Resistencias - Bringing New Cinema from Behind the Stage

in 10th Sevilla European Film Festival

by Tereza Brdecková

To resist means to keep going on in your own way in any circumstances. In war, it can cost you your life. In cinema the resistance is much less risky but more sophisticated: your enemy is invisible and can have different names. You can win under two conditions: you must be a talent with a persuading vision and you must endlessly trust in yourself. “Resistances presents (an)other Spanish cinema, independent almost to the point of autarchy,” says José Luis Cienfuegos, the director of SEFF.

Although the new competition in SEFF was not large (8 titles), it gave a clear picture of what the enthusiastic  director  plans to develop  out of it in the coming years: To bring on stage  the courageous directors  who search  to give the right name to today’s Spain, shaken but unbroken by the (financial) crisis. The common treats of this year’s collection: recapitulations of values and very original forms of expression.

Several films in competition are in fact experimental: like the collective work Trees (Arboles), directed by the trio of directors Los Hijos. This is a subtle formal exercise about the art of narrating: the native women in Guinea are reminiscent of the tale of Spanish monks, who hunted without success the village people who kept escaping from their influence. The contemporary Spanish couple tries subsequently by narration to escape the pessimism caused by the worries of unemployment. Two Friends (Dos Amigos) by Polo Menárguez reflects the encounter of two ex-school mates in their now deserted mountain village. The Adventures of Cat-Eyed Lilly (Los Aventuras de Lilly Ojos de Gatto) by Yonai Boix presents one drunken summer night in Madrid, inhabited by a no-future  generation aged around 25. Deserving of mention is the veteran of Spanish independent cinema, Pablo Llorca, and his Bouquet of Cactus (Un ramo de cactus), the most entertaining of the whole collection, depicting the “resistant” 60 year old Alfonso, an ecological farmer who naively tries to “reeducate” his grandson into a Jean-Jacques Rousseau natural and therefore good human being.

Also worth a mention is the irritating, self-centered, egotistic but fascinating projects by Juan Barrero: The Inner Jungle (La Jungla interior), where the hero and author obsessively films the beloved woman “in waiting”, searching the ontology of his new and unwilling life role, and finding in his soul only the pictures of wildness that he would visit shortly before.

All these films, and not least the winning picture The Sad Smell of Flesh (El Triste Olor de la Carne) by Cristóbal Arteaga Rozas, have something deeply disturbing, sometimes to the point that it is not clearly evident until the end. And yet, there is in all of them a very captive treat that keeps you fixed to the chair. This is the passion of filmmaking, the joy of language, the “Godardian” responsibility for each angle or movement of the camera. Let’s stay simple — “restons simple” like Frenchmen say: these directors’ have not only the cinema culture, they have something important to say. But where is their audience?

There is no doubt that nowadays it is much easier to realize a good film than it was 15 years ago, but it is also endlessly more difficult  to reach its potential audience, especially on an international scale. We witness in fact the situation where even cinema d’auteur for art houses and festivals requires a special, formatted language to be accepted by European distributors, who are the only possible gateway to theaters. There is no space for experiments; also alternative films now more often become “marketable products” than original visions of the world. And yet, when we look behind the coulisses of festivals and the program of European art houses, we witness a new scene emerging. It could be that in Spain this scene is more visible not only thanks to festivals like SEFF, but thanks  to the mutual fertilization between Latino American and Spanish film culture. But this is a very good example to follow.

Edited by Steven Yates