One of the most important films to screen at the 2010 Made in Catalonia Film Festival (MiCFF) is Isona Passola Vidal's Cataluña – Espanya. The documentary, a sociological think-piece that addresses the complex and occasionally tense relationship between the autonomous region of Catalonia and the Kingdom of Spain, was a major talking point in the country when it screened last July, on the eve of the largest ever demonstration for Catalan autonomy in the nation's history.
For Sara Bosch-Brinques, Artistic Director of MiCFF, the opportunity to educate Australian audiences on vital issues impacting Catalan society was one of the key motivators for programming this third edition of the three day event. “Within (the film's) 50 minutes, people will get a pretty good idea of what the current relationship is like,” she says, on the eve of the Festival's launch in Melbourne.
Bosch-Brinques has a hopeful outlook on the issues that are so crucial to her countrymen. “I don't think it should be seen as a conflictive relationship when Catalans ask for more political or economic competencies, even though there are some people, especially politicians, that try hard to damage it with the independence issue.” She points to the healthy working relationship between MiCFF organisers, The Catalan Centre of Victoria, the Consulate of Spain in Melbourne and the Instituto Cervantes in Sydney as an example of the spirit of collaboration that can be mutually beneficial. “There are efforts from both sides to maintain a good relationship,” she says.
The festival has benefitted from a surge in Catalan film production in recent years. In 2004, 40 Catalan movies were produced at a total cost of $19million; by 2009, 74 films were made and $28million was spent. “It's been great!” says Bosch-Brinques, who works closely with the Catalan film sector when finalising the program. “This Festival relies on the directors and producers' help and their altruistic contribution,” she says, citing long term relationships with such Catalonian industry giants as ESCAC (Escola Superior de Cinema i Audiovisuals de Catalunya), the prestigious film school run by the University of Barcelona, and Catalan production houses such as Escandalo Films, Mallerich Films and Massa d'Or Productions. “They have been donating new films every year since the very beginning, when we had nothing to show or to prove from this side of the world. Our program is focused on quality, creativity and originality parameters; we want our audience to understand what they are seeing and enjoy (themselves) while doing so.”
Highlights of the festival are the certain to be opener, debutant director Roser Aguilar's romantic drama Lo Mejo de Mi (The Best of Me, pictured), as well as Carles Pastor's whimsical Comida para gatos (Food for Cats); also of note is the programming of films that utilise the official language of the Catalan region, such as Lluís Maria Güel's adaptation of the Jaume Cabré novel Veus del Pamano (Voices of the Pamano River) and the closing night film, Abel Folk and Joan Riedweg's multi-strand narrative Xtrems (Extremes). This re-establishing of the region's unique voice onscreen will continue following the recent parliamentary approval of 'The Law of the Cinema of Catalonia', requiring 50% of all films in the region to have dubbing or subtitles in the Catalan language.
A displaced but passionate Catalan native like Sara Bosch-Brinques finds the idiosyncrasies of Catalan cinema both welcoming (“Catalan cinema transmits national identity and values, preserves memory and history...”) and mystifying (“Sometimes, Australians might laugh at something that is not funny for Catalans and vice versa.”) She is acutely aware of the importance of her programming role to both the filmmakers of Catalonia and her festival patrons in Australia. “If we have a film that is extremely 'made in Catalonia', we make sure it is easy to understand for non-Catalans so we share a meaningful, cultural and entertaining message in Australia,” she explains. “Comparing this last edition with the first one, we have maintained a profile with a humble but prestigious quality program appreciated by a loyal audience.”
Made in Catalonia Film Festival
(Melb, Oct 18-22; Bris, Oct 31; Canb, Nov 4; Syd, Nov 19-20)