Stars come out for Alfaz Film Festival in Alicante

At firstglance Alfaz del Pi in the Alicante region of Spain may not seem to have much in common with Cannes.  But both Mediterranean resorts host glamorous international film festivals which attract thousands of visitors including movie stars and their fans. 

The Alfaz affair may not be as glitzy as its twin in Cannes. The boats may not be quite as swanky. But it is a great chance to get close to the movie action, see film stars in the flesh and get to see some movie premieres. The festival is held about three kilometres from the town centre on the prettier Albir beach. It even has its own Walk of Fame, just like Hollywood. Along the Paseo de Fama (walk of fame) you can see where world-famous actors have stamped their stars on the promenade next to the sandy beach. 

As well as Spanish films, movies from around the world are screened in the hope of winning a prestigious prize. Last year’s films included Blue Valentine, Django Unchained by Quentin Tarantino,Les Miserables starring Russell Crowe and Helena Bonham Carter, and We Need To Talk About Kevin starring Tilda Swinton. 

Albir beach, Alfaz del Pi, Alicante

Some of the films are screened in an open-air cinema on Albir beach while others are shown in the Casa de Cultura.The films range from Hollywood blockbusters to art-house films and short movies in different languages.Now in its 26th year, the Alfaz del Pi film festival has become a major tourist and cultural attraction. 

The fun starts with a gala presentation complete with Hollywood-style red carpet on Friday July 11 followed by eight days of screenings. Instead of the Oscars or Golden Globes, Alfaz awards the Faro de Plato – Silver Lighthouses – to commemorate its iconic lighthouse. 

Actress Maribel Verdu signs autographs on the red carpet at Alfaz del Pi film festival

Previous stars who have made their presence felt on the red carpet include actress Maribel Verdu, who starred in Pan’s Labyrinth set in fascist Spain in 1944 and Y Tu Mama Tambien about a road trip in Mexico.  She is a previous winner of a Silver Lighthouse along with director Alex de la Iglesia and actress Maria Valverde. In the UK, de la Iglesia is probably best-known for having directed The Oxford Murders, starring John Hurt and Elijah Wood. This year saw the premiere of his film about the world’s greatest footballer, Messi of Argentina. Last year de la Iglesia won the Special Lighthouse for the 25th anniversary while Madrid-born actress Maria Valverde was honoured with a special Faro Joven,young actor award. Opening last year’s gala evening was television, theatre and film star Asier Etxeandia. 

Actor Asier Etxeandia presents the opening gala party

From this short list of some of last year’s participants and winners, it is plain to see that this is a prestigious event in the Spanish and international film industry’s calendar.This year’s 25 finalists include the Arabic film Omar, the French film Violette, The Grandmaster in Mandarin, The Wolf of Wall Street in English, and the thriller Grand Piano starring Elijah Wood and John Cusack. As well as feature length films, the festival includes short films, local short films, feature films in the original version and in Spanish.It is a tough competition as 468 films were submitted and had to be whittled down in a complex selection process. The festival is gaining popularity each year with 2014 seeing more than double the number of entries of last year. As well as the trophy, there is also €5,000 for the first prize, €2,500 for second prize and €1,250. The public also have a chance to vote and their favourite wins €500.

One of the films in the running for an award this year is the short film Bikini, which has enjoyed considerable success in other competitions in Spain. Bikini tells the humorous tale of a meeting between the dictator Franco and the Benidorm mayor Pedro Zaragoza in the 1960s.Zaragoza is famous for turning Benidorm from a sleepy fishing village into one of the world’s leading holiday resorts. Franco had banned bikinis in Spain but Zaragoza allowed them to be worn in Benidorm, which caused a few problems to say the least. The film is widely tipped to take home another coveted trophy at Alfaz. 

Benidorm is the subject of the film Bikini

This year also sees the first mascot for the Alfaz film festival. He is a strange little creature, consisting of a spool of a film with an eye which can see everything. The eye fills his entire face while his body consists of the film spool and he sports a little top hat. Think of a strange mix between the London 2012 mascots and a dapper all-singing all-dancing star of the black-and-white musicals. That said, the mascot certainly looks the part for a major film festival.Film festival organisers held a competition to create a mascot with the aim of attracting the interest of younger film fans and social media users. Their instructions were to create a mascot relating to the world of film which also incorporated the Faro de Plato awards or the actual Faro lighthouse, which is an historic monument of Albir. The move paid off as most of the entrants  were aged 25 to 30 with voting carried out through social media networks such as Facebook. 

A sculpture and painting competition is also being held during the 26th Albir film festival. The theme is on the artist’s personal view of the world of cinema by answering the question How will you represent the cinema through clapper board? The 30 top entries will be on display in Alfaz del Pi Casa de Cultura throughout July and August.  

Altea's blue-domed church

While in Albir, you can enjoy time out on the beach, alongside the Paseo de Las Estrellas with plaques honouring the film festival’s award-winning stars. The beach has great views of the Sierra Helada mountain to one side and the iconic Ifach rock in Calpe on the other. You can also get the little train which meanders slowly along the coast between Denia in the north and Benidorm in the south. The pretty town of Altea is just two kilometres to the north and you can walk along the coast road to visit this impressive resort with its stylish marina, beaches and historic old town.