IberoDocs Interview: Mar Felices

IberoDocs is half-way through the sixth edition of the festival. Mar Felices, the festival’s director and co-founder spoke to me for the Cinetopia podcast about the festival, its history and current program, and the festival scene in Edinburgh. You can find full coverage of IberoDocs 2019 here.

Jim Ross: To begin with, tell us a little bit more about the festival’s history and why you co-founded it

Mar Felices: When I first arrived in Edinburgh in 2012 my focus was on my own documentary project about my grandfather. I was looking for people involved in the world of documentaries. I became aware that although there was a rich and vibrant calendar of cultural events in Edinburgh, there was a gap in terms of both documentaries and Hispanic culture. One of the people I met was Mon – Xose Ramon Rivas – who was working at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, where we met, and we joined forces and shape IberoDocs together: him taking care of the logistic part of the festival and me taking care of the artistic side.

JR: How do you find the film festival scene in Edinburgh? It’s very crowded, with a lot of them. Does that make it easier, because there is an energised audience familiar with events like it, or harder, because there are so many competing for attention?

MF: In terms of logistics, it can make scheduling tricky – in terms of venue booking or finding the right date for our events. However, having a lot of different organisations offering interesting programmes it is also very inspiring.

And on the other hand, I think is fantastic to have such an engaged and interested audience with their mind opened. I believe they appreciate that we are bringing many premieres to Scotland.

In fact, this crowded scene encourages us to be more innovative.

“I think is fantastic to have such an engaged and interested audience with their mind opened.”

JR: You’ve worked with several other film festivals to put on events this year, particularly with screenings at the CCA in Glasgow, how did that come about?

MF: I remember the first year with the screening of KATCHKANIRACHMI, many people were making the journey to Edinburgh from Glasgow specifically to attend our programme. We found out because in the feedback forms we share with our audience there was this request to do the festival in Glasgow. We take audience feedback seriously, and this is why we are also running some events at CCA.

And in terms of collaborations with other film festivals why compete when you can collaborate?

There are many festivals that I admire and I think we are very lucky that we are collaborating this year with Take One Action, Document in Glasgow, but also Institutions like the Scottish Documentary Institute who have been a great support from the start, the Edinburgh College of Art, Edinburgh University – these collaborations have allowed us to reach a wider range of people. At the beginning, 70% of our audience were Spanish, however thanks to a network of mutual support with local organisations, we can see from our feedback forms that now over 70% of our audience are local.

JR: Obviously the focus of the festival is documentary, but you have a short film program in partnership with Edinburgh Short Film Festival that includes narrative shorts, and some films blend fictional or narrative elements into the real stories they are telling? Is there anything in particular you look for when you go beyond ‘classical’ documentary formats?

MF: Yes, well I am specialised in Creative Documentary Filmmaking. I find very interesting blending different formats. We have always included hybrids into our programme. But yes, this year we have pushed the boundaries a bit more.

“IberoDocs as a cultural platform embraces all kinds of art forms, from dance to music and photography. Our audiences tell us that this make their experience of the films richer and offers more of an insight into the cultures we focus on.”

This year marks the first time that we have ever screened a purely fictional piece with YULI, which was screened at the Rose Theatre and was followed by a wonderful Q&A with Tamara from Take One Action and the film’s screenwriter Paul Laverty. There were many reasons behind that. The director Iciar Bollain likes to work with non-actors, and the fact that the narrative is a biographical story of Carlos Acosta’s journey made it important to include in our programme as a special event.

In relation to the Edinburgh Short Film Festival, out of the 8 films we’re showing only 3 are purely fictional. Taking feedback from our “Doc and Wine”, the fundraising event we do at Christmas, we discovered that the audience enjoyed a mixture of documentary and fiction.

IberoDocs as a cultural platform embraces all kinds of art forms, from dance to music and photography. Our audiences tell us that this make their experience of the films richer and offers more of an insight into the cultures we focus on.

JR: How did you come to the festival’s theme this year? I saw THE KEYS TO MEMORY ahead of its screening on the 4th May, and it fits so beautifully within that and other films on the program I’m wondering what came first, the program or the theme?

MF: For me, intuition comes first. I am constantly watching trailers and requesting films to watch but also directors approach us offering their films to be considered. Then, I start selecting films and finding connections between them so the programme starts taking shape.

Regarding the themes, we always explore topics related to the ‘immigrant journey’, and represents a step towards starting a new life in a different culture. Previous themes were ‘Integration’, ‘Boundaries’, ‘Empowerment’. This year we have chosen ‘Memory and Identity’, as we found that a common theme that ran through our selection was the process of revaluating identity through memory, or there is no identity without memory.

IberoDocs runs in Edinburgh and Glasgow throughout May. Find out more about their events here. You can follow our coverage here.

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