The third edition of the Granada Cines del Sur Festival

The third edition of the Granada Cines del Sur Festival, seen by film critic Aruna Vasudev

Originally published in The Asian Age newspaper, New Delhi, on August 2, 2009

Cines del Sur is the name that the magical city of Granada, in the south of Spain, decided to give to its film festival three years ago. The organization has been of such caliber that the festival has become consolidated and has taken its own place among the large number of well-established festivals in the world.

Why ‘Cines del Sur’? In part, because of its own history: Granada lived for six hundred years under the rule of the Muslims and the Alhambra, its magnificent palace, of indescribable beauty, is very close to the center of the city, so the links are still evident. On the other hand, we have Morocco, just a few kilometers across the sea. However, it was fundamentally an idea of ​​the creators of the festival. They chose the Cines del Sur, as they argue, “because of the beauty of each of the regions, the secrets of the history of each country, the musicality of distant places, the dramas of other worlds…”

Not satisfied with only showing cinema, the Festival tries to vividly recreate these three regions of the South with different events that complement it.

For the second consecutive time, this year a specific program was held for schools in order to encourage students to develop a critical eye and foster not only critical thinking about the images they see, but also the values ​​and cultures that they reflect; think interculturally as well as cinematographically.

AulaSur, as this program is called, tries to “offer young people a vision of other realities that are part of our contemporary world…”.

They, like the large number of visitors to the Festival, whether from Granada or elsewhere, were able to enjoy a Chinese photographic exhibition, which was divided into four sections and made by Zhang Yuan, as well as a video clip by Cui Jian, perhaps the first video clip made in China, in 1991. The photographs taken from Zhang Yuan’s short film range from the images of Tiananmen Square to the sex change operation of one of its actors, between which there are seven years of difference. Yuan wrote that with this exhibition he hoped to “put the moving images of my films into snapshots, one by one, and document the days we will never forget.”

We can point out two more exhibitions: Abandoned Spaces, by Dalia Khamissy, about places in Lebanon -houses, buildings, mosques-, all of them invaded by the war and later abandoned; Finally, cinematographic images were present in art galleries and museums thanks to the works of the Argentine David Lamelas, considered one of the first post-national artists.

It is impressive what the mind can absorb, the time there is for all this in addition to the movies and, of course, the large number of museums, churches, squares, cafes, restaurants, the beautiful streets to get lost in, the Alhambra, where one never get tired of coming back…

There is a huge range of activities at Cines del Sur!

The Festival also featured four audiovisual workshops: animation, by the Andalusian filmmaker Rocío Huertas; another for interpretation and another for video creation, the latter in charge of the Egyptian Amal Ramsis, filmmaker, journalist, editor and Arabic-Spanish translator.

As if that were not enough, the third meeting of the Southern Film Festivals also took place, another initiative of the Granada Film Festival, which aims to bring together all the festivals of the South (the Trivandrum Film Festival -Kerala- is a member founder of SFF), as well as a co-production meeting for Andalusian and international producers and directors.

Shivajee Chandrabhushan, whose film Frozen won the Best Director Award and the Audience Award at the last edition of Cines del Sur, returned this year to attend this meeting with his new project, which is already well advanced. He collected this year’s Audience Award, which went to the animated film $9.99, by Tatia Rosenthal, who was unable to attend the delivery. In a beautiful speech, Chandrabhushan said that filmmakers have to accept their responsibility in this fractured world. The top prize went to The Other Bank, a powerful and emotional film directed by Georgian George Ovashvili.

Another notable aspect of this festival is the publication of at least two major books in a bilingual Spanish-English edition. This year, one of them was dedicated to Souleymane Cissé, the Malian director who managed to put African cinema on the international scene for the first time thanks to the Jury Prize won at Cannes in 1987 with Brightness. Cissé was also in Bombay, at the International Film Festival of India, in the nineties, although unfortunately he has not visited us again. Under the

Original article:

Publicada originalmente en el diario  The Asian Age, de Nueva Delhi, el 2 de agosto de 2009

Cines del Sur es el nombre que la ciudad mágica de Granada, en el sur de España, decidió  dar a su festival de cine hace tres años. La organización ha sido de tal calibre que el festival se ha consolidado y se ha hecho con un lugar propio entre el gran número de festivales bien establecidos que hay en el mundo.

