From cameraman to cinematographer, filmmaker to director, Xavi Herrero (Barcelona, 1967) grew up, quite literally, in a photography studio. With extensive experience working for audiovisual producers and television stations, in 2014 he moved to Ibiza. Here he founded production company Utopikfilms and the Ibizacinest festival, which will celebrate its third edition in 2019. Since then he has not stopped writing, directing or producing.
What is a filmmaker doing in a place like Ibiza?
In 2014, I left my area of work in Barcelona to enjoy a gap year travelling in the small sailboat I have lived in for the past 15 years. I knew Ibiza and Formentera well and the islands were to be my first stop on this trip. But this first stop became longer and longer… Now I have a three and a half year old Ibizan daugher called Mar. I started with my two short films, made mostly in Ibiza, which led to my first feature film, and then the birth of Ibizacinefest. The reception of my projects in Ibiza was wonderful and I will always be grateful to the island for this. Ibiza is my island like Barcelona is my home town and also where my eldest daughter Ainoa lives. I don’t feel like I come from any one place in particular.
What was the reception of you first feature film (R.E.M.) like?
REM was the evolution of two shorts films: “Vestido rojo para Luna” and “Onírics” which earned me 18 selections, 2 mentions and 1 prize at a number of international festivals. So I decided to write a script based on them and a very special and personal film was born. I looked for an international distributor suitable for this type of production and received interest from notable parties such as Ficma, Sil, that rewards only cinematography, and the big surprise, the Atlantida Film Fest. But that this film would also be screened in Madrid, Bogota, Mexico City, Calcutta, Barcelona or Caracas, was unthinkable in its initial stage and budget.
Do you feel more comfortable with the format of feature films or short films?
When you write a script or when you are shooting it doesn’t matter if it’s long or short. Interestingly enough, in digital cinema I have made more longer than shorter films. We have to take advantage of the democratization of cinema. When testing a feature film it is difficult to switch off, although the script for a fiction feature film requires a titanic effort and it can leave you mentally dry for a good season.
Last year you directed the documentary “Aixa. Es darrer Mestre d´Eivissa” (Aixa: The last Master of Ibiza). What led you to tell this story?
My passion, besides cinema, is navigation. Coincidentally, I met Nito Mises at Ibiza’s sailing club and I was amazed by his history, his tenderness, his generosity …. But also by his sadness for the loss of the island’s maritime and cultural heritage. Incidentally, I also knew the Rafael Verdera sailboat, built in Ibiza in 1841 and still sailing today. I started working on a script where they were the protagonists and in the end, from a local story we move onto a universal theme such as the loss of territorial identity. Voilà!
What’s next after “Aixa”?
In October I finished “Moonface: una mujer en la guerra” (Moonface: a woman in the war). It is my most ambitious feature film to date and an important leap in quality as a director and producer. I am currently working on its distribution and I have already entered it into the most important documentary film festivals. Ibizacinefest will open on January 27. In addition, I already have a long documentary in mind and the outlines of a fiction film are on the computer. Talking of festivals, I am also preparing the 2nd Edition of the Cadaqués Short Film Festival, that was born as a sample of the Ibizacinefest.
How has Ibizacinefest evolved?
It has evolved dramatically. I raised my idea of the festival to the Illes Balears Film Comission and Ángela Bosch advised and encouraged me to carry out the first edition as an official festival. The second edition included a competition section for feature films and it turned into an 8 day festival, recognized by the ICAA (the Institute of Cinematography and Audiovisual Arts) The support of more public institutions has been fundamental in making this leap. Registrations increase every year and for this edition we will exceed 1,000. Filmmakers really like the format and philosophy of Ibizacinefest. It is a festival where films have the leading role.
What are you expecting from the festival this year? What novelties are you anticipating?
A lot. 1,000 registrations and 11 national and international distributors are banking on us being a worthy festival to showcase and promote their films. We will reciprocate this trust by organizing a film festival and offering distribution to some of the films with our collaborators Filmin and Indie Rights Movies. Blogos de Oro, the online film critics association, will choose the critics’ award and promote the selected feature film. We are completing our 4th day and we are launching a new section for short film animation. We hope to exceed the 800 viewers of the 2018 edition.
With regard to the program, we can reveal short films “Matria”, winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance 2018, Belgian “Calamity”, American “Diva & Astro” and Bafter winner “Aamir”. In terms of the Balearic Islands, Jaume Carrió will return to present “Hostal Orion”. All the films selected will take a very important tour across some of the main festivals worldwide. In the documentary feature films, we have “Family life”, opening film of the “Panorama” section of the Berlinale 2018, or the Argentinian production “El silencio es un cuerpo que cae” (Silence is a falling body). Standouts in the fiction category are “The best of all worlds”, premiered at the last Berlinale, “Goliat”’, that premiered in Locarno, and “You are in my head”. The quality in fiction feature films is very high and five of the eight selected have come from large European class A festivals. There will also be the special screenings of two”made in Ibiza” films: El crimen de Todos los Santos”(The Crimes of All Saints’ Day) by Héctor Escandell and “Moonface: una mujer en la guerra” (Moonface: a woman at war).