EntMarch 2007 prizes with Carmen Isasa, directora of the Curt Ficcions association in the centre (Photo: Bertrand)
Curt Ficcions. The Quijotes of the short film genre from this Spanish association avoid digital media and concentrate on 35mm formats, although they do accept short animations amongst their participants. Every year the ten-member staff organise the Curt Ficcions Festival, one of the most prominent and prestigious Spanish short film festivals. The eleventh edition takes place in cinemas in February 2008.
21 finalists are selected months in advance. Their 12-minute maximum films are screened in blocks of seven as 'trailers' or warm-ups to the main film, and this over a period of three weeks across cinemas in Madrid and Barcelona. The five winners, selected by the jury and the public, tour 21 Spanish cities until summer. Toni Bestard, one of the winners of the 2007 edition for her piece Equipajes ('Baggage'), says that 'the biggest prize is people watching your film on the big screen.'
Short films have also begun to live big screen existences in other countries. Thanks to the Cervantes Institute, four years ago a part of the team were able to start subtitling the best short films in French to be able to travel and promote them - and the genre - more effectively. On 21 November, after visiting Morocco and Brussels, the team are in Paris, and later will head to Lyon and Bordeaux. This is one of their 'extra' activities – all free of charge – which the association organises as well as the annual festival. As part of the francophone tour, Curt Ficcions organise free matinees for institutions and masterclasses for audiovisual students.
'Cirugia' ('Surgery'), short film prize winner from 2006, the tenth edition of the Curt Ficcions festival
From one of the grey warehouses in the coastal neigbourhood of Poblenou, in an orange cubicle with a skylight, the other part of the team is currently organising the ins and outs of the film projections from Spain's alternative capital, Barcelona. Like a rag bag, they accumulate posters and films from the last ten editions and from other accompanying festivals. It's from here that Carmen Isasa leads the association's young team. 'We've been trying for years to get the short film back on the cinema screens and increase its number of spectators,' she says. One of her plans to make this viable is to 'ensure five cents of every euro of takings goes to the short films which screen before the main film.'
In Tangers, Curt Ficcions began to produce documentaries as well as films. Carmen Isasa sees this as a 'prime example of joint production between the festival and the Cervantes Institute. We hope to reproduce this partnership in other countries.' Her comments throw up the difference between organisations like the Cervantes Institute, who collaborate and diffuse short films, to the Academy of Spanish Cinema which controversially eliminated the 'short film' category in the Spanish version of the Oscars this year, the Goyas, to speed up the presentations of other awards.
The reaction from the short film collective has materialised into the platform Indignados ('Indignant'). Without official representatives, the group try to channel the reasons for their disagreement with the decision taken by the Academy of Arts and Cinematographic Sciences of Spain. Without prior warning, the latter advanced entry dates for short films and also reduced screentime from thirty to twenty minutes, making many candidates unable to participate. On top of this, short film prizes won't appear on the televised gala for the Goya awards, but during a discreet dinner without cameras.
The platform's manifesto explains that Spanish short film 'is not a young genre in the hands of young fans, but an important part of our cinematography which enjoys an international prestige comparable to feature films. For over a decade,' they add, 'watching Spanish short films in Venice, Sundance, Berlin, Clermont-Ferrand or the Oscars from the Academy of American Cinema, has stopped being an exception and has converted into being the norm.'
So normal, that the short film A las 7:35 de la mañana ('At 7.25 in the morning') by Nacho Vigalondo was nominated in the 2007 Oscars, having previously picked up an awarde with Curt Ficcions. Likewise J.A. Bayona, a director whose opera El orfanato ('The Orphanage') has been selected for a Goya in the 'best foreign film' category in 2008 – and rumours have it, for an Oscar too. Bayona previously won the 1999 Curt Ficcions award for his short film Mis vacaciones ('My Holidays').
Goosebump shots (not for profit)
At the very least, the ideas, themes and criticism which short films tackle manage to evade censorship and the 'politically correct' quota which the huge mass of public consumers demand. This essence of freedom stops short film becoming a commercial monster, and that's how it keeps going in the current situation amidst all the changes in technology and habits. The triumph of the short format doesn't affect this and continues to appear in the meanwhile in cinemas and on television. It seems the genre doesn't want to stop being a part of this ritual of travelling festival circuits, which shut their curtains after the cinema forums and debates are over.
Whilst Curt Ficcions tries to share its short films in different languages, the wait for the last word from the Academy of Spanish Cinema continues – by cutting short film out of their spectacle, they cut the short film, forgetting that what eats up this sector itself are the prizes and prestige of the festivals.
'Nasija' – one of the short film winners from 2006, the tenth edition of the Curt Ficcions festival
Catch the Curt Ficcions crew in France this month
PARIS: 21 nov, 16.30h y 19.00h - Cine Le Latina
VILLEURBANNE: 26 November, 20.45h Cine Le Zola
BORDEAUX: 29 November, 20.15h Centre Jean Vigo
Photos: Curt Ficcions. Vídeos: 'Cirugía' (queridoantonio/ Youtube), 'Nasija' (M0nch4/ Youtube)