×

Catalonian Women Raise the Bar

Laureled abroad and lauded at home, a young generation of women Catalan filmmakers started breaking through two years ago, led by Carla Simon’s 2017 Berlin first-feature winner “Summer 93.” Since then a bevy of female directors have emerged, making intimate character-driven dramas rich in observational psychological detail, some drawn from personal experience.

The ranks of women Catalan helmers have swelled substantially with, in various states of production, Clara Roquet’s “Libertad,” Belén Funes’ “A Thief’s Daughter,” Ángeles Hernández’s “Isaac,” Lucía Alemany’s “Innocence” and Pilar Palomero’s “Girls.”

“It’s remarkable the impact that so-called small films have had on festival circuits,” says Roquet, whose “Libertad” won the Arte Kino Intl. Prize at San Sebastian’s Europe-Latin American Co-Production Forum in September.

Many, like Simón, whose “Alcarrás” was a Berlinale Co-Production Market winner in February, are onto their second or even third feature.

Women are exploring new terrain, in both the geographical and cinematic senses. Meritxell Colell’s “Duo” takes place in the Andes; Neus Ballús’ “Staff Only,” which premiered at March’s Malaga Festival, is set in Africa.

Women are also exploring multifarious genres, from mainstream comedy as in Carol Rodríguez Colás’ “Chavalas” to Alice Waddington’s Sundance-selected “Paradise Hills,” a sci-fi drama-thriller set on a Pacific Island correctional center for girls.

Selected for this year’s Cannes Cinéfondation Atelier, “Sinjar,” by Anna Bofarull (“Barcelona 1714”) would be the first Catalan film to tackle the subject of Islamic extremism. The film weaves three women’s stories — a middle-age woman in search of her son who recently joined the extremists; a Yazidi slave being held captive with her children in Syria; and a young woman who escapes captivity and joins the Kurdish militias.

“The female presence is strengthening, and expanding its point of view over the human condition,” Colell says. “Female characters are ever more and more complex.” Their new Catalan films “aren’t all about vindication exactly, there’s no single direction.”

These directors “aren’t just exploring the female condition, but always come from the condition of being female,” Ballus says.

But the women are still somehow perceived as possessing a risk factor, as not entirely established “newcomers,” she adds.

Many of Catalonia’s young female directors are merely taking on the lessons of Barcelona’s prestigious film schools such as the Escac, which encourages students to experiment across a broad gamut of styles. Alums include “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’s” J.A. Bayona.

Productions led by women can also look to extra funding from the Catalan Institute for Cultural Cos. (ICEC), its main public sector agency. Over the past two years, 45.5% of the projects to receive grants have been female-driven, according to ICEC sources.

The consolidation of a new generation of female filmmakers isn’t the only encouraging trend in Catalonia. Genre movies, which helped put a turn-of-the century industry on the map, are enjoying a renaissance.

With offices in Mexico and Barcelona, BTF Media has in post-production Ramiro García Bogliano’s vengeance-thriller “Expansivas,” about two sisters seeking justice after their mother’s murder. A thriller adapting Eva García Sáenz bestselling book, Daniel Calparsoro’s “Twin Murders: The Silence of the White City” is set up at Rodar y Rodar and Atresmedia Cine; Academy Award-nominated for the short of the same title, Rodrigo Sorogoyen’s “Madre” is tipped for a fall festival run.

The main challenge is now financing.

After Spain’s Constitutional Court annulled a governmental regional levy on telecoms, ICEC’s annual funding plunged 41% from €20.9 million ($23.5 million) in 2017 to $13.9 million last year.

Hanging over the head of regional pubcaster TVC, the co-driver in the past decade of Catalonia’s film and TV industry, are claims made by Spain’s Ministry of Finance that it owes a total $170 million in Value Added Tax.

TVC co-produced Catalan movies to the tune of $7.6 million in 2015, but $4.8 million last year.

John Hopewell contributed to this report.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Hannah Minghella

    Bad Robot Poaches TriStar Pictures President Hannah Minghella to Lead Film Unit

    In a surprise announcement Thursday, J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot revealed it has lured away Sony Pictures executive Hannah Minghella to lead its film division. Minghella will report to Abrams and Bad Robot co-CEO Katie McGrath. She will oversee both development and production. TriStar executive vice president Nicole Brown will take up the mantle in the [...]

  • Paul Dano arrives at the 71st

    'The Batman': Paul Dano to Play The Riddler

    Paul Dano is in talks to join Robert Pattinson in Matt Reeves and Warner Bros. “The Batman,” sources tell Variety. Though the studio would not confirm the role, insiders believe that Dano would be playing the classic comic book villain The Riddler. Dano’s casting comes on the heels of Jonah Hill turning down an offer [...]

  • Taylor SwiftMTV Video Music Awards, Arrivals,

    Vivendi's Third Quarter Results Up Nearly 17%, UMG Still Rising

    Vivendi saw its third quarter revenues increase by 16.7% to €3.97 billion ($4.4 billion) compared with the third quarter of 2018, once again boosted by the growth of Universal Music Group, while Canal Plus Group remained stable. For the first nine months of 2019, Vivendi’s revenues reached €11.3 billion ($12.5 billion), an increase of 14.6% [...]

  • This-is-Cristina

    FiGa Films Takes Salma Hayek-Exec Produced ‘This is Cristina’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    Leading international sales agency-production-distribution company, FiGa Films, has snagged all worldwide rights to “This is Cristina” (“Ella es Cristina”), the directorial debut of Chilean scribe Gonzalo Maza, who has co-written four of Sebastian Lelio’s films, including his Oscar-winning “A Fantastic Woman” and Berlin Festival winner “Gloria.” “It’s a pleasure to collaborate with Gonzalo, whose writing [...]

  • 180423_A24_Day_03B_0897.jpg

    How Bright Bulbs Enabled 'The Lighthouse's' Tough Black-and-White Shoot

    Early in principal photography on “The Lighthouse,” writer-director Robert Eggers asked cinematographer Jarin Blaschke, who was shooting on black-and-white film stock, if he thought they could capture the look they were going for digitally. Blaschke answered no: Digital wouldn’t let them achieve the texture they had in mind — “what we photography nerds would call [...]

  • Plaza Catedral

    Panama’s Abner Benaim Wraps ‘Plaza Catedral’ Starring Mexico’s Ilse Salas (EXCLUSIVE)

    Panama’s internationally best-known helmer, Abner Benaim (“Ruben Blades Is Not My Name”) has just completed the shoot for his second fiction feature film, “Plaza Catedral,” starring Mexico’s Ilse Salas (“The Good Girls”), and Manolo Cardona (“Narcos”). Salas plays a 42-year old grief-stricken woman, Alicia, who has severed her ties with married life and society. Her [...]

  • Mamoudou Athie

    'The Front Runner's' Mamoudou Athie Joins 'Jurassic World 3'

    Mamoudou Athie has joined the cast of the third installment in Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment’s “Jurassic World” saga. He joins Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, who will reprise their roles from the previous films, as well as Sam Neill, Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum, who starred in the original mega-hit “Jurassic Park.” Colin [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content