One of Spain’s biggest and oldest movie events, the Valladolid Intl. Film Festival, known as the Seminci in Spain, is broadening its range of Spanish films and aims to strengthen its position as an international platform for art films.
Running Oct. 21-28 in Valladolid, the capital city of Spanish region Castilla-Leon, the Seminci’s 68th edition marks the first under new director José Luis Cienfuegos, named last April.
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With an illustrious near 30-year career as a festival director, at the helm of the Seville European Film Festival (2012-2023) and prior to that at the Gijon Intl. Film Festival (1995-2011), Cienfuegos has arrived to Valladolid at a time when a new generation of Spanish film auteurs, often women, is booming, making waves at the international festivals circuit.
“Valladolid is a city absolutely dedicated to the festival that demands and needs to open the doors to a new generation of filmmakers,” Cienfuegos argues.
Alongside lending a larger visibility to cutting-edge auteurist and radical voices from Spain, this year’s Seminci will expand the range of its local films promoting commercial plays – with world premieres of Joaquín Mazón’s Spanish-Mexican comedy “The Night My Dad Saved Christmas,” and Prime Video-Zebra’s Valladolid-set thriller series “Memento Mori,” both special screenings, a formula Cienfuegos already successfully practiced in Seville.
The festival’s new direction team also aims to leverage its experience to boost Valladolid’s international reach, consolidating its stars as a benchmark even for auteurist titles.
The Seminci holds a long tradition of commitment to Spanish cinema. This year, Spain’s weighty presence encompasses 15 features playing in competitive sections.
Among the films by Spanish auteurs vying in main competition for the Golden Spike, Valladolid top prize, figure the world premiere of “Andrea’s Love,” by three times Toronto-player and Fipresci Grand Prize winner Manuel Martín Cuenca; and “The Permanent Picture,” the debut of Laura Ferrés, whose short “The Disinherited” won the 2017 Cannes Critics’ Week Leica Cine Discovery Prize.
Competing for the Golden Spike is also “Something Is About to Happen” directed by Antonio Méndez Esparza and co-written by Clara Roquet, directress of “Libertad,” which opened the 66th Seminci.
Méndez Esparza won the 2012 Cannes Critics Week with “Aquí y Allá,” and both the San Sebastian Fipresci prize and the John Cassavetes award at the Film Independent Spirit with “Life and Nothing More.”
Victor Iriarte “Foremost by Night,” which premiered at Venice’s Giornate Degli Autore, and Galician auteur Lois Patiño’s “Samsara,” winner of an Encounters award at this year’s Berlinale, and one of the most audacious voices of new Spanish cinema, are also in competition.
Part of the Official Section, screening out of competition, are the world premieres of “Teresa,” directed by “The Bride’s” Paula Ortiz and Goya best fiction short winner Patricia Font’s “The Teacher Who Promised the Sea,” the European premiere of Sundance player “Mamacruz,” directed by Patricia Ortega, and Carlota Nelson’s documentary “Eyes of the Soul.”
”Our obsession is broadening the international reach of the festival at all levels,” Cienfuegos says.
The Official Section offers a panorama of current international cinema. Its 17 competition titles describe a broad gamut. Among them, new features by standout international auteurs such as Bertrand Bonello, compete with “The Beast,” Alice Rohrwacher’s “La Chimera” and Marco Bellocchio’s “Kidnapped.”
The opening gala will screen the European premiere of Danish Lone Scherfig’s “The Movie Teller,” a Spain-France-Chile co-production toplining Bérénice Bejo, who will receive a Spike of Honor.
Further honorary plaudits take in Charlotte Rampling, who will receive a another Spike of Honor on Oct. 28 at the closing gala, which will screen her film “Juniper,” directed by Matthew J. Saville.
Spanish actress Blanca Portillo (“Volver,” “Teresa”) and Kity Mánver (“Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown,” “Mamacruz”) and photographer Cristina García Rodero (“Eyes of the Soul”) plus the European Film Academy will also be feted at this year’s edition.
“To maintain the festival’s freshness, it’s essential to present new trends and the riskiest of propositions to the audience,” Cienfuegos explains.
