Urban Cinefile  
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Thursday October 3, 2019 


Two English language features from two of Spain’s leading directors will have their Australian Premieres in the Spanish Film Festival: Julio Medem’s seductive Room in Rome, screening only days after its World Premiere at Malaga Film Festival and Oscar winner Alejandro Amenábar’s smash hit, Agora, starring Oscar winner Rachel Weisz.

Geographically the festival covers more ground than ever, encompassing films from Spain, Colombia, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Peru, Mexico, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and films set in Morocco, Namibia and Egypt. Oscar winning directors (Alejandro Amenábar, Fernando Trueba), actors (Penelope Cruz, Rachel Weisz) and films (The Lady and The Reaper, Belle Epoque) are all in the line up as well as the first Peruvian film to be nominated for an Academy Award® (The Milk of Sorrow). Coincidentally in this memorable year where a female director won the Best Film Oscar® for the first time, the festival screens a timely and extensive array of films from women directors from a variety of Spanish speaking countries.

Following the 2009 event, festival director Natalia Ortiz was awarded one of Spain’s most prestigious civil orders, The Order of Isabella The Catholic (Orden de Isabel La Católica), in recognition of her dedication in the promotion of Spanish culture abroad. The Order of Isabella The Catholic was founded on March 14, 1815, by King Ferdinand VII of Spain, to reward the exceptional services done to Spain in the field of international relationships and culture. Natalia was presented with the order by the Consul-General of Spain in Sydney, Enrique Sardá-Valls, in the name of HM King Juan Carlos.

"the power of film to share culture"

Natalia says of the accolade, ‘This overwhelming recognition is certainly a confirmation of what we strongly believe in, which is the power of film to share culture through its unique mode of storytelling. Together with audience support it has further motivated our festival team to bring you undoubtedly our strongest line up to date. We are passionate about showcasing, for the 13th year, the best of Spanish and Latin American cinema to audiences across the country. This year sees an increase in films from Latin American countries, where both an older and younger generation of talented filmmakers are bringing new voices and unique stories to the big screen, and collecting major awards for their astounding work.’

In its signature programming style, the festival is themed in sections to explore different aspects of cinema in Spanish, from Spain, and by Spaniards! In 2010 there is a truly exciting section of films directed by women, All By Women; a cinematic Tribute to Colombia; a Festival Focus on Academy Award winner Fernando Trueba (Belle Epoque). Viva La Musica presents films with a musical heart, this year with the added passion of festival patron and Sydney Dance Company Artistic Director Rafael Bonachela; Cine Contemporaneo will screen the best in contemporary Spanish cinema from the last year and Cine En Español showcases films from Latin America which show the strength of the stories from the rest of the Spanish speaking world.

A thrilling new addition to the programme in 2010, the ALL BY WOMEN section will screen a strong selection of 11 stunning feature films directed by Spanish and Latin American women who have had a significant impact on world cinema, including Claudia Llosa, director of Oscar nominated Peru/Spain co-production The Milk of Sorrow (La teta asustada) and Catalonian feature 3 Days with the Family (Tres dias amb la Familia), directed by Goya winning first time director Mar Coll. From Mexico and directed by Marian Chenillo is festival and audience award winner Nora’s Will (Cinco dias sin Nora), an intimate and darkly funny portrait of a divorced couple who are drawn together again – after the wife commits suicide.

From Chile and directed by Alicia Scherson is Tourists (Turistas), a laid back and gently comic gem where a woman in her late 30’s seeks relationship advice from a Norwegian Backpacker, a former pop star and random inhabitants of the national park where her husband has abandoned her by the side of the road; and the latest award winning feature from Chus Gutierrez, Return to Hansala (Retorno a Hansalá), is the story of a Moroccan immigrant in Spain who journeys to see her parents in her Moroccan village and return her brothers body, along with a funeral home owner wit a very different outlook on life.

