New Seville Fest head aims to retain prestige despite smaller budget

José Luis Cienfuegos wants to maintain the city’s reputation “as the capital of European cinema”

"We will try to construct a festival with discernment, rigor and simplicity," says José Luis Cienfuegos. / PACO PAREDES (EL PAÍS)

The new director of the Seville European Film Festival (SEFF), José Luis Cienfuegos, has vowed to maintain the city’s reputation “as the capital of European cinema.”

“We will try to construct a festival with discernment, rigor and simplicity by optimizing resources,” said the former director of the Gijón International Film Festival. His dismissal from that post — which he had held since 1995 — by the Asturian regional government in January provoked a deluge of protests and shows of support from hundreds of filmmakers.

In an attempt to alleviate the reduction in the SEFF budget, Seville culture chief María del Mar Sánchez Estrella has changed the management model for the next edition with the aim of getting the most out of the team at City Hall. “Before, the running and production of the festival was carried out by the Andalucía Film Commission; the management was separated from artistic direction. Now we are going to skip a step and we will do everything from City Hall,” explained Sánchez Estrella. The budget for the event has gone down from 1.4 million euros in 2008 to 950,000 euros for this year’s edition — a drop of 32 percent.

Cienfuegos will also take charge of the running and production of the festival, and, according to Sánchez Estrella, will move to Seville having signed a full-time contract, which will allow City Hall to develop activities throughout the year. “Even though the crisis has affected many festivals, in Seville we wanted to make an effort to ensure the survival of our event, which has consolidated itself on the European festival calendar,” said Seville mayor Juan Ignacio Zoido by way of welcoming Cienfuegos. However, that effort has not been sufficient to maintain the 1.1-million-euro budget of last year’s event, held in November.

“One of the keys to the festival’s success is its specialization and the strength of Seville is its fanatical defense of European cinema,” said Cienfuegos, who begins his work at the Cannes Film Festival this week. “It’s still early to talk about having an invited country. What is clear to me is that it will be as close-knit a festival as possible, with lots of parallel activities, and that we are going to squeeze the most out of the visiting directors. I also want to strengthen the Europa Junior section, because \[children\] are the audiences of the future.”

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