Agustí Villaronga, Clara Roquet and other filmmakers and actors nominated for 2022 Gaudí Awards were busy congratulating Folguera for his success in the Berlinale film festival before this interview in the Arts Hotel in Barcelona in the run-up to the Catalan Cinema Academy awards.
Folguera was at the hotel as the producer of two of the films nominated for Gaudí awards, Libertad and Mediterráneo, and for the documentary Balandrau, infern glaçat. But it is another of his films that has recently got the headlines: Alcarràs, directed by Carla Simon, which won the Golden Bear award at the Berlinale film festival, the first time a Catalan film in Catalan has won the international festival’s major prize. The film will be released in cinemas on April 29.
What was the award ceremony like?
We were very relaxed after the screenings, but when we arrived we were nervous because the film had never been screened before the festival. The reactions were amazing; there was applause at the press screening. We could sense that something special had happened. But then we are talking about the Berlinale, the Golden Bear award, a small film in Catalan, with non-professional actors, without any celebrities...
Nor is it common for a director to win the Golden Bear the first time they compete in the official section.
Of course, this almost never happens. When you go to a festival you know that the reception from the public and the press is one thing, and that of the jury something else. We were told not to leave, but they didn’t give anything away. We thought that maybe we might win the best director award. But the awards went on and on, one after another, and all of a sudden we looked at each other and realised that all that was left was the Golden Bear, and we started crying, shaking... We even wondered if they had made a mistake and we’d won nothing. It was indescribable, an unforgettable experience.
Does a Golden Bear award guarantee distribution worldwide?
Yes, we already had international distribution with MK2, the most powerful company there is, but coming to Berlin also brought us more offers and sales in many countries. After winning the Golden Bear, the sales agent’s phone didn’t stop ringing; everybody was calling with offers. What we can say now for sure is that the Lleida accent will be heard in all corners of the world. Now it’s been sold, it will be released all over the globe. For a language and culture like ours, that is priceless. Being able to export Catalan, and in addition, export Alcarràs, with all that it means, the defence of certain kind of rural world and way of life... All this makes Alcarràs a special film that I think will leave its mark on the history of this country.
What was the budget?
Three million euros, which is an average budget for an independent European film. Above all, it allowed us producers to give Carla the time she needed. A film like Alcarràs needs time, as do all films. But that means money. We were able to carry out a huge casting process, with nine thousand people, and the director was able to rehearse for six months with the actors and turn them into a family with a connection that comes across on the screen.
So it’s possible to go anywhere and aspire to anything with Catalan?
It’s no obstacle if you go abroad with a solid project and with strong funding, and if the person behind it has a recognised career and talent. I think this is about to change, and that the government has understood perfectly that it’s crucial for the country to have a strong audiovisual sector, with three or four strongly produced films each year on a European scale, and with support for the small independent cinema that gives us so much joy. The Golden bear award for Alcarràs will help this to be understood even clearer.