Producer-director expresses concerns about state of European auteur cinema
The 30 films produced to date by filmmaker Luis Minarro at Barcelona’s Eddie Saeta, one of Spain’s best-known arthouse shingles, boast illustrious international recognition: a Cannes Palme d’Or (“Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives”), Karlovy Vary’s Crystal Globe (“The Mosquito Net”) and a Rotterdam Festival Tiger (“Finisterrae”). This year, Minarro returns to Karlovy Vary with a double mission: He heads the fest’s main jury and will present “Falling Star,” his fiction-feature helming debut, a period melodrama inspired by the currently bleak future facing Spain’s cultural industries.
How is a filmmaker with a reputation as a radical auteur facing up to the presidency of Karlovy Vary’s main jury?
A jury can only try to highlight film excellence. Personally, I understand cinema as an art, and so I will try to support, but taking into account my colleagues of course, those films that propose something interesting from the point of view of not only film language but also humanistic content.
In 2010, Agusti Vila’s “The Mosquito Net,” produced by Eddie Saeta, won the Crystal Globe. What was the impact of this award on film’s international career?
Thanks to Karlovy Vary, the film was seen at 62 international film festivals. It can give visibility to a certain Spanish cinema in unfamiliar places such as Georgia, Turkey, Lithuania, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, and so on. Karlovy Vary works as a bridge between Eastern and Western cinemas. “The Mosquito Net” was also released in France thanks to the interest generated here. Unfortunately, at the very last moment, the ICAA Spanish Film Institute ruled that the film was not eligible for amortization aid — [a significant subsidy for Spanish films], which meant the film lost money, leaving the production company in a situation that was difficult to overcome.
Screening in Karlovy Vary’s Another View section, “Falling Star,” your feature directorial debut, suggests an almost impossible balance: a period film with established actors, yet which is budgeted under €1 million ($1.4 million). How did you pull that off?
“Falling Star” has been possible because of the collaborative effort of a team of 30 people who fully embraced the project, from actors to technicians. Suffice it to say that the experience of producing or co-producing 30 “impossible” titles from a commercial standpoint, and counting with partners who had participated in some of these 30 projects, also proved important.
Some critics have commented that this period film is also contemporary. How do you explain that?
The explanation may lie in the creative freedom with which it was made. The challenge we faced was precisely how to achieve a consistent mix of film styles (political cinema, period film, melodrama, pop comedy and erotic cinema) and not lose our way. I think if there is a value that sums up the film, it is having managed to stop time.
The film has already had a significant festival run. Is this the best option today to give visibility to the European auteur cinema?
The film began his career at the Rotterdam festival, which was a launchpad for participation at highly significant festivals such as Edinburgh, Moscow, Munich, Marseille and now Karlovy Vary. To date, 26 festivals have confirmed its selection. I am convinced that international festivals are the best platform to give visibility to the auteur cinema, which faces increasing difficulties when battling for commercial theatrical release. The producer’s economic return from festivals is very small. But at least there’s some sort of compensation for all the effort made. There are thousands of people accessing these films, though they aren’t counted in many statistics.
A few months ago you talked pessimistically about the future of auteur cinema not only in Spain but also in Europe…
Unfortunately, it’s difficult to be optimistic about what lies on the arthouse horizon, especially in Spain. Past Spanish governmental support for this segment of creation should continue, but I fear that there are not enough financial resources to make it possible. €4 million ($5.4 million) for 400 possible projects is nothing. I’m also seeing that in more consolidated film industries in Western Europe, broadcasters are becoming more reluctant to buy this kind of film. We’re slipping toward a general uniformity, endangering cultural diversity. Do you think that gives cause for optimism?
John Hopewell contributed to this article.