Jon Insausti: «I see Zinemaldia as the revival of cultural programming this year»

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With his sights set on the next Zinemaldia as the “turning point of the resurgence” of this year’s programming, the councilor from San Sebastian for Culture, Jon Insausti, is already working on restarting the activity throughout this summer. The loan services of the municipal libraries and the reopening of the San Telmo museum from June 1, and the start-up of the Principal and Victoria Eugenia theaters are the first steps in this process which, in Insausti’s forecasts ( Donostia, 1989) will culminate with the 68th edition of the Film Festival. «What is going to be less, with reduced capacity and fewer stars? Probably, but the essentials – screenings and premieres, including those of Basque cinema – are going to be maintained, ”he says.

– Thirtieth anniversary of Donostia Kultura and in unthinkable circumstances just a few months ago.

– You are right. We had some very interesting plans for this 30th anniversary, but this new context has changed us and we have had to turn the tide. Of all this, I am left with the fact that Donostia Kultura has had the capacity to adapt and respond.

– That response has been the DK Etxean programming, which culminated in the Izaro concert on the roof of Victoria Eugenia.

– With DK Etxean we wanted to send a high and clear message: the enhancement of culture as a tool for well-being during confinement. It is something that since the classification of institutions has not appeared essential, but we thought it was important to launch that message. And its objective was twofold: that you have new content, created specifically for the occasion, and that would help creators. This has resulted in a very extensive program, with writers, illustrators, small concerts, monologues and radio, but it is true that the final climax was the Izaro concert. 105 artists have passed that have generated 135 activities. We have not stopped the machines.

– The revenue of the City Council will be reduced. Have you already calculated by how much the Culture budget will be reduced?

– The San Sebastian City Council had 40 million: 30 from Donostia Kultura destined for culture, plus the different contributions to the Kursaal, Tabakalera, Musical Fortnight, Zinemaldia, Miramar Palace or the work of Cristina Iglesias … And it is true that the culture has its blinds closed. The City Council, which is going to have an impact of 70 million euros, has asked us what priorities we have to see what we put aside or not. We have provided the City Council with a 2014 study showing that each euro invested in culture generates 2.5 euros in the tertiary sector. Donostia Kultura is also, in addition to other things, an important economic engine.

“Each city council will see if it follows their proposals but we are in other more possible approaches”

– You still haven’t answered me …

– Right now we are making forecasts, but one thing is happening: our spending is related to the activities we carry out. Programming generates current expenses for us and there is much that we have not carried out, nor will we be able to do in the short term. More than cutting budget, there will be a part that we do not execute.

«That the Festival would host premieres such as that of Woody Allen or the series” Patria “would give it another draft that the city also needs»

– And is there any estimate as to what figure it may be?

– The figure that we passed to the City Council placed it between 1.5 and two million euros. Here you have to send a clear message: it is not savings. It is money that is lost for the sector, it does not circulate in society. My message to the City Council was: here that each one sees what generates added value to the city and what role culture plays there.

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– The music sector asks the municipalities to keep their contracts. Is it going to be possible in the case of Donostia?

– Our criterion has been to find new dates for the schedule that was committed. There are things that have been canceled because the promoters have decided so, such as ‘West Side Story’. For example, on International Theater Day we will try to recover it in early September.

– Is the contribution to Tabakalera maintained?

– In principle, our objective is that both aid and contributions and subsidies are maintained.

– Eudel’s proposal sets a maximum capacity of 250 spectators for cultural performances. Will they follow her?

– We have worked with different hypotheses and scenarios: with a third of the capacity, with half, with distances of 1.5 meters, with two meters … Our objective is to promote cultural activity as much as possible, but it has to put a framework for the central government, which must then have an agreement with the Basque government. Eudel has decided to make some recommendations that in our case we will decide whether we want to follow or not, but which are not the ones that guarantee us to make an offer right now. We are in other more possible scenarios, which we consider allow us to guarantee that the offer will reach a larger audience. I understand that Eudel has done that work, but we are going to wait to see what the central and Basque governments mark. Then, each city council will see if it follows Eudel’s recommendations, but in principle, we are in other approaches.

– How will the de-escalated culture of San Sebastián be?

– We work with the other institutions so that the reopening of facilities in the Basque Country is simultaneous in the three territories. We think that the basic cultural practice is reading, which will be accompanied by the opening of places where you can have ‘quiet cultural experiences’, such as the San Telmo Museum. So the goal is to have the library loan system and museum open on June 1. In the middle of that month the Principal and Victoria Eugenia theaters will open. We will begin to program in a progressive and controlled way, with nods to the programming that was pending and to some themes.

