Alejandro Díaz Castaño • Director, Gijón International Film Festival
"We’re bolstering the industry days because they get more and more interesting all the time"
- Just a few days before the 57th Gijón International Film Festival kicks off, its director, journalist and filmmaker Alejandro Díaz Castaño, gives us a sneak peek at some of its myriad attractions
The 57th Gijón International Film Festival will unspool from 15-23 November, and the gathering’s head, journalist and filmmaker Alejandro Díaz Castaño, spoke to us in order to break down some of its countless attractions.
Cineuropa: It was very surprising to see that you would be opening the festival with a screening of two chapters of Nacho Vigalondo’s El vecino (see the news).
Alejandro Díaz Castaño: We don’t like to repeat ourselves or reuse formulas, and having been in contact with Netflix, they informed us it would be possible for us to premiere El vecino: it seemed like a gift from God. Also, Nacho is a filmmaker who has close ties with Gijón because his short 7:35 in the Morning was premiered here, thus kick-starting a run that led to it being nominated for an Oscar. And it’s healthy to open ourselves up to other formats, in an attempt to offer quality audiovisual content.
It seems that the debate on this has fizzled out, given that San Sebastián, Berlin and Venice have included titles by digital platforms in their selections. Is it now assumed that audiovisual content is wide-ranging, rich and varied, and thus we mustn’t pass up the opportunity to enjoy it in any of its guises?
Indeed, for us it’s important to include such content, and the international festivals are already doing so. It’s a controversy that people are over now, and you have to remember that this gathering in Gijón emerged on the scene in 1963 as a film and television festival, and works made specifically for this medium were screened. Therefore, the inclusion of series is nothing new. Here we also show a selection of music videos from Asturias: it’s not cinema, but we think that we should make room for them.
The Industry Days seem to get a boost at each new edition of your festival [see the news].
We’re bolstering the industry days because they get more and more interesting every time. Last year, with more than 150 accredited guests, we exceeded the threshold of 1,000 attendees who were taking part in its activities. It’s important to include the talks, with the presence of the ICAA and Creative Europe, for example. And we will also have dedicated sessions focusing on Asturian films and works in progress, which are already starting to bear fruit, as some of the movies that we have included in various different sections passed through this sidebar in previous years: for instance, The Perseids and Jordi’s Letters [+see also:
interview: Maider Fernández Iriarte
There’s a raft of world premieres at this year’s festival. Are there any in particular that you’re really excited about?
We have around 40 world premieres lined up. The one I’m most excited about is El trabajo o a quién le pertenece el mundo, the feature debut by Asturian director Elisa Cepedal: it’s an important title because of the way it uses film language, which is pretty much groundbreaking. It was filmed on celluloid and talks about our region’s post-industrial reality and how to tackle the search for identity.
Europe has a strong presence as well. Which topics are European filmmakers most concerned about today?
The percentage of European films at this festival always hovers around 85% of the total programme. As for the subject matter, one of the most interesting topics is the surge of the extreme right wing: for example, The Children of the Dead [+see also:
interview: Kelly Copper and Pavol Liška
film profile], a film produced by Ulrich Seidl, talks about this phenomenon but dresses itself up as a zombie flick. Education is also a key issue, as we see in Germany’s System Crasher [+see also:
interview: Nora Fingscheidt
film profile], or the way Nanni Moretti approaches Chile, a country that’s been in the news lately, in Santiago, Italia [+see also:
film profile], linking it with the present.
Speaking of Italian filmmakers, you’re organising a Franco Piavoli retrospective. Are there any others you’d like to highlight?
All four are really outstanding. On one hand, there’s Piavioli, an incredible director praised by Tarkovski, who has never had a retrospective of his oeuvre organised in Spain before. Then there’s Axelle Ropert, one of the great directors of new French cinema, and not one of her comedies have been released here. Then there are two emerging filmmakers: Serbia’s Stefan Ivancic, who has risen to international prominence with his short films, and Elena López Riera, one of the Spanish talents we’d been meaning to do a retrospective of for quite a while. In all of the sections, we’ve leaned towards movies that don’t yet have any commercial distribution guaranteed in Spain, and towards young Spanish filmmakers (we have 13 films in competition and other premieres out of competition).
Now that it’s your third year helming the festival, how would you take stock of your time as director, and what are your plans for the future?
The festival has grown in terms of attendance and income. Also, the level of activity has increased during the rest of the year, with higher levels of audience participation. Likewise, I’d like to point out the educational aspect: students from other regions (such as Galicia, León and Cantabria) also come to the festival’s screenings.
(Translated from Spanish)
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