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José Luis Cienfuegos • Director, Seville European Film Festival

“We’re interested in reaping the harvest of this different kind of cinema”


- We chatted to José Luis Cienfuegos, head of the Seville European Film Festival, in the run-up to its 13th edition, the fourth under his auspices

José Luis Cienfuegos  • Director, Seville European Film Festival
(© SEFF)

The Seville European Film Festival has firmly established itself as an event committed to new film languages, young audiences and bringing filmmakers and viewers together (read more). José Luis Cienfuegos, now in his fourth year at the reins of the event, explains the nuts and bolts of the festival.

Cineuropa: How would you weigh up your time in charge of the Seville European Film Festival so far?
José Luis Cienfuegos:
It’s the audience that has to say whether we’ve got better or worse, but I will say that we’ve improved in terms of our structure, organisation and programming strategy; we’ve achieved a certain level of stability. At times like these, when there are fewer resources available for culture, it’s so important to have the support of institutions like the Seville City Council, the ICAA and the Creative Europe programme. At the same time, I’m seeing a smoother relationship with these institutions, a relationship of mutual trust – still with a requirement to comply with the basic conditions – as well as a great deal of transparency.

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A festival is defined by its programming: bearing this in mind, what type of European cinema, which is a very broad concept, is represented at Seville?
The editorial line we are working on, especially when it comes to Spanish films, encompasses those filmmakers who reach the theatres through independent distributors, who know their way around the alternative cultural circuit, such as museums and small festivals: starting off at Seville, those movies begin a tour that can sometimes last up to a year. Since our festival takes place at the end of the year, it’s not easy to secure world premieres, and we don’t get obsessed with that, but we are very interested in reaping the harvest of this different kind of cinema that attracts the international press; hence our commitment to serving as a meeting point for indie Spanish cinema, where the creators can get the chance to meet seasoned filmmakers, the people who inspire them, right here.

What new additions can we find at this 13th edition of the SEFF?
The festival has flourished as a meeting point for creators from a particular type of industry, with the Spanish Screenings-Sevilla TV, which is being held in conjunction with FAPAE, and it has also grown in its relationship with Andalucian producers. In addition, it is the venue for the Europa Cinemas conferences, where debates will be held on new audiences and strategies, as we are sensing some concern that the audience could become alienated; this is already happening with mainstream film, and it is the intermediaries who play a key role in this respect, explaining to the public and making them more familiar with what a film festival is. An example of this is our New Programmers activity, where seven young people will stand up for the film Daydreams [+see also:
film review
interview: Caroline Deruas
film profile

What kind of budget does the festival have this year?
One million euros, just like the previous editions, which is a sum in keeping with the programming of the event, its activities and its prizes; but we have been growing in terms of the number of private sponsors and contributors.

Which particular event of the 2016 edition would you say is unmissable?
The Yo NO soy esa (lit. “I Am NOT Her”) cycle, which was instigated last year as a result of the controversy generated by not including enough female directors, but which we had been pondering for years. We are rallying against institutionalised feminism and your typical Sunday supplement that demands quotas and a certain – supposedly feminist – way of making films.

Will the rapport between audience and artist continue to be a constant at the SEFF?
The festival wouldn’t be the same without it. At a 21st-century festival, everything has to flow, and therefore there has to be a communion between the filmmakers and the viewers: that mutual understanding has to exist in order for European arthouse film to survive. The creator is not in a pulpit, to be adored by the public, as used to be the case: those days are over. And it is the new filmmakers who accompany their movie throughout its exhibition run who are setting the best examples, as their work does not cease in the editing room, but rather it has to go above and beyond that. Some festivals are programmed by dint of chequebooks, while others are proper meeting points: the Seville European Film Festival belongs in the latter category.

(Translated from Spanish)

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