Emphasizing its consolidated position as an important bridge between European creators and cinemagoers, the Seville Festival is expanding its reach with an ambitious sidebar, Essential Voices, to bring together decisive European filmmakers for a discussion forum.

At the same time, the SEFF continues strengthening its industrial heft with the announcement of Sevilla Cinema Lab, an initiative which, kicking-off in 2023, aims to promote high-level training for film professionals, as well as the development of film projects in international co-productions. It is supported by Spain’s ICAA film institute and Europe’s Next Generation Funds.

Juan Antonio Bayona (“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power”) and Álex de la Iglesia (“The Last Circus,” “Witching & Bitching”), two of the most renowned Spanish filmmakers, will take part in the Essential Voices section together with revered Russian director Alexandr Sokurov (“Faust,” “Francofonia”) and two animation auteurs, France’s Michel Ocelot (“Kirikou and the Sorceress”) and Latvia’s Signe Baumane (“Rocks in My Pockets”).

In addition to the joint presence of two European emerging talents, Spain’s Elena López Riera (“El agua”) and Scotland’s Charlotte Wells (“Aftersun”), the new cycle will open with a round table on the work of Spanish maestro Carlos Saura. 

Running Nov. 4-12 in Andalusia’s capital city, the 19th Seville European Film Festival, the first since the COVID-19 pandemic subsided, underscores the need to reconnect directly with audiences on several levels.

In a close dialogue format, every filmmaker will share with the public of Essential Voices the keys to their work, their major references, the importance of establishing bridges between the past and the present in order to keep Europe’s film heritage alive, and their respective ways of approaching the creative processes.

“The initiative proves the relevance of the Seville European Film Festival as a link between European cinema and audiences,” says SEFF director, José Luis Cienfuegos. 

“In Seville’s friendly and recognizable ecosystem, very interesting interactions take place that are very relevant for European cinema’s development and stability,” he adds.

Jose Luis Cienfuegos Credit: Lolo Vasco/ Bluephoto

In terms of public assistance, expectations for the 19th edition of Seville are high. Last year, the festival’s senior special subscriptions decreased 30% but it was balanced by an uptick in subscriptions from young people, mainly university students from all over Spain.  

“Audiences seemed to be aging at festivals, as was the case in commercial theaters, but last year the trend completely reversed: It was young audiences that sustained the festival and managed to balance the decline in more mature audiences,” Cienfuegos says.

“It’s like a beacon of hope, a trend that we will try to strengthen this year,” he points out.

The freshness of working directly with young audiences without filters marks a priority for the festival, whose hallmarks also include regular visits by European creators’ to walk audiences through their films. This edition, Seville has organized more than 120 talks with filmmakers.

Different competition sidebars at the 19th Seville European Film Festival will accommodate well-known European auteurs but also breakthrough younger filmmakers.

High-profile directors’ new films – such as Frederick Wiseman’s “A Couple,” Paolo Taviani’s “Leonora Addio,” Alexandr Sokurov’s “Fairytale” and Michel Ocelot’s “The Black Pharaoh, the Savage and the Princess” – will vie for SEFF’s Golden Giraldillo top award.  

Alongside them are other contenders: Lukas Dhont’s “Close,” a Cannes’ Jury Grand Prix winner; Alice Diop’s Venice Silver Lion prize “Saint Omer;” Kurdwin Ayub’s “Sonne,” a 2022 Berlinale’s best feature debut, and “Scarlet,” by 2019 Golden Giraldillo winner Pietro Marcello.

The SEFF opens Nov. 4 with Rebecca Zlotowski’s fifth feature, “Other People’s Children,” a Les Films Velvet production sold by Wild Bunch, which world premiered at Venice.

In total, this year’s SEFF edition will host 99 Spanish premieres, 38 world premieres and two international premieres.

Un dia Lobo Lopez Courtesy of Seville European Film Festival

World premieres take in Alejandro Salgado’s “Un día Lobo López,” a New Waves Non-Fiction section player about the creative process of Spanish singer-songwriter Kiko Veneno on the influential album “Échate un cantecito;” Morena Films-produced family comedy “Reyes contra Santa,” sold by Film Factory Entertainment, which screens in a special session; and, in the Official Section, Pedro G. Romero and Gonzalo García Pelayo’s “Siete Jereles,” a sequel to their 2020 New Waves Non-Fiction Award “Nueve Sevillas.”

