IT’S going to be a big year for lovers of Spanish cinema, with a record 38 box office hits and arthouse gems lined for this year’s Spanish Film Festival. Natalie Ng catches up with festival director Genevieve Kelly and tells you how you can win yourself one of five double passes to the festival.
The Spanish Film Festival returns to Melbourne this month for its 18th annual celebration of Spanish film.
Taking place from April 22 to May 10 at Melbourne’s Palace and Kino cinemas, lovers of Spanish cinema will be treated to a strong selection of films, including numerous multiple Goya Award-winning films (the Spanish equivalent of the Oscars).
“The program this year is massive,” says festival director Genevieve Kelly.
The festival will be showcasing a record 38 films this year, compared to the 30 films screened last year, and the 22 to 25 the year before.
It has been a triumph for local cinema.
“When you think about what has gone on with the world with the economic crisis, film production has really suffered in Spain. But 2014 was a really big turning point in Spain in that for the first time in a long time, the homegrown Spanish films made up a huge amount of the box office,” Ms Kelly says.
The festival’s opening night will feature hit comedy Spanish Affair, seen by more than 2 million people in its opening weeks to become the biggest ever box office hit in Spain.
“That film is the biggest Spanish box office hit ever. So that was a really good sign, and then there’s the films El Nino and then Marshland as well. Those films were also really big box office hits in Spain and they were local films,” Kelly says.
“Hopefully this means that the production in Spain will be going up this year so that more money will be invested to making great films, because we know that the talent is there but a lot of it comes down to budget restrictions.”
Other films in the award-winning line-up include Oscar-nominated and Cannes Film Festival hit Wild Tales, lighthearted romantic comedies Get Married if You Can and Sorry If I Call You Love, and food documentary Finding Gaston on celebrated restaurateur Gastón Acurio.
And for those suffering from a serious case of analysis paralysis, here are some of our top picks:
A Spanish Affair
On the hit that got Spanish film-goers talking, “there’s a lot of irreverence… a lot of cheekiness, a lot of wicked black humour,” Kelly says.
“A Spanish Affair deals with a very sensitive political issue, which is the Basque and Andulasian relations that has a lot to do with terrorism in Spain, but in this film these issues are dealt with in such a light-hearted, breezy, cheeky take.”
“It’s a beautiful thing to see how Spain can look at these serious issues and laugh at themselves in a way, and as Australians, I think we like to do that too, so I think that’s something we can all relate to.”
They Are All Dead
They Are All Dead is an offbeat character-driven piece starring the luminous Elena Anaya – best known to international audiences for her work in Pedro Almodovar’s The Skin I Live In. Here, she is Lupe, an agoraphobic former pop-rock star from the golden age of Spanish rock (la movida) that is dealing with the universal challenges of coming to terms with grief and loss and the pressures of motherhood.
“It’s a very beautiful film, a very original take on a ghost story. It’s got great music and great costumes. Again, it has that black comedy element but it is also a feel-good film,” Kelly shares.
The Festival will also host a special Q&A with Elena Anaya following the screening of the film.
If you are fan of Spanish horror films such as Pan’s Labyrinth and The Orphanage, you would probably also enjoy Shrew’s Nest. That said, it should also appeal to those who are more apprehensive about the genre.
Kelly herself isn’t a fan of the traditional horror genre, but is more partial to this one.
“At its core it’s a horror film, but also a really black comedy, and it takes it to the complete extreme, and I really loved that about it,” she says.
“It’s so great to see that there are these horror films that can cross over. It’s great because I felt totally proven wrong when I ended up loving it.”
Winner of 3 Goya Awards and a box office hit in Spain, action-thriller El Nino is sure to please both discerning cinephiles and regular filmgoers alike. This is the follow-up film to director Daniel Monzon’s hit 2009 film, Cell 211.
In El Nino, Monzon teams up with actor Luis Tosar once more to tell the adrenaline packed tale of an ambitious cop and his partner investigating a drug trafficking network that calls to mind the best work of Michael Mann.
Winner of 10 Goya Awards including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor, Marshland is a gritty cop drama set in the 1980s, and follows two ideologically opposed homicide detectives in their investigation of a serial killer of teenage girls in an eerie and decaying southern marshland town. Fans of David Fincher or Bong Joon Ho will be sure to enjoy this.
Closing night film Wild Tales was a hit at the Cannes Film Festival, and the winner of Best Foreign Film at the Goya Awards. Director Damian Szifron puts together an anthology of six short films themed around revenge and self destruction that is black comedy at its very best.
This was one of the standout films for Kelly.
“It is produced by Pedro Almodovar’s production company so it does have a lot of Spanish input even though it’s an Argentinian production with a fully Argentinian cast. The co-productions that Argentina and Spain collaborate on are always excellent,” she says.
“Wild Tales is definitely unmissable and one of my personal highlights for sure.”
Apart from the screenings, festival goers can also take part in special events and look forward to Torres wines, Spanish cheeses, Cava bubbles and Spanish tapas catered by Robert Burns Hotel, as well as live entertainment for the opening and closing night after-parties. Don’t miss too Peruvian cuisine catered by Pastuso for the screening of Finding Gaston, and a tango demonstration preceding a screening of Tango Glories.
Excited about the festival? Meld Magazine is offering FIVE double passes to give away to our readers. If you’d like to join in this celebration of Spanish cinema, enter the competition giveaway below for a chance to win!
The 2015 Spanish Film Festival will take place from April 22 to May 10 with screenings at Palace Cinema Como, Palace Westgarth and Kino Cinema.
For further ticketing information, event bookings, session times and the full program, visit the official website of the 2015 Spanish Film Festival.