The Valladolid International Film Festival is one of the oldest and most consolidated in the whole of Europe. It was born on 20 March 1956 as an additional feature of the Easter celebrations named the “Religious Film Week”, according to an understanding of the seventh art as a vehicle for the transmission of Catholic moral values.
The demand for quality that already since the Festival’s beginnings became its enduring mark of identity was not always matched by a sufficient quantity of scheduled films: in other words, quite often there were not enough films to fill the Festival’s programme –not, in any case, of religious subject-matter. This situation led to the first turning point in the history of the Festival, which four years after its inception was converted into the International “Religion & Human Values” Film Week The name reflects the major novelty introduced in the Festival at that time: the admission of films where the emphasis lay on human values and a sense of committment.
The second turning point took place in 1973, when the Festival adopted its permament denomination as the Semana Internacional de Cine de Valladolid or –in a literal rendering— Valladolid’s International Film Week. The new name involved getting rid of the Festival’s religious orientation in the wake of developments influenced by two major factors: the rise in the number of films entering competition and the fact that producers were beginning to arrange for the premiere of their films to take place in the Valladolid Film Week.
As for the source of the acronym by which the Festival is generally known at home –SEMINCI— , the story is fairly anecdotal, since rather than the result of the modern urge for single terms capable of blending full phrases, it was born out of a much more prosaic need: that of saving words in telegrams.
Some outstanding names
Andzrej Wajda, Yilmaz Güney, Manoel de Oliveira, Nikita Mihalkov, Stanley Donen, Arthur Penn, Ken Loach, Abbas Kiarostami, Krzysztof Kieslovski, Gianni Amelio, Atom Egoyan, André Téchiné, Mike Leigh, Robert Guédiguian, Costa-Gavras, Theo Angelopoulos, Jonathan Demme, Amos Gitai, Ang Lee and many other top-class filmmakers have visited Valladolid through all these years, and so have practically all Spanish directors, whether as consecrated figures or as promising talents who would later become such, including Pedro Almodóvar. Also among the Festival’s Spanish guests we find names like Fernando Fernán Gómez, Paco Rabal, José Luis López Vázquez, Ana Belén, José Coronado, Carmen Maura, Concha Velasco, Maribel Verdú, Ariadna Gil, Aitana Sánchez Gijón, Anabel Alonso, Juan Diego, Antonio Resines, Adriana Ozores, Juan Echanove, Iciar Bollaín or Palencia-born Elena Anaya, who visited the Festival with the cast of Fernando León de Aranoa’s first film Familia (a director who had the opportunity to relive those early days in his career by visiting the Festival again in its 53rd edition).
There are other filmmakers who could not attend the Festival personally, but who obtained here the kind of recognition that allowed their work to become widely known in our country or immediately and successfully reappraised. This is what happened, for example, with Carl Th. Dreyer, Ingmar Bergman, Luchino Visconti, Jean Renoir, Kenji Mizoguchi, François Truffaut, Louis Malle or Wong Kar-wai.
Big names in the world of film have not just taken part in the Valladolid Festival as acting or filmmaking talents, but also in their capacity as members of the Film Week’s several juries. Guédiguian and Benedetti, in the international scene, provide two examples, while in the case of Spanish figures there is a long list that features, among many others, nameslike López Vázquez, José Luis Cuerda, Juan Antonio Bardem, Aitana Sánchez Gijón, José Luis Garci, Fernando Guillén or filmmaker Pilar Miró, who gives her name to one of the Festival’s awards.
To the impressive catalogue of proper names from film and literature who have associated themselves with the Valladolid Film Festival we must add the equally stunning list of film titles that were screened here and ultimately became major fixtures in film heritage: works like Milos Forman’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Billy Wilder’s The Front Page, Françoise Truffaut’s L’enfant sauvage, Steven Spielberg’s The Sugarland Express, Ridley Scott’s Thelma & Louise, Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, Robert Guédiguian’s La ville est tranquille, Ken Loach’s My Name is Joe… and many others in a really long etcetera.