Last year, the HSBC Spanish Film Festival celebrated its milestone 25th anniversary. The festival showcases the finest new and classic cinema from Spain and Spanish-speaking countries across Latin America. Now it returns with its largest line-up to date, screening at Palace Cinemas, Palace Nova Eastend Cinemas and Luna Palace Cinemas from June to July.

Curating the program is a 10-month process, with films selected from prestigious film festivals such as Cannes, Venice and Toronto. Rather than going in with preconceived ideas, Palace Cinemas CEO Benjamin Zeccola allowed the current cinematic landscape to guide the selection process. “Themes always emerge organically – they just come out in the filmmaking,” he says. “There’s over 300 Spanish language films made every year, and it’s just incredible to see that they naturally emerge.”

Opening the festival is Zeccola’s favourite film from this year’s program, The Movie Teller. Starring Daniel Brühl, Bérénice Bejo and brilliant newcomer Alondra Valenzuela, the film follows a young woman’s coming-of-age in a Chilean mining town. “It’s got quite a big cast and two of the most fabulous newcomers that you’re going to see for a decade,” Zeccola says. “It’s a beautiful story that pays homage to cinema, I just loved it.”

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To heighten the experience, Palace is also matching certain films with cuisine-appropriate food, drinks and entertainment. At opening night, for example, there’ll be tapas and traditional music.

Another top pick is Rioja: The Land of a Thousand Wines. The fascinating documentary explores the evolution of the Spanish wine industry and features more than 30 interviews and behind-the-scenes access to the winemaking process. The film is being paired with a wine tasting, with viewers greeted with a glass of wine on arrival at screenings.

“This year we’ve got a special section called ‘Liberation, Sensuality and Empowerment’, because there were lots of female filmmakers who created films that discuss these themes,” says Zeccola. A highlight of that selection is the comedic yet seductive drama Mamacruz, starring Kiti Mánver as a devoutly religious woman rediscovering the power of her sensuality in her late middle age.

Viewers can also look forward to stellar Mexican cinema with a screening of Upon Open Sky. “That’s fascinating, because the filmmaker behind that is Guillermo Arriaga, who has made some incredible films,” says Zeccola. Set in early 1990s Mexico, the crime drama is an electrifying tale of revenge following two teenagers on a road trip who track down the man responsible for their father’s death. To honour the film’s setting, screenings will be paired with tequila cocktails.

Closing the festival is 1973’s The Holy Mountain, restored in 4K for its 50th anniversary. Famously co-funded by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, the surreal, avant-garde Mexican film by Alejandro Jodorowsky is a mesmerising journey exploring themes of spirituality and enlightenment.

With such a stacked line-up, there are many Zeccola himself hasn’t yet had the chance to watch that’s he’s excited to see. “I can’t wait for this festival to roll around,” he says. “There are some films that were selected by my colleagues, so there are even films that I haven’t seen yet. So I’m really looking forward to it.”

Broadsheet is a proud media partner of Palace Cinemas. The HSBC Spanish Film Festival is showing in Adelaide, Ballina, Brisbane, Byron Bay, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney; dates differ between cities. The full program and tickets are available now.