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:: Spotlight :: 2011 Spanish Film Festival

By: Carmine Pascuzzi

The Spanish passion for living life to the full is exuberantly expressed in the programme of the 14th Spanish Film Festival, screening nationally across Australia in May and for the first time, in New Zealand. Divided into 2 sections, Cine Contemporaneo (Contemporary Spanish Cinema) and Cine en Español (films in Spanish from Latin America), the 36 feature programme includes a wealth of Australian premieres, a World Premiere, three special guests, films celebrated at Cannes, Berlin, Toronto, Venice and San Sebastian, and the work of talented filmmakers and actors including Belen Rueda, Javier Cámara, Guillermo Del Toro, Fernando Trueba, Ricardo Darin and Luis Tosar.

Director Natalia Ortiz said of the festival in 2011, “In our 14th year the cinematic offerings in the third most widely spoken language on earth have provided us with an incredibly strong programme that we are proud to screen nationally and also take to our neighbours in New Zealand! The Cine En Español programme of films in Spanish from Latin America has gone from strength to strength and this year accounts for almost half of the festival programme. Rich with awards and accolades, these films come from Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Mexico, Panama, Perú, and Venezuela. This year we are thrilled to bring you not only the films but also their makers! and welcome to the festival special guests Tono Errando, director of Chico and Rita, Anything You Want director Achero Mañas and writer of Hermano, Australian Rohan Jones. I hope that audiences enjoy this selection of the best in contemporary cinema from the Spanish speaking world, and immerse themselves in these stories of life, love, music, food, football, horror and more!”

Winner of Best Screenplay and the Silver Lion for Best Director at the 2010 Venice Film Festival, the Australian Premiere of The Last Circus (Balada triste de trompeta) is set to screen centre-stage for an OPENING NIGHT like you have never seen before! From acclaimed director Álex de la Iglesia (The Day of the Beast), The Last Circus is a darkly comic tale of two clowns competing for the love of a beautiful woman. Exploding with energy, this stylish Tarantinoesque genre-bender received an unparalleled 15 nominations for the 2011 Goya Awards in its native Spain and is sure to get the festival adrenalin pumping! Following the Opening Night screening will be a Spanish fiesta with drinks, tapas and live entertainment from Sydney based ‘Los Monos’, who will get you moving with their unique Australian blend of flamenco nuevo and Latin jazz.

Sex, love, romance and gender get more than a look-in in the CINE CONTEMPORANEO section which screens the best in contemporary cinema from Spain. The very endearing and bubbly bed-hopping film Life Starts Today is a light social satire about a group of elderly men and women who attend a sex education class and learn to love and laugh once again, starring many of Spain’s best loved older actors including Pilar Bardem (yes, Javier’s mother!). In For 80 Days, two women meet again after 50 years and have a second chance at love in what is a funny and universal story about the choice between the safety of the old and the excitement of the new. The provocative documentary Fake Orgasm follows enigmatic protagonist Lazlo Pearlman, an erotic performance artist, who seeks an answer to why three-quarters of women say they’re sexually dissatisfied and why so many fake orgasms, raising questions about identity and sexuality along the way, whilst never shying away from nudity. Exploring gender roles, machismo and the changing face of fatherhood is Anything You Want, an intelligent drama about a father who, for the sake of and at the insistence of his daughter, makes himself up to be his wife, following her sudden death.

Expect much laughter as the extremely crowd pleasing To Hell With The Ugly hits the screen, starring former festival guest Javier Cámara as the unlucky in love 40-something Eliseo, the unfortunate owner of a comb-over and now the family farm. From the director of the side-splitting 2010 festival hit Chef’s Special, this vibrant and charming comedy is set in small town Spain against the stunning mountain landscapes of Aragón. A village in Southern Spain is the setting for comedy One World Square, which has its International Premiere in the festival. A local rock band decides to take justice into their own hands after a boy is murdered in this latest film from 2007 festival guest Alvaro Begines (Scandalous); and the upbeat comedy musical An Hour in The Canaries is a colourful caper comedy of a man who finds himself torn between three strong and manipulative women who will do whatever it takes to get what they want – him! Fans of Spanish food can feast on 18 Meals, an appetizing film set over one day and 18 different mouthwatering meals in the stunning Galician city of Santiago de Compostela. A first-rate ensemble cast linked by actor Luis Tosar, who also produced the film, play an eclectic group of characters whose stories unfold and intertwine as they break bread together in a film that captures the many layers of life in the city.

