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by Elisa Teneggi

Akva, Edinburgh, 11th March. People are being mesmerized by the nostalgic notes of Portuguese fado, while feminist video art is rolling in the background. Delicious finger food has been served, wine is being poured. Everyone is cheering, laughing, and tentatively performing dancing moves. It’s Iberodocs’ closing party – and one of the last big public gatherings in the city. As Willie The Bard once wrote, so fair and foul a day I’ve never seen.

And it was indeed a sad day, not just because the COVID-swept streets of the Scottish capital had to relinquish their tidy clamour for a while, but also because an amazing fifteen days of festival came to an end, including its planned Glasgow stretch the following week which has been cancelled for obvious reasons, with a whole host of films this reviewers was to see. But let’s start from scratch.

Iberodocs is a documentary (& a little fiction) film festival that aims to bring to freezing (but warm) Edinburgh and Glasgow a bite of that legendary joie de vivre Southern countries are famous for. The programme primarily revolves around moving pictures from Spain, Portugal, and South America that have the power to convey unprecedented insights into the social and artistic status quo.

Most notably, the past Saturday saw the programmers host a screening of Luis Bunuel’s Land Without Bread, a startling piece of work from the legendary surrealist which examines the difficult lives of the peasantry in Las Hurdes, a remote region in Spain, accompanied by a live score by Spanish musicians Duo Montjuic.

In a nutshell: Iberodocs promises to be both a thinking hub and a safe place to either reconnect to your roots, or experience something radically different from our local pub culture. And promises aren’t made to be broken.

This year’s festival – the 7th edition – won its bet. With a top-class list of international speakers and collateral non-filmic events, Iberodocs ran from February 26th to March 11th and managed to gather a steady group of aficionados that brought pre-Spring sunshine to the deep North. A literary presentation, a live DJ set at Henry’s Cellar Bar, and a panel discussion about women taking risks in the arts were among the most dazzling events on the menu. Having seen this menu come to life, here’s an inventory of what Iberodocs is all about, and why it comes highly recommended.

Iberodocs is commencing a talk and breaking it off after fifteen minutes for a short drink & chat spell – which means that matters resume their natural course 30 minutes after the announcement (fun fact: no one is complaining). Iberodocs is hearing people talk louder than the average sober Scot, and sharing with like-minded people the perks of being a voluntary exile.

Iberodocs is dancing the night away to electro-jungle beats, and passionately debating the uncomfortable and mysterious power of the female body. Iberodocs is going out, and not being really sure when you’ll be able to break the spell and go back home – which is a good translation for the spirit at the heart of movida.

Iberodocs means feeling home when you’re most removed from it – when you’re on the road, on a unquenchable Faustian quest for something new. So come have a chat… next year, that is. For the time being, let’s cherish the good times we had while we were desperately trying to embarrass ourselves on Akva’s makeshift dance-floor.

And let’s remember that the sun’s shining somewhere in the world. As the Shelley line goes: if Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?