Cinema-goers in Barcelona are spoiled with offbeat arthouse offerings and cult classics, along with the ubiquitous stream of the latest Hollywood heroes grappling for Academy Awards. November anticipates an even wider scope of entertainment, as the annual Barcelona Independent Film Festival, also known as L’Alternativa, invites previously unknown directors to contribute to the city’s cinematic repertoire.
The last 18 years have seen L’Alternativa rise from a fledgling festival to an internationally recognised event, where independently produced films, that might otherwise be eclipsed by the overblown gloss of blockbusters, are circulated beyond their culture of origin. Festival organisers have sifted through thousands of entries to narrow the selection down to 46 titles presented in three categories: fiction feature films, non-fiction feature films and shorts of no more than 40 minutes long.
This year’s non-fiction category introduces the gripping works of competing Belgian film-makers Pierre-Yves Vandeweerd and Sofie Benoot. The latter dares to bare the myth of the American dream in Blue Meridian while Vandeweerd’s Territoire perdu (Lost Land) travels to Western Sahara to document the plight of the Sahrawi people who’ve faced persecution and exile.
In providing ample space for discussion of the selected works, as well as a platform from which to achieve distribution, L’Alternativa is a film festival that values the spectator as much as the work. If reel upon reel of exploratory film wasn’t enough to stir audiences, a variety of roundtable activities, led by participating directors and film schools, encourage debate on the issues broached by the entries.
Screenings are at the CCCB (Auditori and Teatre), Cinemes Maldà, Institut Francès and Casa Amèrica Catalunya and cost from a pocket-pleasing nothing to €5. L’Alternativa eschews traditional film institutions and if the selection process is as scrupulous as it has been in previous years, there won’t be a trampled cliché or overindulged plot device in sight.