Now in its 25th year, the HSBC Spanish Film Festival is a showcase of the best in cinema from Spain and Spanish-speaking countries across Latin America. Exclusive to Palace Cinemas, this year it features 32 films including dramas, comedies, thrillers and heartbreaking memoirs, plus a number of key program strands, including a focus on women in filmmaking and a comprehensive retrospective on Spanish film director Carlos Saura.
It’s a three-week celebration of Spanish-language culture and cinema, with something for every taste. But if you’re looking to narrow things down, here’s our pick of features you won’t want to miss.
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This year’s opening night feature – with follow-up sessions screening throughout the festival – is a hit comedy that’s a delicious mix of fine dining and family friction.
Mikel (Enric Auquer) is a young Bilbao chef whose passion for cooking is outweighed only by his drive to succeed. Then his long-lost father, Juan (Karra Elejalde), turns up, suffering from amnesia and thinking he’s still living in the 1990s. Mikel’s restaurant has a third Michelin star in sight; the last thing he needs is his father threatening to up-end everything he thought he knew about cooking (and family).
This year’s festival centrepiece is the latest film from Spanish writer-director Carla Simón. After her debut hit Summer 1993 she’s turned the spotlight on her own history, with the story of a family faced with their long-held way of life coming to an end.
For generations the Solé family have spent their summers harvesting peaches from their orchard. But now the landowner wants to replace the trees with solar panels, and the Solés must decide whether to embrace change, or risk everything to keep their traditions alive. A critical and commercial success across Europe, Alcarràs was the winner of the Golden Bear at the 2022 Berlinale.
One of two special presentations (the other, The Kings of the World, is also well worth checking out), Prison 77 is a gripping thriller based on actual events around Spain’s transition from dictatorship to democracy.
Manuel (Miguel Herrán) is a small-time accountant facing a hefty prison sentence for a minor crime. Rather than accept his fate, he teams up with his fellow prisoners to form a collective to fight for their rights. Working at a crucial juncture in Spanish history, their struggles inspired a nation and helped change society itself – but not without a price.
The cruise ship Greg Mortimer set sail for Antarctica in early 2020, just as the World Health Organisation declared a global pandemic. For the passengers and crew, who came on board from all around the world (including Australia), it seemed like a safe haven. Then the first Covid cases were detected.
This documentary tells the grim and moving story of what happened as the ship was turned away from ports over and over while Covid swept through those aboard. Featuring interviews from the survivors, and from those who took part in the eventual rescue operation off the coast of Uruguay, it’s a powerful story of determination in the face of disaster.
One of the highlights of this year’s Spanish Film Festival is the program showcasing the work of legendary dance film director Carlos Saura (including his final film, Walls Can Talk). But they’ve saved the best for last, with the 40th anniversary presentation of his greatest hit, the BAFTA-winning Carmen.
Not to be confused with the 2022 film of the same name, which is also inspired by the famous opera, this 1983 film follows the story of a choreographer who falls for his lead dancer during rehearsals – unwittingly mirroring the ballet they’re putting together. It’s a celebration of both contemporary dance and traditional flamenco and, as one of the greatest dance films ever made, a more than fitting festival finale.
The 2023 HSBC Spanish Film Festival takes place at Palace Cinemas nationally from June 14 to July 5 (June 20 to July 12 in Sydney). For more information or to book tickets, visit the website.
Broadsheet is a proud media partner of Palace Cinemas.