Framing world premieres of “Maragall i la Lluna” and “Wishlist,” plus new movies from Justin Kurzel, Marjane Satrapi, Matteo Garrone and Caroline Link, Barcelona’s BCN Film Fest aims to become one of the first festivals in Europe to stage a live on-site edition, running June 25 to July 2.
The dates and ambition were re-confirmed Tuesday when BCN Film Fest, one of the biggest film events in the Catalan capital, announced its lineup.
“One of the most beautiful things about watching films is to do so in a theater as a shared social and cultural experience. To be able to discuss films immediately with people after seeing them. BCN Film Fest aims to maintain that this year,” said festival artistic director Conxita Casanovas.
While pushing the pleasures of a live event, from the quality of projection and sound to cinema viewing as a social and cultural community event and driver of local economic economy, the BCN Film Fest also forms part of a New Normal for A Contracorriente Films.
One of Spain’s most prominent foreign-language independent film distributors, which also owns and operates Barcelona’s Cines Verdi, the city’s most famous arthouse complex, where the BCN Film Fest takes place, A Contracorriente will also maintain a virtual cinema program it launched during the COVID-19 crisis as a permanent addition to its distribution arsenal.
With a main competition focusing on literary adaptations, movies inspired by historical events and biopics, the 4th BCN Film Fest had originally been scheduled to coincide with April 23, Catalonia’s San Jordi Day, as well as its national book day.
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The re-scheduled live event will maintain “a good part” of its original programming, Casanovas told Variety. This includes a retrospective to French New Wave auteur Eric Rohmer (“A Summer Tale”).
The festival will bow one day before most cinemas reopen in Spain, on Friday June 26, as Spain concludes, it is hoped, a phased return to normality.
“The Festival will in part be a celebration of the cinema theaters’ reopening,” Casanovas said.
Postponed from its usual late April berth, the 4th BCN Film Fest will respect public health precautions, including seating capacity, current when the festival takes place, the Cines Verdi have announced. Some plans, such as for the erection of a marquee for presentations in Barcelona’s Plaça del Diamant, have been postponed for 2021.
Barring a second spike of coronavirus, the question for the BCN Film Fest may be not so much whether the festival takes place but how large a public gathering and full-blown festival it becomes.
The festival has been in talks with Barcelona Town Hall to also hold screenings in city cultural centers. In its favor, though two of its most memorable coups have been visits by Richard Gere and Jeremy Irons, the BCN Film Fest is not reliant on the in-person presence of big U.S. stars. Nor is it a make-or-break revenue source for A Contracorriente Films which has a record of nursing select titles to multi-million box office grosses.
BCN Film Fest has hosted big premieres, such as Agustí Villaronga’s “Born a King.” Most of its Spanish and Catalan premieres are slightly more modest, however.
Directed by Josep Maria Mañé and Francesca Català, “Maragall i la Lluna” turns on Pasqual Maragall, Barcelona Mayor from 1982 to 1997, during which he successfully ran the bid to stage the 1992 Olympic Games, which helped launch Barcelona as an international destination and created modern infrastructures for the city.
Maragall had the custom of lodging for a few days with Barcelona townsfolk to discover how they really lived. Lluna, the film’s narrator, remembers how he came to stay with her family when she was aged eight and, departing from these memories, paints a personal portrait of one of the most respected and charismatic of modern-day Spanish statesmen.
Directed by Alvaro Díaz Lorenzo (“Lord Give Me Patience”), produced by Antonio Pèrez and Adolfo Blanco for Spal Films, and A Contracorriente Films and sold by Latido Films, dramedic road movie “Wishlist” (“La lista de los deseos”) stars three top Spanish actresses – María León (“The Sleeping Voice”), Victoria Abril (“Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!”) and Silvia Alonso (“Instinct”) – in the tale of a liberating madcap trip of emotional regeneration to Morocco.
The on-site BCN Film Fest “aims to help the recuperation of the cultural, social and economic rhythms of the city of Barcelona in general and the district of Gràcia in particular,” Cines Verdi said in a statement. “We’d like to collaborate in recuperating a certain normality in cultural initiatives,” it added.
A Contracorriente Films, however, is also proving a champion and pioneer of complementary new distribution models in Spain.
Launched as COVID-19 raged in Spain, the Sala Virtual de Cine, a virtual cinema program, sees spectators buy movie tickets online with receipts split between distributors and a cinema theater which spectators choose to support. Some 82 cinemas across Spain had joined the scheme by mid May.
The program began with four A Contracorriente movies, including a pair – “The Specials” and “Hasta que la boda nos separe” — that were in the top 10 at the Spanish box office when theaters shut down in March. By May 27, the main offer had expanded to nine titles including Cannes competition entry “Bacurau” and Daniele Luchetti’s “Ordinary Happiness,” as well as Academy Award winner “Parasite,” as a reissue.
While revenues are marginal, “la Sala Virtual was first and foremost a way to help maintain a connection with moviegoers during all these weeks of lockdown,” said Eduardo Escudero, business manager at Spain’s A Contracorriente Films.
Also a “solidarity-driven initiative for the local industry,” the Sala Virtual platform will continue once cinemas reopen.
People in some parts of Spain, like the U.S., do not have ready physical access to cinema theaters playing the kinds of titles A Contracorriente Films distributes – a healthily eclectic mix of big foreign-language titles – some, notably, comedies – Spanish features, which A Contracorriente may co-produce, and high-profile and edgier arthouse fare.
The Virtual Sala will also being used for documentaries and arthouse movies that don’t need to follow a traditional path and place with big exhibition chains.
“We strongly believe in the theatrical experience, and think it can add value to films. We want to complement the experience of going to the movie theaters, not replace it,” Escudero said.
“Corpus Christi,” (Jan Komasa, Poland)
“When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit,” (Caroline Link, Germany, Switzerland)
“Cunningham,” (D’Alla Kovgan, Germany, France, U.S.)
“De Gaulle,” (Gabriel Le Bomin, France)
“I Am Woman,” (Unjo Moon, Australia)
“True History of the Kelly Gang,” (Justin Kurzel, Australia, United Kingdom, France)
“Radioctive,” (Marjane Satrapi, U.K., Hungary)
“Maragall i la Lluna,” (Josep Maria Mañé, Francesca Català, Spain)
“Pinocchio,” (Matteo Garrone, Italy)
“I Wish Someone Were Waiting For Me Somewhere,” (Arnaud Viard, France)
“Hope Gap,” (William Nicholson, U.K.)
OUT OF COMPETITION
“Centroventi contro Novecento,” (Alessandro Scillitani, Italy)
“The Booksellers,” (D.W. Young, U.S.)
“Mr. Jones,” (Agnieszka Holland, U.K., Poland, Ukraine)
CINEMA AMB GRÀCIA
“Arab Blues,” (Manele Labidi Labbé, France)
“Babyteeth,” (Shannon Murphy, Australia)
“The Peanut Butter Falcon,” (Tyler Nilson, Michael Schwartz, U.S.)
“Wishlist,” (Álvaro Díaz Lorenzo, Spain)
“Les parfums,” (Gregory Magne, France)
“Military Wives,” (Peter Cattaneo, U.K.)