¿Por qué ‘Cines del Sur’? En parte, por su propia historia: Granada vivió durante seiscientos años bajo el gobierno de los musulmanes y la Alhambra, su magnífico palacio, de una belleza indescriptible, está muy cerca del centro de la ciudad, de modo que los vínculos siguen patentes. Por otro lado, tenemos Marruecos, a tan sólo algunos kilómetros al otro lado del mar. Sin embargo, fue fundamentalmente una idea de los creadores del festival. Eligieron los Cines del Sur, como argumentan, “por la belleza de cada una de las regiones, los secretos de la historia de cada país, la musicalidad de lugares lejanos, los dramas de otros mundos…”

No satisfechos con mostrar únicamente cine, el Festival trata de recrear vivamente estas tres regiones del Sur con diferentes eventos que lo complementan.

Por segunda vez consecutiva, este año tuvo lugar un programa específico para los colegios con el fin de animar a los estudiantes a desarrollar un ojo crítico y potenciar no sólo un pensamiento crítico en torno a las imágenes que ven, sino también los valores y culturas que éstas reflejan; pensar de manera intercultural tanto como cinematográfica.

AulaSur, como se denomina este programa, trata de “ofrecer a los jóvenes una visión de otras realidades que forman parte de nuestro mundo contemporáneo…”.

Ellos, al igual que el gran número de visitantes del Festival, ya fueran de Granada u otros lugares, pudieron disfrutar de una exposición fotográfica china, que estaba dividida en cuatro secciones y realizada por Zhang Yuan, así como un videoclip de Cui Jian, quizás el primer videoclip realizado en China, en 1991. Las fotografías extraídas del cortometraje de Zhang Yuan van desde las imágenes de la Plaza de Tiananmen hasta la operación de cambio de sexo de uno de sus actores, entre las cuales hay siete años de diferencia. Yuan escribió que con esta exposición esperaba “poner las imágenes en movimiento de mis películas en instantáneas, una a una, y documentar los días que jamás olvidaremos”.

Podemos señalar dos exposiciones más: Espacios abandonados, de Dalia Khamissy, sobre lugares de Líbano -casas, edificios, mezquitas-, todos ellos invadidos por la guerra y posteriormente abandonados; finalmente, las imágenes cinematográficas estuvieron presentes en salas de arte y museos gracias a las obras del argentino David Lamelas, considerado como uno de los primeros artistas post-nacionales.

Es impresionante lo que la mente puede absorber, el tiempo que hay para todo esto además de las películas y, por supuesto, la gran cantidad de museos, iglesias, plazas, cafés, restaurantes, las hermosas calles para perderse, la Alhambra, adonde uno no se cansa de volver…

¡Hay un abanico de actividades enorme en Cines del Sur!.

El Festival también contó con cuatro talleres audiovisuales: de animación, a cargo de la realizadora andaluza Rocío Huertas; otro de interpretación y otro de video creación, este último a cargo de la egipcia Amal Ramsis, realizadora, periodista, editora y traductora de árabe-español .

Por si ello no fuera suficiente, también tuvo lugar el tercer encuentro de Southern Film Festivals, otra iniciativa del Festival de Cine de Granada, que tiene como fin reunir a todos los festivales del Sur (el Festival de Cine de Trivandrum -Kerala- es miembro fundador de SFF), así como un encuentro de coproducción para productores y realizadores andaluces e internacionales.

Shivajee Chandrabhushan, cuya película Frozen obtuvo el Premio al Mejor Director y el Premio del Público en la pasada edición de Cines del Sur, volvió este año para asistir a este encuentro con su nuevo proyecto, que ya está muy avanzado. Él recogió el Premio del Público de este año, que fue para el film de animación $9.99, de Tatia Rosenthal, quien no pudo asistir a la entrega. En un discurso precioso, Chandrabhushan dijo que los realizadores han de aceptar su responsabilidad en este mundo fracturado. El premio mayor fue para The Other Bank, una película potente y llena de emociones, a cargo del georgiano George Ovashvili.

