The Spanish Film Festival makes a welcome return to Palace Cinemas this month, and as always this popular celebration of Spanish language filmmaking has plenty of delights amongst its 25-film program.
Marking its 21st year in 2018, the festival starts with a fiesta and screening of street dancing musical comedy The Tribe (La Tribu) on April 17, and finishes twenty days later on May 6 with Guillermo del Toro’s masterpiece Pan’s Labyrinth. That closing event is a fitting tribute to the visionary Mexican director recently took home four Academy Awards including Best Film and Best Director with a further nine nominations for his whimsical and spellbinding underwater romance The Shape of Water.
Another crowd-pleasing special event is the film that has skyrocketed to the top of the 2018 Spanish box-office – No Filter at Palace Verona on April 26, with drinks and music before the film. In No Filter (pic above), one of Spain’s most popular comedic talents, Santiago Segura, directs Maribel Verdú as a woman who is simply unable to stop speaking her mind.
The rest of the selections are divided into four categories. Here’s the complete line-up:
The Reel Español section celebrates all the best new Spanish cinema. It includes the hit dramas: Loving Pablo – starring Penélope Cruz as a journalist who strikes up a romantic relationship with notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar (Javier Bardem); Audience Award winning The Open Door, which stars Carmen Machi as a prostitute past her prime living with her senile but feisty mother; a standout cast of Spain’s finest actors star in historical epic Gold; and Dying from breakout director Fernando Franco – a follow-up to his Spanish Academy Award winning debut Wounded.
Reel Español also celebrates all the fun and cheekiness of Spanish culture with laugh-out-loud comedies: Lord, Give Me Patience about an ultraconservative father who has to spend a weekend with his dysfunctional adult children and their partners; from maverick director Pablo Berger comes madcap comedy Abracadabra; three overprotective fathers conspire to scare off their daughters’ no-good boyfriends in It’s For Your Own Good; and in the heist comedy Operation Goldenshell, a con artist hires a lookalike to pose as a movie star to scam an investor.
Other festival favourites in this program strand include: Mist & the Maiden, adapted from Lorenzo Silva’s best-selling novel and featuring a roll-call of Spanish favourites; Spanish Academy Award nominee Marc Clotet and Melina Matthews star in period drama The Chess Player, Luis Oliveros’s second feature; the latest work from filmmaking duo Bacha Caravedo and Chinón Higashionna The Solar System; and Re-Evolution, an action-thriller which packs in an all-star cast including Fele Martínez, Hovik Keuchkerian and Juan Pablo Shuk.
This sidebar showcases the innovative work being produced by the next generation of Spain’s female directors. The programme includes four feature debuts, most notably Carla Simón’s internationally award-winning Summer 1993 – which enjoys encore screenings by popular demand, having amassed 28 award wins and 44 nominations across the globe, including Best New Director at the Spanish Academy Awards and the Best First Feature at the London Film Festival since its 2017 premiere. The stellar line-up also includes Ana Murugarren’s The Bastards’ Fig Tree, Marina Seresesky’s The Open Door, Elena Martín’s Júlia Is and Mariona Guiu and Ariadna Relea’s documentary Singled [Out], which was partially shot in Melbourne in its journey to explore the place of single women over thirty across the globe in contemporary society.
In Reel Retrospective: The Bigas Luna Tribute a four-film programme will celebrate the work of internationally renowned Spanish director Bigas Luna who simultaneously launched the careers of Javier Bardem, Jordi Mollà and Penelope Cruz. This retrospective includes his critically-acclaimed ‘Iberian Portraits Trilogy’: Jamón, Jamón (1992), Golden Balls (1993) and The Tit and the Moon (1994); as well as the Australian premiere of the posthumous documentary Bigas x Bigas (2017), based on his video-diaries. The trilogy offers a complex depiction of a Spain in transition, where older customs and stereotypes associated with the rural, simpler past survive alongside newly introduced European/global, capitalist values.
And finally, this section of kid-friendly films includes two stand-out features. The first is Tad the lost Explorer and the Secret of King Midas – the sequel to the highest-grossing animated film in Spain of all time. This time amateur explorer Tad Jones must stop a millionaire who’s after King Midas’s necklace. The other family film is Disney Pixar’s Academy Award winning Coco (in Spanish). Full of wit, music, and colour, this beloved animation follows a young boy who dreams of being a musician despite his family’s generations old ban on music.