Celebrating the magical world of entertainment and the animated lives of artists are the hugely acclaimed and Goya Award winning film Chico and Rita, an animated love story for grown-ups set against the sensuous backdrop of the music scene in Havana and New York in the forties and fifties; The Great Vazquez, from the San Sebastián Film Festival, a true and comic story of Spain’s top cartoonist in the 1960’s and an inspiring story of an iconoclast who turned his own life into a work of art. Winner of the Goya Award for Best Costume and bursting with bodice-ripping excitement and glorious period detail is Lope, a big budget swashbuckling adventure about the great Spanish poet and playwright Lope De Vega, a man skilled with the sword and the pen; and Spanish Box office favourite Paper Birds is an enchanting tale of a travelling vaudeville troupe determined to bring joy in the aftermath of the Civil War.

Spain’s reputation of creating cinema at its most cutting-edge is exemplified in the programme by not only The Last Circus, but also our CLOSING NIGHT thriller Julia’s Eyes, produced by Guillermo Del Toro. Starring the beautiful and talented queen of Spanish horror, Belen Rueda (The Orphanage), Julia’s Eyes will leave you on the edge of your seat until the second the festival finishes, as you follow Julia, a woman who is losing her sight and sets out to find the cause of her blind sisters’ suspicious death.

Also produced by Guillermo Del Toro is the winner of Best Film at Malaga Film Festival and the Special Jury Prize at the Tokyo International Film Festival, Rage. A claustrophobic thriller of the highest order, Rage follows the underworld lives of a couple who have recently arrived in Spain from South America. Pushing the horror boundaries to their utmost limits is Kidnapped, and out-there and terrifying home invasion horror that won Best Film and Best Director at Fantastic Fest in Austin. Violent and realistic, Kidnapped is based on the horrific statistic that each year in Europe there are 3,000,000 home raids, which often incorporate a style of abduction imported from South America known as an Express Kidnap, lasting less than a day and characterised by violence.

The CINE EN ESPAÑOL section in this 14th year of the festival includes the Official Entries to the Academy Awards from Argentina, Chile and Venezuela. Argentina’s entry is Carancho, a modern film noir based on grim reality starring Ricardo Darín (The Secret in Their Eyes, Nine Queens) as an ambulance chasing lawyer looking for clients whose world is rocked when he meets a caring young doctor. Representing Chile is The Life of Fish, a beautifully shot and poignant film set in real time at a party where a thirty-something Berlin–based travel journalist reunites with lost friends, loves and opportunities. From Venezuela with an Australian heart is the Australian Premiere of Hermano (meaning ‘brothers’), set in the slums of Caracas where two brothers see their soccer talents as the way to a better life.

Winner of the Cannes Un Certain Regard Jury Prize is Peruvian feature October. Set during the October celebration of Our Lord of the Miracles, a money-lender and his neighbour form an unlikely family with a baby left anonymously at his house in what is a heart-warming tale about love and small miracles. From Official Selection at the Berlin Film Festival is Argentina’s It’s Your Fault, a suspenseful drama that sees a busy single mother in an emergency ward after her child takes a fall. As the night wears on and the story unfolds, the film begins to challenge the audience’s position on perception, motherhood and guilt. Also from Argentina is The Man Next-Door, winner of the Sundance World Cinema Prize for Best Cinematography. A class-conscious black comedy about neighbours feuding over a window in a shared wall, this stylish feature is filmed in the famous Curuchtet House, the only house in the Americas designed by the iconic architect Le Corbusier. Winner of the Sundance World Cinema award for Best Director and Best Screenplay is Bolivian film The Southern Zone, a drama set in the large house and garden of an upper-class family in the Southern Zone, a rich area of La Paz and a world that is fast disappearing as the country undergoes social changes.

Screening exclusively in Sydney, Brisbane and Auckland are Bon Appetit, a romantic comedy with extra spice, set in the kitchen of a top gourmet restaurant; and the nine time Goya Award winning gothic coming of age fable, Black Bread.

Programmed especially for kids and families is The Adventures of Don Quixote, the beloved masterpiece of Spanish literature adapted for children as an animation, where the story is reinterpreted by a mouse who lives with the author.


The festival this year is delighted to welcome director Tono Errando (Chico and Rita), director Achero Mañas (Anything You Want) and writer Rohan Jones (Hermano) to attend the festival and present special selected screenings of their films.

In Anything You Want, a young girl turns to her father Leo to be both her mother and father figure following the loss of her mother, and on the surface at least, quite literally. Juan Diego Botto delivers a quietly contained performance of a man who must overcome his own prejudice and sacrifice his dignity for his daughter’s happiness. Having screened to acclaim at the Toronto International Film Festival, we look forward to welcoming director Achero Mañas to Australia for Q&A screenings of this emotionally compelling film that examines the changing role of fatherhood in interesting and unexpected ways. Anything You Want is the third feature from acclaimed director Achero Mañas, following November (2003), which won the FIPRESCI (Critics) prize at the Toronto International Film Festival, and El Bola (2000), his first feature which won 4 Goya awards, including Best Film.

