Barcelona Film Festival Opens With ‘Norman’

Richard Gere, director Joseph Cedar to attend opening gala

BARCELONA– A new event in major city, the Barcelona-Sant Jordi Intl. Film Festival (BCN Film Fest) will launch April 21 at the Verdi cinema theaters, a legendary Mecca for local film-goers situated in Barcelona’s bustling inner-city neighborhood of Gràcia.

Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer,” directed by Joseph Cedar whose credits include “Footnote,” which won a best screenplay plaudit at Cannes 2011, will open the fest. Star Richard Gere and Cedar will present the movie at the event.

Among competition contenders, the BCN Film Fest will world premiere “Churchill,” directed by Jonathan Teplitzky (“The Railway Man”). Sold by Embankment Films, and starring Brian Cox, Miranda Richardson and James Purefoy, “Churchill” depicts the historic U.K. leader on May 23, 1944, as tensions rose in the prelude to the allies’ D-Day invasion of Normandy.

A passion project of Verdi founder Enric Pérez, BCN Film Fest lineup will focus on history, literature and cinema, appropriate, Perez said, given that Barcelona is home to multiple historical novelists and is the major Spanish-language book-publishing city in the world. Additionally, the festival take’s place on Catalonia’s April 23 Sant Jordi Day, a holiday when Catalans are encouraged to read books, Pérez said.

Industry figures backing the festival also include one of Spain’s best-known distributors, Adolfo Blanco, CEO of A Contracorriente, a Barcelona-based outfit specialized in wide audience European and independent cinema.

“On the festival calendar, we felt there was a gap between Berlin and Venice – without taking into account Cannes which is extremely selective and not very useful for the promotion of our independent movies,” Blanco told Variety, adding that in the future a market “might be possible.”

The festival is directed by José María Aresté, who runs the digital magazine decine21 and edutainment fest Educacine, now in the run-up to its fifth edition.

BCN Film Fest will comprise an eight-to-twelve-title competitive section plus sidebars such as “Cinema with Gracia” — a word-play, Gracia also meaning “charm” in Catalan– and “Open Zone,” a showcase devoted to more niche audiences.

Other competition players take in Niki Caro’s “The Zookeeper’s Wife,” Lone Scherfig’s “Their Finest,” Otto Bell’s “The Eagle Huntress” and Yôji Yamada’s “Nagasaki: Memories of My Son.”

In addition to “Churchill,” the BCN Fest will world premiere “The Girl From The Song,” by Ibai Abad, a romantic road-movie shot at music fest Burning Man. Sold by Film Factory-sold, “Song” marks the feature debut of Abad, an on-the-rise Catalan talent an alum like J.A. Bayona of Barcelona’s Escac film school.

A sneak preview of Isabel Coixet’s “The Bookshop” will also be unveiled at the BCN Film Fest. Based on  Penelope Fitzgerald’s novel, “Bookshop” stars Emily Mortimer, Patricia Clarkson and Bill Nighy. Set in a quiet English village in the ’50s, “Bookshop” follows Florence Green, a cheerful woman determined to open a bookshop –the dream she had with her dead husband– in a place very far from bustle and liberal freedoms of big cities. “Bookshop” is produced by Green Films, A Contracorriente Films, Diagonal TV and Zephir Films.

Acting as the “festival godfather” veteran French director Bertrand Tavernier (“Life and Nothing But,” “’Round Midnight”) has served as a curator on the showcase “Essentials” (Imprescindibles), a collection of four must-see classics including Jacques Becker’s “The Lovers of Montparnasse” and René Clément’s “Forbidden Games.” The recipient of a Venice’s Career Golden Lion in 2015, Tavernier will present the films in his selection as well as his extraordinary French film documentary “Journey Through French Cinema.” The “Essentials” section will extend thoughout the year, screening 50 classics.

Jury members for the first edition of the BCN Film Fest are Claudia Llosa, a 2009 Berlin Golden Bear winner for “The Milk of Sorrow,” historical novelist Chufo Lloréns and historian-TV producer Toni Soler.

The BCN Film Fest runs April 21-28.

BCN FILM FEST

COMPETITION:

“Churchill,” (Jonathan Teplitzky, U.K.)

“Dancer,” (Steven Cantor, UK., Russia, Ukraine)

“The Chess Player,” (Luis Oliveros, Spain. Out of competition)

“The Zookeeper’s Wife,” (Niki Caro, U.S., U.K., Czech Republic)

“The Eagle Huntress,” (Otto Bell, U.K., U.S., Mongolia)

“Powidoki,” (Andrzej Wajda, Poland)

“Mal De Pierres,” (Nicole Garcia, France)

“Marie Curie,” Marie Noëlle, Germany, France, Poland)

“Maudie,” (Aisling Walsh, Canada, Ireland)

“Nagasaki: Memories of My Son” (Yôji Yamada, Japan)

“Their Finest,” (Lone Scherfig, U.K.)

“Tanna,” (Martin Butler, Bentley Dean, Australia)

“A Bag of Marbles,”(Christian Duguay, France, Canada, Czech Republic)

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