Left to right: Salto al vacio / Jump into the Void (Daniel Calparsoro, 1995), Flores del otro mundo / Flowers From Another World (Icíar Bollaín, 1999).
So: to the films. Salto al vacio was Daniel Calparosoro's directorial debut and a distinctive calling card -the camerawork is bristling with energy while also managing to convey how stifling Alex (Najwa Nimri -probably best known to UK audiences for Abre los ojos / Open Your Eyes (Alejandro Amenábar, 1997), Los amantes del círculo polar / Lovers of the Arctic Circle (Julio Medem, 1998) and Lucía y el sexo / Sex and Lucía (Julio Medem, 2001)- but here making her cinematic debut and the first of a series of films with Calparsoro) finds her current (violent) life by framing her within cramped spaces and utilising claustrophobia-inducing close-ups (particularly within domestic spaces / scenes with her family). The last sequence of the film initially seems to suggest that her horizons are opening up (she is outside of the city and in an open space) but instead of taking the opportunity offered to her, she instead takes a step back towards the violence that has been following her throughout the film, and we leave her in a determined state of mind (she has finally made her mind up about what she is going to do) but surrounded by fog. It's relatively unusual for a film about disaffected youth / urban alienation to centre on a female protagonist -the film is very much from her perspective and not only does Calparsoro emphasise Nimri's striking 'look' via the close-ups of her face, but we also see several sequences over her shoulder (effectively her POV). I'm going to track down the other films they made together because although I've seen a couple of his later films, and quite a lot of Nimri's, this was the first of the films that they made together that I've seen. It is very different to anything else made in Spain in that era (at least, from what I've seen).
Icíar Bollaín also made her directorial debut in 1995 (Hola, ¿estás sola?), but it was her second film that I recently caught up with. Flores del otro mundo looks at one of the problems of rural life (and the 'ghost villages' left empty after the exodus to the cities) -the shortage of women in the countryside- through the stories of three different women who join the village / start relationships with men who live there (two of them attend a 'dating party' organised by the village each year where groups of Spanish and South American women visit en masse to meet the local single men (an idea based on real events), and the third is 'acquired' (and she is viewed as his property) via sex tourism). This isn't a romantic drama, as Bollaín looks at the issues of immigration, race, gender, and rural life through an unfiltered lens, showing the rough (domestic violence, racism, sexism, and simply the differing expectations that couples have for their relationships) and the smooth (one couple seems to find genuine happiness). For me, the stand-out story strand was the relationship between Damián (Luis Tosar) and Patricia (Lissette Mejía) -there are two scenes where Damián does the 'right thing' where you feel like actually cheering (well, I did, anyway).
Davies, A. (2009) -Daniel Calparsoro, Manchester & New York: Manchester University Press.
Santaolalla, I. (2005) -Los "Otros": Etnicidad y "raza" en el cine español contemporáneo, Zaragoza & Madrid: Prensas Universitarias de Zaragoza & Ocho y Medio, Libros de Cine.