Words + Photos by Antonio
Marta Sanchez is the founder of PRAGDA, an organization created to promote and distribute the best in film from Spain and Latin America. Based in New York, PRAGDA has presented American audiences with diverse films from acclaimed directors such as Daniel Monzón, Nacho Vilagondo, Mariano Barroso, Sebastian Cordero, Borja Cobeaga, and the list goes on.
PRAGDA’s New Spanish Film Festival is the most direct platform for sharing these films with cinephiles and movie-goers alike in North America. Marking its eighth year of existence, the New Spanish Film Festival premiered drug-trafficking thriller El Niño (The Kid) at the heralded AFI Silver in Maryland. After the film, Marta discussed the origins of the The New Spanish Film Festival, how being a filmmaker helped her develop PRAGDA’s mission and the keys to a successful film festival.
Q: What is the goal of the New Spanish Festival?
MARTA: It’s about the new trends in Spanish cinema. What we do is gather the most interesting and best films that have been introduced every year, and we bring them to American audiences, so they can be updated with the works of different artists, visions and stories.
“Unless you have a big budget film where the filmmaker is well-known, you can’t really tell who is a first-time filmmaker and who is not”
Q: A lot of the directors featured in the festival are very successful. What makes their inclusion relevant in a festival that promotes “new” Spanish films?
MARTA: We like to mix and work with up-and-coming filmmakers – very independent, very young, first-time filmmakers – to mix everything up. Unless you have a big budget film where the filmmaker is well-known, you can’t really tell who is a first-time filmmaker and who is not, and that’s what I like.
^ Marta Sanchez makes remarks before the premiere of El Niño (The Kid) at AFI Silver Spring.
Q: Is there something that links all the films chosen for the film festival? Are there any trends?
MARTA: I think that all of them technically, talking about the style and stories, are very different. If there’s something in common, it’s the quality of the filmmaking and their visions.
Q: What is your background in film? How did you get involved in organizing film festivals?
MARTA: I started my training by studying film. I was then trained as a film director and I directed a number of films while I worked as a distributor with a number of different companies. In a way I had the two visions: the artistic vision with writing and directing my own stories, but at the same time, I had the daytime job of selling other people’s movies in the business side. That was a very great combination in deciding to do something that was in between, to promote and distribute films. I’s a very cultural and artistic approach, so it’s not purely commercial.
“Having big names doesn’t necessarily mean you will have a successful festival”
Q: Since you’ve been doing this film festival a few years ago, what factors make a successful film festival?
MARTA: That’s the million-dollar question, because every year is different. Having big names doesn’t necessarily mean you will have a successful festival. Time of the year is important – to know the nature of the city life, so you know when there’s more competition, other things going on. When you set the dates, you need to know when other things are happenings, because newspapers have a very limited space for culture, so you don’t want to compete with other film festivals.
You also have to think about other festivals, like dance or children’s festivals, because this is culture, and it’s not just films competing. All cultural [events] compete with the film festivals. You need to pay attention to season, and to the films – the film selection is very important. It’s also very important to have good press. If you don’t have good press, you won’t have a successful festival.
Q: How involved were you in the selection of the films themselves?
MARTA: I was very much involved. We have our selection, our wishlist, and sometimes we don’t get the movies we want because. They may have a distribution contract and will open the movie theatrically like a week after our festival, so they don’t want to show the film beforehand, and it’s not available. Sometimes we don’t get what we want, but we have been quite successful in “tricking” the market and getting almost everything that we want.
Q: Were there any movies that you wanted to get, that you didn’t acquire for the festival?
MARTA: There is a movie called Marshland, La Isla Minima, a very wonderful film. This year it got ten Goya awards: best film, best director, best everything. That is going to play in Washington, and all around America theatrically in a couple of weeks.
Q: Where will you be in 5 days, 5 months and 5 years?
MARTA: In five days I will be in New York have meetings with other venues, because we have other ideas of programming; meetings with MoMA and other people. In five months, I will be giving birth, wishing I could sleep a little bit more! In five years, I can hope that I can keep showing good Spanish and Latin American films all around.