Mark Leiren-Young honoured at Barcelona film festival

(Mark Leiren-Young, director of The Green Chain and an occasional Straight contributor, sent this e-mail from Barcelona)

Hola. And wow!

The headline: The Green Chain just won "El Prat De Llobregat Award" (the Award of the City El Prat de Llobregat") at the 15th Annual Festival Internacional de Cinema de Medi Ambient (FICMA 2008) in Barcelona.

This is me (Mark Leiren-Young) looking stunned next to the award's presenter, Lluí­s Tejedor, the Mayor of El Prat, the suburb of Barcelona that hosts FICMA.

I'm still waiting for the official translation for all the details of the award, but the explanation that I got after being handed the trophy is that the City of El Prat honours a film that deals with themes they feel are important and need to be discussed.

The award is a very cool, very heavy metal sculpture that is going to cost a fortune to Fed Ex from Barcelona, but it'll be worth it...

The entire day of our premiere was a surreal one, which seems fitting since this is Salvador Dali's hometown and the signature buildings are by Antoni Gaudi.

The film screened at 11 a.m. on Saturday morning and the festival was thrilled with the turnout. The subtitles for the movie are in catalán. And I quickly discovered that the catalán translation of "I love trees" is "Jo estimo el arbres."

Following the screening there was a lengthy q&a session where the audience asked about the movie and about the Canadian environmental scene.

My translator for the Q&A was Carmen Estevez, who told me at lunch that she got involved with the festival through her brother. I asked what her brother did with the festival. She said, "he's an actor."

Then she told me that he's an actor who starred in one of my favourite TV series of all time, The West Wing, and a few little films like... ya know... Apocalypse Now... Yep, her brother is Martin Sheen.

Following the q&a the festival presented a mini-conference with four heavy hitters from the Spanish environmental scene, including Fundacion Mas Arboles -- which appears to be the group in the country for people who love trees and Maderas Nobles de la Sierra de Segura ("an agro-forestry company specializing in native tree plantation management with the aims of forest restoration and the ecological production of high-value timber.")

The "administrador de Maderas Nobles" Juan Valerotold me after the movie that he's hosting a conference next year about forestry issues and he'd like to arrange bring back the movie... and me... So just to cover all bases I'm planning to take a sip out of the Canaletes fountain which, according to legend, insures visitors will return to Barcelona.

A few hours later it was time for the awards ceremony. I didn't think we were eligible for anything, so I sat at the back. But just before the presentation started, one of the organizers suggested I sit up front with the other filmmakers since the director of the festival might want to introduce us.

After cheering for several other winners I heard the man at the microphone mention "The Green Chain" and I figured he was introducing the filmmakers. Then he said my name and I looked for someone who spoke english to tell me whether I was supposed to stand or... and that's when everyone started applauding and as I sat still in my seat the Argentinian filmmaker a few seats over began waving for me to move. Then the organizers started waving for me to move. I finally got the hint, ran to the stage and gave one of the shortest acceptance speeches on record...

I thanked FICMA for inviting our movie, said "muchos gracias" and hugged the Mayor of El Prat. After the ceremony was over I ran into another ceremony... The night before a woman gets married here she celebrates by dancing in the streets. As I was watching the dance, the bride to be waved for me to join her. So I celebrated the award by dancing something sort of Flamenco-like in the square just in front of the theatre. According to a friend from Buenos Aires whatever I was doing was as close to the Flamenco as whatever the bride-to-be was doing...

So that's the story from Barcelona...

And I guess this is the official victory dance!