What started as a Children’s and TV Festival in 1963 has turned into one of the most important Film Festivals of the current indepent panorama. The Festival Internacional de Cine de Gijón has counted with the presence of renowned directors like: Aki Käurismaki, Abbas Kiarostami ,or Ulrich Seidl among many others, and with famous jury members such as: John Cale, Maria Schneider, or Julio Medem.
The Festival has always had a marked tendency towards the young people since their beginning and that, has remained during these 50 years with the creation of a “Young Jury” formed by young people between 17 and 25 years.
This year the festival celebrated its 50 edition with the presence of the Israeeli film director Amir Naderi, and with prizewinners as Lee Sang-Woo as best director for “Barbie” or Amir Manor as best script for “Epilogue” and the show of movies like the multi-awarded “Beyond the Hills” (Christian Mungiu, Gijón, Cannes and Mar del Plata Awards) that relates a bittersweet story about friendship and religion or “Shadow Dancer” (James Marsh, screend as well in Sundance and Berlin Festivals) which explores the most dangerous aspects of espionage and terrorism: the IRA.
I had the chance to talk with Javier Foggia (member of the 49 Edition’s Young Jury) and Ricardo Calvo (cinema expert and photographer) about the Festival. They will tell us his personal vision of the Asturian cinema project and, of course, the most recommendable movies of this last edition.
What does cinema mean to you?
Rodrigo Calvo: I write cinema reviews for some journal and magazines (Cinemanía, El Comercio, El Diario de Asturias). I’ve covered some other Festival at Sitges or Berlin and I am working on my own films as a director too. Currently I am filming a short movie, kind of a documentary based in Science-Fiction and I have made others like “ClubCariño.com”, or “Arduino, the Documentary” . How did all of this started? When I was younger I used to live near a cinema, and the son of the owner was saved by me and other friends from an accident. So his father, as a show of gratitude, gave us a pass for watching free movies during two years. After that I worked in the Warner Cinemas here in Spain and I became a keen cinema lover.
Javier Foggia: Since I was kid I have been always interested in cinema. Currently I am studying Law and I am preparing some Legal Movie Seasons in my University and I am working on a book about “Law and Cinema”. And well, being a member of the “FICX Young Jury” really encouraged me to take this not only as a sheer hobby.
JF: The Spanish Sundance. A great sample of independent cinema.
RC: Yeah, we have counted with the presence of some great actors, actresses and directors and we have watched loads of interesting films of the most independent panorama.
Which has been the evolution of the Festival in these 50 years?
JF: At the beginning it started as a Festival for the children, but then it began to evolve and get interested in the most avant-garde genres of the cinema.And I think José Luis Cienfuegos, the last Festival director, was the driving force of this new approach and its late success. Last year the director of the Festival changed, and I think maybe this could be a reason for receiving less visitors in this edition. Besides the economical crisis another important reason. The new festival direction is still betting for qualified and interesting movies, so they are following the traditional tendency of the previous years. I have the impression that they have shown more commercial movies because people used to leave the cinema in other editions and that did not happen this year.
RC: I agree with Javier. Not so many big changes, except from the beginning. But I have to say that this year, the oficial full-length film left me with a bittersweet sensation. There were some films that were previously edited in DVD in other parts of the world and that should not happen in an oficial Festival section. Anyway, the tendency of the Festival has been, and it still being, very good. We have attracted the attention of some important international directors during these last years. This year we have counted with the presence of Amir Naderi or Erik Kusturica. Others like Aki Kaurismäki or Harmony Korine have came before…This is great.
How was the experience of being a member of the “Young Jury”?
JF: It was awesome. For a person that has not a proffesional and direct link with the cinema, but that is a truly passionate of it, being elected in the Jury is just incredible. Meeting a lot of actors, directos, reviewers was a great chance and that reaffirmed my interest in the cinema. I would love to focus my career in the cinematographic production from a legal or business point of view.
Which have been the main dishes of this edition? What was the audience’s reponse like?
JF: I think “Barbie” by Lee Sang- Woo (prize for the Best Director) and “About a Pink Sky” by Keiichi Kobayashi (prize for the Best Film) and “Beyond the Hills” by Cristian Mungiu (Special Prize of the Jury) have been maybe the most acclaimed, for the critics and for the audience. “Couleur de peau: Miel” was really appreciated by the audience as well. There was a big applause when it finished.
RC: I agree with Javier. And what attracted my attention the most in this edition was the great number of viewers in the oficial section called “Mutant Genres” (Horror and Science Fiction genres). I think this year the audience’s response to these kind of movies has been resounding.
Disappointments of the Festival.
JF and RC: ” Mekong Hotel” (Apichatpong Weerasethakul). It is a kind of documental with 15 min of shots of a river. Very tedious. A lot of people came to see it because the director is a renowned one. And unfortunately the Spanish Cinema. We have incredible directors here, but sometimes the economical aids do not reach the worthy ones.
Pleasant surprises of the Festival.
JF: “The Patience Stone” (Atiq Rahimi)
RC: “88” (Jordi Mollà)
JF: I did not like that one. Even the main actress told in the press conference that she did not understand the film…so, well, you can imagine. It was not very appreciated by the audience and the critics.
RC: I liked “La venta del Paraíso” (Emilio R.) too. It was an entertaining film with some very well defined characters. And “El Efecto K, el montador de Stalin” (Valentí Figueres) was a great surprise for me as well.
If you had to recommend us only one film of the Festival, which one would be? Why?
JF: “The Patience Stone” by Atiq Rahimi. I think it will have a succesful future in other International Festivals and the main actress is just awesome and reflects very well the women discrimination in a country like Afganistan, not only at home, in the streets as well, and specially when the country is undergoing a delicate post-war situation. It reminds me of a Spanish novel written by Miguel Delibes: “Cinco Horas con Mario” (Five Hours with Mario).
RC: “Mejor no hablar de ciertas cosas” by the Peruvian Javier Andrade. The Berlinale (Berlin International Film Festival) co-produced the film and that was noticeable. I came out from the cinema with a great sensation.
Is there any film that has been forgotten in the list of winners and you would include?
JF: For me “Couleur de peau: Miel” (Jung, Laurent). It is a very original story, mixed with fiction and reality. People loved it and I do not why the Jury did not value it.
RC: “Children of Sarajevo” (Aida Begic) was forgotten too. It was very well filmed, great actors…
Why do you think that cinemas remain empty during the year while FICX fills up the auditorium edition after edition?
JF: Well, FICX is something that belong to us. We feel identified with it. It is a model in our city and something we are proud of. Besides you can watch interesting and qualified movies by a cheap and reasonable price. So, what else can we ask for?
RC: Yeah, I agree with him. It is a very accesible Festival. Everybody can attend it because it is really affordable.
Having in mind the hard economic situation we are going through and realities as the piracy, is there still hope for the cinema to be one of the greatest cultural and leisure elements? Is there still hope to obtain big profits from it? Internet and the New Digital Era are reliable friends or enemies?
JF and RC: Sure, Cinema will never die despite all of these problems we are undergoing, like the economical crisis. And we have to see Internet as a great element for spreading our work and reaching any kind of audiences.
JF: I also think that, although I am not an expert in Marketing, the cinema will start to use some brands in their movies with an specifical and economic purpose. I mean, James Bond drives a “Ferrari” or Natalie Portman eats “Cheerios”, you know, those kind of things. That is a great Advertising Campaign for the brand and a very efficient way of financing the film.
Photos: Official Photo Gallery Gijon Film Festival and Nacho Iglesias