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IberoDocs 2020: Interview

IberoDocs is the first showcase for Ibero-American culture in Scotland, focussed on documentary films by Spanish, Portuguese and Latin- American filmmakers. 

Ibero-America refers to a geographic area that includes Latin American countries as well as Spain and Portugal. The Festival was founded in 2013 by Mar Felices and Xosé Ramón Rivas, with the support of Isabel Moura Mendes, and this year's 2020 festival takes place between Edinburgh and Glasgow, 26 Feb - 15 March

Film Hub Scotland support has enabled the creation of a new strand at this year's festival, Diving Into the Archives. We spoke to Festival Director Mar Felices about the creation of the festival, and this year's programme. 

Hello Mar! Could you share a short history of IberoDocs - how the festival was founded, the programming ethos, and an introduction to this year’s team?

The birth of IberoDocs is very personal. When I arrived in Edinburgh from Spain, I faced a language barrier and a very different culture. Many Spanish or Portuguese speakers were simply sticking to their own groups, and like myself, feeling it difficult to fit in.

As a documentary filmmaker I was actively following film festivals and events. Very few places screened films in Spanish or Portuguese language. Although there was a rich and vibrant calendar of cultural events in Edinburgh, there was a gap in terms of both documentary film screenings and Ibero-American culture. So many people that I was meeting from these communities (Spanish, Portuguese or Latin-Americans) had a background in various aspects of culture. Many, like myself, had studied cinema or worked in cultural sectors. But here, the language barrier was limiting them. 

So, I started suggesting documentaries from Ibero-American countries to local film festivals. But there were no takers. In an unrelated event, I spoke with the Spanish Consul in Edinburgh who was also aware that there was a need for a Hispanic Film Festival. I explained to him that I had documentaries that I was offering to other festivals and he suggested I just create my own festival. That’s how IberoDocs was born. It is still the only film festival focused on documentary films in Edinburgh and the only platform for Ibero-American Culture in Scotland. However, nowadays you can find the Edinburgh Spanish Film Festival and even EIFF did a focus on Spain in their last edition. 

IberoDocs is a non-competitive film festival so we find our films through various ways. There are plenty of film platforms that can be searched, and this year, for the first time, we are using Festival Scope Pro. Some films are sent in directly by the filmmakers, but most are chosen by the year’s programming team. For this year’s 7th edition, we are collaborating with Emma Mortimore from Multistory Films and Winnie Brook Young from LusoFilm who have brought us a selection of great films! We do attend a range of film festivals also. We take pride in the fact that many filmmakers and guests from previous editions of IberoDocs recommend us to their contacts, and also wish to come back with their newest films.

The ethos for IberoDocs from the start has been breaking down barriers and the integration of cultures. Migration, memory and identity or the consequences of a colonial past are recurring themes in the films that we show. Put it simply, our aim is the integration of the Ibero-American community here and our tool is the form of documentary film. It’s also an effective way in introducing local audiences to these new cultures and creating a community. We are a festival with a family feel!

Over the course of IberoDocs I have been able to create festival teams that support this ethos. From the beginning, we have especially supported female filmmakers and their films, and behind the scenes, the team running IberoDocs is all women too! Through this year’s collaboration with WomenBeing we are running exciting events such as a panel talk with female artists and an Edinburgh closing party featuring live music and video art.

We have grown from a purely volunteer led festival into a Community Interest Company now able to hire two coordinators in marketing & communications (Lili Sandelin) as well as production (Ane Lopez).

How do you reach and engage with your Ibero-American audiences in Scotland?

Mainly through approaching and working with organisations and businesses related to Ibero-American culture in the UK. Sponsors such as Indaba Restaurant and Indaba Deli, La Sal and The Colony Gourmet have supported us from the very beginning. That’s where the community goes to eat! Others, like Viajar por Escocia and Lusofonias – Oficinas de Português, Instituto Camões, Consulate of Spain in Edinburgh, are actively promoting Spanish and Portuguese activities. It is also very important to expand outwith just documentary films. Events featuring live music like flamenco or fado, books presentations, exhibitions and Brazilian capoeira attract wider audiences and celebrate other elements of culture. We currently have over seventy collaborators who keep spreading the word about IberoDocs! 

