Spanish cinema is delighted. An international festival announcing its sections, a festival of Spanish films. It wasn’t always like that. For a long time, the great competitions were the domain of only established authors like Almodóvar or Coixet, and it was very difficult for them to make room for other names. But something has changed in 2022, thanks to a generation of producers who have tapped into new talent in recent years and are making a difference. This is a path along which several stages have already been passed, but which this year was consolidated.
In February, Carla Simon won the Golden Bear at the Berlinale. This was done in an edition where Isaki Lacuesta was also in the official section and newcomer Alauda Ruiz de Azua in Panorama. A few months later, the Cannes Film Festival followed suit. Albert Serra will compete for the Palme d’Or with Bora Bora, Sorogoyen will present As Bestas at the Cannes premiere, and Elena López Riera will make her debut with El Agua in Directors’ Fortnight. In addition, two directors will present their short films as part of Fortnight and Critics’ Week.
Cinema that travels shows that our directors are on the same level as the world’s great authors, and that they are often referred to as Marca España. Competing in Cannes means being among the great works of the year. Winning the Golden Bear is like winning the Champions League, although it doesn’t get very many minutes in the news or in conversation. Cinema is made with effort and with less government assistance than it seems. If you analyze the films that made it to international festivals this year (not counting the film in San Sebastian, where most of the Spanish cinema of the year takes place), you will get a pretty accurate x-ray of a movie theater model running in Spain.
Of the three films that went to Berlin, two, Alcarraz and Cinco Lobitos, came out of selective aid, and one came out of general aid. The same proportion as in Cannes. Bora Bora (the only entrant for the Palme d’Or) and El Agua received selective assistance in their respective challenges. Since Bestas was the only one who chose general assistance. Looking at the films that have received each of the grants, it is clear that festival cinema comes out of selective grants, which receive much less money. Those that are reserved for “first movies” or “complex movies” and get at least three times less than other games designed for industrial cinema and for ticket sales. In other words, quality cinema gets less support.
Searching for help in the last five years of the ICAA shows that 19 of the films that have entered competitions such as Cannes, Venice, Berlin, Cannes or Rotterdam are of these small films. Nine for “advertising”. More than twice as many as those for which the smallest part of the money is allocated from the film fund of the Ministry of Culture. The year when this difference is most obvious is 2018. This year, 35.5 million euros were allocated in total production assistance, and out of all the selected films, three films went to major festivals: Rodrigo Sorogoyen’s Mother (Venice); Pain and Glory by Pedro Almodovar (Cannes) and Paradise Hills by Alice Waddington (Sundance).
Selection aid received 8.5 million (four times less). Seven films have traveled the world, including Goya’s Las Niñas winning film Pilar Palomero, which traveled to Berlin. Also among those selected were Clara Roque’s Libertad (Cannes); Or what burns, Oliver Lacks (Cannes); The August Maiden by Jonas Trueba (Karlovy Vary); Eles transport a morte by Helena Chiron and Samuel M. Delgado (Venice) and My Vacuum and Me (Rotterdam).
Less money and less budget
Electoral aid is what produces prestigious cinema all over the world, and the Ministry of Culture seems to understand this. The difference between the 5.3 million that was allocated in 2017 and the 15 million that was allocated in 2021. In fact, an article of up to 20 million euros is expected for 2022. Improvements that allow more and more ambitious productions to be introduced. The change in requirements also helped films like Alcarraz or Bora Bora win these grants. There are no more budget restrictions. Previously, only films that cost little money could participate in it.
How much money did the films that made it to the festivals get?
Films that were submitted to film festivals each year, depending on whether they received general funds to production or electoral aid for auteur cinema (data in euros). The size of the bar indicates the total amount of assistance
For example, in 2019, the maximum amount that a film could receive was 500,000 euros, and in general it was double, a million. In addition, the cost of production of any film cannot exceed 1.8 million euros. This caused a terrible difference between films that requested selective aid too little to compete head-to-head with other industries that are more supportive of their cinema; and among those who have requested general assistance, those with larger budgets, but whose eligibility criteria only assess the economic viability of the project. This has resulted in higher-budget auteur films being left in the no man’s land, as happened in 2020 with Paula Ortiz, who was left without general help with her adaptation of Juan Mayorga’s La lengua en pieces. In the last called call for 2022, the maximum aid is 800,000 euros and there are no more budget limits.
invest in trust
This aid ceiling of 800,000 euros means that films that receive this aid have a budget limit of around two million. For this reason, Marisa Fernandez Armenteros, producer of Cinco lobitos, asks that no “triumphant speeches” be made. “Many of the films that travel the world or enjoy the most prestige receive these selective grants, the smallest ones, and almost all of them are made with a budget of two million euros. It’s good to go to festivals and awards, but also to compete, because in neighboring countries auteur films are given more money and they have better conditions. Many of us can’t afford an eight-week shoot. Of the money that we producers have, the costs are measured to the millimeter, and what is being done has many advantages, filming with smaller budgets than in other countries and reaching these festivals. Because of this, directors, screenwriters and independent producers have great opportunities for self-sacrifice.
It’s good to go to festivals and go to awards, but also to compete, because in neighboring countries that author’s cinema is given more money and conditions are better
Marisa Fernandez Armenteros
— Producer of the film “Five Wolves”.
For Rafal Moles, producer of El Agua, which will be presented at Cannes, we must change the way we think about cinema. “It is important that there are films that break the box office, but in the same way that these films contribute a lot to cinema, we must understand that select films also contribute a lot, and they are the ones that go to festivals. They add credibility and also encourage people to go to theaters or platforms to watch Spanish movies. We clearly understand the contribution that industrial cinema makes, but we also contribute from auteur cinema to make it feel like we have quality cinema, and that’s important because you’re creating change so that people watch Spanish film and want to be in it. . And this is provided by Carla Simon or Elena Lopez Riera. You should invest more in this trust. It seems like it goes without saying that they can be made cheaply, but these are more complex manufacturing designs,” he says. In the near future, the audiovisual law and the film law, from which the producers hope that if the Spanish cinematography wants to continue to bet on festivals, they will protect this type of cinema.
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