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David Baute • Artistic Director, FICMEC

"Environmental film festivals are important, they are a necessity and they help to raise awareness"


- The head of the programme of the International Environmental Film Festival of the Canary Islands talks about the event and its next edition

David Baute  • Artistic Director, FICMEC
(© Luz Sosa/FICMEC)

The International Environmental Film Festival of the Canary Islands (FICMEC) will celebrate its 25th edition next year, in the Tenerife towns of Garachico from 25 to 30 May and Buenavista from 2 to 4 June. We spoke to its artistic director, David Baute, to find out more.

Cineuropa: What inspires FICMEC and how is it evolving?
David Baute:
The FICMEC was created in 1982, in Puerto de la Cruz, promoted by artists such as César Manrique and Pepe Dámaso (current honorary president), headed by the journalist Alfonso Pérez Orozco, and was the first festival of its kind on an international level. The event, a pioneer in connecting film and the environment, at a time when the production of environmental films was not so widespread, did so through commercial films that flirted with this topic, and nature documentaries that had a more television feel. With the toll of financially complex years and political changes, the festival stopped its programming in 1995, and we were fortunate enough to recover it in 2009 with a film programme that spoke of the relationship between human beings and nature from a reflective and artistic perspective. It was important for this festival to have continuity in an island territory like the Canary Islands, whose fragility and natural wealth make it an ideal setting for cultural and environmental debate.

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Today, many international distributors and production companies want to be programmed at FICMEC, with national or European premieres. The festival has grown in many layers, not only with its Official Film Section, but also with a series of parallel exhibitions and activities such as Ecoislas (for productions made in island territories) and Vulcanalia (an insight into volcanoes through cinematography and photography). For the last 10 years, the programme Jugando en Verde has been evoking thoughts about video games, proposing a different type of more responsible production. The festival will also include workshops, debates, talks and other activities related to sustainability and its importance for human beings. 

Over the years we’re very proud to have created a team for the festival with young people from the region, which we have trained in producing and coordinating the event, to generate a sustainable festival from the organisation. Today they are great professionals and the event is rooted in the local people. 

What are your goals in terms of environmental awareness and education, as well as sustainable cinema?
Since it began, FICMEC has worked on environmental sustainability in film productions, by programming activities and programmes aimed at raising awareness about the impact and carbon footprint of filming. We wanted a different kind of more responsible filmmaking, and fortunately in recent years all film festivals and events have a section on sustainable filmmaking, which has raised awareness among production companies. I remember when, seven years ago, the Seminci in Valladolid visited us to see our work on sustainable filming, which it then used in its festival through workshops. And the Film Academy, which accompanied us for some years, was also inspired by our proposals, and today it makes a great effort to promote responsible Spanish film production.

On the other hand, since it began, the festival has implemented sustainability measures in its production, something that is now very common in festivals, but which nobody considered 40 years ago. We work hard to minimise the non-renewable energy used at the festival, and the disposal of waste generated by the festival. This event is sustainable in its organisation and funding, and we conduct environmental studies and audits every year.

What are the festival’s achievements and challenges?
The festival is based on two important achievements: a carefully planned film programme and a tour that has raised its profile. We’ve recently created the Cinemóbil project: a van that is charged by solar panels and whose batteries make it possible to travel around rural areas and screen films anywhere. With this initiative promoted by The Canary Islands Tourist Board, we provide the possibility for culture to become much more decentralised and for everyone to have real access to auteur cinema, to talks with its creators, workshops, etc. This is how film culture is made accessible.

Environmental film festivals are important, they are a necessity and they help to raise awareness. We’ve experienced this over all these years with audiences who have come to the festival and loved its programming, changing their way of thinking about environmental issues. We are a film festival and think carefully about the programming, but also about the social and human aspects of an event like this. Everything around the festival is what excites us the most and helps us to continue with the project.

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(Translated from Spanish by Vicky York)

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