Otro aspecto destacable de este festival son las publicaciones de al menos dos libros de envergadura en edición bilingüe español-inglés. Este año, una de ellas estuvo dedicada a Souleymane Cissé, el director mali ense que consiguió poner el cine africano en la escena internacional por primera vez gracias al Premio del Jurado obtenido en Cannes en 1987 con Brightness. Cissé estuvo también en Bombay, en el Festival Internacional de Cine de India, en los años noventa, aunque desgraciadamente no nos ha vuelto a visitar. Bajo el título ‘Souleymane Cissé: con los ojos de la eternidad’, este libro es el primer monográfico publicado sobre un hombre extraordinario, a quien el Festival rendía homenaje en esta ocasión. La otra publicación versa sobre un tema que contó con una sección paralela en el festival, los cineastas extranjeros en el cine cubano de los sesenta, bajo el título Intrusos en el paraíso. El libro se centra en la Revolución Cubana vista desde los ojos de realizadores extranjeros.

Había películas por todas partes, con una variedad difícil de lograr.

Las proyecciones eran muy especiales, ya que a medida que llegaba la noche pasaban de las salas al aire libre. Había dos proyecciones cada noche: una en el gran pórtico de la Catedral, en el centro de Granada, y la otra frente a los muros de la Alhambra, donde también tuvieron lugar las ceremonias de apertura y de clausura. El éxito de taquilla taiwanés, Cape No. 7 inauguró el Festival, mientras que la cinta mexicana de tinte político Arráncame la vida, fue la que lo clausuró.

Aparte de la sección oficial a concurso -que contaba con tres miembros del jurado provenientes de los tres continentes del Sur y uno de Italia-, y el Premio Netpac (otorgado por primera vez en el marco de este Festival como reconocimiento a esta organización, que tan diligentemente ha promovido el cine asiático, tanto en Asia como en el resto del mundo), la edición de este año incluyó secciones de películas sobre andaluces y el Sur, una sección mediterránea (Mediterráneos ) y una sección fascinante sobre Nollywood, el fenómeno en formato vídeo de Nigeria, que se ha convertido en una excelente muestra de la cultura popular africana y que ha dado un nuevo ímpetu a los realizadores africanos. Es un poco como el fenómeno que se está dando en India, en Malegaon, pero a un nivel panafricano.

Hubo una mesa redonda sobre Nollywood, en la que participó Peace Anyiam-Fiberesima, fundadora y presidenta de la Academia del Cine Africano. Peace fue también miembro del Jurado del Festival junto con la actriz jordana Rana Sultan, Aruna Vasudev de India, el italiano Leonardo de Franceschi, que imparte clases de cine en la Universidad Roma Tres, y Arturo Ripstein como presidente del Jurado, el realizador más conocido y respetado en este momento.

El hecho de conformar un jurado tan ecléctico provocó que los debates fueran largos, arduos, densos en los argumentos y  fascinantes al mismo tiempo, ya que cada uno de los miembros del Jurado aportó sus conocimientos y experiencia de sus respectivos países y regiones, no necesariamente de su conocimiento de las cinematografías de otras regiones. Es un riesgo profesional el configurar un jurado para valorar películas no tan conocidas entre el público como las europeas o estadounidenses.

Esto es precisamente lo que el Festival de Cine de Granada trata de cambiar, reuniendo a gente del cine de las tres regiones para que se familiaricen con sus respectivas cinematografías.

Este intento por sí solo nos da una mayor conciencia de la obsesión que aún tenemos por Occidente en estos tres continentes, así como de la necesidad de realizar un esfuerzo coordinado por superarla.

Aruna Vasudev es una ilustre crítica de cine que ha formado parte de jurados de los principales festivales de cine de todo el mundo.

“The face of Africa”. Interview with Peace Anyiam-Fiberesima, president of the African Movie Academy Awards

Writer and producer Peace Anyiam-Fiberesima stands out as creator and president of the African Movie Academy Awards (AMAA), an association based in its Nollywood origins that has expanded its influence to all of Africa.

1.    How do you manage as a woman in an environment in which the masculine sector is the majority?

For me, it has been something quite natural, as I have grown up surrounded by men. The important thing is that in order to have success in this environment, you must have patience. I always aim to create something better than what is expected, given that I work in the face of the masculine ego. Perhaps my success comes from the support that I receive from my immediate environment: my father, for example, who has never considered me to be different as a woman. However, it is difficult, since the majority always tries to degrade you in some manner.

2.    As a producer, how have you lived in the audiovisual sector through the evolution of political figures with respect to Nollywood: first complete opposites and now proclaiming that to be a joint economic motor?

At the beginning, we did not receive much support from the Government, but now they are becoming more and more involved because of both the social and economic importance of the film industry. Out of all of Nigeria’s assets, the film industry is one of its most positive, and the Government wants to employ this positive image to achieve a change in orientation to this vision of Nollywood. Although the country’s economy is widespread, the Government has an approximation of figures that they would like to publicize so that the money that the industry moves can be seen.

