Spanish-speaking cinema covers a lot of ground. The Spanish Film Festival is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year and audiences continue to be spoiled for choice, with a collection of films that cover both Oscar nominees and art-house wonders from Europe and South America.
It’s a genuinely diverse line-up, from the high profile (Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon’s The Trip to Spain, and The Queen of Spain with Penelope Cruz), to family films such as animated dog flick Ozzy and Zip & Zap and the Captain’s Island, the latest instalment of a popular franchise based on the 1950s Spanish comic series.
Here are our must-sees.
Spain in a Day
What’s a more appropriate film to lead with than Spain in a Day from director Isabel Coixet (Elegy, My Life Without Me). Inspired by Life in a Day from Hollywood filmmaker Ridley Scott, Coixet’s film examines life in Spain as it was on October 24, 2015. Compiled from more than 22,000 video submissions recorded by everyday Spaniards on cameras and phones, this documentary covers a nation as it lives, eats, cooks, dances, performs, celebrates, takes in refugees and tackles illness. Oscar-nominated composer Alberto Iglesias provides the music to Coixet’s snapshot of modern Spanish life.
Summer 1993 (Estiu 1993)
The festival’s centrepiece presentation comes to Australia direct from the 2017 Berlin Film Festival where it was awarded the Best First Feature prize as well as the award for Best Youth Feature. Carla Simon Pipó’s autobiographical film tells the story of six-year-old Frida after she loses her parents and is forced to move from the active world of Barcelona to a quiet provincial life with her aunt and uncle. Via Frida navigating her emotions, Pipó announces herself as a new directorial force.
Jota: Beyond Flamenco (La Jota)
Carlos Saura is back. The director behind I, Don Giovanni and the Oscar-nominated films Carmen and Tango returns to his musical strengths with a documentary that captures the emotions, the intricacies and the histories behind the dance of his homeland, Flamenco. Using theatrical sets with projections and a hand-held camera to capture the modern interpretations of dances that Saura experienced as a youth, the film features famed dancers and musicians including Sara Baras, Carlos Núñez and Ara Malikian.
The Fury of a Patient Man (Tarde para la ira)
This is an exciting directorial debut from 36-year-old actor Raúl Arévalo (Marshland, I’m So Excited) that won Spain’s highest accolade, the Goya Award for Best Film and three more trophies. Powered by a towering central performance by Antonio de la Torre, Arévalo’s film is part intense and violent revenge thriller and part psychological road movie and features dazzling camerawork. No mere re-tread of American genre films, The Fury of a Patient Man is an acclaimed and uniquely Spanish work of suspense.
The Distinguished Citizen (El ciudadano ilustre)
A comedy that isn’t afraid to traverse some darker themes, this Argentinian film from directors Mariano Cohn and Gastón Duprat (The Man Next Door) finds a laurelled author, Daniel Mantovani (Oscar Martinez from Wild Tales), returning to his provincial home town for the first time in 40 years. Confronting the characters that gave him inspiration for a career of novels, he soon finds himself sliding into destruction. It’s a performance that won Mantovani a prestigious acting award from the Venice Film Festival and that is the heart of this funny film about whether we truly can go back to our roots.
The 2017 Spanish Film Festival runs in Sydney from April 18 to May 7.