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La Mirada Spanish Film Festival kicks off on a high note

Juliana Mare

Mon Nov 26 2012


IF the Opening Night Gala was anything to go by, Spanish-film enthusiasts should waste no time grabbing tickets for the last day of the La Mirada film festival! Juliana Mare tells you why.

Aliens, romance, sangrias and fried calamari rings made for an interesting but very entertaining and enjoyable night to kick off the Spanish film festival, La Mirada.

Nacho Vigalondo’s magnificent film Extraterrestrial screened on the opening night which had the packed out cinema at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) laughing out loud. The quirky, offbeat rom-com was a fantastic start to the festival, getting guests excited about what else was on offer.

Extraterrestrial follows the drama that unfolds after a one night stand between Julio and Julia. When neither of them are able to leave Julia’s apartment due to a massive alien spacecraft that’s appeared over the city overnight, it becomes the location for the film’s action. On lockdown, there are awkward moments aplenty, tension, romance and an ample amount of drama that unfolds when the duo is forced to face Julia’s amusingly ignorant boyfriend Carlos and her hilariously jealous neighbour Ángel.

If you’ve never watched a Spanish film before, Extraterrestrial is definitely the place to start. Festival Director, Rocio Garcia says not only is this a very intelligent, funny and cleverly written film, but it could put some Hollywood blockbusters about alien invasions to shame.

“The Opening Night film is always an unmissable film, that’s why I placed it there. It’s a film that’s supposed to be so good that the audience will want to come back to the Festival,” she says.

Not only did the Festival kick things off with a fantastic film, the after-party, with a fully-stocked bar, patio heaters and plenty of tapas to go around, was a huge success. The flavours of Spain came together in a variety of dips with Turkish bread, tender roasted pork belly, spicy stuffed peppers, calamari rings and cheese croquettes.

Mingling among the locals at the after-party were the Festival’s guests, actors Verónica Echegui and Alex García who star together in the award winning drama Six Points About Emma. Echegui plays a blind woman who “changes boyfriends more than sunglasses,” as she desperately tries to fall pregnant, without falling in love. As it turns out, this is problematic when she meets García’s character, Germán.

Echegui’s other film at the Festival, Kathmandu Lullaby is based on the true story of Laia, who moves from Spain to Nepal to teach underprivileged Nepalese children. Her struggle for a better education system and her passion for teaching is an inspiring story, combined with the romantic element of her falling in love with a man she married initially just for a visa.

In their speech before the film’s screening, both actors expressed their gratitude that Melbournians had shown a passion for, and interest in, Spanish cinema.

Ms Garcia says the previous audience survey of La Mirada revealed 98.5 per cent of participants were very satisfied with their experience at the Festival. She believes La Mirada has been embraced so warmly by Melbournians because of its variety.

“There’s comedy, there’s sci-fi films, there’s drama and thrillers. Apart from the fact that they happen to be produced in another country, they’re all really great films,” she says.

ACMI director Tony Sweeney echoed Garcia’s sentiment, saying the team at ACMI were proud to host La Mirada.

“The beauty of La Mirada…is the fiery beauty and brilliance of Spanish and Latin American culture and that’s what we’re celebrating,” he says.

This year, La Mirada has partnered with ACMI and Cinema Nova to present over 30 films. A second venue (Cinema Nova) was added to cater to high demand, after guests missed out on attending the festival last year due to sold-out screenings, The films selected by the Festival’s Guest Curators, including Wes Anderson and Pedro Almodóvar, are secret films that aren’t revealed to the audience until they’re seated in the cinema.

So tonight’s the last night (November 26), but don’t miss out on adding a dash of Spanish culture to your schedule. Every person who sees a film also gets a free drink, some films have after-parties and there are audience giveaways at every screening and a handful of special guests in attendance too.

Basically, what more could you ask for from a film Festival?

For more info visit the Festivals website.