Feel the South: A Report from Granada and Beyond

By Pepe Petos


The first ‘Festival de Granada Cines Del Sur’ took place in the southern Spanish city this June. The festival name, Cinemas from the South, refers to that fertile – and often neglected – cinema from the geopolitical south. Granada, the historically rich capital of Al-Andalus characterised by its peaceful religious co-existence, seems like a good choice for a festival that showcases difference as a way to understand what we have in common. The festival slogan – found in posters all over the city – combines the words ‘dream, laugh, cry, feel, dance, and love ...like a Senegalese ...like an Indian, ...like an Iraqi, ...like a Korean.’

Fourteen films comprised the Official selection, including fictions like Falafel and Making of..., documentaries like Potosi, the Journey and experimental films like Acidente and Paraguayan Hammock. ‘Itineraries’, the Informative section of the festival, was offered ‘as reflection on some of the most interesting and formally daring filmmakers in the world.’ Aimed to compliment the Official strand, it included works by Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Tsai Ming-Liang, Abbas Kiarostami, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Bahman Gobadi and Garin Nugroho, to mention but a few. Two retrospective strands dedicated to Yossef Chahine and China XXI Century were complemented with the Spanish/English bilingual publication of two meticulously edited books, containing a collection of traditional and new essays from the likes of Alberto Elena, Dai Jinhua and Ferid Boughedir amongst others.

The jury of the festival, composed of Jafar Panahi, Nadia Kaci, Zhang Yuan, K.R. Mohanan and Idrissa Ouedraogo, awarded Shawkat Amin Korki's Franco-Iraqi film Parinawa La Ghobar (Crossing the Dust) both the Golden Alhambra (endowed with €50,000) for best production and the Bronze Alhambra, with €20,000 towards the distribution of the film in Spain. Made during the US-led invasion of Iraq and with the real background of the war (the shooting was halted on safety grounds when bombs exploded nearby), this captivating neo-realist Kurdish film tells the story of Saddam, a five-year-old boy lost during the Invasion. The Silver Alhambra for the Best director with €30,000 went to Newton I. Aduaka for the Austrian/French/Nigerian film co-production Ezra; the powerful story of an eponymous child soldier on the Sierra Leone conflict.

One of the highlights of Cines Del Sur was the Declaration of Granada; endorsed by the directors of the Paris Biennial of Arab Cinemas, Latin American Film Festival Havana, Festival de Cine Iberoamericano de Huelva, Pusan International Film Festival, International Film Festival of Kerala and Granada Film Festival Cines Del Sur, it states the importance of diversity as a value to be preserved; that it is vital to understand the South as a space to be promoted especially through its filmographies, that the directors of the signing festivals will work together to promote and establish relations with other festivals, inviting new members to join this platform and that these festivals will continue to firmly support the cinema from the South, the craftsmanship of its film-makers and the currency of its values.

Many other highlights could be mentioned here, like the concerts and parallel exhibitions throughout the city, but perhaps the most popular was the open air screenings in Plaza de las Pasiegas, with Granada’s incomplete Cathedral as background. Particularly satisfying was the sight of that plaza on the day Kompin Kemgumnird's film Khan Kluay was screened. Kids of all ages – and some were very small indeed – sat for almost two hours to watch a Thai animated film subtitled in Spanish. Who said (young) audiences are not interested in or have no patience for subtitled films? Send them to Cines Del Sur next year! In fact, if you could do only visit one film festival next near, do not think twice; reserve yourself a place now at Cines Del Sur in Granada.

Pepe Petos is a writer, lecturer and filmmaker. He lives in London. See also The Spanish Civil War