Spanish Director Fernando Trueba won the 1993 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film for his romantic comedy/drama Belle Epoque, starring a young Penelope Cruz and Maribel Verdú who was the focus of the 2008 festival. This year it is Trueba to whom the Festival pays tribute with a SPOTLIGHT ON FERNANDO TRUEBA screening a programme of his diverse and acclaimed films. Headlining this section is Trueba’s latest release The Dancer and the Thief (El Baile de la Victoria). Spain’s entry to the 2010 Academy Awards, nominated for 10 Goya (Spanish Academy) Awards and based on the celebrated novel by Antonio Skármeta (‘Il Postino’), The Dancer and the Thief is a heist film involving an ex-safe cracker (Ricardo Darin, Nine Queens) and an enthusiastic young thief. Together they plot to recover the millions taken by Pinochet under the regime, and the thief meanwhile falls in love with a mesmerising, mysterious and mute dancer who has her own terrible memories of Chile under the dictatorship.

Also screening is Belle Epoque, Calle 54 - an exploration of Latin Jazz and its musical greats and The Girl of Your Dreams (La niña de tus ojos)- long before Nine, Penelope Cruz stars as the sexy, golden-hearted Macarena, an actress in Nazi Berlin shooting an Andalusian musical.

OPENING NIGHT FILM AND FIESTA – Opening Night romantic comedy Pagafantas (Friend Zone), directed by Borja Cobeaga is set around the bars and streets of Bilbao. Before the main feature will be a screening of Spain’s 2010 Oscar nominated short film, the endearing animation The Lady and the Reaper (La dama y la muerte). In grand tradition, the films will be followed by Opening Night fiesta with drinks, entertainment and tapas.

The selection of the best contemporary films from Spain for the CINE CONTEMPORANEO section includes Room in Rome, Scary Movie style spoof Spanish Movie, which draws on hits The Orphanage, Pan’s Labyrinth, Volver and The Sea Inside for its comic material and comes complete with a cameo by Leslie Nielsen; V.O.S., a fresh and playfully experimental romantic comedy; Through the Eyes of Ouka Leele (La Mirada de Ouka Leele), a look at the fascinating life and work of photographer Ouka Leele who was a key part of of the La Movida cultural movement which took place after the death of Franco; romantic comedy road movie Road to Santiago (Al final del Camino), a riotous trek across Galicia on the famous and spectacularly scenic pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, this time with a series of odd couples led by a suspiciously phony relationships guru and After - three longtime friends in their late 30s party the night away to escape their perfect, yet lonely and dissatisfying lives.

Three of the top ten most popular films from Spain so far for 2010, screening direct from their Spanish season are - For the Good of Others (El mal ajeno), Eduardo Noriega (Che) stars as the lead doctor in this medical drama with a supernatural twist, also starring Belen Rueda (The Orphanage) and produced by Alejandro Amenábar. Direct from its Spanish season, bittersweet comedy Born to Suffer (Nacidas para sufrir) is set in rural Spain where two generous older women are almost rivals in their attempts to be the most selfless and generous; and love story Mad Love (Amores Locos), is set in the Prado Museum in Madrid where a young curator believes she sees herself in a 17th century Flemish painting.

TRIBUTE TO COLOMBIA - Each year the festival pays tribute to a Latin American country in order to celebrate the culture diversity and richness among the Spanish speaking countries in the world, presenting the most current films of that country combined with a live music event. This year it’s Colombia, the land of the snowy Andes Mountains, sunny Caribbean beaches and luscious Amazon rainforest for a cinema programme that is just as rich and varied!

Crab Trap (El vuelco del cangrejo) Oscar Ruiz Navia's elegant debut feature captures a part of Colombia rarely seen on film, the Afro-Colombian communities of its Pacific coast. Winner of Critic’s (FIPRESCI) prize in the Forum (new filmmakers) section of the Berlinale, this warm, exotic and atmospheric tale from a tropical coastal village is made with a successful combination of professional actors and village locals. A huge Box Office hit in its native Colombia, screened at the Tribeca Film Festival and starring John Leguizamo, Paraiso Travel, is the immigration story of a young man who follows love to New York, in a journey which takes him through seedy strip clubs, dance halls, homeless hostels and ultimately to a place he could not have predicted.

