Should it be a Festival of Festivals or should it continue banking on fresh talent?

The first time I heard mention the Seminci, it was because my brother-in-law, who worked at El Correo Catalán newspaper, was going to cover it. Then I discovered that it started out life as an almost religious week of cinema and civic values, something that was eventually deleted from the wording to be left with what it is today, the Valladolid International Film Week or Seminci, an abbreviation of the Spanish title which some get mixed up and can lead to them sounding like they’re speaking Chinese. Beyond the anecdote itself, cine de auteur and the well-known dramas are the rule of the day at this Festival born in 1956 and in where works like Bergman’s The Seventh Seal and Thelma & Louise featuring such a young Brad Pitt that he was lying around on a sofa because nobody paid much attention to him.

In the Seminci, which carries the weight of history upon its back, there is a before and after for Fernando Lara, a wise man whom everyone loves and respects and who continues to associate with the Festival moderating events, as he has done this year, and continuing to show up every morning at nine at the Calderón cinema, something that speaks volumes on his inextinguishable love of film. Javier Angulo, the current Director, has tried with effort, determination and dedication to modernize the Festival, taking advantage of the green carpet and fighting, with an enthusiastic team, to keep it afloat. Although the old actors from before are no longer scheduled to take drinks at Olid, they still have their little girl from Valladolid, Concha Velasco, always ready to take the arm of Pedro Olea.  

There are many reflections one could make about the Seminci at this point. For example, should it be a Festival of Festivals or should it continue banking on fresh talent? We might miss living dangerously, but I think it is an intricate inherent part of  situation of cinema today, which is what it is, and which repeats cyclically, that these days Parasites is being heralded as a masterpiece, but the critics singing its praises no longer remember the echoes of, for example, Losey’s The Servant featuring Sir Dirk Bogarde.

Unfortunately, the excitement of revealing the winner of the Golden Spike has been lost. It no longer buzzes as it did in the past when Matías Bize won for In Bed, and who then became automatically inundated with production offers. Bize was a shy Chilean boy who was wandering aimlessly around, and I think he is still the youngest filmmaker to ever win it. Or when Gerardo Olivares won with 14 Kilometers, the first Spanish director to do so, or one of the three titles from Serbian filmmaker Goran Paskaljevich, who was back once again this year greeting friends. A veteran critic could still remember the days when winners in the good old days were greeted with cries of “incompetents” by the outraged critic as others picked up and stopped drinking their Ribera de Duero in the Seminci. Times have changed and cinema too.

In spite of everything, this year we have been able to see valuable, beautiful and emotional films such as the Brazilian The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmao; current and critical movies like Echo by Runar Runarson, or the comedy The Farewell. With the spike Öndög, the truth is that they didn’t have many to choose from.

The Seminci is a festival that retains its homely nature, a place where you can still do great interviews and enjoy stimulating conversations with truly interesting folk the likes of writer Rosa Montero, or chat with Pablo Carbonell’s family. Personally, I think they were more on target opening with Benito Zambrano’s Out in the Open than closing with a Mika Kaurismaki film as monotonous as the Finnish landscapes it showcases. But the important thing and what counts in the end is that the number of loyal devotees to the festival could already fill a soccer stadium, especially now that Ronaldo has reactivated the club of Valladolid city, and therein lies its greatest triumph.

So, if you’re thinking of heading to Valladolid for the last week of October next year for the 65th edition, do yourself a favor: make your way over to the Los Zagales restaurant, where you’ll encounter festivalgoers commenting on the day’s fare.

Conxita Casanovas
Journalist specializing in film, works at RTVE. Accumulate a lot of experience. He has toured the most important festivals and won important prizes but he retains the enthusiasm and passion of the first day. He directs the VADECINE program, which already has 37 seasons on the air in R4 (Sundays from 14 to 15), a space that has a version in Spanish on R5 (Saturday 11.35 in the morning) for all of Spain. Current Director in addition to the BCN FILM FEST.