Catalan Film Festival returns to Scotland

Catalan Film Festival returns to Scotland with a hybrid edition 19 November – 6 December 2020. The festival responds to a challenging year with an expanded format that will bring Mediterranean vibes to Scotland’s local cinemas and households – as the festival adapts to the new reality by offering its entire programme of films, talks and events online.

Most of the films selected share a common interest in the recovery and reconstruction of recent Catalan, Spanish and European historic memory. A political, ethical, social and emotional memory of these Mediterranean territories’ modern history. The festival also includes what they describe as “films of outstanding beauty to clean the audience’s gaze by bringing peace and harmony to our troubled, unsettled 2020.”

Catalan films reigned once again in some of the world’s most prestigious festivals, and the festival gathers them for Scottish audiences. Films that were present (and many won awards) in Berlinale, IFFR- Rotterdam, New York Film Festival, Viennale or the Centre Pompidou’s Cinémas du Réel Festival.

The Catalan Features selection includes anticipated films like Málaga Film Festival winner Schoolgirls by Pilar Palomero – a generational portrait of women growing in the ever contradictory Spain of the 90s – or My Mexican Bretzel by Núria Giménez Lorang, winner of IFFR Rotterdam Found Footage Award, and believed to be “the cinematic discovery of the year. A film that is balsam for the eyes and the soul, with images of painstaking beauty” by CinemaAttic.

Other critically acclaimed titles focusing on Spain’s troubled recent past are the animated feature Josep (Official Selection – Cannes Film Festival) based on the life of Catalan artist Josep Bartolí – a soldier against Franco that escaped the concentration camps in France, a lover of Frida Kahlo and a victim of the Hollywood blacklist. Maybe the most politically poignant – and formally daring – is the multi-awarded The Year of the Discovery by Luis López Carrasco (Grand Prize at the Cinéma du Réel Film Festival, IFFR Rotterdam), a ‘working-class monumental film’ that sponges up some of the anxieties in the world today – from Brexit to the rise of the alt-right, from the fate of trade unions to the reality behind Spain’s transition to democracy.

Particularly exciting for art lovers is the UK Premiere of Jaume Plensa: Can You Hear Me? documentary following the prestigious Catalan sculptor Jaume Plensa, in collaboration with the Royal Scottish Academy (RSA). The film will be contextualised by RSA Collections Curator Sandy Wood and celebrated Scottish sculptor Kenny Hunter who will respond to the work of artist Jaume Plensa, being RSA the first institution to show his work in the UK back in 1992.

Once again the festival looks at the present and past with a section dedicated to Catalan Classics that includes the cult, poignant and brutal anti-Francoist Lejos de los Árboles (Far from the Trees) by Jacinto Esteve as well as a retrospective to the women leading the new wave of Contemporary Catalan cinema (Belén Funes, Pilar Palomero, Laura Ferrés, Celia Rico, Clara Roquet, Roser Aguilar or Carla Simón). The festival continues to be a place to discover new talent, with over fifteen short films selected and two short film retrospectives not to be missed.

The online festival hub in FesthomeTV will have an exciting offer of events including Q&As, special lectures and in-depth conversations, as well as special retrospectives looking at contemporary Catalan cinema. In-person screenings are due to take place in venues like Glasgow Film Theatre, Dundee Contemporary Arts or the Institut Francais cinema in Edinburgh – subject to the reopening of cinemas in upcoming weeks.

The festival is organised by CinemaAttic, named as “Scotland’s leading Spanish cinema mavericks” by The Skinny and one of the four organisations nominated to “The 2020 Award” at the Creative Edinburgh Awards 2020 – for their commitment to offer diverse culture online during the lockdown. They admit that “it has been the most challenging year to offer culture and survive”, acknowledging that it was hard for the creative sector, but even harder for so many Scottish families. That’s why thanks to the support of organisations like Screen Scotland and Film Hub Scotland, CinemaAttic has decided to make the festival more accessible than ever before, with affordable festival passes (the whole festival can be seen for just £10) and most of the online content, films and conversations are captioned for deaf and hard of hearing audiences with English and Spanish subtitles.

“We want people to escape somewhere else (at least for a bit), to feel the soft salty breeze of the Mediterranean without leaving their homes” says CinemaAttic. “The perfect antidote to the impossibility of flying out for a holiday this year. We offer a collection of films that will let audiences travel around the world without moving from their living room, from the Rocky Mountains to the Greek Islands, from Majorca beaches to the Swiss Alps, from the Catalan cities to small Spanish villages.”

They are not alone, as the pool of organisations partnering in the festival include Scottish Trades Unions Congress for a panel on working class representation on the screen, Take One Action Film Festival which will be moderating a conversation on the education reform paradigm in Catalan and Scottish, or Invisible Women – a collective reclaiming female filmmakers from archives to screens – that will respond to Catalan found footage films with beautiful archive films from Canada and Scotland’s Moving Image Archives.

The festival’s motto “bringing Mediterranean vibes to Scotland” goes one step further this year, as they take (quite literally) an iconic red swimsuit from the Catalan seaside to the Forth Bridge or in the company of Highlands Cows in the festival trailer. Once again Scotland and Catalonia grow closer still, celebrating arts and cinema from 19 November – 6 December 2020.


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