Catalonia Ups International Partnerships, a World-Class Genre Tradition  

Catalonia has a rich filmmaking tradition backed by public investment in local artists and production companies

Published Time: 14.05.2024 - 14:31:44 Modified Time: 14.05.2024 - 14:31:44

Catalonia has a rich filmmaking tradition backed by public investment in local artists and production companies. Four years ago, the region expanded its existing financing structures by launching its Minority Co-Production Fund. It’s now beginning to prove to be a success story.

The fund provides financing to films with at least one Catalan minority co-producer, showcasing the region’s talent and helping local companies grow their international networks.

Launched in 2020, the fund initially had a budget of €1.5 million ($1.6 million) ear- marked to support up to five high-end films annually. Since then, the number of projects backed has steadily increased, with total funding rising to €2 million ($2.2 million) annually, capped at €300,000 ($323,000) per title.

“When we launched, the goal was to provide Catalan producers with the best conditions and framework to enhance and promote their creative, professional and artistic exchanges in the international arena,” says Edgar Garcia, director of the governmental culture industry unit ICEC, which operates the fund.

During its first four years, the fund has provided financial backing to 40 projects. Of those, 23 featured majority producers from Europe, 14 from Latin America, and three from the rest of the world. Twenty-six of the 40 were fiction, 11 were documentaries and three were animated.

There are two fund films at Cannes: Alain Guiraudie’s “Misericordia,” which bows in the festival’s Premiere sidebar, and Antonella Sudasassi Furniss’ Berlin Panorama Audience Award winner “Memories of a Burning Body,” which will unspool at a market screening.

As funding recipients grow their reputations abroad, there is hope that they can become involved in more ambitious co-productions with larger budgets. Because the fund is still new, it may be a while before any definitive evaluation can be made regarding that hope, but Garcia says early returns look favorable.

“The scheme only began four years ago, so it’s hard to say how these producers will scale up after initial investment,” he explains. “But if we look at the so-called Catalan Wave of the last 10 years, you can see examples from the region that have proved that Catalan companies can contribute to much larger productions when they have the opportunity.”

According to Garcia, the long-term trends in the Catalan industry are a credit to the government initiatives and organizations that have established a well-educated and trained base of industry workers that support local filmmakers.

“We must recognize the work of Catalan Films. It’s a 38-year-old institution dedicated to promoting and internationalizing our region’s film production in all terms. The Catalonia Film Commission also does a great job finding investments and showing off our great service companies in the region.”

Catalan companies regularly back genre titles that excel in both festival and commercial terms. Films featuring -

producers from the region at this year’s Marché du Film include Nacho Vigalondo’s “Daniela Forever,” participating in the Fantastic 7 sidebar, with Barcelona’s Filmin participating; Laura Casabé’s “The Virgin of the Quarry Lake,” a Minority Co- Production Fund title that forms part of a Ventana Sur Goes to Cannes lineup; and Xavier Rull’s feature debut “My Stalker,” at the Frontières Proof of Concept platform. Carlota Pereda’s “The Chapel” will screen at the Marché.

According to Ivan Díaz, head of international at Barcelona’s Filmax, one of the biggest challenges facing local producers today is finding new filmmakers to continue the region’s strong genre traditions.

“When directors find success and go off to work in other countries or for big studios, it’s our job as producers to find their replacements,” he says. “We’re looking for a new generation of interesting genre directors.”

Díaz says that supporting the next generation is vital because genre films are some of the easiest to sell in an increasingly challenging marketplace.

“Genre films still pre-sell and sell well in many countries. Traditional theatrical distributors are still very interested in these kinds of films, which come with a fan base and a built-in audience,” he explains.

Mónica Garcia Massagué, general manager of the Sitges Intl. Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia, says, “Genre films have always been well-received at the box office, especially horror films,” she says, noting that these films usually find second windows for distribution. “We are experiencing an avalanche of horror and fantasy movie releases demonstrating a constant audience desire.”

The best horror and fantasy films share a universal language that makes them more relatable to international audiences than other types of cinema, she points out.

“Genre cinema applies universal codes that are easy to recognize by most audiences. It has established conventional tropes and, if the di- rector sticks to them, it never disappoints,” she says.

Thrillers from the region are making similar inroads out- side the peninsula. According to Díaz, that rise in popularity corresponds to more significant investment.

“Over the past several years, I’ve seen that Spanish thrillers are becoming more ambitious in scope, more sophisticated in narrative and with a bit more budget behind them,” he says. “Recent thrillers have established a strong genre reputation for the region that expands on that of the horror films.”

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