Having its Australian Premiere at the festival is the animated film for grown-ups, Chico and Rita, a magical and musical love story that journeys from Cuba to New York and beyond. Selected screenings of Chico and Rita will be followed by a special behind-the-scenes look with festival special guest, director Tono Errando, one of the three directors of the phenomenal collaboration, alongside Oscar winning filmmaker Fernando Trueba and Spain’s most acclaimed designer, Javier Mariscal.

As well as being Venezuela’s entry to the Academy Awards, the gripping and gritty drama with real heart, Hermano, won Best film and also both the critics and audience awards at the Moscow Film Festival. Writer/director Marcel Rasquin and Melbourne based writer and Development Producer Rohan Jones are both graduates of the Victorian College of the Arts Film and Television School and the festival is pleased to welcome Rohan Jones to present Q&A screenings of the film at selected sessions.

The 14th Spanish Film Festival is presented by Estrella Damm and produced with the support of the Ministries of Culture and Foreign Affairs in Spain, the ICAA (Institute of Cinema and Audiovisual Arts) the Spanish Consulate in Sydney and Melbourne, The Spanish Embassy, the Argentinean Government through INCAA (Institute of Cinema and Audiovisual Arts Argentina), The Embassies and Consulates of Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela, The Instituto Cervantes and many prestigious Spanish and Australian companies.

Full programme and ticketing information is available from the official website

Sydney: Wed May 11 - Sun May 22, Palace Norton Street & Chauvel in Paddington
Melbourne: Thu May 12 - Sun May 22, Palace Cinema Como & Kino Cinemas
Brisbane: Wed May 18 – Sun May 29, Palace Centro Cinemas
Adelaide: Thu May 26 – Sun May 29, Palace Nova Eastend
Canberra: Thu May 26 – Sun May 29, GU Manuka
Perth: Wed May 25 – Sun May 29, Cinema Paradiso
Auckland: Wed May 18 – Thur May 26 at Rialto Newmarket


18 MEALS (18 comidas, Spain 2010)
AN HOUR IN THE CANARIES (Un hora más en canarias, Spain 2010)
ANYTHING YOU WANT (Todo lo que tú quieras, Spain 2010)
BLACK BREAD (Pa negre, Spain 2010)
BON APPETIT (Spain 2010)
BRUC: THE CHALLENGE (Bruc: El desafio, Spain 2010)
CELL 211 (Celda 211, Spain 2009)
CHICO AND RITA (Chico Y Rita, Spain/UK 2010)
FAKE ORGASM (Falso orgasmo, Spain 2010)
FOR 80 DAYS (80 egunean, Spain 2010)
GARBO: THE SPY (Garbo el espia, Spain 2009)
ISPANSI (Spain 2011)
JULIA’S EYES (Los ojos de Julia, Spain 2010)
KIDNAPPED (Secuestrados, Spain 2010)
LIFE BEGINS TODAY (La vida empieza hoy, Spain 2009)
LOPE (Spain 2010)
ONE WORLD SQUARE ( Un mundo cuadrado, Spain 2011)
PAPER BIRDS (Pájaros de papel, Spain 2010)
THE GREAT VASQUEZ (El gran Vazquez, Spain 2010)
THE LAST CIRCUS (Balada triste de trompeta, Spain 2010)
THE MOSQUITO NET (La mosquitera, Spain 2010)
TO HELL WITH THE UGLY (Que se mueran los feos, Spain 2010)

A STONE’S THROW AWAY (A tiro de piedra, Mexico 2010)
BROTHER (Hermano, Venezuela 2010)
COLOURS OF THE MOUNTAIN (Los colores de la montaña, Columbia/Panama 2010)
CARANCHO (Argentina/France/Chile 2010)
IT’S YOUR FAULT (Por tu culpa, Argentina 2010)
LEAP YEAR (Año bisiesto, (Mexico 2010)
NOSTALGIA FOR THE LIGHT (Nostalgia de la luz, Chile 2010)
OCTOBER (Octubre, Peru 2010)
RAGE (Rabia, Spain/Mexico/Columbia 2009)
SOUTHERN ZONE (Zona sur, Bolivia 2009)
THE INVISIBLE EYE (La mirada invisible, Argentina 2010)
THE LIFE OF FISH (La vida de los peces, Chile 2010)
THE MAN NEXT DOOR (El hombre de al lado, Argentina 2009)

THE ADVENTURES OF DON QUIXOTE (Las aventuras de Don Qujote, Spain 2010)

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