What is a festival programmer’s favourite festival? How are films selected? How can we train the audience? And what do they like in Madrid which he finds in the North? I met Diego Trelles at the DocumentaMadrid and we talked about programming and Spanish Docs.
Diego Mas Trelles likes character driven films, compelling films, not only one style, or ways of storytelling.
"Sometimes a film gets you hooked from the first minutes, but it is not necessary. I look at the film and I have to like it for myself. It must awaken something in me.I first have to like the film and then I have to see if the audience in Madrid will also like it.
The subject is perhaps interesting, it can be what drives you, what gets you into the story, but it can also be the main character, a boy or a girl, or even the animation, or an interview, I am not against talking heads. I remember a film by Gianfranco Rosi, EL Sicario, it’s a 90-min.-long interview with a hitman for the drug cartels in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. His head is covered with a black cloth, and we can only see his body and the sketches he is making. He only speaks, and it’s incredible! You are hooked just by the narration."
Previous to his work as a programmer at Documentamadrid, he was programmer at the Sevilla European Film Festival, where he programmed European docs for five years. “I always try to be aware of what the audience likes. That is why I think we do not need international premieres in Madrid, or to follow other festivals' paths. Sometimes it counts if you know the film director or he has won in other festivals but this does not always work.” Some of the films - even those that have won in big festivals, we feel obliged to show them because otherwise nobody will show them, neither tv nor the cinemas, and we think that the Spanish audience should have the possibility to see those films.”
“I am not talking about the audience that is aware. But the audience can understand a good film. For example when they showed The act of killing, I remember that some people in the industry disliked the film - because they were troubled, they felt that it raised moral issues. I like this film, not only because of the subject; I remember when we showed Joshua [Oppenheimer’s] other film, The look of silence, it was late at night and the Q&A lasted another one and a half hour. Although the film was screened late at night and there was no more metro or bus, nobody left the theater – the audience was mesmerised by the director’s personality.”
Diego Mas Trelles travels to all the festivals and he sees over 1400 films per year. Which are his favourite festivals? “A festival I like to attend is the Berlinale – it’s a big city, it’s not classified like Cannes. I also like <a href="http://nordiskpanorama.com/sv/publik/“>Nordisk Panorama – it’s a good showcase for watching Nordic films and to meet producers and directors from the region. Of course I like idfa.”
He does not think that there is a trend in documentary making. What happens is that the life of a doc is getting shorter. “The media climax is shorter, and the glow of a doc is shorter. I see more and more cinematic docs where even the credits are well crafted and conceived. There is a deeper interaction with fiction! Sometimes you may be annoyed because you do not know if you see a staged scene.” In this year's DocumentaMadrid, a lot of the films were made by women. And the winning film, Sonita, is a film about a girl rapper from Afghanistan and her path to find herself, made by a woman director, Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami (trailer).
Is women’s gaze a trend? “I hope so, because it’s half of the humanity. We must follow the Nordic model, the way they promote, finance, show the films. I am a fan of the work they do, of the Nordic style. For example, take the film Those who jump, produced by the Danish Producer Heidi Elise Christensen, who also produced (Final Cut for Real).
One of the co-directors, Moritz Siebert, is from Chile but he lives in Denmark (the other two are Estephan Wagner & Abou Sidibé).
The film is a very international story, and it has a very strong Spanish angle in talking about a very important topic: the refugee issue. (In northern Morocco lies the Spanish enclave of Melilla: Europe on African land. On the mountain above live over a thousand hopeful African migrants, watching the land border, a fence system separating Morocco and Spain.) Diego is asking a rhetoric question: “Why can’t Spanish people make this film?” According to him, we should “ask the Spanish government!”
“I have produced fiction films and directed docs. I worked for ARTE and then as a channel delegate. I also used to work for the Spanish television, presenting and directing a program with feature docs. It was on every Friday night and had good ratings. The programme was cut off in order to have an excuse so as not to do co-productions. By cutting it off the TV station could say, “We can’t co-produce because we do not have a slot for the films”!
Next edition of DocumentaMadrid in May 2017.
PREMIERE IN KRAKOW
His new film SEXO, MARACAS Y CHIHUAHUAS (SEX, MARACAS & CHIHUAHUAS) is a music documentary about Xavier Cugat, an artist and adventurer, the musician responsible for Latino rhythms conquering the US and the one who discovered Rita Hayworth. The film is in competition at Krakow, where it is screened on 31 May. Watch an interview in which he speaks about his film.