Sandra Lipski, director of Evolution Mallorca International Film Festival. | Humphrey Carter

“We had to do it. With the tenth anniversary coming up next year, there was no question of not pushing ahead with this year’s Evolution Mallorca International Film Festival,” the event’s founder and director Sandra Lipski told the Bulletin last week. And ironically, the pandemic, while having thrown up obvious unexpected challenges, has brought some new and exciting activities and features to the festival programme.

As soon as one festival finishes, Sandra normally starts work on the next one, and she did start again at the end of last year with the idea of having a more Spanish and Balearic flavour to the event.

“Pau Vich, who manages the festival, and I wanted to give something back to this wonderful island, to the local people who have supported us from the very start and to Spanish film. Not only is the festival rated one of the top 50 best ‘worth the entry fee’ festivals in the world by MovieMaker magazine, it is also one of the top five in Europe and the only one in Spain.

“This year, Spanish actress Ángela Molina will receive Evolution Honorary Award 2020, which celebrates an actor or filmmaker’s lifetime contribution to cinema. It is great that her latest film, Lalla Aicha, is going to have its Spanish premiere at the festival.

“But what is even more important is that it has been produced by Ana Rodríguez Rosell, who had the premiere of her debut film Buscando a Eimish at the very first edition of the festival here in Palma in 2012. Ever since then we’ve become great friends, she loves the festival and was determined to have the Spanish premiere of her latest production at the festival in Majorca. So, I guess for her and us, we’ve kind of gone full circle and that’s such a wonderful milestone and testimony for the festival and proof of how well this festival works. She could have chosen any festival in the world for her premiere, but it’s wonderful that she’s chosen us and to come back - especially during challenging times like these.

“Ana was always at the top of my wish list, so we didn’t really have to flip the festival around too much when the pandemic hit. To be honest, we’re pretty close to the vision we had for this year’s event. And if Ángela was going to come, we decided we had to honour her, and the director as well, with an award in view of her impressive career and standing as an international actress.

“Yes, I guess it does have a more Spanish feel. I tend to start programming in June and this year I decided to focus on more Spanish or Spanish-speaking films because I knew we probably would not have such an international audience because of all the travel restrictions. The number of guests we can invite is obviously limited because of the Covid protocol, so I really wanted to open up the festival more than ever to the local community.

“We've had the Made in Balearics section for a number of years. We use this to focus on local filmmakers and we have 25 projects this year, which again is very encouraging.”

Sandra and her husband, a well-known cinematographer, are usually based in Los Angeles, but this year they came earlier in July. She said that apart from the Covid crisis, which has hit the film industry hard, politically the environment was getting a bit tense because “people were starting to show their true colours and it was not very comfortable”.

“So, I’ve been here longer than usual and, until things change back home, I think we may stay on and work here and around Europe, Covid permitting of course. We came early and we feel much safer here and it’s great. Regarding the festival, we decided that we would move forward as we always do, but bear in mind that everything is going to be 50 per cent or less - the number of guests for the opening night in the Teatro Principal is going to be 300 as opposed to over 800. But hey, come on, it’s just amazing that we can host the opening night and the festival at all.

“A few sponsors and partners have obviously been forced to give this year a miss because they’ve had a tough summer, but they’ll be back next year. In the meantime, everyone has been extremely supportive and helpful, such as one of our new sponsors this year, the Hotel El Llorenç; we’re very excited to have them as our official festival hotel.

“In terms of organisation and what we’ve changed this year, we have added an online platform for the festival, so for the first time part of the programme will be available to watch online in Spain, and Spain only, because obviously those who are having their premieres here want them to be Spanish events and not global. Via our online coverage, they can have their Spanish premiere and still go on to hold premieres in other markets, and we fully understand that. For those in Spain who cannot come, all they have to do is go to and see what selection of the programme is going to be streamed.

“Also, as nobody knows what is going to happen next - should there be another lockdown or something - at least part of the festival will take place online.

“Another addition this year is that we’re going to build an outdoor cinema on the big patio at La Misericordia. And what is going really great right now - tickets have been on sale for the past couple of days - is the drive-in cinema in Port Adriano. We’ve been doing this for many years now, but this year it’s selling out like hot cakes. I guess people feel safer and it’s like you are in your own environment but can still enjoy the communal experience at the same time, which is really cool.

“Sadly, far fewer people are going to the cinema, obviously for safety reasons and also because there aren’t too many big movies to watch right now, but I suppose we should be trying to make more of an effort to support the industry - it’s swings and roundabouts and it’s hitting the independent industry most.

“Right now, because of the pandemic protocol, you can add at least an extra 25 per cent to your budget to make a film. The crew has to be tested every two days, there need to be extra hotel rooms for self distancing, etc. Yes, the big studios can ride it, but at the same time they’re not going to release a movie which has cost hundreds of millions to make, like the new James Bond, unless they’re going to make their money back. For the independent movie industry, which envelopes films with budgets under 12 million dollars, finding that extra 25 per cent is really tough; virtually impossible right now.

“Having said that, people who feel passionate about their story and want to see it being told are still pushing ahead and making independent movies and that’s the approach we all need to take. We’ve got to keep pushing ahead, we can’t just down tools and give in. I believe that a crisis always creates creativity and we’ve seen that.

“When we opened to accepting entries I was braced for far fewer than normal. Last year, for example, we received 1,200 from all over the world, while for this year’s festival we had 1,100 entries in all categories from 75 countries. I knew it was going to be down this year - I’ve got friends who run festivals in California and they’ve seen entry numbers fall by around 30 per cent - so when I look at our numbers, it shows that people want to come to Majorca; it’s a safe place to be.

“And again, this is a clear indication that the festival is doing something right. Plus there is being located in Majorca - what more does the industry want? As a host location it is second to none in Europe and as a setting to shoot and make films it’s got everything, while the Balearic Film Commission has been very important as has the local community unity. Just look at all the money that was raised for CineCiutat, which as always is our headquarters for screenings. It’s been renovated, new technology has been installed, and we’re proud to be the first festival to show off the new and improved complex.

“Another new addition, which we’ve just held, is a 48-hour short film competition. On the Friday afternoon at 7pm, we gave the participants a theme, an object and a line of dialogue, and we got nine movies produced in 48 hours by the Sunday deadline; it was just incredible. We had movies from Spain, Germany, the UK, Brazil, France and Canada. We did it online and worldwide, and it was just another way of doing what the festival sets out to do - ‘bridging cultures - bridging people’.

“That’s what we’ve done. We’ve brought people together who, under any other circumstance, would have never met. We’ve expanded the festival’s global community. For example, the filmmakers from Brazil and Canada are now in regular contact and are planning a joint venture. These are the things we are really proud to still be able to do even during a pandemic.

“Another thing I’ve noticed is a marked increase in the number of female producers and directors both from the Balearics and overseas this year. There’s a girl power theme running through the festival this year and that’s another exciting development. Fingers crossed we can do them all proud and we all enjoy the festival and Majorca.”

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