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Cines del Sur Festival in Granada

Is it possible to cram three continents into one city for eight days? No. Nevertheless, the Cines del Sur Festival boldly takes on this challenge every spring by including films from daring and unknown directors in their programme. Asia, Africa and South America are served up in a delicious cocktail of films with a refreshingly different outlook.

By: Julio Ruiz

Film festival
2010 Programme
Birth: 2007
Location: Granada
Directed by: José Sánchez-Montes
Stands out for: bringing great films from Africa, Asia and South America to Granada

In 2007, Granada joined the diverse list of cities that host Andalusian film festivals with a very ambitious and innovative project. If film festivals in Cadiz [1] and Huelva [2] look towards Latin America, Malaga [3] towards Spain and Seville [4] towards Europe, Granada’s film festival has the immense task of focusing on three of the most uncharted continents. This challenging event brings together some of the best directors and films on the scene. A week in which their mission is to enthral spectators with outstanding stories, most of which have been rejected by mainstream cinemas due to lacking the Hollywood seal of approval and because they are filmed in locations as far-flung as Nigeria, Uruguay and Sri Lanka.

“You won’t find another festival with as much vision, even though others, such the Barcelona Asian Film Festival (BAFF) or the African Film Festival in Tarifa [5], have tried. Our programmers go to festivals and competitions all over the world,” explains José Sánchez-Montes, director of the festival. Each year the festival provokes enthusiastic applause as keen cinephiles join the general public to fill the cinemas and plazas of Granada [6]. 15,000 people came to the first edition of the festival in 2007 to see sixty films from across the globe. By 2008 the number had doubled. “I’m not sure if our audiences are getting more accustomed to seeing this kind of cinema,” explains Sánchez-Montes. “What they are getting used to is having the opportunity to watch different kinds of cinema.”

Cines del Sur is an ideas factory. It thrives on the buzz of languages and most of all, a passion for film that motivates its 25 employees and 120 volunteers, who have found work thanks to the generous 1.5 million euro budget. A team travels around the world throughout the year selecting gems from other festivals that have as yet not reached Europe due to difficulties in distribution. From Kerala to Delhi, via Pisan and Havana. Not all the directors are unknown. Films starring the Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal and the Iranian Abbas Kiarostami have been shown in Granada, alongside photos and documentaries by the legendary Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski.

“As consumer habits change, we need to renew the format of existing film festivals. We want this to become part and parcel of our culture, and not just an international festival,” highlights Casimiro Torreiro who programmes the festival. With this objective in mind, the film festival took its screens out onto the streets and turned plazas into open-air cinemas. For one week a year, Granada transforms into a city that lives and breathes original language films, with their remote landscapes, unconventional love stories, unfamiliar mountain scenes, as well as unusual languages and emotions.

“We truly believe in the solidarity that we promote. These showcases highlight the quality of cinema coming out of these countries,” adds Sánchez-Montes. With this in mind, Cines del Sur came up with a platform for international festivals, known as Plataforma Southern Film Festivals, in which fifteen directors exchange ideas, distributors and the secrets of their success. The public can also attend seminars where they are able to get closer to these foreign stars and take part in workshops imparted by Spanish, Egyptian or Lebanese filmmakers. Obviously there is a strong contingent of interpreters present in all these events.

Cines del Sur is organized and funded by the cultural department of the regional government in collaboration with the provincial government of Granada, the University of Granada and Legado Andalusí. With up to 14 films completing for three prizes including the Gold Alhambra (which comes with 50,000 €), Silver (30,000 €) and Bronze (20,000 €), winning is no laughing matter. Just the opportunity to sit back and watch the big screen in the majestic setting of the Palace of Charles V in the Alhambra makes visiting this festival worth the trip.