59th Valladolid International Film Festival

Spain, October 18 - October 25 2014

The jury

Anders E Larsson (Sweden), Senem Erdine (Turkey), Eva Peydró (Spain)

Awarded films

Valladolid is the largest city in Spain’s northwestern regions. It is located on the northern plateau, and usually by October snowfall is lurking in the skies. However, like last year, the festival guests enjoyed nice summer breezes.

In this old city, where Christopher Columbus drew his last breath and Cervantes lived and worked, The Valladolid International Film Festival (or Seminci) has been a major event for almost 60 years, which makes it one of the oldest film festivals in Europe. FIPRESCI and its award have been in presence since 1961.

The 59th edition of Seminci (18-25 October, 2014) saw a rise in attendance, reaching a total of 80,000 film loves. The sections dedicated to younger audiences – Miniminci and Young Seminci – are in many ways responsible for this rise of about 15,000 attendees.

Other sections, apart from the Official section, include the Meeting Point (for first and second fiction films), the Time of History (for documentaries), Spanish Cinema, a section featuring films from a “guest country” (this year it was Turkey) and the new section Cinema and Wine. The annual retrospective  showcased films by South Korean director Bong Joon Ho.

Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne and Volker Schlöndorff graced the opening ceremony, both having films in the Official section. While the former duo did not garner any award for their already successful Two days, one night (Deux jours, une nuit), Schlöndorff received the best director award for Diplomacy (Diplomatie). In addition, Niels Arestrup was named best actor for his portrayal of the German general who planned to blow up Paris in the same film.

The Turkish director Kutlug Ataman also achieved a double triumph with his film The Lamb (Kuzu) – about the preparations for the celebration of a boy’s circumcision – which won the awards for best script and best cinematography (by Feza Caldiran).

The international jury decided to give their top prize, the Golden Spike, to the Israeli-German production The Farewell Party (Mita tova) by Sharon Maymon and Tal Granit – a film that revolves around a group of elders who practice euthanasia in the face of dementia. The film’s two leading ladies, Levana Finkelstein and Aliza Rosen, jointly received the best actress award.

The Silver Spike went to the German-French feature Stations of the Cross (Kreuzweg) by Dietrich Brüggemann – a poignant story of a girl which is ultimately sacrificed upon the altar of hardcore religious beliefs. Stations of the Cross was also awarded the FIPRESCI prize.

The general impression was that the official section had quite a few mainstream films – Liv Ullmann’s Miss Julie, Pernille Fischer Christensen’s Someone You Love (En du elsker), Zhang Yimou’s  Coming Home (Gui lai) and Guy Jenkin’s and Andy Hamilton’s What We Did on Our Holiday (which won the audience award) – alongside peculiarities like Gust Van Den Berghe’s Lucifer and Adán Aliaga’s and David Valero’s Noah’s Ark (El arca de Noé). In between dwelled titles such as the social realistic Umut Dag’s Cracks in Concrete (Risse im Beton) and Damien Chazelle’s jazz instilled Whiplash (which won him the best new director prize).

Seminci also offers a chance to catch up with recent Spanish films – provided you are fluent in Spanish, as very few titles have English subtitles. One would think it is somewhat strange, considering it is an international film festival. (Anders E Larsson)

Valladolid International Film Festival: www.seminci.com