Between the 6th and the 11th of November, the Spanisches Filmfest (the first of its kind in Berlin) took place amid much fanfare and with what seemed like the entire Spanish-speaking population of city, ready to watch some classy Spanish cinematography in our partner cinema, Moviemento! The 6-day event featured guest appearances by actors and directors of the varied line-up of films on show. Ranging from romcom romps to the experimentally astract, the festival did indeed have something for everyone.
Below is a sneak-peek of some of the quality Spanish cinema that I had the pleasure to watch!
Catalunya über alles (2011) | Spain | 101 mins | Ramon Térmens
A repenting rapist, freed from prison, an out-of-work African immigrant and a successful family man are the main protagonists in a film where they never meet. Casting light on modern-day Catalonia, director Ramon Térmens examines themes of nationalism, prejudice and deception with a touch of levity.
Though the issues explored focus on a distinctly Catalonian perspective, it is clear that the subject matter is universal. As the characters' fates intertwine without them ever encountering each other, the timescale of the film is purposefully shaken to underline the interconnectedness one's deeds. Thoughtful in its screenplay, Catalunya über alles is contemporary but decidedly timeless.
23F (2011) | Spain | 97 mins | Chema de la Peña
The cryptic title of director Chema de la Peña's political thriller is all too apparent to a Spanish audience. On the 23rd of February 1981, only three years after the end of Franco's dictatorship, nascent Spanish democracy was gripped by a hostage crisis in the house of parliament.
Peña's take on events is high on suspense, as the telephone becomes the unsung hero with high-strung verbal jousting between characters marking the film. Piecing together real radio and video footage as events unfold, the theatrical adaptation is realistic as it is informative. Peña, who appeared at the screening, told of extensive interviews with the real protagonists lending an even more authentic air to what undoubtedly deserves to be a historical piece of Spanish filmmaking.
Holidays (2010) | Spain | 85 mins | Victor Moreno
Pitting scenes of boisterous foreign tourists against bucolic sheep-herding on the island of Lanzarote, director Victor Moreno aims to be provocative. The clash of the two parralel worlds that form the island, that of the residents and incoming tourists, is a poignant critique of wholesale mass-tourism.
The legacy of the late César Manrique, renowned Lanzarote artist, architect and proponent of sustainable tourism on the island, is portrayed by traditional scenes of working the land and panoramas of Lanzarote's expansive seascape. Putting at odds two starkly different prisms of reality, the sudden scene changes during the film are highly effective. Meant for the audience's contemplation, Holidays interrogates the real aims of modern-day tourism as tradition's face is irrevocably altered.
True Love (2011) | Spain | 73 mins | Ion Sosa
Harking back to the experimental American 16mm films of the 60's, Ion Sosa's oeuvre is an ode to Berlin. Sosa's self-described 'exile', living in the German capital, is depicted in the mélange of seasonal shots of neighbouring houses in his suburb, visits from Spanish friends and the sensuous confusion of his relationship with girlfriend, Marta. Locations, acutely familiar to a seasoned Berliner, become monuments to Sosa's journal-like video musings.
Director Sosa was present at the screening to field questions ranging from his gastric ulcers that make an appearance in a hospital scene of the film to the general bent that he wished to give the production. The work, he recounted, was the accidental fusion of fragmented video recollections of his life in Berlin. Accompanied by a soundtrack of traditional Iberian music and off-beat pop, the film is to be enjoyed for its simplicity yet profound reflection.
Margarita (2009) | Spain | 73 mins | Albert Pons
Margarita, an aging Catalonian lady, confined to her apartment by infirmity, is the accidental star of film maker Albert Pons' all too real documentary narrative.
Tracing the Zimmer-framed steps of Margarita's daily routine and the exasperated laments of house-help, Pilar, Pons explores society's relationship with age and confronts the issue of loneliness that befalls the eldery.
Stylistically simple in capturing the personal moments of both Margarita and Pilar, the prolonged camera angles poring into Margarita's at times vacant expressions stir a sense of empathy and yet helplessness on the part of the spectator. This film was the silent gem of the festival.
Keep tuned for the upcoming Cinéfête review for all things French - happening at Moviemento!