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Alejandro Díaz Castaño • Director, Gijón International Film Festival

"Filmmakers want to premiere their movies at Gijón"

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- This is Alejandro Díaz’s first year heading up the Gijón Film Festival as director; in this interview, he breaks down the novelties at the 55th edition, which gets under way on 17 November

Alejandro Díaz Castaño  •  Director, Gijón International Film Festival
(© Carolina Noval/FICX)

Asturian native Alejandro Díaz Castaño was previously the programmer of the Gijón Film Festival (FICX), and after transferring to the Seville Film Festival to carry out this same role, this year he is coming back to Gijón as its new director. We chatted to him to get the lowdown on the new direction that Gijón, one of the most storied and stimulating film gatherings in Spain, is taking.

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Les Arcs November Internal

Cineuropa: How are you feeling on the eve of the festival, which you’re heading up for the first time?
Alejandro Díaz:
The usual: nervous and quite giddy, which are feelings that those of us who work in this field know only too well. Having said that, this is a special year, but they are par for the course at any international festival. I began working here from 2009-2011, and then I spent five years working at Seville, and now I’m back at Gijón as director. It’s a homecoming and a reunion with various colleagues who have been working at this event for over 20 years: it’s a very experienced and extremely professional team.

Does this new directorial role you’ve assumed entail a new editorial policy, or are you following the one that was laid down years ago?
In the mid-1990s, the FICX began its rise to fame on the international stage, gaining a reputation as a discoverer of independent and arthouse cinema. This label is still applicable today: when you visit international gatherings, you see that the Gijón Film Festival still has credibility in the professional milieu of the film world. The idea is to continue investing in those filmmakers who we hope will become big names in the years to come, and to continue emphasising the presence of other, more famous auteurs who are regulars at the gathering, such as Eugène Green and Hong Sang-soo.

What are the plans for the festival’s new sidebar that it is pinning its hopes on: the section dedicated to industry professionals?
We are very happy with the Industry Days because we initially devised it as a trial or pilot edition, and in the end, it’s turned out to be a programme of very interesting activities. In the past, some industry initiatives were actually carried out here, on an ad hoc basis, and our idea was to create a sidebar that would have continuity in the years to come, so that it could serve as a meeting point for professionals – for Spaniards and Asturians, as well as for international guests who visit the festival – and thus synergies will emerge, and their projects can be introduced and shared. There is also going to be a case study on Marrowbone [+see also:
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interview: Sergio G Sánchez
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, with its director, Sergio G Sánchez, in attendance, and another one on Summer 1993 [+see also:
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interview: Carla Simón
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, with Carla Simón and her producer. We’ll also have round-tables with festival programmers, including those from Locarno and Clermont Ferrand, and a work-in-progress session, with projects at the earliest stages, so that they can be evaluated by programmers and producers. Some of these activities will be open to the public. It’s all there in the programme (available here).

What elements of the programme would you highlight particularly? What are you most excited about?
Having three female directors in focus this year. One is Valie Export, an Austrian director who is involved in the world of video art and performance art, which goes beyond pure film: she’s a veteran of guerrilla feminist cinema from the 1960s. Also, we’re inviting Carla Simón, plus Elisa Cepedal, a very promising Asturian filmmaker. The premiere screenings are also exciting for us: the opening title, El futuro que viene, directed by Constanza Novick and produced by Lisandro Alonso, will have its European premiere here, and we have the world premiere of the new movie by Eugène Green, whose previous works have been presented at Berlin, Locarno and Cannes. It makes us very proud to have secured this premiere. And then there’s Marc Recha, who competed in the official section at Cannes years ago, and who is premiering his new film here at Gijón: this makes a difference, as it’s a matter of trust. Filmmakers want to premiere their movies at Gijón.

Do you have anything you’d like to add, as the festival approaches? What would you like the audience to take particular notice of?
I would highlight the presence of European films and Continental co-productions: French cinema has a strong presence, with the Spanish premiere of the unreleased Jean-Luc Godard film Grandeur et décadence d'un petit commerce de cinéma; Ismael’s Ghosts [+see also:
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Q&A: Arnaud Desplechin
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]
by Arnaud Desplechin, which opened Cannes and can be seen in full at Gijón; Les sept déserteurs ou La Guerre en vrac by Paul Vecchiali, a much sought-after filmmaker in France, which will have its Spanish premiere; and many more auteurs. This support for European film enables us to have almost double the number of meetings with the audience this year: it’s more feasible for a festival on a tight budget to bring along directors from our own continent. There will be more than 200 screenings, and 80 of them will include meetings with the audience: in today’s world, we can’t just show the films on their own and have no one to back them up. It’s important for the audience to also receive that extra bonus compared to watching a regular screening. We see people very eager and excited: it’s all about seeing films, enjoying yourself, learning, and watching movies that you don’t normally get to see in the commercial cinemas.

(Translated from Spanish)

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