all day long and only a couple of hours before the departure did I realize that the madness is on. The turning point was probably the preparing of the luggage, which truly felt like shooting a movie. Take one – oh no, crap, things are falling out. Take two – Ok, I think I can live without that pair of shoes. Take three – I can’t believe I actually had to sit on the luggage to pull the zipper. Thank goodness the emotional baggage is only a metaphor, otherwise I would have been way over the limit. One last check if the ID card is in place – Jesus Christ, I look horrible in that picture. Wallet – that’s the biggest amount of money I’ve had all year. So, 16 hours and three flights later, I leave the Nice airport and the first thing I see are palm trees. It felt like I’ve been walking in the desert for the past 3 days and I stumbled across an oasis. I knew it right there, right then, that everything was going to be great.

Alexandra Fechete (Romania)