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SITGES - 18 October
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It rained in Sitges. It rained a lot.
Sitges is a festival devoted to ‘fantasy’ films, which, for the most part means films with a high percentage of blood, gore and violence; the cinematic ‘fantasy’ known as horror. For some reason "Orlando" won the first prize a decade or so ago, perhaps because of its departure from realism, but certainly not for any elements of horror or violence, because there aren’t any. But this time YES was part of a small section known as ‘Seven Chances’, perhaps because the films in this section did not yet have distribution in Spain.
The press conference was desultory, though the few interviews that followed it were fine. The screening was poorly attended (it was at 11.15 at night at an old theatre that seemed to double as a bingo hall), but in the presentation before the film I found myself addressing the small audience as ‘darlings’ when I looked out at their eager, open faces. Sometimes small is beautiful, too, (who is to say that small number of viewers is less important than a large one?) though in general it feels better not to outnumber your audience. I have had that experience, once, in a music festival in a small town in the Netherlands . There were seven of us on stage; the curtains opened to reveal an audience of two women, laughing hysterically. These experiences are good for the ego; astringent.
Anyway, in Sitges, our edgy, marginalised position provoked a torrent of comic and self-mocking moments from Simon; my stomach muscles are still aching from laughing. When it started raining into our plates at lunch by the sea, I knew it was the start of a flood, not just of water, but of evaluation of what festivals are for (what exactly are we celebrating when we gather films together in such numbers?) and of travelling itself.
The time has come, it would seem, to say ‘no’ to more invitations to yet more festivals, however tempting, however necessary my presence at them seems to be for the life of YES. An independent film has to be fought for, defended, protected; there is no massive machinery of publicity to announce it to the world; no television spots, no billboards, no trumpets blaring and spotlights blazing. In a word, there is no money. So one compensates for the lack of a promotional infrastructure based on cash with one’s time and energy, with one’s presence and commitment (unpaid, of course). It feels like being a warrior, though the war that is being fought is not always a clear one. A war for a film? Surely not. Perhaps for a principle? Certainly for space in a sphere governed by business, the market, by profit, where the value of a film is measured not by its intangible workings in the intimate arena of the imaginary, but by its box-office takings. A sphere where a film, (a script, a book, a painting, a song) becomes a ‘property’, one in which the maker may not retain any rights of ownership, not even the right to her or his name after that small but potent word ‘copyright’.
I have travelled for over a year now, quietly and doggedly talking and listening, prodding and provoking; hotel rooms and airports have become my universe and battleground. My next step has to be to stop; to sit in one place again, in solitude, stare at that blank page - the void - and feel what is there, waiting to be seen, inviting itself into being. To find, again, my necessity, my use.
Text © Sally Potter. All pictures © Adventure Pictures unless otherwise indicated