For this year’s festival, Film Hub Scotland are supporting the creation of a new programming strand, ‘Diving Into the Archives’. Could you talk a little about these films and their relation to the wider festival?

“Diving Into the Archives” came about through a number of fortunate encounters! It’s a strand with screenings of archival material, as well as classic films presented with an artistic twist. 

Last year, Carmen García and Jesús Osuna, or Duo Montjuïc, approached me as our festival focus was on Andalucia and they had just created interesting work with archive material from that region. I had fallen in love with the incredible Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles at Edinburgh International Film Festival and wanted to find a way to screen that at IberoDocs. The film happens to be an animation but its story is all about explaining Buñuel's obsession of making the documentary Land Without Bread.

So, when Duo Montjuïc announced that, by chance, they were next creating a brand new live soundtrack to Buñuel’s newly restored 1936 censored version of Land Without Bread, it made absolute sense to create a Luis Buñuel event.

And then I discovered that 2020 was the centenary of one of Spain’s literature masters, Miguel Delibes. Many of his books have been made into award-winning films. By adding him into the mix, we found an interesting way to examine two of the most famous proponents of Spanish cinema and literature spanning the pre- and post-Civil War periods.

For the Delibes section, we chose two special films. The Holy Innocents (Los santos inocentes) is a moving drama based on the novel of the same title and deals with class and oppression. It was voted one of the best Spanish films of the 20th Century. Night Function (Función de noche) is based on Delibes’ book Five Hours With Mario and delivers a strong narrative of female identity and a changing society.

Despite these films being quite different from our standard documentaries, they still fit within the IberoDocs’ culture of supporting creativity and celebrating the different realities of Ibero-American culture. We are planning a long term programme with this strand and hope to collaborate with different film libraries and archives from other countries. Mixing different art forms with film will hopefully create some more exciting events, and again bring in new and younger audiences. I also have a personal interest in this form as I come from a family of historians and archivists. For some time as a filmmaker I have wanted to work with my grandfather´s archive footage and create something with an artistic twist.

You’ve also commissioned Spanish musicians Carmen García and Jesús Osuna to provide a live score for some of the films in the programme, including Luis Buñuel's Land Without Bread. Could you share more about this collaboration, and any further partnerships at this year’s festival?

Music is important. It connects people and breaks down language barriers. To screen a silent film with a live soundtrack creates a totally different cinema experience for the audiences. Carmen and Jesús explore new paths of musical creation using the clarinet, guitars, cello and metallophones which allow them to delve into a variety of timbres and textures. This takes it even further from a standard musical piece being played with a film. It is fantastic to be able to show the original version of Buñuel’s Land Without Bread in the beautiful screen 1 in one of the oldest cinemas in Scotland. This is the first year that we are screening at Cameo Cinema and look forward to collaborating with them.

How has Film Hub Scotland's support benefited the festival, for this and previous editions?

Running events like the “Diving Into the Archives” strand can be quite complicated, much more than digital screenings, and we knew that it was necessary to get outside support to do it as best as possible. This is what lead us to Film Hub Scotland, as one of their main key areas is promoting archive film. We are also aiming to reach younger audiences and increase their appreciation for classic material, and this is also one of FHS priorities. It is very satisfying to join forces with organisations that share your same goals and we are very positive that this will be a long term partnership. 

Lastly, could you pick some highlights from this year’s festival programme, across Glasgow and Edinburgh?

Obviously the Buñuel double bill is a special event.

Rita Maia’s film Lisbon Beat opens the festival but we also have a masterclass with her as well as a party where she will play. So that has organically grown into a mini festival within the festival. The events are educational and fun, again as part of the ethos of IberoDocs.

Similarly, our short film programme reflects the diversity of Ibero-American cultures, as well as showcasing films predominantly by female filmmakers. 

“Beyond Docs” is our other new strand where filmmakers whose films have previously screened at IberoDocs are coming back with new films and not necessarily strictly in documentary format. We embrace the mixing of elements, such as using non-actors or how the filmmakers approach their fiction work being more aware of reality and taking risks with their films. This strand fits in well with our panel discussion on “Women Taking Risks in Arts”. An inspirational group of international female artists, many based now in Scotland, talk about how they are approaching their different art forms. This strand will keep supporting films and filmmakers like those and their new and developing work.


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