In London, the event will begin with a screening of Spanish film Alatriste, starring Danish actor Viggo Mortensen (The Lord of the Rings) in the lead role, accompanied by Spanish celebrity Eduardo Noriega. The film is set during a difficult period in history, the Inquisition. It's the story of soldier Diego Alatriste who returns to war as a mercenary in the then violent and corrupt Spain.
Promoting European cinema
For the first time in Europe, this is a film festival which is organised almost simultaneously in three different countries, screening purely European films. Nowadays, European cinema hardly circulates in Europe itself. This is starkly contrary to American movies, with their special affects and hokey comedies, which are growing like weeds across European screens, often surpassing the illegal screening quota.
‘Picture Europe’, the best of European cimema, is a new project by the association of European Film Promotion (EFP), created 10 years ago. The association’s objective is to promote and export European films with the help of the European Commission and numerous other associations as well. During almost two months, in Madrid, Berlin and London, more than 25 European films will be screened in their original sub-titled version - for a mere 4 Euros. In collaboration with cinemas chosen for this event in each of the participating cities, including the Princesa and Roxy in Madrid, Cinestar in Berlin and the Curzon Soho in London, actors and directors will be responsible for presenting the European successes of the last year over one week.
Festival or film fair?
Up until now, the only European Film Festival that exported outside the borders of Europe was the European Film Festival of Seville. That event took place between 2 and 10 November in the capital of Andalusia. ‘Picture Europe’ has a different philosophy: it doesn’t consist of discerning who gets prizes and in acquiring the greatest stars. It aims to expose cinema. Only European films are screened; there’s no prize, therefore, and no way of losing-out.
The Madrid edition of the festival happened in April and was a great success. Catalonian actress Assumpta Serna inaugurated it with the screening of the film Ein Freunde von mir ('A Friend of Mine'), by German director Sebastian Schipper. The screening had a full house and at the end, the audience did something which is very rare in Spanish cinemas; they applauded.
In Berlin, the festival ran from 26 April to 2 May. It was opened by German actress Doris Kunstmann, who starred in the latest part of the French Comedy series Bronzés 3, a film which was just as successful when screened during the destival.
There is Too Much Dialogue in These Films! Long Live Explosions!
European cinema also has its detractors. Before the event began, a group of radical protestors threatened to boycott the festival in Madrid. Wearing yellow, they chanted Long live Explosions! They claimed to belong to a group called 'Boom-Action'. The group campaigns against European cinema and favours special effects movies. With too much dialogue and so few explosions, we’re bored!, they cried at passer-bys in front of the cinema’s front doors. They demanded an immediate reduction of dialogue in the films, asking for a maximum of four words per phrase and a minimum of 4.3 explosions per film.
But it turned out to be a publicity stunt for the festival itself, a few days before the whole event started. The protestors, who passed themselves off as special effects industry employees, distributed pamphlets from their fictional association to invite spectators to join in their cause and visit their website. On the site, after a list of complaints, the site gives access to a festival page, which lifts the veil on their ingenious farce.
On the London programme, attention is being given to the screening of A Friend of Mine (2006), starring German-Catalan actor Daniel Brühl. It was made by the same team as Goodbye Lenin and Run Lola Run. It's the story of two contrasting friends, one career-obsessed and the other by the desire to enjoy himself to the max.
There will also be a screening of the Danish version of Briget Jones, entitled Nynne, and the terrifying Dead in Three Days, or the intimate Little Secrets. Also noteworthy are films which carry stories about homosexuality and incest, such as the Romanian film Love Sick, or the film about integration, called Schnitzel Paradise.