– In the case of those two theaters, with what capacity?

– If we go halfway, the Victoria Eugenia will have 400 seats and the Principal with 250. If we go to a third, 200 and 100 spectators, respectively. It is a very conditioning element when programming because you reach fewer people and make it difficult for the private developer financially.

– And what is your bet? Half or a third?

– Right now, phase 1 marks a third, but depending on how everything is progressing, we hope that by mid-June we will have a framework that allows us to reopen with half the capacity.

– Regarding libraries, what will be the quarantine time of the returned books? There is talk that it should be ten or fifteen days until the next loan.

– We work on a protocol with the rest of the libraries in the Basque Country. And about quarantine, there are quite a few criteria: there are those who say that fourteen days, others speak of 72 hours, others say that paper is not an element of transmission … We have not yet established a criterion for how long the quarantine should last.

– The massive events would remain.

– It will be very difficult to have, but we do see that we can go to open spaces, but with capacity control. The Plaza de la Trinidad allows us in the Jazzaldia. Here the only person who has made a decision regarding massive events has been Angela Merkel, who has already said that until August 31 there will be none. Even the Oktoberfest, which is in September and October, has already been suspended. It seems to me a reference to keep in mind.

– How do you see the next edition of the Zinemaldia?

– Honestly, we see the Zinemaldia in a very optimistic way, as a symbol that can be a reactivation of the city since we will have spent several months of testing in the summer. The Zinemaldia is going to become an opportunity because the previous film festivals have not been held and that is nurturing the Festival. What will be less, with reduced capacity and fewer stars? Probably, but the essentials – screenings and premieres, including those of Basque cinema – will be maintained. That the Woody Allen film is likely to be released here or a series like ‘Homeland’ gives it another draft that society also needs. I see September as a hopeful date and the Zinemaldia as a major turning point that will mark the resurgence of cultural programming this year.

– Regarding the work of Cristina Iglesias for the island of Santa Clara. Will it be done on time? And above all: can it be visited when it is finished?

– The work is in deadlines and works normally. As for visits, work is already underway on all logistics in which the Cristina Enea Foundation will play an important role. Another thing is that now talking about the cultural autumn becomes more complicated.

– In October you were talking about a project to outline “the house of digital culture”.

– Donostia Kultura works a lot with face-to-face, but it is true that the public has gone to the digital space and our programming has gone there as well. It was already on our agenda to promote that house of digital culture and the circumstances have helped us to go much faster. And I take it as a positive, an example of adaptability. Then the debate opens about whether or not you have to pay for digital: well, we have contributed there because, since DK Etxean was born, he did so with the aim of giving back to the creator.

– In the absence of the conventional Olatu Talka, this year we have had it on the balconies.

– Before, he spoke of the economic engine of culture, but the other side of the coin is that it generates social value and Donostia Kultura has played an important role there. What we have seen these months on the balconies has been a sign that the city enjoys culture as a collective value because it has been nurtured for decades. I want to think that Donostia Kultura has had an influence there.

“Those of my generation often forget how well we have lived”

-Have you managed to get time and concentration for your cultural interests during these weeks?

– I have had work to spare, with very exciting challenges. I have passed the confinement with my daughter and my mistress, the three of us have supported each other a lot. In fact, it is also true that we have been greatly entertained by the eight o’clock appointments in the patio and although I have spent a large part of the day working, I have been able to make up late reading. And in this sense, I have been able to finish the complete stories of Annie Proulx, who was on loan, and ‘The agony of Eros’, by the philosopher Byung-Chul Han. I am not to complain, although with the desire to return to normal life and of recovering programming that we lost, such as ‘El patio de mi casa’, the last work we had in DFeria before the state of alarm.

– Others have referred to you as “millennial councilor.” Do you feel part of a generation especially punished by misfortune?

– I do not think that we have the right to complain because we are a generation that has been born in an impressive state of well-being, with a quality public education, within the reach of all of society; with an also enviable health; with impressive cultural, leisure and sports practice resources. We are a product of the welfare state and I believe that we cannot throw overboard right now with a series of attitudes everything that others have done for us so that we live like this. I think there are things that we need to improve, but those of my generation often forget how well we have lived and the resources we have at hand. The demands have to be there, but I do not know another generation that has lived better than us.



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