VII Festival de cinema independent de Barcelona „l’alternativa" (17-25 november 2000)
By Stefan Berger
The author was accredited at the above-mentioned event. The following article reflects his personal view which is not necessarily congruent with the FICC jury’s opinion.
The festival of the independent cinema of Barcelona took place for the seventh time this year. While it started on a relatively small scale in 1994 (though already with an international horizon) it gained more and more attention afterwards particularly among young, relatively unknown directors. For this year’s edition not less than 800 pieces of work were sent in, of which 65 were finally selected for the official competition.
The festival’s headquarters is a stunning modern building in the old town of Barcelona, the Centre de cultura contemporania, where the main part of the performances took place. In addition, two cinemas and another three cultural institutions participated in the organisation.
The competition was held in four different categories: Feature film, short film, documentary and animation. Most of the pieces of work came from Europe and North America, but there were also films from Japan, Korea, Australia, India, Iran, Israel and from Latin America. No Swiss Production participated in the competition this time, after Korrinna Sehringer’s „Cooky Thief" had caught some attention at last year’s edition.
The Polish contribution„Wojaczek" by Lech Majewski won FICC’s „Don Qixote" award for the best feature film. It’s the portrait of the rebellious, suicidal poet Rafal Wojaczek whose work had an important impact on generations of Polish. The protagonist’s everyday confrontation with death - which he indeed seeks but which he tries to overcome at the same time - is transmitted in penetrating black and white. Although the film is situated in the communist era, the theme is not tied to any particular period or society - which indeed makes up its fascination.
Fascinating too, but on a different level, is Bruno Lazaro Pacheco’s „It’s for you." The Canadian production unorthodoxically deals with the topic of long-distance relationships. The main character is a kind of modern Werther, a young student from Toronto who gets hold of his obsession with the Barcelona-seated beloved by DV-recording. Thereby his camera becomes the ever-present witness of his real existing visions. The immediacy of the story-telling at times leads one onto the verge of voyeurism - nevertheless, the film’s non-compromising innovation is somewhat impressive.
The award for best documentary was given to „Kumar Talkies" by the Indian Pankaj Rishi Kumar, the story of the last surviving cinema in North Indian Kalpi. It had already won the Indian national award for documentaries. By following the traces to his own family roots - the cinema was founded by the director’s father - Rishi Kumar grants his film a very specific, personal touch.
Further, „Moja Domovina (za unutrasnju Upotrebu)" from Serbia, which means „My country (for internal use only)" is worth a special mention. Goran Radovanovic, art historian by degree, shows a disturbing picture of a country destroyed by war, autocracy, corruption, ethno-nationalism and widespread poverty. He also reveals the great obstacles for peace and democracy that remain even after the successful October’s uprising.
In the competition of animation, which contained twenty films, a Spanish and a German contribution won each an award. The jury elected Miguel Diez Lasangre’s visionary „Animal", while the more sinister (though not less visionary) „Anorexia" by Jenni Tietze won the public’s prize ex aequo with Max Lemcke’s short film „Pequenas historias entre ventanas y telefonos" („Short stories between windows and telephones").
The shortfilm holds a central position in the official programme. It’s the art of telling a story most effectively within a very short time, by taking account of the fact that the most specific or fateful often reveals itself in seemingly trivial events. The episodes are bound to make one laugh but the laugh keeps sticking in the throat, especially when the most meaningful parts of the action is not expressed in words. 27 directors from 16 different countries competed for the jury’s as well as the public’s favour, and a good deal of them proved stunningly that they are high-skilled in their métier.
The jury finally awarded two films ex aequo: the above-mentioned „Pequenas historias entre ventanas y telefonos" by the Spanish director Max Lemcke, and Morag McKinnon’s „Home" from Scotland. The first one is a well-done satire on contact institutes and their clients, the second one is an ode to the Scotish working class’ way of life, wonderfully narrated stories of old women, bad smells, dogs, lino and more...
Apart from the competition, the festival held several highly remarkable parallel sections. The foreign spectator was impressed by the various facets of Spanish filmmaking: the „clandestine cinema" of the late 1960s and early 1970s, containing works of directors like Llorenc Soler or Basilio Martin Patino who revealed the dark sides of Franco’s dictatorship and openly opposed it; „the unknown of the known", means: unknown works of now well-established filmmakers. Iciar Bollain (especially known as a brilliant actress in films like Victor Erice’s „El sur" or Ken Loach’s „Land and Freedom") and Gracia Querejeta, former assistant director to Carlos Saura, are two examples; or Ramon Masats, who is mainly known as a photographer but whose work contains great documentaries and features as well.
Further, there were a number of film schools who presented the works of their students at „l’alternativa", among which the „Ecole superieure d’Arts visuels" from Geneva. The New York seated Ocularis showed „films and videos transmitting mixed signals, telling experiments in the physics of making contact," called „Communication breakdown." And the „Underground night" contained films from the South African born Ian Kerkhof whose radicalism strongly reminds of „classic" underground directors like Kenneth Anger or Bruce Corner.
Last but not least, both the presentation of very early silent films - accompanied by a live ensemble! - and the selection of the filmography of the French director Philippe Garrel deserve a special mention.
The seventh edition of „l’alternativa" was a great success both organisatorically and atmospherically. The central meeting point, the Pantalla Hall of CCCB, was well chosen. Here you could enjoy a series of additional short films, animation and documentaries for free. Here an Indian evening with live dance performance was held as the "pièce de resistance" of the festival. Here you could exchange thoughts in a warm, constraintless environment. Lectures and round-table-discussions offered further platforms for such exchanges.
The independent cinema better not miss this address in the future!
URL of the festival: