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The Seville European Film Festival, a key gateway into Spain for recent European movies, celebrates its 18th edition honoring German-Spanish actor-director Daniel Brühl (“Inglourious Basterds,” “Rush”).

Confronting film’s post-COVID recovery challenges, the festival is also strengthening its commitment to the industry.

Seville, which runs Nov. 5-13, will grant Brühl the City of Seville 2021 award and screen the Spanish premiere of his directorial debut, Beta-sold comedy thriller “Next Door,” as part of the festival’s Official Section.

French actress Emmanuelle Béart (“8 Women”) will also receive a City of Seville 2020 award as she was unable to travel to last year’s edition due to pandemic restrictions.

Seville’s figures – 225 films, 90 Spanish premieres, six competitive sections, more than 500 guests and around thirty parallel activities –  confirm the event’s solidity and projection as a major cultural gathering in Spain and a reference for the European industry.

As part of the festival’s industry growth, Seville will host the inaugural edition of Merci Sevilla, a joint initiative with Spanish indie distributors association Adicine, aimed at creating a space for negotiation, dialogue and reflection between film distributors, exhibitors, programmers and niche TV channels.

In its first edition, taking place Nov. 11-12, Merci will screen 25 films on an exclusive basis – marketed by indie distributors – scheduled for release in Spain between Dec. 2021 and 2022’s fall. Merci will also feature meetings with international experts who will present case studies and business models from Germany and France.

“Over the last two years, European film festivals have been in absolute connection, not only with the creators, but also with distributors, exhibitors and sales agents,” said SEFF director José Luis Cienfuegos.

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Jose Luis Cienfuegos © Lolo Vasco

“Auteur cinema is suffering to recover its box office figures prior to the pandemic. It’s a team effort, we must join forces and propose new strategies, quickly and forcefully,” he added.

As an industry meeting point, several international organizations will attend the festival in Seville, such as the sales agents org Europa International, cinema network Europa Cinemas and training workshop EAVE.

Likewise, the festival is carrying out several initiatives in collaboration with festivals orgs such as Europe Creative-sponsored MIOB (Moving Images Open Borders), which in the last two years has shared training actions such as audience building, environmental and climate protection, and digital communication.

Profestivales21, an initiative in which the SEFF teams with further top Spanish film festivals – the most recent added to the list has been Sitges – aims to reflect in common on the development of the festivals sector.

“On the industry side, we have tried not to repeat the models already satisfactorily developed by other festivals such as film projects pitchings,” Cienfuegos argued.

Thus, the European Co-production Forum, created alongside Andalusian film producers’ association Ancine, aims to boost Spanish co-productions with European countries, focusing every year in one country – Germany, this year – after having successfully invited Italy and Portugal in prior editions.

“We’ve always opted for a sober and useful festival model. The support of public institutions has helped us free ourselves from certain demands of gossip magazines and red carpet excesses. The aim is to give the greatest possible visibility to European cinema,” Cienfuegos points out.

As in previous years, the Seville Film Festival will host the official announcement, on Tuesday Nov. 9, of nominations for the 34th European Film Academy Awards, which will be presented on Dec.11 in Berlin.

In its commitment to bringing top European indie and arthouse films to Spain, the festival has become a trusted meeting point for prominent European filmmakers, who often return to the Andalusian city.

Having won the Seville’s Golden Giraldillo Prize for best film in 2005 with “The Beat that My Heart Skipped” and the Audience Award for “A Prophet” (2009), French auteur Jacques Audiard will open the 18th edition with Playtime-sold film “Paris, 13th District.”

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Paris, 13th District Courtesy of Seville European Film Festival

Also a regular visitor, France’s Mia Hansen-Løve vies for the Golden Giraldillo award with Tim Roth-starrer “Bergman Island,” which Kinology has sold to Avalon for Spanish distribution.

Israel’s Nadav Lapid, another Official Section contender with Cannes 2021 Jury Prize winner “Ahed’s Knee,” won a Silver Giraldillo in 2014 with “Haganenet” and best director in 2019 with “Synonymes.”

Actor-helmer Mathieu Amalric, whose “Barbara” snagged best director prize at Seville after winning Un Certain Regard at Cannes 2017, competes in The New Waves section with Gaumont-sold film “Hold Me Tight.”

Italy’s Nanni Moretti, with The Match Factory-sold film “Three Floors,” Andrea Arnold, with her non-fiction debut “Cow,” and Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul, with the Cannes Jury Prize laureate and Tilda Swinton-starrer “Memoria,” will also play at the Official Section.

Meanwhile Kenneth Branagh’s “Belfast,” handled in Spain by Universal Pictures, will screen at the closing ceremony, playing out of competition.

Over the years, Seville has also become an essential gathering for Spanish film, especially for new and indie directors such as Oliver Laxe (“Fire Will Come”), Luis López Carrasco (“The Year of the Recovery”), Ion de Sosa (“Androids Dream”) and León Simiani (“Mapa”), whose early films were launched at the festival.

“We have always clearly supported and empowered those Spanish filmmakers who are in line with festival programming, also serving as a stimulus to make the leap from short to feature,” Cienfuegos said.

The Official Section hosts this year three world premieres of Spanish films: “Buried” director Rodrigo Cortés’ Warsaw Ghetto-set romantic musical drama “Love Gets a Room,” produced by Adrián Guerra’s Nostromo Pictures, with international distribution handled by Lionsgate; Santi Amodeo’s teen drama “Las Gentiles,” produced by Grupo Tranquilo and Sacromonte Films; and “Qué hicimos mal?,” sophomore film by Liliana Torres (”Family Tour”), produced by Matriuska, Avalon and Isabel Coixet’s Miss Wassabi.

Further world premieres take in The New Waves sidebar players “Rendir los machos,” the awaited feature debut of David Pantaleón, produced by Sebastián Álvarez at Tenerife’s Volcano Films in co-production with France’s Noodles; and Silvia Rey Canudo’s non-fiction film “Wan Xia,” based on her homonymous short, produced by Luis Ángel Ramírez at Imval Madrid.

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Belfast Credit : Rob Youngson / Focus Features