Ten months of an intercultural EVS experience in a new country is the perfect way to better learn to express yourself culturally. Elena, a great lover of cinema and literature, has taken advantage of her stay in Portugal to gain a new perspective about how different kinds of artistic products are made in different European countries and regions.
- Where does your interest in literature and cinema come from?
Since I was a kid I have always loved reading and I have always read a lot. I think that reading is the easiest way to travel to other places, to let your imagination fly and to put yourself in other people’s shoes. It is also a perfect way to dream and to think about things that maybe you wouldn’t normally think about, and it happens the same way with the cinema. My interest in cinema increased when I began my studies in Audiovisual Communication because I started to be steeped in stories, to analyse them and to understand them from a different perspective. I also got to know new films and authors and, therefore, started to appreciate what a good story means. For me it is amazing when someone is able to tell you a story (with words, images or music, it doesn’t matter) that can touch you , let you think or simply entertain you if it is in a smart way. For me, when you find a good story, coherent and well built, the main objective of making a film or writing a book is achieved, and it is magic. I really believe that culture should be a very important part of our lives in order to extend our perspectives about the world we live in.
- We can talk about a new generation of authors, some of them quite young. Do you think that there are prejudices about their work's quality and maturity?
I think that youngsters are supposed to prove always their talent and their values with more effort because they don’t have experience and that happens in any field, not only in the cultural sphere. In that sense, of course there are prejudices, because they are not given enough space to show what they are able to do and to offer to the world. And I also think that it is a big mistake to assume that someone experienced is always doing quality things and that a promising author is not going to be in the same league. Experience is always an important plus, but there are some directors like Almodóvar who, in my opinion, are making worse works in terms of content now than when they were younger, maybe because they are a sure bet for the industry and they don’t have to show anything else. And this is also a prejudice in the other sense: there is no space for people with fresher ideas just because the industry and the public assume that the work of consolidated authors is better.
- Do you think that their contribution to the actual literary and cinematographic panorama is meaningful? Is it recognized by the critics and the public?
Since the critics have access to the circuit where different things can be found, they can watch and read works that will hardly arrive to the general public, and it is a shame because we are missing very good films and books. So maybe new authors are not meaningful enough just because of the way the industry is built. Only independent publishing houses and production companies put their attention in new authors and ideas. I think that more courage is needed in order to show new works, the industry is very conservative and they stick to what they know that works because some part of the public doesn’t have any kind of critical sense and they only consume trash. But it is also true that there are more and more people interested in discovering different things. We can see it in the good turnout in cinema festivals or book fairs, where those other exceptional works can be found. There are also new channels of expression and distribution and new authors have to use them to find their place. The future is always depending on young people and all the efforts should be devoted there, new authors should have good opportunities and proper conditions to create and diffuse their creations. And it is also fundamental to inculcate in the new generations the taste to choose quality instead of quantity in their cultural consumption to avoid stagnation in the creative field and in terms of education.
- Can you see any difference between Portugal and Spain in terms of the way how is recognized the youngsters' artistic production?
Youngsters are trying to make their way in both countries and I have the impression that in Portugal it is easier for them because the country is smaller and because I think that there is a new generation of people very well prepared and with an excellent taste that maybe doesn't exist in Spain. I don't know so deeply the conditions in Portugal, but in Spain everything is more closed and there is not much space for new things and fresh air in the traditional channels.
- How is the literary market working in Spain? How important is it in the international sphere?
Literary market in Spain is experimenting deterioration because of the crisis. The internal market is decreasing in terms of sales and benefits but the exportations are increasing a lot, especially to America. And Spain is the eighth biggest editorial power in the world, which is quite good. But talking in terms of literature in Spanish, I think that Latin American productions are much more recognized internationality than the Spanish ones. In terms of authors, Latin America has a lot of very well known outstanding writers around the world like Mario Benedetti, Mario Vargas-Llosa, Gabriel García Márquez or Isabel Allende, and this is something than we don’t have in Spain, so maybe we need to work harder on it.
- What are the different independent cinematographic productions showing us about Europe?
Cinema is made from stories and if we are talking about independent movies we are also talking about more worldly, personal and intimate stories than in a big commercial production. The worries or emotions that a specific author shows in their films or the way to show them can be easily shared with the people living in the same country, it can exist a closer identification with the film. From this point of view, I think that every national cinematographic production in Europe can show us the way of living and thinking in each country, even if sometimes they can also fall into the stereotypes or exaggerations. Obviously, Spain is not exactly as Almodóvar is showing it in his films, but there is something in his way to tell stories that represents us somehow. French cinematographic industry, for instance, is very representative in this sense. Cinema is very powerful in France and it has a lot of support from the public because it is a way to adopt an attitude and present themselves to the world and they can feel the films as their own films; the whole concept of “French cinema” is something made in a French way that represents them as a nation and they are proud of it. And, of course, films also have a great support from the institutions because they acknowledge the value and influence of having a powerful culture industry.
- Can the different kinds of artistic productions contribute to build an European identity?
Absolutely. In Europe, where lots of different cultures come together with their different cultural displays reflecting their own identities, the creation and diffusion of those works can be also an important element of cohesion and approach. I believe in culture as a way of reaffirmation of the own identity and if we can also see through a film, a book or a song that despite of the evident differences in another European country people have the same worries or thoughts that we have, we can immediately feel some connection. I think that culture means everything for the development of a society and European Union should continue promoting and supporting it decisively.
- And talking about culture, what book, film and song would you recommend?
A book: Primavera con una esquina rota, by Mario Benedetti.
A film: The Hours, by Stephen Daldry.
A song: Santa Maria da Feira, de Devendra Banhart.