Revitalized sidebars Meeting Point and Time of History explore beyond conventional documentary.
A competitive parallel showcase of first and second fiction films, Meeting Point’s 15 titles boast road movies as a recurrent feature, but also characters who are going on a journey, or aspire to.
The Spanish films in Meeting Point take in Marta Lallana’s “Muyeres,” winner of the jury Grand Prix and best cinematography plaudit at June’s Shanghai Intl. Film Festival, and two Locarno players: Catalan-Basque film “Negu Hurbilak,” the debut feature from the Negu Film Collective, and “Elite’s” Omar Ayuso-starrer “On the Go,” by first-timers Maria Gisèle Royo and Julia de Castro.
This year, Time of History includes multiple hybrid titles or genre blenders, while stories range broadly.
A case in point is the world premiere of Virginia García del Pino’s “Romance Scam,” about a group of people reading a movie script on a scam artist who enamoured victims, whose characters come alive slamming romantic clichés; in “An Inhabited Volcano,” a Visions du Réel world premiere by David Pantaleón and Jose Víctor Fuente, delivers a collective portrait of the friendship and strength of the Canary island of La Palma’s inhabitants during 2021’s volcano eruption; Oskar Alegría’s Telluride Festival player “Zinzindurrunkarratz,” turns on a home movie that captures a long-ago New Year’s family party.
“We seek to attract not only the oldest audience but also new generations of viewers,” the Seminci director says.
“Within our conception of programming as an organic and homogeneous whole, these sections must be understood not as parallel sections, but as roots that intertwine with one other and with the official competition, foundations that build and strengthen the Seminci brand,” he explains.
Valladolid launched this year two new sidebars: Memory and Utopia, a pioneering section aimed at rediscovering the history of cinema; and Alchemies, a new competitive showcase of original youth cinema.
To bring Spanish films closer to the spectator, Valladolid and Spanish rights body DAMA have jointly launched Dama Dialogues, a meeting point for debate and reflection with a large list of Spanish filmmakers attending the festival.
Based on a solid organization, whose foundations were laid by prior directors Fernando Lara and Javier Angulo, the new Valladolid team is also reinforcing the festival’s industry edge.
Running Oct. 25-27, Valladolid will co-organize the third Independent Film Market (MERCI Valladolid), which took place at the Seville Festival in previous years.
A joint venture with Adicine, the Spanish indie distributors association, MERCI Valladolid will show exclusively to more than 120 TV channels and platforms programmers, distributors and exhibitors a selection of films scheduled for a Spanish release between this year’s end and across the next.
As part of MERCI, the organizers will also offer a series of industry meetings, conferences and roundtables, for example, around new film promotion tools.
Also disembarking in the Seminci is the European Film Academy, who celebrates its yearly meeting under president Agnieszka Holland in Valladolid, as well further activities aimed at both film industry members and the audience, such as the encounter Moving Your Films Beyond Their Boundaries of Origin,” with a special focus on the regional industry.
The Seminci has also organized an EFA Selection screening of seven films by European auteurs, among them Justine Triet’s Palme D’Or winner “Anatomy of a Fall,” Christian Petzold’s Berlinale grand jury prize “Afire” and titles in the international Oscars race such as Aki Kaurismaki’s “Fallen Leaves,” Italian Matteo Garrone’s “The Captain,” and Jonathan Glazer’s “The Zone of Interest” from U.K..
Continuing Valladolid’s drive into path international, Europe Cinemas, the network of theaters specializing in European and auteur cinema that brings together 1,221 cinemas in 38 countries, will develop over Oct. 25-28 an Innovation and Audience Development lab.
“Seminci’s consolidation as a meeting and promotion space for industry is vital for us,” Cienfuegos argues.
The new route undertaken by the Seminci will also focus on film heritage, “which can be seen as an industry since it generates jobs and business,” in Cienfuegos words.
Promoted by org Acción Cultural Española and moderated by Catalunya Cinematheque director, Esteve Riambau, European experts will debate in two roundtables about the challenges of film archives facing the digital dilemma and how to program cinema of the past today.
“We must not give up our efforts to program films from the past and program them well, especially at a festival like Valladolid, with so many years of history,” the director adds.
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