Spanish fest aims high and reaches beyond local material

MADRID — The challenge facing the Seville European Film Festival, having consolidated rapidly as a local event after its 2004 launch, is whether it can now become a key Southern reference point for Euro filmmaking.

It’s certainly making the push, starting by naming Javier Martin Dominguez, one of Spain’s most cosmopolitan top TV execs (he’s repped RTVE in the European Broadcasting Union), as its new artistic director.

He aims to build on Seville’s reputation as a solid and wide-ranging Euro showcase.

“The fest wants to show the different voices and styles of European cinema. Its strength comes from that variety,” Martin Dominguez says.

Marking its growing regional stature, fest will host the announcement of the 21st European Film Awards nominations on Nov. 8, with Seville-born actress Paz Vega functioning as emcee.

Seville also retains its Eurocentric sidebars: a Eurimages European co-production section; Short Matters, showcasing the shorts up for EFA kudos; a EuroDoc focus; and a European Collection tapping features on the EFA awards nomination longlist.

“SEFF provides the European Film Academy with a platform, a vindication of one way to make films and a presence, which it needs, in southern Europe,” says Spanish producer Antonio Saura, an EFA board member.

Under Martin Dominguez, Seville’s broadening its base and impact in Spain and abroad and, especially, its industrial heft.

On Nov. 14, the Andalusia and Seville Film Commissions will look for support from the European Film Commissions Network members to launch the Seville Intl. Locations Expo — a European alternative to Santa Monica’s Locations Trade Show. SILE’s first edition rolls Nov. 6-10, 2009, coinciding with the Seville fest.

“Film festivals have to foster markets to become a dynamic industry driver,” argues Carlos Rosado, Andalusia Film Commission prexy.

In its official section, Seville combines established masters with up-and-coming talent.

“We want to mix it up, featuring important films because of their prizes or box office, along with new and riskier takes on reality,” Martin Dominguez explains.

SEFF opens with Matteo Garrone’s mafia thriller “Gomorra,” the Cannes’ Grand Prix winner. Vet Polish auteur Andrzej Wajda competes with WWII epic drama “Katyn.”

Fest’s new talent emphasis is personified by three films from women directors: Russian Marina Razbezhkina’s “The Hollow,” a drama based on Russian poet Sergei Yesenin’s book; Mijke de Jong’s realist tale, “Katia’s Sister”; and Solveig Anspach’s comedy “Back Soon” from Iceland, co-produced by France’s Bac Films.

Danish direction

Priming a director-driven event, Seville will welcome a notable group of European helmers on the rise, including Garrone; Razbezhkina; Holland’s De Jong Anspach; France’s Jean-Paul Salome, with competition actioner “Female Agents”; Croatia’s Tomislav Radic, whose drama “Three Stories About Sleeplessness” is another competish entry; Germany’s Leander Haussmann; Slovak Juraj Jakubisko; and an admired vet, Spanish helmer Jose Luis Borau.

Susanne Bier’s attendance also furthers the fest’s strong Danish theme this year.

Seville’s main focus, “Danish Film: Dogma & More,” recalls the Dogma movement’s breakthrough and more recent pics by the movement’s luminaries.

Closing the Danish circle, renowned producer Vibeke Windelow, a Dogma driving force, will preside over Seville’s official section jury.

Spanish distributors appreciate SEFF’s marketing clout.

“Seville has become almost a necessary step for the promotion of European titles before theatrical release,” says Enrique Gonzalez Kuhn, head of acquisitions at top arthouse distributor Alta Films, which launches “Gomorra” in Spain Nov. 14.

“With the festival’s help, we’re trying to create the greatest noise possible in the mass media to get European films across to audiences,” Gonzalez adds.

“The Seville fest has three highly important lures,” says producer-distributor Wanda Vision CEO Jose Maria Morales: “its specialization, the great local audience response, and a very nice city.”

Wanda presents two titles: “II Divo,” by Paolo Sorrentino, in the Eurimages section, and Dany Boon’s blockbuster “Welcome to the Sticks,” in the EFA Section.

TIP SHEET

When: Nov. 7-15

Where: Seville, Spain

Web: festivaldesevilla.com

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