3.    Do you think that film helps to introduce cultural and political progress?

Already, film works in this sense in that it reaches the bottom of a culture and integrates cultural aspects. In the same manner, it can show positive aspects of politics. In Africa, the political world is unsettled, but films allow us to show our true culture. Many times it is a culture that has been westernized by colonialism, therefore we must learn what our true heritage is and how to regenerate it. When we are conscience of its existence, we can say what is there and what should not be hidden.

In Nigeria, films that are made are quite critiqued by the Government and by society. But that there is an independent film industry capable of self-financing creates a unique space in which a realistic image of the country can be shown. Recently, the Government has asked that we help to renovate the image of the country by presenting positive stories. It is evident that in order to achieve this, you must believe in what you want to show, and our intent is to center ourselves in the good and leave the negative aside.

4.    The fact that African film must resort to European financing has created a certain type of  colonization in film, but since the creation of a private industry like Nollywood, it has experienced a period of independence.  How has African film lived through this change?

Nigeria is not a country colonized by the French, therefore there has been no financing of that kind. It is clear that when you receive economic support, there are certain things that you are not able to say, that you simply are not going to express. In this sense, what has occurred in Nollywood changes everything. When there is an outside budget, films (like those from great directors Souleymane Cissé, Ousmane Sembene, Haile Gerima, Jean-Marie Teno, Abderrahmane Sissako…) end up destined for a certain audience (this occurs in France, for example, and in other embassies in the world), but they do not reach the people that they are truly meant for. The great change that Nollywood has introduced is that the target audience finally has access to the films, and this has caused other African countries to adopt the same system.

When there are financial problems, there are content problems. With AMAA, we are working to receive finances from Africa in order to produce for the continent and to tell our own story. Perhaps this is one of the reasons that Nollywood film has been criticized. There exists a handicap of quality, but also the fact that when you have an independent economy, you have the freedom to be criticized, which can become somewhat problematic.

5.    Have you had to negotiate with censorship over the treatment of certain productions? How do you deal with matters that might become controversial?

With respect to censorship, there are a series of matters that cannot be touched, like problems related to religion or questions linked to sex. There is also a very elevated sensibility in relation to language, as there are certain forms of speaking that cannot be used. So, when you employ films in order to express something that you want to say, you end up saying it in an indirect form, in a certain sense. It is difficult but it is possible, in that it is necessary to choose carefully the scripts and images that are shown in order to present the message from a tangential form. In this manner, one film will be censored, while another will not.

6.    Toward where do you think the industry should direct itself within the independence permitted by Nollywood?

I think that it could insist more on quality and less on quantity. On the one hand, there is a need to think in distribution, given that for the producers, profits do not always come. Many films are pirated because of the great demand from the African diaspora that is spread throughout the world and that can be reached only with piracy. On the other hand, it is necessary to work on the stories, on the accounts that interest the African public as much as other types of spectators. African film needs to be pertinent, and this is prevented by festivals in which only a handful of previously-circulated films are shown. In fact, on many occasions, they are films that are not made by real Africans, rather by people that speak of the continent instead of by Africans telling their own stories. This is what the Academy tries to do: create film that we, personally, make. At this level, there is not always the same quality, but there are still good films. I would like to find people that dedicate more time to encountering good African films and that understand the art that is in these films, and who want to make it a necessity to achieve this African content.

7.    What politicians are adopting producers and distributors in the face of piracy? What would have to change so that the diaspora would be able to gain access to these different films?

Piracy is not only a problem in Africa, therefore there would need to be a collective support to stop it. Likewise, there should be a fight against the traffic of films of other countries in our circuits and vice versa. The key is in structured distribution: that our films will be available in normal stores, in the appropriate wrapping, localized as commercial works.

8.    Have initiatives like that of the Africa Magic television channel become priorities so as to expand the industry in the African continent?

There are two sides to every story, and this matter is similar to what occurs with piracy, that on the one hand, we have become very popular and we have been given a great visibility, but that on the other hand, it does not yield a profit for us. With Africa Magic, it has been the same: we have become very popular, but the rights have not been paid. I have a great deal of respect for the channel, as well as for Hamida Suliman, but I think that there is work to be done for it to better distribute African film. Once this change is achieved, it would establish the first step in order to begin to show African film.