Fascinating Documentary Case 11.227 Colombia exposes the extermination of the Union Patriotica by the Colombian state, an unresolved event in the memory of a country with a silent past; The Passion of Gabriel (La pasión de Gabriel) is a drama centred on a progressive Catholic priest posted in a small village in the mountains in the civil war.

CINE EN ESPAÑOL - Screening the best in cinema from the Spanish-speaking world. Having gone from strength to strength in recent years, this selection of Latin American cinema is a true highlight of the 2010 festival. Films include the undeniably charming Leo’s Room (El cuarto de Leo), an endearing gay coming out story with true heart set in Montevideo, and the multi award winning Gigante, winner of The Grand Jury Prize, Best First Feature Film and Alfred Bauer Award (opens new perspectives in the art of filmmaking) at the Berlin Film Festival. Bad Day To Go Fishing (Mal día para pescar), Uruguay’s entry to the Academy Awards® and festival award winner is a delightfully quirky comedy set in rural Uruguay where the former strongest man on earth stages wrestling matches against the locals from town to town.

VIVA LA MUSICA - The patron of the festival in 2010 is Spanish dancer and creative director of the Sydney Dance Company, Rafael Bonachela who is particularly proud to present this energetic and exuberant section of the festival celebrating music and dance, this year covering ground from Sydney to Switzerland to Cuba! Bonachela himself appears in Australian documentary Blank Canvas, the tragic and inspirational story of the Sydney Dance company in the lead up to and for the beginning of his time in the role as Artistic Director. The life and legacy of the monumental Queen of Salsa, Cuban Celia Cruz is embraced by the likes of Quincy Jones and Wyclef Jean in Celia the Queen (Celia la Reina). Documentary Of Heart and Courage (El Esfuerzo y El Animo) on legendary French choreographer Maurice Bejart follows the path of his world famous Swiss company following his death.

FOR KIDS - the festival extends into other dimensions, literally, with the groundbreaking first European film to combine real 3D images with spectacular CGI special effects, the English Language Magic Journey to Africa. Filmed on location in Namibia and South Africa, it is the wondrous and highly imaginative journey of discovery for a young Spanish girl through spectacular landscapes rich with magical and exotic encounters. Also for kids, The Missing Lynx (El lince perdido), co-produced by Antonio Banderas and Goya winner for Best Animated feature, is the story of an eccentric and benevolent millionaire who decides to do something about the threat facing the earth’s endangered species by building his own personal ‘Noah’s Ark’.

CLOSING NIGHT – In a coup for the festival, the latest film from Oscar winner Alejandro Amenábar (The Sea Inside, The Others) will close the festival with Australian Premiere screenings. A rousing English Language historical epic starring Oscar winner Rachel Weisz, Agora was the highest grossing film in Spain of 2009 and won six Goyas. In 4th century Alexandria under the Roman Empire, legendary female philosopher and astronomer Hypatia (Weisz) finds herself exercising her great will and intelligence at this momentous time of political and religious upheaval. Amenábar’s debut feature, Thesis, was screened in the very first edition of the Spanish Film Festival as one of only five films.

Published April 15, 2010

Email this article

Pagafantas - Opening film

Agora – Closing film

Bad Day to Go Fishing – Uruguay’s official Oscar entry

Leo’s Room

Room in Rome

Sydney: Wed 5 - Sun 16 May at Palace Norton Street and Academy Twin Cinemas
Melbourne: Wed 12 - Sun 23 May at Palace Cinema Como & Kino Cinemas
Brisbane: Thu 20 - Sun 30 May at Palace Centro Cinemas
Adelaide: Thu 13 - Sun 16 May at Palace Nova Eastend
Canberra: Thu 6 – Sun 16 May at GU Manuka

© Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2019