May 29, 2024

Barcelona-born director Carla Simón, whose sophomore film “Alcarràs” clinched the 72nd Berlinale Golden Bear last year, received the 2023 National Cinematography Award, one of the highest honors bestowed by Spain’s Ministry of Culture. 

On hand to present the award in a ceremony held at the San Sebastian Film Festival was Miguel Iceta, Spain’s Minister of Culture and Sports, who first addressed Simón in Catalan before switching to Spanish: “With only two feature films, you have left your mark on the recent history of cinema in our country: a short but undisputed trajectory in terms of its strength and personality, recognized both nationally and internationally. A career that is nothing but the promise of a much longer and fruitful one.” 

“This award, if you’ll allow me the audacity, is also for all the women who accompany you, for all your professional colleagues and peers, for all those women who, with your example and your struggle, are making the world of cinema a more equal, diverse, and better place,” said Iceta, who as an aside, also pointed out that Spain’s women’s soccer team, recently crowned world champions, had just won in Sweden. 

However, out of the more than 40 times the award has been given out, no more than 14 women in the film industry have received the award. “We have some way to go before we achieve gender parity,” he noted.  

The prize, granted by the Institute of Cinematography and Audiovisual Arts (ICAA), an organization affiliated with the Ministry of Culture and Sports, comes with a prize of €30,000 ($31,800). 

“Finally, there are more women involved in filmmaking, and we are witnessing a timid democratization of our profession. There are ways of working that are already considered obsolete and stories that had never been told before. However, at the same time, films and works are still being censored for political reasons, or we self-censor to be politically correct,” Simón stated in a highly applauded speech where she thanked her family, friends and all that have supported her in her brief but brilliant career. 

Only 36 years old, Simón quickly caught the film world’s attention in 2017 with her autobiographical debut feature, “Summer 1993,” sweeping Berlin’s First Feature Award and Generation Kplus Grand Prix.  

It went on to be selected to represent Spain in the Oscars, beating Pablo Berger’s “Abracadabra” and Salvador Calvo’s “1898, Our Last Men in the Philippines” for the honor.

In her speech, Simón stressed the need to safeguard independent cinema, which she described as having “heart and daring,” emphasizing that it necessitates “time, nurturing, contemplation and precision.” She expressed her heartfelt gratitude to the female filmmakers who blazed a trail in the industry, including notable figures such as the Belgian icons Agnès Varda and Chantal Akerman, as well as their Spanish counterparts Josefina Molina, Pilar Miró, Icíar Bollaín, and Isabel Coixet.

She is currently preparing to shoot “Romería,” the third part of the trilogy she begun with “Summer 1993,” by next summer. She is next planning a flamenco musical for her fourth feature.  

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