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