‘The Bookshop’ Helmer Isabel Coixet Accepts Spain’s National Cinematography Prize, Advises Young Filmmakers

Barcelona-born filmmaker Isabel Coixet arrived at the San Sebastian Film Festival to receive the Spanish Ministry of Culture’s National Cinematography Prize at a prestigious event hosted at the Tabakalera’s Centro Internacional de Cultura Contemporánea.

Coixet, 60, arrived straight from the post-production suite, where last week she finished work on her thirteenth feature film, “It Snows in Benidorm,” starring Timothy Spall. She revealed that she was shocked when told about the award. “I thought that in ten years they might give me the prize.”

A popular and prolific figure in Spanish film, Coixet helmed Goya-winning movies, “My Life Without Me” the Northern Ireland set “The Secret Life of Words,” and the “The Bookshop,” an adaptation of the Penelope Fitzgerald book.

Coixet’s most recent movie, for Netflix, the black-and-white “Elisa & Marcela,” tells the real story of two women in Galicia who tricked a priest into marrying them in 1901. It was released last year.

The National Cinematography Prize rewards the most outstanding contribution in the Spanish cinematographic field, preferably connected to a work carried out during 2019, or, in duly motivated exceptional cases, as a career recognition.

Awarded by the Institute of Cinematography and Audiovisual Arts (ICAA), a body attached to the Ministry of Culture and Sports, the Minister of Culture, José Manuel Rodríguez, presented the endowment worth €30,000 ($36,000) to the prolific filmmaker and documentarian.

In accepting the prize, Coixet made a speech about what she wished she knew when starting her career as a filmmaker in the 1980s. “The award is a reminder that I have a 30-year career and sometimes it’s good to look back and reflect on my career and the wide range of experiences,” she told Variety after the ceremony. “In my family, no one had a film industry connection, so everything has been achieved with great effort.”

She contrasted that devotion to some of the mindsets she has come across when visiting film schools: “I see people who are more centered on having their name on a chair than it being about the work.”

Her advice to young filmmakers is, “Try to understand what you really want to say and educate your eye. Don’t expect people to love you or to get laid more!”

Coixet is looking forward to being able to unveil the freshly finished “Snow in Benidorm.” The Spanish resort inspired the project. “Benidorm is like a theme part for all the most twisted and weird things that you can imagine, all the contradictions of the modern world are there,” she says. “There are two worlds. The world of the British people, where it’s kind of a carpe diem, they come to drink and make a mess of themselves, and the world of old Spanish folks, and it’s a luxury they cannot afford. The worlds never mix.”

The film sees a retired bank clerk played by Spall arrive at the resort. “He’s a person who doesn’t belong to either world and starts discovering things about his brother. It’s a second chance in life, and he discovers love and passions.”

The ceremony took place with everyone masked. While San Sebastian has made every effort to run as a physical event, the director argues that the pandemic means it’s time for the Spanish film industry to think of new ways to make and project film. “I think it’s one of the things that we are all thinking now. The virus will be here for a long time, and we just can’t hold plans until things are different. We have to find another way to make, watch and share films. We have to adapt, and I’m willing to do so.”

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