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SLU-Madrid Ethnographer to Create a Digital Red Carpet for Spanish Film Festival

by Isaiah Voss on 08/25/2023


SLU-Madrid ethnographer, Rosana Vivar, Ph.D. (Communication), is setting the stage to preserve the cultural heritage produced by the Festival de Cans, an annual film festival that has happened for 20 years in rural northwestern Spain.

A line of tractors travel down a narrow road in the countryside. Each tractor carries several people and is covered in flowers.

Event goers take a tractor ride between venues. Source: Festival de Cans archive.

The glam. The status. The pageantry. Film festivals — whether local or international — put the spotlight on filmmakers, actors and creatives alike. These events tout prestige through showy outfits and indulgence in expensive giveaways for attendees. Imagine getting glammed up for the big gala, but in a barn instead of a state-of-the-art theatre. 

The status of such a rustic backdrop is why Vivar has researched the annual Festival de Cans since 2020. The film event occurs in the heart of rural western Galicia in the province of Pontevedra, Spain.

Barns, bars and cellars have turned into theatres and showrooms since 2004. The May 2023 edition marked the 20th anniversary of the Festival de Cans which essentially started as a mere parody. Alfonso Pato, the festival's director, started the event around the same time that the Festival de Cannes takes place in France.

Although having light-hearted beginnings, the festival has garnered attention beyond Galicia. The Spanish film industry has taken akin to its rules, standards and etiquette. It also features its own jury.

"The very special networking and cluster of film professionals and musicians brings a certain serendipity to it," Vivar said. Despite its location, the Festival of Cans attracts important names in the Spanish film industry including Rodrigo Sorogoyen, Emma Suárez and Luis Tosar. The late Goya Award-winning film director José Luis Cuerda attended the event until his passing in 2020.

The rural event has become an ode to Galician language, culture and heritage. "The event has continued because of the generosity of the locals," said Vivar. "They are committed to their community."

Even with a lack of resources, the natives of the economically deprived agricultural area voluntarily help to host the annual festivities.  

Vivar noted that locals have a lot of respect for the region's traditions that include romería, rituals native to the area, and traditions around getting married. Community members open their homes to Festival de Cans attendees resulting in a hybrid between the local traditions and film.  

Vivar wants to "give it the credit it really deserves" by demonstrating that it is "doing more for the Galician industry than the more glamorous film festivals."

"From the industrial perspective, it's not regarded as part of the Spanish film circuit," she said. In the coming months, Vivar plans to create a digital archive to preserve the cultural wealth that has come out of the Festival de Cans.

The event director and organizer, Alfonso Pato, will visit SLU-Madrid to discuss entrepreneurship and the celebration's growth with students in fall 2023.