Situated not far from Saint-Jean-de-Luz and the Spanish border in the Basque country, overhung by the Rhune mountain, the welcoming single-screen theater Itsas Mendi (Sea & Mountains) has attracted more than 15 0000 spectators over the last year with its diverse and rich art house programme targeting a large spectrum of spectators. Workshops and visits explaining the workings of a cinema, musical performances, thematic cycles (Ecology, tribute to a director), repertoire films and premieres with guests, partnerships with local associations and festivals (Biarritz Latin America Festival…) are organised throughout the year. The team also offers soup, tea or international dishes with your screenings according to the moment of the day and the week !
The passionate and dynamic Frédérique Royer is in charge, she signed in for EACD on October 14th and prepared with her team a whole day of celebration, highlighting among other films, Troppa Grazia which received a Europa Cinemas Label at the Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes. She accepted to answer our questions.
Is it the first time you participate in the EACD ?
Yes, it is indeed. Our team, generally 2 persons, is often caught within the emergencies of its work and the past years we lacked time and energy to establish an actual programme.
This year it was crucial that we managed to make real sense of our participation : making sure not to simply put some films in some boxes but to steer the day toward a real interaction and cinephile moment with the audience.
Why was it important for you to join the event ?
There are different reasons, firstly, our membership to Europa Cinemas Network which is for us the most beautiful sign of appreciation. We entered the network thanks to our partnership with the theater in Contis, only two years after having revived the single-screen cinema of Urrugne . We are particularly proud that our work on the promotion of European cinema is acknowledged this way. Our participation to this European Art Cinema Day falls within the same approach.
Then, there is our geographical location and the very composition of our team which often lead us to push borders and look at what is done elsewhere, to understand the challenges and real conditions of others. Positioning our action on a European scale, as EACD invites us to, also goes in this direction of learning, sharing, meeting. Sharing that way is the very basis of what Culture stands for, according to us.
Once you’ve decided to participate, what are the different steps ? How are you preparing ?
We are lucky enough (no kidding) to be independent in our programming. Each film that we choose is the result of a true reflection process. We care as much about the expectations of our audience as about our editorial line. Therefore, this special selection was easy enough to establish. Our guiding principle was spectators and the cinema crew meet around these films, that different generations and degrees of cinephilia mingle. With the complicity of KMBO (NDLR. a French distributor), we will also offer a key moment to this day with the premiere of Gianni Zanasi’s Troppa Grazia, winner of the Europa cinemas Label which we particularly enjoyed. We hope the audience will share this feeling.
Besides the 6 screenings, we imagined a moment to chat about our job as exhibitors and the real experience behind a theater, its topology, with those who are interested. This moment will take the shape of a participatory Kaffee Kuchen. The spectators are invited to bring a dish of theirs. On our end, we will also get our hands dirty and bring a Greek cake and a Sachetorte – a special tribute to our grannies. The goal is really not only getting stomachs full but also telling about our job and the kind of cinema we are fighting for. We’ll lay the stress on the European co-productions which reveal by themselves a good will of assistance between countries to promote creation.
What do you expect from D Day ?
A large audience « bien sûr », fascinating conversations and…having fun ! In any case, to celebrate Europe which is not going so well these days. Why not try making sense of it ? What better strategy is there than getting European cultures close to each other if we want to discuss the European identity ? We really want the audience to embrace this celebration of art cinema with an enthusiasm and passion similar to ours ! Because its defense is a daily job which implies always finding new ways of mediation between the audience and the works – this EACD is a beautiful example of it.
Interview with Frédérique Royer on October 8th, 2018.
PROGRAMME OF THE EACD at the Itsas Mendi
10.30 am Breakfast (free) and Dilili à Paris, Michel Ocelot (from age 6)
3 pm Fortuna, Germinal Roaux
4 pm (for the « Ttikis » Young Audience Section) La chasse à l’ours, a British-Bielorussian film (from age 3)
4 pm Participatory “Kaffee Kuchen”.
5 pm Troppa Grazia, winner of the Label Europa Cinemas in Cannes.
7 pm Nos Batailles, Guillaume Senez.
8.45 pm Woman at war, Benedikt Erlingsson.
Facebook event https://www.facebook.com/events/1068555143318269/