Focus on Guest Country : Spain

This year for this 10th edition of the MIFC, the country in the spotlight is Spain, which was able to talk about its circuits, ramifications and diversification. To make the state of the cinephilia and the availability of the heritage of this country which borders our borders.

Around the table, moderated by the web editor of ParisBCN Vicenç Batalla Franch, were Sophie de Mac Mahon, director of sales at FlixOlé and Video Mercury Films, Diana Santamaría distributor at Atalante Cinema, Joan Castelló, manager of El Setanta-nou del Carrer Tallers SL, Joxean Fernández, director of the Basque Film Library and member of the selection committee of the San Sebastian Film Festival, José Pastor, head of fiction and cinema at RTVE, Pilar Toro, marketing director at Filmin and Philippe Chevassu, president of Tamasa Distribution.

The moderator Vicenç Batalla Franch began by making a round table for everyone to introduce themselves and give an update on their activity in Spain. The first to speak was Joxean Fernández and he pointed out an obvious fact that was not so obvious: Spain is very different from France. If he specifies that the Spanish Cinematheque in Madrid was created in 1953, under Franco, it is in fact not the only one in Spain, each region or almost having its own, acting with a certain independence. In all, the country has 17 film libraries, including the Basque one, which he represents. And if the cinema is rather precarious locally, things are changing because a law, which should be promulgated at the end of the year or at the beginning of next year, will register the cinema officially in the heritage of the country and all the films henceforth produced will have to be preserved. For Joxean, Spain needs a lot of pedagogy to explain to the general public what a film library is and the importance of heritage.

Then, José Pastor spoke about the Spanish public television whose role, and duty, is to put forward the Spanish cinematographic heritage. Several slots are dedicated to it and José Pastor noted that these are the films that Iberian viewers prefer to more contemporary films. RTVE's idea is also to develop replay and non-linear programming to give access to these heritage films, directly after their broadcast in linear mode, as well as to a whole range of documentation about them. It is worth noting that RTVE has a special relationship with the Madrid Film Library, to which it entrusts all its material and which digitizes it to preserve it preciously.

For her part, Sophie de Mac Mahon recalled the history of Video Mercury, a company created about 50 years ago that has acquired over the years many catalogs of major Spanish and even foreign producers for a total of some 8,000 films. The company also owns the lifetime rights to the RKO catalog, as well as the local and international rights to 60% of Spanish films since the 1930s, or approximately 4,000 films. Their goal is to preserve and restore these works so that they can continue to circulate them in Spain and abroad. Video Mercury has created a laboratory in its premises as well as a distribution company. They have even set up television channels, including 8 Madrid and Somos (pay tv). And since heritage cinema, especially the oldest, is not the most demanded by the platforms, Video Mercury has created FlixOlé, a platform that brings together the films in their catalog as well as those of some fifteen Spanish rights holders.

Diana Santamaria knows this difficulty of heritage cinema well as a distributor at Atalante. While the company plans to release five films by Portuguese filmmaker Paulo Rocha in 2023, as well as works by Chinese director Lou Ye and Pedro Costa's O Sangue, she knows that the distribution context is not easy, as the heritage film market is not a priority in Spain. It is necessary, as always, to find the right methods to attract audiences. However, some works are doing very well, such as Charlie Chaplin's films, which have accumulated some 20,000 admissions, or a Wong Kar-Wai retrospective, which has done well. The difficulties are there but so are the opportunities. It is the same for Joan Castello who reminds us that, like everywhere else, the physical video industry is suffering in Spain and is experiencing a colossal drop in turnover. Except that, as the round table held last Sunday at the 4th DVD Fair also implied, collector's editions are doing very well.

On the side of platforms like Filmin, which celebrates its 15th anniversary, things are a bit more exciting as Pilar Toro explains. This platform is the first Spanish streaming platform and was the first to arrive in Spain. The idea for them is to treat classic cinema at the same level as fresh films, in a reflection of eventualization and with the aim of giving easy access to culture. According to a recent study conducted by Filmin, it turns out that most of those who watch movies on the platform are those who go to the cinema. The ambition is to expand this audience and above all to be always present in the next 15 years. 

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