Chronicle from the 65th Valladolid International Film Week, by Conxita Casanovas
Valladolid’s traditional week of film, the Seminci, ended on a high note. The festival, which has been the directed with great energy by Javier Angulo for thirteen years now, pulled out all the extra muscle and made the level. If we assume the use of masks and screened stalls as the norm, then there was practically no difference compared to previous editions.
We opened with the Coixet always smiling and in good company as she presented “It Snows in Benidorm”, whose premiere featuring the sexy Sarita Choudhury has been sadly postponed for health reason. The Week’s awards, known affectionately as Spikes, were handed out like cookies to household names such as Julio Medem and Javier Cámara, María Galiana, Gracia Querejeta and Charo López, wonderfully glossed by Juanma Bajo Ulloa who directed her in “Baby”, a film that, like so many others now, is pending a premiere. Óliver Laxe gave us a Master class despite the retinal tear that forced him to flee in haste. And we sat down to talk with the documentary makers firing on all cylinders, Laura Hojman talking about Machado and his blue days, young directors of “Anatomía de un Dandy” who portrays Paco Umbral (who couldn’t forget that now famous, “I’ve come here to talk about my book”, right?) and Manuel Menchón, who explains how Hitler pulled strings to ensure that Unamuno wouldn’t get the Nobel Prize. Discoveries that one always makes at Seminci, where there was time to bring together the directors of the main film festivals in Spain and some of the best independent film distributors to conspire against the online beast which devours everything in its path.
Getting down to the awards themselves, I once again side with the public. “Nowhere Special” by Uberto Pasolini appeared as a prodigy of sensitivity, a film about a single father with a young child who he’s intent on ensuring he leaves well-placed when finding a family to adopt him as the clock ticks down on his sentence from a terminal illness that will see him depart from this world imminently. An entire opera devoted to fatherhood that will give you goose bumps. One of the best at this year’s edition in which Iranian cinema was clearly playing in another league. The jury, featuring producer Antonio Pérez, Emma Suarez and screenwriter Alicia Luna, dispatched the invincible “There is no evil” complete with luggage that included a Berlin Golden Bear, a missile, a truly powerful parting word against the death penalty in four intertwining stories, one hundred and fifty minutes that’ll have you glued to your seat a la Malcolm McDowell in Clockwork Orange, without blinking. And there we open a thread and eternal debate on whether it’s ethical to give prizes to multi-award-winning films from other competitions and we become a festival of festivals or we give them a pass and set out to discover fresh promise.
The winning film with the never-ending title, “Preparations to Be Together for an Unknown Period of Time”, by Lili Horvát, or “the Hungarian” as it was abbreviated to, begins with a promising premise that gives us food for thought of the best Kieslowski, that of “Blue”, “Red”, and “White”. Alas, here she gets lost in the labyrinth of a woman driven mad by love played by the leading meticulous surgical approach of Natasa Stork, who also won Best Actress.
The Silver Spike award for Best Screenplay doesn’t tick all the boxes either. Palestinian film “Gaza mon amour”, a crude love story with clumsy production values from the Nasser Brothers whom many baptized “Sons of Demis Roussos” for the imposing presence as bearded Tarzans. Best Actor went to Shai Avivi for “Here We Are” wouldn’t be too bad if you completely ignore the protagonists of “Persian Lessons”: the overwhelming Lars Eidinger and Nahuel Pérez Biscayart fighting in a Nazi-Jewish acting duel. In the end, with everything done and dusted, applause and protests mitigated by the reduced venue capacity.
As happened one year in San Sebastián with the death of Paul Newman, the passing of Sean Connery overshadowed the Festival’s more jovial side to the award-giving. As destiny would determine, I ended up discussing the Scottish actor with the president of the jury, the kind producer and director Peter Beale. Beale knew him personally having worked with him and praised the intellectual strength of the best James Bond in history.
So, as the Seminci bids a fond farewell, the passionate, red-lipped sort of its logo, they invite us all to come together once again next November 22 to 29, in the not too distant and far off future of 2021.