Catalan cinema ‘reappearing’ on the international scene

The Spanish Cinema Now Film Festival began last Tuesday in New York’s Lincoln Center. The festival is honouring Mallorcan film director Agustí Villaronga this year, who mainly shoots his films in Catalan language.

CNA / Ariadna Matamoros

December 10, 2010 10:06 PM

New York (ACN).- New York’s Spanish Cinema Now Film Festival began this Tuesday at the Cervantes Institute of New York. The festival is co-organised by the Institute and the Film Society of Lincoln Center. This year’s festival is featuring films from the Spanish Civil War to commemorate its 70th anniversary. The festival is also honouring Mallorcan film director Agustí Villaronga and will show two of his films, 'Pa Negre' (Black Bread) and 'El Mar' (The Sea). Villaronga stated that Catalan cinema “is reappearing” on the international scene. He added that Catalonia is supporting more “low budget” films, with the resurgence of the documentary genre as well as new directors coming out of ESCAC such as Bayona and Guillem Morales.

The Spanish Cinema Now Film Festival is taking place at the Walter Read Theater in New York’s Lincoln Center from the 10th to the 23rd of December. 13 Spanish films will be shown, all chosen by the festival’s director, Richard Peña.

During a press conference, Agustí Villaronga spoke of Catalan cinema, bringing up the recent San Sebastian Film Festival, in which “there were 16 Catalan productions”. According to Villaronga, this indicates that Catalan cinema is in good health. Despite this, Villaronga spoke about some of the difficulties that Catalan cinema faces, such as the language barrier that exists for Catalan cinema in the rest of Spain.

Also present at the festival’s inauguration were Icíar Bollaín, director of ‘Even the Rain’, Emilio Aragon, director of ‘Paper Birds’, actor Lluis Homar, screenwriter Paul Laverty, the festival’s programmer Rafael Cabrera and Fernando Trueba, director of  ‘Chico & Rita’, who attended with actors Javier Mariscal and Tono Herraldo.

The Oscar effect

Fernando Trueba gave his opinion on the Spanish film industry during the inauguration. He assured that his films “do not have cultural identity”, something he learned from films from countries like the United States and France. “To me, cinema is a country”, said the director. Regarding his Oscar, the Madrid-based director declared that they gave it to him “by error”. He said that he did not expect to win the award and joked that each time he sees the predicted winner, filmmaker Kraige Chen, he “still feels guilty”. “The Oscars are an imbecility, like all awards…but they are great because of the happiness they bring to family members”, he said.

Icíar Bollaín, whose film is nominated for the best foreign language film at the Academy Awards, said that although the award does not always recognise the best productions, it serves later in creating more personal projects and “promoting the film in the United States”.

Attracting the Hispanic public

Director of the festival Richard Peña said that one of the festival’s goals is to attract the Hispanic public. “31% of people in New York are Hispanic”, something that, according to him, must be taken advantage of. “Has the idea of opening a Spanish language cinema not occurred to anyone?” he asked.

This year’s festival is featuring films from the Spanish Civil War on its 70th anniversary. There will be a special projection of the film ‘'En el Balcón Vacío', a feature film made by Spaniards that exiled in Mexico during the war. The festival is also supported by the Spanish Ministry of Culture’s Cinematographic and Audiovisual Institute (ICAA).