The Spanish Film Festival has hit Brisbane for its 21st season, and we couldn’t be keener to bust out the popcorn and watch some quality flicks. This year's festival will be screening 25 films over its 2-week run at Palace Barracks and Palace Centro cinemas, covering all topics from street dancing to murder mysteries to possessed husbands—so we figured you might need a little guidance when deciding which films to check out.
To make thing ever-so-slightly easier we have compiled a list of our top 10 must-see films at the Spanish Film Festival this year. Grab a choc top and a vino, it’s going to be a packed couple of weeks!
The opening film for the festival is a family driven comedy called The Tribe. It follows the story of a heartless executive, Fidel, who is reunited with his birth mother, Virginia, a cleaning lady whose one true passion is dance. He subsequently loses his memory in a freak accident and Virginia decides to care for him with street dance, because how else would you treat head trauma? This musical comedy is bound to be a laugh and get you in the groove to create your own elaborate dance crew.
Taking a more serious turn, Jamón Jamón will be one of the all-time classics played at this year's Spanish Film fest, featuring some (very) familiar faces and where they got their start. The story follows Silvia, played by a young Pénelope Cruz, who falls pregnant to a rich boy whose mother does not approve of the match. She hires the sexy model Raúl, played by the unbelievably good looking, 1992 edition Javier Bardem, to seduce Silvia, but of course, plans go awry in this renowned darkly comedic drama. If not for the brilliant direction and concept by director Bigas Luna, you have to see this film just to witness the historical moment that baby-faced Bardem and Cruz got their big break.
Bigas X Bigas
After watching Jamón Jamón and getting a taste of Bigas Luna’s work, check out Bigas X Bigas for a look behind the curtain. This documentary was released in 2016 and is an artfully cut together compilation of over 600 hours of Luna’s home videos. The director is an icon, being one of the leading names in the Spanish film industry, and this doco sheds light on his obsession with images and influence from Salvador Dalí as well as the interpersonal relationships that fuelled his visions and career.
If you are looking for a clever comedy you have to check out No Filter. It follows the story of Paz, a woman who is walked all over in pretty much every aspect of her life until she takes a mystery concoction and suddenly can only speak her mind. This film takes the concept of having no filter to a whole other level, inciting violence, arson and all-around mayhem from the originally meek Paz. This one is perfect if you are coming off a long day at work and want to live vicariously through someone who can say exactly what she wants.
This film is a mix of everything, hopping from comedy to drama to thriller and back, all with a distinctly retro vibe. In Abracadabra, Carmen’s lousy husband is hypnotised at a wedding and somehow becomes possessed with the spirit of a murderer who had killed seven people at that same venue back in the 80s. As her husband turns into a better man and father, Carmen becomes increasingly concerned as the man she married turns into the most attentive partner she could have dreamed of. This film brilliantly juxtaposes a light and happy surface with sinister undertones, taking twists and turns along the way with an undying dark sense of humour.
24 years on from Jamón Jamón, Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem are once again reunited in the dramatic film Loving Pablo. One of the only films in English at the festival, Loving Pablo follows the story of Pablo Escobar’s long-time mistress and popular Columbian journalist, Virginia Vallejo. The story covers his rise to and fall from power from her perspective through the difficult choices she had to make between her love for Pablo, he safety, and her love for Columbia. If you have seen Narcos (if not, another must watch!) or are acquainted with history you know how this true story ends, but Loving Pablo gives the journey a new perspective and a deeper understanding of the relationship between Vallejo and Escobar, played by Cruz and Bardem.
Mist & The Maiden
The Mist & The Maiden is a gripping murder mystery with twists and turns all over the place, keeping you in suspense until the very end. It, therefore, had to make this list! The mystery to solve is the murder of a young man. A politician was trialled but exonerated three years after the murder, leaving more questions than answers and confusing clues as to who the killer actually was. If you are all in for a good murder mystery, this one is bound to have you hooked with its fast-paced but also constantly tense atmosphere that will have you certain one moment and completely unsure by the next frame.
The Chess Player
Another historical drama, The Chess Player is set in 1934 Spain, travelling from the Civil War to Nazi-occupied Paris. Diego Padilla played by Marc Clotet was just crowned world chess champion. As the tumultuous Civil War takes place, his new wife and baby inspire him to flee with them to Paris, but when the Nazis occupy France he is accused of being a spy and sent to an SS prison. As he remains in captivity his chess skills may be his only asset and chance to see his family again. This film has been given much praise and many awards for the gripping portrayal of a truly remarkable moment in history.
Winning a tonne of awards and accolades is Summer 1993, an autobiographical pic based on the director Carla Simon’s life. The film follows six-year-old Frida in the summer following her parent’s death. She is sent from the city to the countryside to begin her new life with her aunt, uncle, and new sister. The film is a captivating story of loss and childhood, comparable to Boyhood in the way that it explores childhood identity amongst a mess of adult problems.
The final film screened will be Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, arguably one of the best films of all time and definitely one to see on the big screen. This dark fairy-tale is set in 1944 Spain following the Civil War and follows the story of the young Ofelia, who travels with her pregnant mother to live with her new and exceedingly cruel stepfather. She finds a labyrinth and retreats to a world of fantasy and mystery as a creepy fawn gives her three tasks in order to become the princess of his realm. The story may seem a little out there, but that is precisely what makes this film so brilliant and a must-see for anyone new to the Spanish film scene.
What: Spanish Film Festival 2018
When: 26 April-13 May
Where: Palace Barracks & Palace Centro Brisbane
For more information, click here.
Image credit: Loving Pablo