Gijón Overview

in 59th Gijón International Film Festival

by Salvatore Marfella

As with most film festivals all around the world, in 2020 FICX (Festival Internacional de Cine de Gijón/Xixón) was forced to contend with the pandemic, which obliged festival director Alejandro Díaz Castaño to announce an online edition of the most important cinema event in Asturias, the northern Spanish region where the festival transpires. However, the 2021 edition represented the long-awaited return of in-person screenings, reuniting a devoted audience, who crowded the various events revolving around the festival—and even preceding it.

Indeed, FICX is but one segment, and a vivid one, among a great many activities in an extended programme that includes, in Gijón, Laboral Cinemateca and, in seventeen other Asturian municipalities, more than 300 screenings. Furthermore, FICX has also organised Gijón’s Summer Cinema Series together with the local department of festivities and the first Enviromental Film Festival in Gijón’s Atlantic Botanical Gardens, following global trends regarding the environment and sustainability. The festival also hosts FICX Pro, its industry section, which includes the “Push Play” pitching session, and the LAB projects, which draw attention to young audiovisual artists and creators. The event was well attended, especially official screenings, masterclasses, and meetings with authors and interpreters. As far as the latter is concerned, it may be worth mentioning the presence of the Italian actress Chiara Mastroianni, daughter of Marcello and Catherine Deneuve, who was awarded for her career.

I was in the Asturian lands as a FIPRESCI juror, devoting most of my attention to the section whose films compete for our awards, “Tierres en trance”, the name inspired by the 1967 masterpiece directed by the great Brazilian filmmaker Glauber Rocha. Nonetheless, I could appreciate the quality of a festival proudly attentive to diversity, both in terms of formats (short and feature films), countries invited (mostly from Europe and the Americas, but with some guests from Asia as well), and filmmakers both emerging and established, both represented in more than one competion section.

The “Retuyeos” section included filmmakers with one, two or three feature films to their credit, already selected for more glamorous festivals such as Rotterdam, Berlinale, Cannes or Venice. Among them were Imaculat (2021), directed by Monica Stan and George Chipier-Lillemark, winner of the Lion of the Future in Venice, Captain Volkonogov Escaped (Kapitan Volkonogov bezhal, 2021), directed by Natasha Merkulova and Aleksey Chupov, also in competition in Venice, and Neptune Frost (2021), directed by by Saul Williams and Anisia Uzeyman, which was part of the Directors Fortnight in Cannes.

The “Albar” section boasted names like Bruno Dumont, who brought his latest masterpiece, France (2021), interpreted by a fantastic Léa Seydoux; Hong Sang-soo, who took part in this competition with two features, In Front of Your Face (Dangsin-eolgul-apeseo, 2021), included in Cannes Premières, and Introduction (2021), which was awarded in the latest Berlinale for Best Screenplay; Maria Speth and her Mr Bachmann and His Class (Herr Bachmann und seine Klasse, 2021), which won the Silver Lion in the Berlinale; and Catherine Corsini with The Divide (La fracture, 2021).

The “Tierres en trance” section consisted of nine features, all coming from Ibero-American countries, such as Paraguay, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and Spain. Mostly documentaries, although not devoid of diversity and variety, the selection also included some fiction films, such as Palestra (2021), directed by Juan Pablo Basovih Marinaro and Sofía Jallinsky, winner of our International Critics Prize. The films in this section were focused mainly on big social themes. Among those worth mentioning were Nothing But the Sun (Apenas el sol, 2021), directed by Arami Ullón, an attempt to preserve a disappearing culture, the Ayoreos, a nomadic community forced to abandon their ancestral territory because of the arrival of white “civilisation” under the guise of religious missionaries; Dirty Feathers (2021), directed by by Carlos Alfonso Corral, giving voice to America’s homeless, a selection of unheard and neglected people; Edna (2021), directed by Eryk Rocha, which considers deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon; and Un cielo impasible (2021), directed by by David Varela, an historical account of an episode in Spanish Civil War, the battle of Brunete, which was fought between 6th and 25th July in 1937.

Marfella Salvatore
Edited by José Teodoro