This year ‘s selection suggest several trends in European film. Among them, the widespread commitment to work between fiction and non-fiction, whose borders are becoming more and more blurred, as shown by “21 Paraíso,” Spaniard Néstor Ruíz Medina feature debut, a mix of improvisation, documentary and fiction filmed in the Andalusian province of Cádiz, which will travel to Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival after world premiering in Seville.  

Borders, in co-production terms, are also increasingly opening to countries beyond European traditional territories. Some examples in Seville encompass Filipino helmer Lav Díaz’s “When Ways Are Gone,” a Philippines-Denmark-Portugal-France thriller sold by Films Boutique, and two New Waves section players: Youssef Chebbi’s “Ashkal,” teaming France’s Supernova and Poetik with Tunisia’s Blast Film, and Ali Cherri’s “The Dam,” an European co-production with Canada (Vega Foundation) and Sudan (DGL Travel HQ), handled by Indie Sales. 

The 19th edition of the SEFF will also vindicate the richness of recent Portuguese cinema, with seven titles produced in Portugal having their Spanish premieres in the different competitive sections, “the biggest ever Portuguese presence at the Seville festival,” in Cienfuegos’ words.

João Pedro Rodrigues, winner of a Locarno’s Golden Leopard with “The Ornithologist,” brings comedy-queer fantasy “Fogo-fátuo” to the Official Section; Brazilian-Portuguese Sérgio Tréfault’s “A noiva,” a New Waves contender, returns to Seville, where it was the winning project of the Spain-Portugal Co-production Forum in 2020.

Fogo-fatuo Courtesy of Seville European Film Festival

New Waves also hosts “Nação valente,” by Carlos Conceição, a best director awardee in 2020 for first European feature film with “Um fio de baba escarlate,” and José Miguel Ribeiro’s “Nayola,” on the unhealed wounds of the war in Angola, best animated film in Guadalajara, which is handled by Urban Sales.

The New Waves Non-Fiction sidebar frames Susana de Sousa Dias and Ansgar Schaefer’s “Viagem ao sol,” about the stay in Portugal of thousands of Austrian children after WWII; “My Grandfather’s Demons,” a Spanish-French-Portuguese toon co-production directed by Nuno Beato, will have its Spanish premiere in the Extraordinary Stories section. 

Meanwhile, “El trío en mi bemol,” an immersion in the universe of Éric Rohmer directed by Rita Azevedo Gomes, participates in the Permanent Revolutions section. 

Animated films play an important role this year, reflecting the large vitality and refreshing creative freedom that they have been bringing to the international film scene for years. 

In this edition, the SEFF goes a step further and will present eight titles, all of them premieres in Spain, in its different sections and on an equal basis with the other cinema genres and languages.

While Ocelot’s “The Black Pharaoh, the Savage and the Princess” and Baumane’s “Mi Love Affair with Marriage” compete at the Official Section, Pierre Földes’ The Match Factory-sold “Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman,” José Miguel Ribeiro’s “Nayola” and Anca Damian’s Romania-France-Belgium co-production “The Island” play at New Waves. 

The Black Pharaoh, the Savage and the Princess Courtesy of Seville European Film Festival

Nuno Beato’s 2D and stop motion film “My Grandfather’s Demons,” Kajsa Næss’s feature debut “Titina,” sold by Les Films du Losange, and Céline Davaux’s “Everybody Loves Jeanne,” a Cannes’ Critics’ Week player picked up by Elle Driver, all form part of the Extraordinary Stories section. 

“Animation film must be given the relevant space it deserves within festivals. We have a certain artistic educational mission so that these films reach a public that still has prejudices [about much animation],” Cienfuegos argues.

As it has been doing since 2005, the Seville Film Festival will host the official announcement, this year on Tuesday Nov. 8, of nominations for the 35th European Film Academy Awards, which will be presented on Dec. 10 in Reykjavik.