The IDEC-UPF Master in Creative Documentary, training ground for filmmakers

The latest nominations for the Goya and Gaudí Awards confirm the idea which inspired the creation of the Master in Creative Documentary of the IDEC-Pompeu Fabra University seventeen years ago: to become an educational driving force for future film directors in our country. And so it has. The last two years have been especially prolific. In 2013, three out of four films nominated for best Documentary at the Gaudí Awards emerged from the Master’s degree programme (Hollywood Talkies, Volar and El Foso), and this year more of the same with Bajarí, a finalist at the Gaudí Awards for best Documentary and La Plaga, with five nominations for the Gaudí Awards and one for the Goya. Two clear examples of the role of the Master’s degree in the development of documentary cinema.

Neus Ballús, from student to teacher

Neus Ballús and Pau Subirós radiate happiness. They attend the IDEC-UPF to share a class with students in the master's degree programme to pass on the enthusiasm with which they began. ‘This master’s programme gave rise to my first project, L’Avi. I not only learned how to create a story, but also how to turn it into a project,  how to present it, find a producer, obtain funding and everything else necessary for making a film’, explains Neus Ballús.

The halls of IDEC-UPF are not unfamiliar to her. ‘It’s not only what I learned, but also the people I met. The Master gave rise to a team, a group of people who together formed the production company, El Kinògraf. We started out working on short films, on assignment for television, and finally on La Plaga, my first full-length film.’ Pau Subirós is one of them. He is a student of the Master’s degree as well, a member of El Kinògraf and co-screenwriter of La Plaga, and is also nominated for the Gaudí Awards, along with Neus Ballús. ‘As a result of the Master we created a network of contacts, people who support you and provide the necessary strength and confidence to get you started and convince you that you too can make a film.’ They refer to Isaki Lacuesta, Abel Garcia, Ricardo Iscar… ‘We all know each other, and we join forces at one time or another, helping each other out...’ So much so that four of the nominees for La Plaga at the Gaudí Awards have precisely in common a Master in Creative Documentary; Neus Ballús and Pau Subirós (Best Film, Best Script), Diego Dussuel (Best Photography) and Domi Parra (Best Staging). ‘We are pleased because La Plaga is receiving a lot of recognition and that unquestionably serves as encouragement to all of us.’ Indeed, La Plaga has been collecting nominations, distinctions and awards at some twenty festivals where it was presented and obtained nominations, such as the European Film Awards or the Lux Awards. The two most recent distinctions: the award for best new director granted by the Col·legi de Directors de Cinema (Association of Catalan Filmmakers) and the Sant Jordi Award for the best debut film of the year. This all points to the film having a good chance of adding a Gaudí, or even a Goya, for Best New Director to its collection. ‘We would rather not think about it too much. What will be will be’, they say.  

Eva Vila and Bajarí

But La Plaga is not the only success story occurring this year at the IDEC-UPF Master in Creative Documentary. Eva Vila’s Bajarí has been selected for the IDFA, Mexico, Malaga and Montreal festivals. It has received excellent reviews in all the media and is nominated for Best Documentary Film at the Gaudí Awards. This is the second film by Eva Vila, who admits that she got hooked on cinema thanks to her friends, most of whom were first generation Master’s students. ‘I, on the other hand, studied Economics and Humanities and after that I did a master’s degree in Art Criticism. That led me to writing articles in the press and through the La Vanguardia newspaper I met Jordi Balló, Director of the Master.’ In 2003, I began to work hand in hand with Jordi Balló and Marta Andreu in the coordination of the Master. ‘The Master is the joining point. It not only teaches you, it pushes you and brings you into a valuable network of contacts. Because you feel the need to make films, but you don’t dare until you see how a project is put together and made possible. You become involved, collaborating in each of the projects, so that in the end the triumphs of each one are felt by everyone and that eventually sinks in, giving you the necessary courage to take the leap and shoot you own project.’ 

In the course of these eight editions, the IDEC-UPF Master in Creative Documentary has promoted a total of 25 documentary films, released in cinemas and garnering awards at major festivals such as Rotterdam, Cinema du Réel in Paris, San Sebastián, Visions du Réel in Nyon, the BAFICI in Buenos Aires and the Malaga Film Festival.

Jordi Balló, Director of the Master and driver of creativity

The Director of the Master, Jordi Balló, reminds us that promoting production was one of the goals of the programme from the onset. ‘On an international level, documentary films were riding high, while here, on the other hand, there were no significant productions. High-level education is not possible if you do not have a mirror to look at yourself in’, he contends. For that reason, each edition of the IDEC-UPF Master takes the initiative of producing three new films. ‘We look for the author, the subject, collaborations, producers and part of the funding to move them forward.’

Recently, the latest production, Demonstration, made by 32 Master students and the Russian Director, Víctor Kossakovsky, was presented in Amsterdam, They are also working on a project with Pere Portabella and another with the producer Paco Poch and the novice Maite García, who was a Master’s student. ‘Films are a territory in which to experience reality and, fortunately, documentary films are currently opening to new fields, transforming the horizon of possibilities and erasing the borders between art, cinema and reality.’ This is and has been the objective of the Master in Creative Documentary: to educate, inspire and promote creativity. And they continue to do so in spite of the crisis, lack of resources and the increase in VAT. As a result, they savour this success with a real sense of complicity, because there is no question as to their contribution to the vitality of this genre. A contribution for which Jordi Balló received recognition in 2005, with the National Culture Award in the Film category for his activities in the Master’s programme. And that is not the only one. In 2002, he received the Ibaia Award for Production granted by the Association of Basque Producers for ‘promoting new audiovisual means and as recognition of the adventurous and risky work, with an unquestionable creative value, which he has demonstrated as the promoter of a Master's programme which fosters creative documentaries.’  In 2012, the Rotterdam Festival dedicated a special section to the films of the Master’s programme entitled ‘Signals Pompeu Fabra,’ a name that is leaving its mark in the history of the seventh art.

For further information see:
Master in Creative Documentary
Gaudí Awards
Goya awards

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