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Malaga Spanish Film Festival

Malaga comes to life in the spring, and not only because of the weather. One of the most important dates on the calendar of the Costa del Sol, each and every year cameras start rolling and projectors spring to life throughout the city. Spanish cinema has found its home on the Mediterranean coast.


By:  T. de la Rosa
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Film festival
2013 programme
Birth: 1998
Location: Malaga
Founded by: Salomón Castiel
Directed by: Juan Antonio Vigar
Destaca por: its focus on national production

“With a panorama saturated with festivals, our aim was to organize a festival with its own unique identity. We wanted it to become a vital event for the city of Malaga“. Led by Salomón Castiel, the founders of the 12th Malaga Spanish Film Festival had a huge mission on their plate they set to work in 1998. More than a decade later, and with more than 300,000 people visiting it each year, this cinematographic festival is now one of the most important in Spain. Spring time in Malaga is filled with that special expectant buzz you only feel when the magic of cinema comes to town.

Feature films, shorts and documentaries battle against each other each year to win the yearned for prize, the Biznaga de Oro. “Winning is one way of assuring commercial success and success at the box-office”, explains Moisés Salama, one of the coordinators of the festival, member of the founding group, as well as being in charge of the documentary component of the festival. Films such as Héctor by Gracia Querejeta (2004), El juego de Cuba by Manuel Martín Cuenca (2001) and Paraísos artificiales by Achero Mañas (1999) are just some of the films that have enjoyed such success. Each year, more than 40 films reach the Official Selection on their journey to make their way in this competitive market.

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The role of the festival is to choose the best of any given year’s production and take it to the big screen. As all eyes watch the allure and glamour of the red carpet leading up to the Cervantes Theatre and the stars of Spanish cinema that walk it (Antonio Banderas, Emma Suárez, Imanol Arias, Marisa Paredes, Carlos Saura… to name but a few), from the organization they are very aware of the importance of ensuring quality above all in the events surrounding the official selection. “Quality is paramount in our selection”, explains Salama. “Films that are both interesting and daring. We are always on the look out for new, talented and unknown directors”.

If a particular year’s production determines the official selection, the organization’s role is to create a complementary programme of a high standard. They never fail to recognize the work of great maestros of Spanish cinema such as Luis García Berlanga, Luis Buñuel and Rafael Azcona. Across the city, theatres and cinemas give the rare opportunity to once again see classics that no longer frequent the new multiplex cinema culture pervasive across the world. Films such as Plácido, Viridiana, Los tramposos and El pisito have all been included in parallel events, such as the honorary awards, Película de Oro (Golden Film) and the thematic strands. The conferences and master classes targeted at professionals ensure even higher public participation. Having overcome this obstacle, the only thing left, according to Salama, is that “great directors such as Almodóvar or Amenábar decide to premier their films in Malaga, rather than Cannes or Venice”.

Riding the crest of the wave is the documentary section. “These days documentaries are all the rage”, comments Salama. “When we began the festival hardly anyone was interested in the genre. However we wanted to include documentaries on the programme and took the risk”. Over the last few years about twenty documentaries have premiered in Malaga. It is one way for them to overcome the difficulties involved in negotiating screenings in commercial venues and noticed by the public. “We need to focus on helping documentaries become more accessible to the public. The language of documentary film is no longer just a combination of archive images and voice-over narration. It has evolved into a new language that includes a multitude of genres. These are documentaries for all kinds of audiences. Often surprising, they don’t fit the stereotype of difficult or boring films many people commonly associate with the genre”, Salama explains.

Spanish cinema has found a home in the city of Malaga. While only 13% of Spanish cinemagoers view national production, Malaga has become a nerve centre for buyers and sellers from the Industry, as well as an ideal place for Spanish companies to present their latest projects. “Hundreds of buyers come to Malaga Markets from all over the world in search of interesting movies for their markets and festivals”, explains Salam. “The Spanish film industry needs to focus on reaching out to the public in an attempt to increase their audience. There is no lack of creativity. What we lack is a fluid dialogue with Spanish audiences. Success in the cinema depends 50% on one, and 50% on the other”, explains Salama.

There is no end in sight for the glamour that accompanies the festivities as fans flock around the red carpet each year. But what really matters is that audiences, particularly those who populate the capital throughout the year, have the opportunity to live and breath a cinema that is working hard to reconquer its rightful place on the global market.

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